[Note: This week Rocks Off is looking at the musical heritage, highs and lows, for each of the five possible states that might result should Texas secede from the U.S. like Gov. Rick Perry wants it to. Yesterday we began with the Panhandle/West Texas "Palo Duro" territory; today it's northeastern quadrant "Trinity."]
Blind Lemon Jefferson
T-Bone Walker, Alex Moore, Old 97's, Pantera, The D.O.C., Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ronnie Dawson, Leadbelly, Don Henley, Norah Jones, the Toadies, Tex Ritter, Jim Reeves, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Johnny Horton, Hank Thompson, Ray Price, Roger Miller, Scott Joplin, Brave Combo, Slobberbone, Midlake, Ornette Coleman, T-Bone Burnett., Billy Joe Shaver, Homer Henderson, Freddie King, Willie Hutch Jones, the Light Crust Doughboys, Milton Brown, Cornell Dupree, ZuZu Bollin, Robert Ealey, U.P. Wilson, Bowling For Soup and Hagfish.
Man, Dallas has plenty. Deep Blue Something, Edie Brickell, Lisa Loeb, Meat Loaf, anything to do with Tim DeLaughter, Vanilla Ice, Pimpadelic, Drowning Pool and Ft. Worth's Bloodrock. Gilmer's Henley belongs here too. And then there's Plano's own Barney the Dinosaur. What's more, Houston's own Blue October launched their careers out of the Metroplex.
Theme from Dallas
. The disco remix.
Other Notable Songs:
"Dallas," Jimmie Dale Gilmore; "Dallas," Alan Jackson; "Does Ft. Worth Ever Cross Your Mind," George Strait; "Possum Kingdom," the Toadies; "Walked from Dallas, Walked from Wichita Falls," blues standard; "Deep Ellum Blues," Bill Neely; "Fort Worth Blues," Steve Earle; "Big D," Broadway standard; "Dallas Alice," Sir Douglas Quintet; "Dallas Days and Ft. Worth Nights," Chris LeDoux; "Waco Moon," Todd Snider; "Probably Corsicana," Max Stalling; "Texarkana," R.E.M.; "Lee Harvey Was a Friend of Mine," Homer Henderson; "Palestine, Texas," T-Bone Burnett.
"O Dallas you shine with an evil light," wail the Silver Jews, "How did you turn a billion steers into buildings made of mirrors, and why am I drawn to you tonight?"
While Fort Worth is often defended in song, like Amarillo, Dallas is often bashed - perhaps even moreso. Famously, there's Jimmie Dale Gilmore's immortal "Dallas is a rich man with a death wish in his eye/ A rich man who tends to believe in his own lies," while Jimmy Buffet advises that you "pass it by" because people in Dallas are callous. Less renowned today are blues songs by Johnny Winter and many a Depression-era singer bemoaning Dallas and Deep Ellum's violence and prostitution.
As for music from Dallas as opposed to about Dallas, in the '80s and '90s, the Metroplex began pumping out some of the worst bilge in the history of American music, as songs like "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (Deep Blue Something), "What I Am" (Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, "Bodies" (Drowning Pool), "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" (Meat Loaf), "Ice Ice Baby" (Vanilla Ice) and "Stay (I Missed You)" (Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories) all too clearly attest. And then there are Tim DeLaughter's projects like Polyphonic Spree and Tripping Daisy. The man spans decades with his happy-clappy psychedelic retardo-rock.
Today, Denton - which thanks to University of North Texas' music program is now Texas' "other music town" aside from Austin - is an absolute cornucopia of bland indie-rock. Dallas also spawns plenty of that, too, and the bands in both Big D and Little d are breathlessly hyped by a surprising number of overzealous local music bloggers. Besides an equal measure of lunkheaded alt-rock bands Dallas is also the hot national rap city of the moment, for what that's worth in this day of moronic ringtone rap and diminished expectations.
It's weird, because the area does have a really rich heritage. Robert Johnson recorded some of his storied songs there, and Blind Lemon Jefferson and T-Bone Walker - kings of acoustic and electric blues, respectively - once roamed the streets of Deep Ellum together.
The Brazos Valley/northeast Texas farmland around Big D churned out Country Music Hall of Famers as regularly as bumper cotton crops - with names like Price, Frizzell, Miller and Tubb on the State of Trinity's list, it's hard to argue that any other mini-Texas could top it. And through his affiliation with Dr. Dre, The D.O.C. was the first black Texas rapper to make it on the national stage. Vanilla Ice was the first Texas rapper to make it big, we are sad to report. Alhough he initially claimed he was from the mean streets of Miami. In fact, he was straight outta Richardson.
An extremely mixed bag... In tomorrow's installment, we'll take a look at New Texas, a.k.a. Austin and the Hill Country.