Kevin McCoy began his radio career in 1992 at KYNG/KNBT New Braunfels as a mid day Country Show Host. He got his first taste of Country Radio when Jerry Jeff Walker came to the station for an unannounced on-air interview. Being the only warm body around, Kevin obliged and fell in love with Texas Country Radio. Kevin has also worked in Dallas Radio as a host at KYNG Young Country. He was featured on ABC Radio Network’s Real Country where his Classic Country Show was heard on 160 markets across the US.In April of 2008, as the Program Director and an On-Air host of KFWR 95.9 The Ranch Fort Worth, Kevin McCoy decided that no more Nashville Music would be played on the station. Launching the first major market 24/7 Texas Country Station. Through the years, Kevin McCoy has become instrumental in launching Texas Music careers for many of the Top names in in the industry. He won the Large Market Station of the Year and Radio Personality Four Times from the Texas Regional Radio Awards and continues to live and breathe real Country Music. Listen afternoons on 97.5 KFTX Real Country.
The Texas Monthly Top 50 Texas BBQ Joints is out! I hope to try them all.
Just a decade ago, Texans took our state’s basic barbecue meal for granted. It was the sacred trinity of brisket, pork spareribs, and sausage, served with potato salad, coleslaw, and beans on the side. The biggest decision diners had to make was whether they wanted ice cream with their peach cobbler. The lineup seemed as fixed as the brick barbecue pits in which the meats were smoked.
And it wasn’t just the menu that was unchanging. Places and personalities seemed perennial as well. Two of the many truths we held to be self-evident were these: Lockhart was the unchallenged capital of Texas barbecue, and Snow’s BBQ, in Lexington, and Franklin Barbecue, in Austin, were the best joints in the state. That pair of enormously admired institutions captured the number one and two spots on Texas Monthly’s 2013 and 2017 lists of the fifty best barbecue joints (Snow’s also ranked first in 2008, before Franklin opened). They epitomized old-school Texas barbecue at its finest. Aspiring and veteran pitmasters alike visited them as if they were shrines.
But in the past half decade or so, we’ve begun to notice that the winds of change are growing quite gusty. In cities and towns across the state, new joints have been opening, and young, ambitious pitmasters have been getting into the game. Because they’ve been inspired by Texas’s long and storied barbecue tradition, the Texas trinity still dominates, and brisket has only gotten more popular (and expensive). That said, the upstarts have lots of new ideas.
What distinguishes the Texas barbecue scene today? In a word: surprises. In another word: variety. We’re talking bacon burnt ends, beef cheeks, birria, blueberry-and-Gouda sausage, brisket-topped elote, and guava-glazed pork ribs. And those are just the meat offerings. Side dishes and desserts range as far afield as Big Red tres leches cake, blistered brussels sprouts, carrot soufflé, citrus-beet salad, and brisket fried rice. And we haven’t even gotten to the wine lists.
As you would expect at a time of transformation, compiling our Top 50 list was a challenge. Even we were shocked by some of the changes we felt compelled to make. The former lodestars in our firmament, Snow’s and Franklin, no longer occupy our first or second spots (though both made the top ten and are absolutely worth visiting). For the first time, sadly, no Lockhart joints made the list (though the venerated Kreuz Market does appear in our Honorable Mentions). But the flip side of those descents is that Texas barbecue boasts an exciting freshman class: 29 of the 50 entries are new to the list, including the rookie establishment that vaulted to our number one spot.
In short, if you were hoping for an argument that innovation is getting out of hand and it’s time to retrench and return to the simpler days of barbecue, you won’t find it here. But have no fear: if you’re an old-school stalwart who blanches at the thought of smoked cauliflower, plenty of places on our list will make you very happy.
Is Texas barbecue losing its soul, as some might fear? No. The staples aren’t going anywhere, and the rising generation of pitmasters prepares them as well as—and often better than—anyone ever has. The up-and-comers aren’t erasing anything; they’re adding to what we have and paying tribute to our culinary heritage by reinvigorating it.
Welcome to the brave new era of Texas barbecue. The best is yet to come.
Reba McEntire Doesn’t Sound Too Upset About Losing Her CMA Awards Hosting Job
“I do love doing awards shows,” she eagerly tells Taste of Country Nights. “They’re a lot of fun and exciting. It’s adrenaline-flowing.”
