Waltz Around Our 100 Best Texas Songs
"Between the Hank Williams pain songs And Jerry Jeff's train songs And blue eyes cryin' in the rain Out in Luckenbach, Texas Ain't nobody feeling no pain"
—Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson,
With that introduction, welcome to our 100 best Texas songs of all time list, in which we attempt to both quantify and qualify our favorites. We left it pretty wide open: The artist had to be born or based in Texas for a significant amount of time, but other than that, it could be any genre, era or city.
Despite our one-up spirit in several of the bigger Texas cities, our state really is just one big yard separated by different driveways, isn't it? We've all got our stories, our secret and not-so-secret histories, the songs that define us, and that is ultimately what ties us together.
I know the knee-jerk reaction is to look at the rankings and nitpick, but they're rather arbitrary. Hopefully we can turn you on to an artist you've never heard, or at least inspire some dialogue. I'm sure you will tell us what we're missing, too.
Visit DC9 At Night for accompanying Spotify playlists of a majority of the songs, and full blurbs on all of them.
100. Tripping Daisy, "Sonic Bloom"
99. Pleasant Grove, "The Plaque at 16ft"
98. Old 97's, "Timebomb"
97. Devin the Dude, "Doobie Ashtray"
96. Baboon, "Night of the Long Knives"
95. Lyle Lovett, "She's No Lady, She's My Wife"
94. At the Drive-In, "One Armed Scissor"
93. Lil Keke ft. Paul Wall and Bun B, "Chunk Up The Deuce"
92. Stevie Ray Vaughan, "Pride & Joy"
91. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, "Richter Scale Madness"
90. The Dixie Chicks, "Not Ready To Make Nice"
89. Polyphonic Spree, "Soldier Girl"
88. Scratch Acid, "Owner's Lament"
87. Nomads, "Be Nice"
86. Spoon, "The Way We Get By"
85. Woodeye, "The Fray"
84. Meat Loaf, "I Would Do Anything For Love"
83. The Telefones, "Rocket Rocket"
82. The Hugh Beaumont Experience, "Eric's on Thorazine"
81. Kashmere Stage Band, "Do You Dig It, Man"
80. Butthole Surfers, "Sweat Loaf"
79. Lift to Experience, "Falling From Cloud 9"
78. Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, "Wooly Bully"
77. Kris Kristofferson, "Me and Bobby McGee"
76. Destiny's Child, "Bills, Bills, Bills"
75. Patty Griffin, "Moses"
74. Centro-matic, "Fidgeting Wildly"
73. The Hochimen, "God Was A Flower"
72. Meat Loaf, "Paradise by the Dashboard Light"
71. Terry Allen, "Amarillo Highway"
70. Deep Blue Something, "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
69. The Relatives, "Don't Let Me Fall"
68. Townes Van Zandt, "Marie"
67. UGK, "Pocket Full of Stones"
66. ZZ Top, "Just Got Paid"
65. Blind Willie Johnson, "John the Revelator"
64. The D.O.C., "It's Funky Enough"
63. Slobberbone, "Barrel Chested"
62. Gary P. Nunn, "London Homesick Blues"
61. Erykah Badu, "Tyrone"
60. James McMurtry, "Levelland"
59. Tum Tum, "Caprice Music" For years, the Dallas hip-hop community's had a love affair with the Chevy Caprice Classic. Tum Tum's "Caprice Music" was an ode to that car culture, illustrating the unique trends specific to our city in the wake of Drank Epidemic Vol. 7. Austin Staubus
58. Tripping Daisy, "Waited a Light Year" Lost in the doldrums of a major label system turnaround, Tripping Daisy's Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb remains a gem from start to finish. "Waited a Light Year" could very well be mistaken for a Polyphonic Spree song. Eric Grubbs
57. Pantera, "Walk" Pantera knew how to grab people right away: Put the money riff at the center and everything else will fall in place. Recognizable from the first note, this track off the Arlington four-piece's 1992 LP Vulgar Display of Power holds up to this day. Where else could a ZZ Top-style boogie mesh with Black Sabbath heaviness? Eric Grubbs
56. Centro-matic, "Only in My Double Mind" As prolific as Will Johnson is, one could pick several dozen Centro-matic songs to add to this list. The towering, heavily reverbed vocals and pounding piano make "Only in My Double Mind," from 2011's Candidate Waltz, especially memorable, and the song's power shows that he and the band are still a force 15-plus years into their career. Jesse Hughey
