Sound of Texas Music: Bluesville
By: Ben Carpenter, Contributor
The Blues: the genre of music that can express emotions better than words. The blues cannot be explained in simple words or terms, just like other forms of artistic expression cannot be defined without a hint of personal experience. The only thing that gives the blues justice is, well, the blues. You just have to listen to it, and you’ll hear what it is that makes it so distinct.
Texas is proud to have birthed some of the greatest blues artists in the world. Two notable artists/ blues bands are particularly influential and worthy of mention, and both came from Texas.
“I’ve said that playing the blues is like having to be black twice. Stevie Ray Vaughan missed on both counts, but I never noticed.” – B.B. King
The king of blues doesn’t give compliments to just anyone, but when he does, they’re sure to be golden. That’s just what Vaughan was: gold. Being one of the revolutionary artists in our time, Stevie Ray Vaughan melded the woeful sounds of the blues with the grit of rock and roll to make something that no one had ever heard before.
Vaughan was born in Dallas, Texas, and began playing the guitar at age 7, inspired by his older brother. Vaughan became a monster at guitar. Quickly rising in popularity and influence, Vaughan dropped out of high school at age 17 and began to pursue his passion full time. He played in a few bands around the Dallas area, but it was in Austin where his career took off. He joined Paul Ray and the Cobras, which was Austin’s “band of the year” in 1976. After playing with the Cobras, Vaughan started the band Double Trouble, which took him to a new level in the music industry.
Vaughan caught the attention of David Bowie at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Bowie being blown away by Vaughan’s talent, invited Vaughan to play for his new record “Lets Dance”, which is Bowie’s best selling record to this day. After this, famous producer John Hammond signed Double Trouble to Epic Records, and released their debut album Texas Flood, which was a blues sensation. From then on the rest is history.
Vaughan was a musical genius. His life was a revolution; his death was a tragedy. His influence is a staple in the blues/rock world, and he will never be forgotten.
You can’t mention Texas blues/rock without mentioning the bearded gods. ZZ Top is by far one of the most influential bands of our time. Producing hits such as “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Cheap Sunglasses” gave this band a Texas spin to the blues.
The band formed in Houston, Texas, which was the hometown of Billy Gibbons (vocals and guitar). Gibbons, who was the start of it all, had an ear for the blues. The group changed musicians a few times, but in February 10th, 1970, the finalized group (Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard) played their first show in Beaumont, Texas.
The band was a solid compilation of passionate musicians. Gibbons unique vocal and guitar style mixed with Hill’s and Beard’s rhythmic ingenuity made the band blow up the charts.
In 1973, the band came out with the album Tres Hombres that brought ZZ Top their first big hit. Out of this album came the song “La Grange”, which was written about a brothel in La Grange, Texas.
After going on a world tour and a small hiatus, they released more attention grabbing albums such as Eliminator and After Burner, which resulted in top chart songs and platinum sells. It was only a matter of time that the group became “Hall of Famers”
The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, performing “La Grange” and “Tush.” After 40 years, the group is still producing songs and selling out tours.
ZZ Top is a blues and rock inspiration to the music community, and will be listened to by many generations to come.