In breaking the news of a new host for 2021, Billboard added up a historic 20 country awards shows that were hosted or co-hosted by McEntire. Blake Shelton, Vince Gill, Hank Williams Jr. and Randy Travis were just a few of her co-hosts along the way. The hardest part, she shares, is finding clothes to host, because you have to wear outfits that are fresh and truly unique. Off-the-rack items just won’t do for country music’s biggest nights.
As for who should host next? McEntire wouldn’t offer an opinion, but she did readily offer advice to anyone interested in hosting, noting that it takes one special quality.
Read More: Reba McEntire Doesn’t Sound Upset About Losing CMA Hosting Gig | https://tasteofcountry.com/reba-mcentire-cma-awards-host-interview/?utm_source=tsmclip&utm_medium=referral
Willie has more new music on the way. A true Texas treasure!
Willie Nelson – Family Bible
“Family Bible” is five decades old and hearkens back to the “Red Headed Strangers” roots as a Nashville songsmith. It’s the lead single from his forthcoming second album of 2021, The Willie Nelson Family. As alluded to via the title, the release will include Nelson’s sister Bobbi, his sons Lukas and Micah, and his daughters Amy and Paula. Also featured is Paul English, Nelson’s longtime drummer and friend, who died early last year at 87.
Rich O’Toole’s “17 Wild Horses” Music Video Officially Selected For Two Texas Film Festivals:
Nashville, TN – Buffalo Roam Records’ recording artist Rich O’Toole’s cinematic music video, “17 Wild Horses,” was officially selected for inclusion in two Texas film festivals – “Deep in the Heart Film Festival,” held in late July 2021 in Waco, and the “Austin Spotlight Film Festival,” on September 18, 2021, in Austin.
Beautifully filmed on the Texas plains at CK Reid’s ranch, the provider of bucking broncos and bulls for Billy Bob’s Texas (the world’s largest honky-tonk) live rodeos, the video was directed and edited by Kasey James and Ted Borel with Playlist Films. Upon release, the video premiered on Taste of Country.
Penned by Rich O’Toole, “17 Wild Horses” is currently climbing the Texas Regional CDX Singles Chart, and the video is sitting at #10 on The Country Network’s Top 10 Video Countdown. “17 Wild Horses” is featured on O’Toole’s new album, “New York,” released last year.
Jon Wolf has a great new album now! Here’s a nice review from Saving Country Music.
Country music is like that old pair of blue jeans you have in the back of the closet. Even if current trends try to tell you they’re not hip in the here and now, just wait awhile. Time will come back around to them. As some mainstream artists and new up-and-comers try to hitch their wagon to the retrospective popularity of 80’s and 90’s country sounds, guys and gals that were born and raised on the stuff are looking around and saying, “Where y’all been?” And when they strike up and play, they prove they’re old pros at country music that actually sounds country, instead of trying to hitch a ride on a passing train.
It’s been 18 years since this Oklahoma native was transferred from an oil trading desk in Chicago down to Houston, and found himself sharing a room with Hayes Carll, and later at a concert for the legendary country band Alabama, and afterwards picking guitars on a bus with a bunch of musicians and thinking, “Hell, I can probably do this for a living too.”
It’s pretty rare that seven albums and 17 years into a career that an artist finds their stride, but that’s the determination many are coming to with Jon Wolfe’s Dos Corazones, and for fair reasons. Inspired, passionate, well-written, and consistently enjoyable throughout, it feels like one of those career-defining records. Usually when you see an album with 17 tracks, you grimace. It often means someone forgot to trim the fat. But Jon Wolfe’s first album in four years is nearly all muscle, and heart.
Sure, some of the songs are not the headiest of material. And sometimes the beer and whiskey references get you worried it’s veering a little too far into country music cliche. A song like “Tequila Sundown” has probably been done more times than it deserves. But nobody would quibble with your pronouncement that this album is country. In fact you could consider this album whose title translates to “Two Hearts” is like a love letter to the genre, and in more ways than one.
Dos Corazones was mostly written in the Chihuahuan desert on a retreat Wolfe took with his producer Dave Brainard and songwriter Tony Ramey. Sometimes these songwriting soirees sound all poetic and erudite, but still result in the same ol’ raisin bran. But in this case when the results are songs like the Western-infused “Two Hearts in Terlingua,” or later the certified heartbreaker “Anybody Playin’ Sad Songs,” there’s no reason the second guess the recipe.