55. Joe Ely, "All Just to Get To You" This 1995 train-hopping rocker reminded people Ely wasn't merely a Flatlander from the past, but a star in his own right. By the end of the song, his vocals make sure he beats his "fists against the moon" in order to get what he wants. Kelly Dearmore
54. Selena, "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" The shoulda, coulda, wouldas surrounding Selena's brief and heartbreaking career have not gone away over time. The Corpus Christi singer represented so much of what Texas really is: fiercely independent, larger than life. When you reach for that one Selena hit, "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" always gets the job done. Don't miss "Baila Esta Cumbia" either. Deb Doing Dallas
53. Bun B, "Draped Up" When Pimp C was arrested in 2005, faithful UGK fans were concerned their historic run had come to an end. Bun B, however, released a debut solo album, with "Draped Up" serving as the first single. The single became so popular, Bun's label released an "H-Town" remix that featured Chamillionaire, Paul Wall and Slim Thug. Austin Staubus
52. George Jones, "Cup of Loneliness" My dad used to say "Amazing Grace" sung in a bar full of sinning drunks on a Saturday night would always be superior to the Sunday morning version. That applies here, too, as Jones really sells the miserable keening for some kind of redemption, which he knows all too well, even if his cocaine addiction, lawnmower rides and another couple of marriages were still ahead of him back in 1960. Jesse Hughey
51. Townes Van Zandt, "No Place to Fall" This song is not his best, but with Townes fallen to where no mortal can catch him, it's easily one of his more prophetic. Doug Davis
50. Lil Wil, "My Dougie" Focused on style rather than substance, Lil Wil's "My Dougie" embodied everything Dallas, catching the attention of even the most hardened music executives. "My Dougie" became a national sensation, inspiring CNN's own Wolf Blitzer to "dougie" on air. Austin Staubus
49. Big Boys, "Fun, Fun, Fun" While the rest of the punks were taking themselves seriously in 1982, Austin's Big Boys were putting out songs like this, and daring to like both the Cockney Rejects and Joy Division in the same breath. It still resonates so much, there's now even a festival named after it. Not a bad legacy. Audra Schroeder
48. Cherubs, "Stag Party" The omnipresent dial tone throughout this song gives it some added menace, though Austin's noise-punk Cherubs had enough of that already. 1994's Heroinman was their finest hour, and we'll take that reunion show anytime, fellas. Audra Schroeder
47. Dorrough, "Ice Cream Paint Job" Garnering over 15,000,00 views on YouTube, Dallas rapper Dorrough's "Ice Cream Paint Job" seemingly came out of nowhere. The song resonated so strongly, Cash Money's Lil Wayne remixed "Ice Cream Paint Job" on his critically acclaimed "No Ceilings" mixtape. Austin Staubus
46. Jerry Jeff Walker, "L.A. Freeway" The beauty of a simple story told honestly is not one many can master. Thankfully, Walker is one of many plain-spoken Texan poets that can pack a novel's worth of gravitas into this three-minute ditty, originally done by Guy Clark.Kelly Dearmore
45. Waylon Jennings, "Rainy Day Woman" Waylon Jennings knew how to write a so-called outlaw song, and a TV theme for lake-jumping rednecks, but he also knew how to write a love song. While his buddy Willie Nelson loved to sonically strip a song to its skeleton, Jennings thrived when the tempo was high and the band was in full roadhouse mode. Kelly Dearmore
44. Erykah Badu, "On & On" "On & On" takes me back to the first time I heard Baduizm, and was transformed. Nearly 15 years later, "On & On" hasn't aged a bit. It's frequently the vamp when Badu is about to drop some real talk on her audience. "What good will your words do, when they can't understand you?" Deb Doing Dallas
43. Red Krayola, "Hurricane Fighter Plane" From 1967's Parable of Arable Land comes a song that's entirely driven by that glorious bassline. The Houston group, led by Mayo Thompson, has been playing one-off shows recently. Texas deserves one, don't you think? Audra Schroeder
