Pioneering every genre under the sun, from boogie-woogie and honky-tonk to ragtime and rock to gospel and Western swing, Texas-born musicians have been blazing musical trails for well over a century. As the Texas Office of Music says, “You can’t hear American music without hearing Texas.” Ever since musicians played at the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836, music has been a signature note of the Texas experience.
Imagine the duets between these Texas stars: Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison. Boxcar Willie and Willie Nelson. Scott Joplin and Janis Joplin. Barry White and Johnny Mathis. Tina Turner and Beyonce. From Stevie Ray Vaughn and Selena to Meat Loaf and ZZ Top, the list goes on, including blues pioneer “Blind” Lemon Jefferson, Tejano legend Freddy Fender and “Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry.
No less than The Rolling Stones embody the far-reaching influence of Texas music. Their 1964 cover of Buddy Holly’s 1957 hit Not Fade Away helped put the band on the map. Saxophonist Bobby Keys—like Holly, from Lubbock—and pianist Billy Preston, from Houston, were long-time sidekicks; Keith Richards names Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings as influences. The Stones’ second-ever show in the U.S. (San Antonio, 1964) was a bust, but many memorable Texas outings would follow, including a raucous affair (San Antonio, 1978) where Mick Jagger, once married to Texas-born supermodel Jerry Hall, declared that the band “always feels good in Texas.”
Dallas-based tribute band Satisfaction/The International Rolling Stones Show (www.rollingstoneshow.com) is a hit on the private event circuit in Texas and beyond, and satisfaction is also guaranteed for groups at the following eight Texas musical destinations.
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of its official designation in 1991 as the “Live Music Capital of the World” this year, Austin claims more live music venues per capita than Nashville, Memphis or New York City. A major economic driver for the city, live music greets you upon arrival at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and then accompanies you throughout this dynamic destination. The Austin CVB’s Music Office books local acts for meetings and conventions, and from two-stepping at The Broken Spoke (www.brokenspokeaustintx.com) to barbecue and live music at Stubbs (www.stubbsaustin.com) to rock, blues and rockabilly at the legendary Continental Club (www.continentalclub.com/Austin.html), there’s a venue for all tastes.
Musical roots also run deep in this Panhandle outpost, famed as the birthplace of Charles Hardin Holley, or Buddy Holly. Before perishing in a 1959 plane crash, Holly helped invent the rock ’n’ roll format and profoundly shaped the future of popular music with classics like Peggy Sue and That’ll Be The Day. Several sites commemorate his legacy, including the event-ready Buddy Holly Center (www.buddyhollycenter.org), located in a historic train depot in Lubbock’s Depot Entertainment District and featuring the Texas Musicians Hall of Fame gallery. Opened in 1938 and relaunched in 1995, the group-friendly Cactus Theater (www.cactustheater.com) is a premier Lubbock destination for live music and shows.
DEEP ELLUM, DALLAS
Originally “Deep Elm” when created in 1873, this historic neighborhood east of downtown Dallas had its heyday in the early 1900s, when it gained national acclaim as a hot spot for jazz and blues. After edgy incarnations as a punk-rock locale in the 1980s and raucous club zone in the 1990s, Deep Ellum has the national spotlight again as one of the most exciting entertainment destinations in Dallas. Served by the new Green Line light rail, this thriving community has art, dining and live-music venues galore, mixing reborn veterans like Club DaDa and Trees with inviting newcomers including Prophet Bar, Lizard Lounge and The Bone.
MCKELLIGON CANYON AMPHITHEATRE AND PAVILION, EL PASO
Immortalized in Marty Robbins’s 1959 gun-slinging ballad “El Paso,” the largest border city in Texas is home to one of the state’s true hidden gems—the 1,500-seat McKelligon Canyon Amphitheatre and Pavilion. Managed by the El Paso CVB on land managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, this unique performance venue, about 10 miles from downtown El Paso off Interstate 10, sits nestled in the Franklin Mountains amid breathtaking Southwestern landscapes. Home to the annual VIVA! El Paso musical, the mountain-backed amphitheatre also plays host to free musical and other entertainment, including Cool Canyon Nights and Movies in the Canyon.
MUSEUM OF THE GULF COAST, PORT ARTHUR
Administered by the Port Arthur Historical Society, this 39,000-square-foot facility showcases the history and culture of the Gulf Coast along southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. One of three “Popular Culture” galleries, the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame highlights more than 60 area legends, including late blues icon Janis Joplin, originally from Port Arthur. Additional exhibits show how as a cultural crossroads the region has produced every form of American music—from blues to zydeco. Groups typically combine tours with events at the museum, which celebrates Joplin’s birthday every January with a concert. Meanwhile, Port Arthur’s annual Mardi Gras Southeast Texas event draws crowds and major musical headliners.
LUCKENBACH DANCE HALL,
Founded in 1849 as a trading post in Texas Hill Country just south of Fredericksburg, tiny Luckenbach first gained fame in 1970 when, according to legend, a thirsty rancher named Hondo Crouch stopped for a cold beer and ended up buying the entire hamlet for himself. Defined by Crouch’s free-wheeling outlaw spirit, Luckenbach, where Everybody’s Somebody, got an even bigger boost in 1974 when Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson wrote a song about it (later covered by Kenny Chesney and Kid Rock). Today, it’s live music and dancing seven days a week at Luckenback’s historic, rentable dance hall, one of the state’s true musical shrines.
FORT WORTH STOCKYARDS,
Music is among the many attractions at this storied National Historic District just two miles south of downtown Fort Worth. Celebrating its 30th birthday this year, Billy Bob’s Texas (www.billybobstexas.com) is one of the state’s entertainment giants and features a regular lineup of concerts and house bands. Dating to the late 1800s, The White Elephant Saloon (www.whiteelephantsaloon.com) saw many a gunfight in its time. Today, it has become a magnet for country music fans, featuring nightly cowboy-hatted performers. Live honky-tonk, country and Western swing music are also big draws at Pearl’s Dancehall (www.pearlsdancehall.com), originally Buffalo Bill Cody’s “Hotel Pearls” bordello.
THE CYNTHIA WOODS MITCHELL PAVILION, THE WOODLANDS
Located in the Woodlands roughly 30 miles north of Houston, this contemporary outdoor amphitheater hosts approximately 75 musical events per year, from headline acts like Aerosmith and Elton John to The Houston Symphony. Surrounded by lush forests, the Pavilion, forming part of the scenic Center for the Performing Arts at The Woodlands, has 6,500 covered reserved seats and roughly 10,000 lawn seats. Planners can also stage business and social events at the stylish, 1,600-square-foot Woodforest Bank Club and the 6,000-square-foot House of Blues Hospitality Tent, both on the center’s grounds.