This isn’t a concept record per se, but there is a bit of a reflective undertone to every song of this Western-flavored country epic—an orange-pink hue to the skyline as the sun sets behind the broken peaks that you can’t help but envision as each song on the album plays. One of the ways they were able to successfully stretch the project to 17 tracks was by picking the pocket of songwriter Josh Thompson, who seems to be contributing to many of the good records in country music these days. Thompson co-wrote “That’s What I’m Doin’,” which is one of the serious shit kickers on the record, as well as “Waitin’ on a Dog to Bark,” which could have turned out trite, but really hits home.
Dos Corazones doesn’t just show respect to country music by honoring the roots with the sounds, approach, and instrumentation. In songs like “Here’s To All My Heroes,” “When The Good Ol’ Boys Age Out,” and “Anybody Playin’ Sad Songs” it speaks to the reverence Jon Wolfe and his songwriters have for the music. “Why Can’t You (Conrad’s Song)” gives the album that touching moment it needed, and the way the release incorporates a visual component by assigning each song its own artwork gives the album a cinematic feel.
Sensible, but still sentimental and deep enough in moments, Dos Corazones is easy to enjoy and hard to deny, and producer Dave Brainard didn’t get lured into trying to make Jon Wolfe into anything but what he is, which is a guy from Oklahoma who just wants to write and play country music the right way. If the radio in Texas plays it, and people show up to hear it, even better.
Dos Corazones is one of those records you hope your favorite artists turn in, as opposed to the album you often get, especially later in their career when the hunger has subsided, and they’ve hit cruise control. Bringing a strong vision to the conception and writing of this album, and then making it come alive in the studio renders Dos Corazones a modern country and Western gem.
Loretta Lynn’s ranch in Humphreys County, Tennessee has experienced extensive damage in historic flooding currently ravaging much of the Middle Tennessee region after more than 17 inches of rain was recorded in some places, causing creeks and tributaries to run over their banks.
One of the most successful and influential duos in country music history can now claim the distinction of being Country Music Hall of Famers. Naomi and Wynonna—the mother and daughter combination known collectively as The Judds—have just been named the newest inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame in the Modern Era category.
Congratulations to Texas-based performer and songwriter Wade Bowen! Wade has signed a worldwide publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music Nashville.The BMI songwriter that is managed by Red Light Management and represented by WME. “So excited to be a part of the Warner Chappell Nashville family and for what’s to come!” said Wade Bowen.
Cody Johnson plans to put out a double album this fall, he will share two new tracks per month leading up to the project’s release day. Here are the new ones. “God Bless the Boy (Cori’s Song)” and “Stronger” his two new tracks for the month of July.
On This Day: Whataburger granted trademark in Corpus Christi in 1950
On June 23, 1950, the Texas Secretary of State granted Harmon Dobson the “Whataburger” trademark.
Dobson wasted no time, and on August 8, 1950, with no previous restaurant experience, he opened the first Whataburger in Corpus Christi. The first Whataburger on Ayers Street sold $50 worth of burgers, chips, and drinks on the first day.
Back then, a Whataburger hamburger only cost 25 cents.
Dobson had a vision to make a burger so big, you would have to hold it with two hands. Do you know where we’re going with this?
It’s how Whataburger got its name: Those who saw it wouldn’t be able to say anything but “What a burger!”
Dobson died in a plane crash in 1967, but with the Dobson family’s support and the extended Whataburger family, Harmon’s wife, Grace, took over the business.
Whataburger opened its 300th restaurant in late 1980, more than 30 years after its original location opened. Two years after that, three Corpus Christi locations began operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Today, what started out as a single burger stand in Corpus Christi has grown to a 800-restaurant chain that spans every state from Arizona to Florida. All thanks to Harmon Dobson and his ability to dream big, perfectly fitting the Texas motto “Everything is bigger in Texas”.
A replica of the original burger stand is located on 4126 South Staples Street in Corpus Christi, in the parking lot of an operating Whataburger.
The photos and information provided in this article are courtesy of Whataburger, their website, and the Texas Historical Commission.
One of my all-time favorite bands are calling it quits.
An era is ending for country music in Dallas, TX, as the city’s most beloved local honky tonk band has decided to call it quits after over two decades of scooting boots across floors, opening shows for the big names rolling through town, and playing residencies that have gone on to become legendary.