42. George Strait, "All My Ex's Live in Texas" This song could have been written in any decade across the last century, but Strait did it in 1987, subsequently making us wonder if he was a smug asshole or in on the joke, which is a testament to his grasp of irony, story and true country. Audra Schroeder
41. ZZ Top, "La Grange" In recent years, the Top have recycled their shtick a bit too often, but this track, from 1973, was the band at their peak. They turned a local news story about a whorehouse into two kick-ass guitar solos and smacked the world upside the head. Doug Davis
40. Freddie King, "You've Got To Love Her With a Feeling" This won't be the last appearance by King on our list. The Dallas blues guitarist gives some real talk: Love your woman with a feeling, or you won't have her at all. And, as usual, King rips into a wig-lifting solo halfway through. Audra Schroeder
39. Billy Joe Shaver, "Live Forever"
"Live Forever" is an emotional experience. The line, "Don't let the darkness take them" is tear-inducing, given that his own son, Eddy, was taken by heroin. Shaver's definition of "living forever" isn't what most envision; he's singing about seeing his family again on the other side, not about playing dive bars until he drops. Kelly Dearmore
38. Selena, "Dreaming of You" "Dreaming of You" is the title track off Selena's sixth and final album. Released in 1995, it debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 charts, four months after the singer was tragically murdered by the ex-president of her fan club. The ballad was Selena's biggest single, and probably the song she's most recognized for. Catherine Downes
37. The Dicks, "Saturday Night at the Bookstore""Another Saturday night at the bookstore, and it looks like every fucking piece of trash in town blew in," sings Gary Floyd, introducing this four-minute screed against homophobia. The Austin punks never minced words, especially Floyd. He feverishly directs its taunting chorus at hypocrites and bigots: "I'm at the bookstore/I'm at the bookstore/I'm at the bookstore/You're at the bookstore too!" Audra Schroeder
36. Bugs Henderson, "Shuffle King" Henderson passed earlier this year, but he left a hefty back catalog to pick from. Audra Schroeder
35. Butch Hancock, "Split and Slide"Hancock essentially penned a short story here, about two characters stumbling through the Texas desert. Butch knows his audience, and seeing this done live is the best way to absorb it. Audra Schroeder
34. Tex Ritter, "Dallas Darling"Singer, politician movie star, father of John Ritter. Tex had a big life, but his buoyant voice was always the centerpiece of every country song. Audra Schroeder
33. Guy Clark, "Dublin Blues"This somber but sweet tale grows even more heartfelt when Clark sings about missing the Mad Dog margaritas of Austin's Texas Chili Parlor. Because let's face it, those things are terrible. Kelly Dearmore
32. Sir Douglas Quintet, "At the Crossroads"A pure product of San Antonio who managed to embody its country, R&B and Tejano traditions, Doug Sahm penned this absent lover's lament from a drug fugitive's exile in the more freak-friendly Bay Area, but left no doubt where his heart still resided. Ken Shimamoto
31. Daniel Johnston, "True Love Will Find You In the End"Despite the flashes of popularity, curiosityand heartbreak that have sprung up around Johnson in the last two decades, his songs have always remained pure, unconcerned with fads or the passing of time, forever obsessed with monsters and love. Audra Schroeder
30. 13th Floor Elevators, "Slip Inside This House""You're Gonna Miss Me" is usually the go-to when talking about the Houston psychedelic group, but this track, from 1967's sophomore LP Easter Everywhere, shows how they could also nail a long-form song. Audra Schroeder
29. Jimmie Dale Gilmore, "Dallas"Perhaps we're a little biased on this one, since the blog gets its name from it, but the line "Dallas is a rich man with a death wish in his eye/A steel and concrete soul with a warm-hearted love disguise" seems eerily prescient. Audra Schroeder
