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Honky Tonks, Polkas, the Blues, Rancheras and Rock


by Jerome Weeks 16 Sep 2008

The Texas Observer has a thumbs-up review of Gary Hartman’s The History of Texas Music. Because Hartman, founding director of the Center for Texas Music History at Texas State University, does not feel there actually is any single, so-called  “Texas sound,” he approaches the field geographically and historically. In other words, his book goes beyond […]

CTA TBD

The Texas Observer has a thumbs-up review of Gary Hartman’s The History of Texas Music. Because Hartman, founding director of the Center for Texas Music History at Texas State University, does not feel there actually is any single, so-called  “Texas sound,” he approaches the field geographically and historically. In other words, his book goes beyond the expected names — Leadbelly, Bob Wills, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson — to include lots of artists and their works that many people, at first listen, would not normally associate with the state, artists such as ragtime master Scott Joplin (from Texarkana), jazz guitar pioneer Charlie Christian (of Bonham), Michael Nesmith (of Houston and the Monkees) and Beyonce Knowles (of Houston). Just those four names give some idea of the complex diversity under discussion.

Hartman’s book certainly isn’t the most provocative, insightful, or exhaustive title on the subject—try Rick Koster’s Texas Music for a more colorful take and The Handbook of Texas Music, compiled by multiple editors, for a more extensive one. Hartman’s approach attempts to provide a holistic overview without bogging casual readers down in minutiae and editorials. If you’re left hankering for more than that, there’s the nearly 65 pages of notes and bibliography to pore through.

The only legitimate beef with the book is that it treats indie rock as a black sheep. If Hartman’s thesis is that Texas music is all-inclusive, then he ought to have touched on Texas-based bands like Spoon and the Polyphonic Spree…

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  • Rawlins Gilliland

    Lord, I’m the son of a very successful Big Band era musician, and to me, when one talks about the ‘Texas sound’ I think it’s like talking about Texas cooking. Meanwhing who, what , where and when? The very thought of Scott Joplin and Stevie Ray Vaughan lumped together shows what I have always known as a 7th generation Texan; Texas is who you are. It’s a state of being, of nuanced and layered textures so dense… it’s deeper than the Atlantic area where the Titanic sank. Or, as one might say in song regarding Texas’ musical legacies, “How deep is the ocean, how high is the sky’.

  • billh

    Thanks for mentioning this.

    Best example Texas Rock would have been Thirteen Floor Elevators and Roky Erikson. Current examples, Austin’s Black Angels.

    Doug Sahm, yes, also Freddie Fender! David Garza, Asleep at the Wheel, Tish Hinojosa, man, I’m just getting started.

    Wanna see the latest, head to the Doublewide on Saturday to see Fort Worth’s Telegraph Canyon. That act is hard to beat., or there’s Salim Nourallah playing at Club Dada tonight.