About the same time in the late 90’s when some of the biggest names in Texas country from Austin and elsewhere were really starting to sizzle, and the Red Dirt acts from Oklahoma were rearing out of Stillwater and starting to make some national noise, a little band called Eleven Hundred Springs was formed in Dallas, TX by two former bandmates of a rockabilly band: singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter Matt Hillyer, and bass player Steven Berg.
At the time, Dallas was not exactly seen as a haven for country music. It was the home of cover bands and The Dallas Cowboys—a halfway stop between Austin and Stillwater that was a bit too metropolitan for honky tonkers or country rockers. But undaunted, Eleven Hundred Springs released a debut record, and launched a now legendary residency at the Dallas club called Adair’s where they recorded their second record live, and started garnering a local following from their throwback style and authentic country songs that carried a little spunk from the songwriting of Matt Hillyer.
On Wednesday evening, June 9th, Matt Hillyer announced that the band would be playing a few final shows, and then would officially be moving on. “After many hours of phone conversations, long emails, zooms, etc. with my homeboy Steve Berg, it is with bittersweet feelings that we’ve decided to bring the band to an end,” Hillyer said in a statement.
The lineup of Eleven Hundred Springs changed quite a few times over the years, and also worked as a proving ground. Chris Claridy who now picks guitar with Cody Jinks once played in the band, as did drummer Arjuna Contreras of The Reverend Horton Heat. But what Matt Hillyer and bassist Steven Berg initially built turned into an institution of Dallas country music.
Over the years, Eleven Hundred Springs would stretch their footprint beyond Dallas and Texas as well, but they found their calling as Dallas’s country music house band, becoming synonymous with the city, and the only right answer when someone asked who one of the coolest country bands in the DFW area were. Focusing on cementing a legacy in Dallas instead of a national perspective has made them legendary in their own way, and brought them fans from around the world.
Matt Hillyer says the pandemic had put a strain on the band, who released their last album Here ‘Tis in January of 2020, planning to tour behind it before the lock downs hit. This also gave founding member and bass player Steve Berg some time to reflect on life.
“Where Steve found himself was needing to live a life where his focus was more on his family. I 100% understand this,” says Hillyer. “We discussed at length the prospect of continuing with a different bass player. While I was never into that idea, I was less into it the more I thought about it. For one thing, I have too much respect for what we’ve done together than to treat it like less than what it is. Secondly, there are a lot of things I want to explore independent from the band.”
Matt Hillyer has always been a personality in Texas music and beyond, and will continue in that role as a solo artist.
“Our plan is to finish our documentary and to play a handful of farewell shows between now and the fall. We really hope to see everyone there. As for my personal direction in the future, I have been writing quite a bit during the last year. I plan to be recording these songs for future release. I’ll still be making music out there and you can still come hear me sing your favorite Eleven Hundred songs as well as new material. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say how grateful I am to have shared the stage with all the musicians who’ve been in the band over the years, particularly our latest line up Steve Berg, Jordan Hendrix, Chad Rueffer, Ray Austin, and Christian Dorn. I love you guys.”
Kevin McCoy June 3rd, 2021
Look for yourself on TV if you went to Rodeo CC!
RODEO CORPUS CHRISTI WCRA TRIPLE CROWN OF RODEO
TO AIR ON CBS TELEVISION NETWORK ON SATURDAY, JUNE 6
–Broadcast Set to Air at Noon CT–
AUSTIN, TEXAS – The WCRA (World Champions Rodeo Alliance) announced today
the 27-athlete roster who will compete at the Rodeo Corpus Christi on the CBS
Television Network on Saturday, June 6 at 12 PM, CT. Rodeo Corpus Christi is the first
2021 WCRA Major Rodeo and the first stop of the 2021 WCRA $1 Million Triple Crown
Kevin McCoy May 20th, 2021
Congrats to Phil Mickelson! Still has it at 50.
How Phil Mickelson stunned golf by becoming the oldest major champion
Kevin McCoy May 20th, 2021
Kevin McCoy April 29th, 2021
Happy 88th birthday Willie Nelson!
“He’s a carved-in-granite, samurai poet warrior Gypsy guitar-pickin’ wild man with a heart as big as Texas and the greatest sense of humor in the West.” —– Texan Kris Kristofferson, speaking about his friend and fellow Texan Willie Nelson.