28. Ornette Coleman, "Lonely Woman"The prophetically titled The Shape of Jazz to Come would manifest its shapelessness with avant-garde improvisation and arrangements that were completely devoid of orthodoxy or structure. "Lonely Woman" is the album's standout, and one of the greatest examples of how unpredictable melody can be just as powerful as harmony. Zach Hale
27. Buddy Holly, "Everyday"Like all of Holly's best, the song is remarkably simple, yet it exudes a profoundly earnest and deceptively bold song craft. Zach Hale
26. Albert Collins, "Frostbite"Remember that scene in Adventures In Babysitting, where the singer of a blues band tells Elizabeth Shue, "Nobody leaves this stage without singing the blues"? The "Master of the Telecaster" lived on the stage. Audra Schroeder
25. Townes Van Zandt, "Pancho and Lefty">Written right here in Dallas, this song is as moving as it is ambivalent. Did Lefty sell Pancho out? Did the federales really just pity him and let him go? Were they the same person, or Pancho just the fantasy of a washed-up obscure blues singer? Even the late Van Zandt himself wasn't sure, to hear him tell it, but a it's beautiful ballad nonetheless. Jesse Hughey
24. T-Bone Walker, "Trinity River Blues">This 1929 cut from Dallas' own Aaron "T-Bone" Walker, back when he was known as Oak Cliff T-Bone, was the original Texas flood. Audra Schroeder
23. Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, "New San Antonio Rose"Somewhere between jazz, country and swing stood Bob Wills, whose music is still a staple of dancehalls and honky-tonks across Texas. Audra Schroeder
22. Willie Nelson, "Can I Sleep in Your Arms"It really doesn't get much more stupendous, minimalist or beautiful than Willie Nelson's ballads. The scene paints itself as soon as you hit play: a tequila hangover; snug, dirty boots on your feet; and the smell of a cowboy hat over your face. Nick Rallo
21. Blaze Foley, "If I Could Only Fly"Please consult Duct Tape Messiah, Kevin Triplett's documentary on the Austin singer-songwriter, for proof of Foley's tempered genius. That he and Townes Van Zandt were buddies comes as no surprise; their lives were parallel in the most heartbreaking way. Audra Schroeder
20. Sir Douglas Quintet, "Mendocino"That swirling organ line alone is enough to secure a spot on this list, but this 1968 single was the Quintet dressed in their San Antonio best. Audra Schroeder
19. Billy Preston, "Nothing From Nothing"Houston pianist Billy Preston got to hang around some decent talent (The Beatles, The Stones), but his solo material went in another direction altogether. This is his most well-known hit, but check out "Space Race" as well. Audra Schroeder
18. Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother"One of the most poignant of tales bringing hippies and rednecks together. Buddy Jerry Jeff Walker then went on to record the song in 1973. Audra Schroeder
17. Janis Joplin, "Piece of My Heart"Joplin doesn't just sing a song, she muscles all of the longing, flirting and humor out of a melody and heaves it at you. If you have ever questioned her vocal delivery, consider how she makes giving away her broken heart sound inevitable but downright fun. Plus, that chorus is history-making. Deb Doing Dallas
16. Cindy Walker, "You Don't Know Me"If the shy boys and girls of the world ever acknowledge their secret society, Walker's 1956 hit "You Don't Know Me" (co-written with Eddy Arnold) should be the theme song. Doug Davis
15. Buddy Holly, "That'll Be the Day"The lyric — both lovestruck and vaguely threatening in a passive-aggressive way — captures the panicky feel when one half of a couple doesn't want a relationship to end, over an incongruously upbeat melody. Add to that a great guitar solo, vocal harmonies, a runtime of just a bit over two minutes and you've got the formula for countless rock gems to follow. Jesse Hughey
14. Gene Autry, "(I've Got Spurs That) Jingle Jangle Jingle"Texas has spawned more than a few singing cowboys over the years, none as successful as Gene Autry. "(I've Got Spurs That) Jingle Jangle Jingle" is an ode to wandering and bachelorhood, and Autry's original is great, but it's the version sung on horseback by Olive Oyl, siren of the cartoon world, that rattles around in my head. Doug Davis