Kevin McCoy April 22nd, 2021
April 22nd, 1975 when Charlie Rich whipped out his lighter, and burned the card announcing John Denver as the 1975 CMA Entertainer of the Year, it was considered to be one of the greatest moments of protest in country music history, if not the greatest.
Kevin McCoy April 7th, 2021
Look for KFTX at Rodeo Corpus Christi!
Rodeo Corpus Christi presented by Miller Lite has announced that they have partnered with the World Champions Rodeo Alliance (WCRA).
The Rodeo Corpus Christi, the first 2021 WCRA Triple Crown event of the year, will pay out $545,000 and run May 6-9, 2021.
This innovative approach to Rodeo allows the Buccaneer Commission to grow prize money for rodeo athletes, showcase the city of Corpus Christi, and ultimately return more dollars toward scholarships for students in South Texas.
Kevin McCoy March 29th, 2021
Music is back at Whataburger Field. Midland, Haily Whitters and Flatland Calvary live! Congrats to all the KFTX winners that watched poolside!
Kevin McCoy March 22nd, 2021
Check out the We Are Texas Benefit. Great Performances from Texas legends including George Strait!
Kevin McCoy NOVEMBER 13th, 2020
A friendly reminder to stay in-season with your hat choices.
1. Know When to Remove Your Hat
The first rule is knowing when to remove your cowboy hat. During the National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, the passing of the flag, in church, during prayer, and during a funeral procession — all require the hat to go. Also, remove your hat when introduced to a woman. You can hold the hat in one hand while you shake her hand in greeting with the other. Last but not least, remove your hat when entering a building or private home, when you begin a new conversation, dining in a restaurant, or when speaking with an elder of the church. Basically, just plan on not wearing hats indoors as a good rule of thumb.
Make sure you’re wearing the right hat for the time of year. Originally the felt hats were meant to keep the head warm on cold nights in the winter while the straw hats would keep you cool in the summer. Make practical choices because it doesn’t make sense to sweat in winter wear when its 100 degrees outside. It will also make you look more authentic.
Hold your hat the right way by holding it by the crown so that no one can see the lining.
4. Remember Proper Travel Care
Take care of your hat when you travel. Obviously, it will get squished throwing it in a suitcase so make use of travel hat boxes so that the shape is protected.
5. Never Mess With Another Cowboy’s Hat
The most important rule of cowboy hat etiquette is to never mess with another cowboy’s hat. Not only is it considered bad luck, but this is an extremely personal item that is often expensive. Would you ask to try on another man’s hat? I didn’t think so.
This story originally ran on April 24, 2020.
Thanks to our partners at Whataburger for bringing by the Spicy Chicken Sandwich and the Hatch Green Chili Bacon Burger. Amazing!
Listen to Kevin McCoy for the Whataburger Real Country Mystery Artist.
Kevin will begin playing audio clips of the Mystery Artist starting at 3:00.
At 4:30 Kevin will be asking for the 9th caller at 360-KFTX to identify the Artist.
The winner will walk
away with a $25 gift card and $25 in Merchandise from Whataburger! Good Luck!
Jerry Jeff Walker’s ‘Viva Terlingua’: Inside the Fringe Country Album
Released in 1973, the live recording helped define country music’s counterculture via songs like “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother”
Jerry Jeff Walker has never been one to do what he was supposed to do. A military dropout who scored a Top 10 hit in writing “Mr. Bojangles,” he left New York City for Austin, Texas, long before it was known as the “Live Music Capitol of the World.” And in the summer of 1973, Walker cut an LP, ¡Viva Terlingua!, that helped lay the foundation for the outlaw country sub-genre of country music.
“We had an independent record and we used it to the nth degree. It wasn’t this independent deal where you find a producer, go up to Nashville and record in a studio. We actually applied it to being here, made in Texas for Texas,” says Walker, now 76. “It’s still the quintessential Texas album as far as explaining how it all was before Austin City Limits.”
¡Viva Terlingua! would be a literal soundtrack to Austin’s golden age, with one of its best-known cuts, “London Homesick Blues,” serving as Austin City Limits‘ theme song for nearly 30 years. But the nine-track album, released over 45 years ago, had a greater influence as the high-water mark for the Texas strain of cosmic cowboy music, as well as the template for the modern-day ecosystem of Red Dirt and Texas Country.
“It set a fine example for singer-songwriters and everything that followed. It was more Texas than, say, Willie [Nelson], who was a Nashville product. He had the whole Nashville record company sheen behind him,” says Gary P. Nunn, the author of “London Homesick Blues” and then a member of Walker’s Lost Gonzo Band, which played with him on the album. “It made a statement and created an image of what Texas [music] was and could be.”
The Lost Gonzo Band
Walker first lived in Austin for a brief time in the mid-Sixties, but after Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s version of “Mr. Bojangles” went to Number Nine on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971 he set his sights on the West Coast. Along the way, he made a detour through Texas — and never left. Drawn in by a burgeoning singer-songwriter scene that included Steve Fromholz, Rusty Weir, and Townes Van Zandt, he soon recruited Michael Martin Murphey’s backing band to play with him.
“The people in Texas, if they heard a new song, they were so excited and eager to play on it. They just wanted to try things,” says Walker, whose voice has worn into a hoarse and painful-sounding rasp. His seat-of-the-pants approach never fit well with his first label, Atlantic Records. “The studios in New York, they don’t want to sit through that. They’re on a time schedule. You got to have all that shit worked out in advance.”
In the Lost Gonzo Band — a name cribbed from his friend Hunter S. Thompson and a perfect encapsulation of the group’s countercultural ethos — Walker found his vehicle for an eclectic mix of country, folk, rock, Tex-Mex and Tejano, all of which were native to Texas but rarely used together in Music City or the Big Apple. “Somebody told me ‘gonzo’ meant taking an unknown thing to an unknown place for a known purpose. I always thought, ‘Yeah, we don’t know where the fuck we’re going, but when we get out there and do it, we’ll know it,’” he says.
Newly signed to MCA, Walker cut part of his self-titled album in Austin in 1972 with the Lost Gonzo Band, but still wasn’t happy with the results. While in New York to finish the record, he came across a mobile recording studio run by Dale Ashby. “I beat on the door and said, ‘What are you guys doing?’ They said, ‘Well, we built this mobile truck so we could go someplace instead of being in a studio,’” Walker recalls. “I said, ‘How would you like go to Texas?’ And they said, ‘Give us a road map and when we finish this one, we’ll head there.’”Walker’s location of choice was Luckenbach, a small hamlet in the Texas Hill Country. Little more than an old post office and a general store with a dance hall, Luckenbach was founded by Hondo Crouch, a former all-American swimmer and all-around eccentric whose wife owned an antique shop in nearby Fredricksburg. “Hondo was like the pied piper cowboy. He had a childlike way of looking at things,” says Nunn, who remembers Crouch leading people on scavenger hunts for arrowheads in the woods. “He could break into some traditional Mexican song and sing it in Spanish at the top of his lungs. He was just this magical character. Everything he did was enchanting, humorous and playful.”
If label executives were wary of the idea, a fact that Walker parodied on opening track “Gettin’ By,” his band simply braced themselves for the latest whim of their leader, who was notorious for showing up drunk to his shows — and for getting into, and often losing, fights. One oft-repeated episode at the Castle Creek in Austin saw Walker show up in a bathing suit, vest, cowboy hat and boots after “drinking Brandy Alexanders all day long,” according to Nunn.
The Luckenbach session
“Two, three songs in, some girl hollered out, ‘Get off the stage, you drunk son of a bitch!’ And he said, ‘F you. You ain’t got any beer, you ain’t got any cocaine, you ain’t got any pussy. You ain’t got anything I want,’” says Nunn, with a peal of laughter. After Walker fell over into the drum kit, the rest of the band got up and left him onstage by himself. “He ended up staying up for two or three days after that.”
There was no such drama with the Luckenbach sessions, which stretched out over four to five days in August 1973. With a limited power supply, there was no air conditioning in the dance hall, but Nunn admits he barely remembers the sweltering conditions of a high Texas summer. “Back then, gosh, those dance halls were all hot. It was just part of the deal, you took that for granted. After working in the hay fields [growing up], playing in a bar was fun by comparison, even though you were sweating up a storm,” he says.