13. 13th Floor Elevators, "You're Gonna Miss Me"The song encapsulates the raw psychedelic energy heard throughout much of the '60s and '70s, with a long-standing impact that's endured nearly a half century, as any self-respecting garage-rock aficionado can attest. Zach Hale
12. Lightnin' Hopkins, "Bring Me My Shotgun">Any song from the Centerville guitarist could be mentioned here, but this one has some added emotional heft. He was incredibly prolific in his 70 years on this planet, and even recorded with the 13th Floor Elevators. Audra Schroeder
11. Roy Orbison, "In Dreams"Orbison's great falsetto delivery and the song's epic climax showcase what a singular talent the Vernon, Texas, native was. The perfect marriage of emotion and song cemented the status of Blue Velvet, too. Doug Davis
10. Ernest Tubb, "Waltz Across Texas"Ernest Tubb was the role model for old-school country, with simple sentiments sung off key, and pedal steel playing a prominent role in the arrangement. "Waltz Across Texas" remains a dancehall standard that serves as a touchstone to an era gone by. Doug Davis
09. Joe Tex, "Skinny Legs and All"Joe Tex loved women of all shapes and sizes. This song was Tex in his soul phase, the polar opposite of the funky "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)." It was an anthem of sorts, an empowering talk-sing build up over triumphant horns. Audra Schroeder
08. Freddy Fender, "Before the Next Teardrop Falls"Baldemar Garza Huerta, aka Freddy Fender, collaborated with Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez in the late '80s as the Texas Tornados, but his solo run, which included this song and "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," showcased his incredible voice, in English and Spanish. Audra Schroeder
07. Roy Head, "Treat Her Right"Those horns, those splits. Roy Head was the Houston flipside of James Brown, and this 1965 single would have been No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, if not for those meddling Beatles. Audra Schroeder
06. Big Mama Thornton, "Ball and Chain"Listen, around the 3:20 mark, your chest is going to be split open, your heart is going to be ripped out, and you're going to be better for it. Willie Mae Thornton left no soul unshaken. Audra Schroeder
05. Willie Nelson, "Crazy"With its efficient but biting lyric, jazzy progression and off-kilter timing, "Crazy" defined the career of Patsy Cline and gave Nelson the freedom to establish his own solo career. Doug Davis
04. Freddie King, "Going Down""Going Down" never charted and is probably better known these days as the theme song to Eastbound and Down. The Dallas icon's 1971 version of the Don Nix song features scorching guitar and an insistent piano part from producer Leon Russell, with the late Donald "Duck" Dunn holding down the low end. Jesse Hughey
03. Barbara Lynn, "You'll Lose a Good Thing"This Beaumont southpaw is often overlooked when it comes to both soul singers and guitarists, but for the mid-'60s, she was a trailblazer. This single, which she wrote, is an almost perfect pop song. Audra Schroeder
02. Sir Douglas Quintet, "She's About a Mover""She's About a Mover," done when Sahm was in the Sir Douglas Quintet, is simply the most recognizable in an impressive body of work. The single best show I've ever attended was Sahm performing at Antone's in Austin on New Year's Eve in 1987. "She's About a Mover" was the encore. Darryl Smyers
01. Archie Bell & the Drells, "Tighten Up"We could spend hours arguing whether this song has the best bassline in history, but let's look at the bigger picture. The Houston group did something truly remarkable in less than four blissful minutes: They constructed a song in real time, pivoting on that shrugging guitar riff, that atomic bassline and Bell's multi-tasking sing-song. It's one that has the power to make even the most conservative turn a hip. Audra Schroeder
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