At week’s end, Walker decided to host a concert at the dance hall with the aim of adding some live recordings into the mix. “I put the word out in Austin, called the radio stations and said, ‘Put it on the radio: If you come down, you’ll get in for a buck,’” he says. With albums rarely recorded in Austin at the time, much less live ones, the turnout greatly exceeded expectations: “I wasn’t sure how many people would show up. 50 people would’ve been plenty. 900 people showed up.”
The two songs that made it onto the album from the Saturday night concert helped seal the legend of ¡Viva Terlingua!: “London Homesick Blues” and Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother.” The former was a composite recording, as the band played it twice after Walker broke a string, with the first version’s encore tacked onto the end of the second. Nunn handled the singing himself. “You help your band members get a break if you can, because they help you make it. You’d go to Waylon [Jennings’] shows and his bass player would sing two songs before he came out — all that stuff,” says Walker.
“Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother”
“Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother” wasn’t even finished when the band decided to record it, so bassist Bob Livingston called Hubbard to write an extra verse. “I just wrote the second verse there over phone. I said, ‘He sure likes to drink,’ and I think I was drinking Falstaff Beer, so I said that. [And] that was it. I pretty much hadn’t even thought about it,” says Hubbard. Livingston himself ad-libbed the spelling of “Mother” during the song’s bridge.
With Ashby’s equipment rented out for an extra day after the concert, Walker played the band another new song, “Wheel,” which was inspired by the scene of the tractor accident that killed his grandfather when Walker was 15 years old. “I looked up and Herb [Steiner], the pedal steel player, was crying and said, ‘That’s the most beautiful thing I ever heard in my life.’ I went, ‘Christ, I guess I better record this thing,’” Walker says. “So we listen to the playback and the guys said, ‘Great! We didn’t think we were going play today, so we all took mescaline.’ That’s why they were all so emotional. I don’t know if I really touched ’em or not.”
¡Viva Terlingua!, released that November, did strike a chord with fans, especially ones in Texas. The album quickly sold 50,000 copies in the Lone Star State, but only another 20,000 in the rest of the country, which ensured its legacy as a homegrown cult classic. (The wooden door featured on the album’s cover is now on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.) Though Willie Nelson had already relocated to Austin and hosted his first Fourth of July Picnic, drawing national coverage by writers like Chet Flippo at Rolling Stone, ¡Viva Terlingua! epitomized the cosmic cowboy era before it came to be known as outlaw country.
“‘Outlaw country’ made it sound like you had to go to jail to be an artist, but it’s just that some people like Waylon and Willie were outside the business [norm],” says Walker. “People said, ‘We’re different, but we’re not hillbilly country.’ We didn’t blacken our teeth and wear baggy pants, we just liked cowboys and played like that. That was still the mold that had to be broken.”
While Nunn carved out a solo career in part due to the exposure gained from “London Homesick Blues,” other Texas artists like Hubbard found their own niche in the lane that ¡Viva Terlingua!‘s success opened up for them. “It was kind of a blessing and a curse because I hadn’t done anything else,” says Hubbard, of the inclusion of his song on the album. “It was weird to be known for this novelty song because I’d been a folk singer and found myself playing in honky-tonks. But now it fits in the arsenal real well.”
Texas Country’s Persistence
In the four and a half decades since the release of ¡Viva Terlingua!, Texas Country has become its own self-contained industry, with singer-songwriters like Robert Earl Keen, Jack Ingram and Pat Green all following unmistakably in Walker’s footsteps. But, as Hubbard insists, the music just plain holds up. “In my opinion, that’s the definitive progressive country album ever made. [Walker] was doing the cowboy hat, boots and cocaine before anybody. He was a pioneer,” he says with a laugh. “I keep telling him, ‘I never thought I’d live long enough to see you live this long.’”
Walker’s health has become a serious concern in the past 18 months, as he was diagnosed with throat cancer in May 2017 — and though it was initially thought the cancer had been removed, it was recently found to have returned. He was scheduled to go in for a further surgery on December 6th, and his damaged vocal chords have left him unable to sing. But even with the pain of speaking, he goes on for nearly an hour reminiscing.
“That feeling can come from any situation you get into where you transcend the process,” Walker says, summing up what made ¡Viva Terlingua! such a special experience. “We done it our way, with our own band. [And] I think, because we did that and that worked, it gave people a lot of strength to go and produce stuff they’d thought about doing — like, ‘He’s taking chances, he did OK, we can probably all do that, too.’”