Publisher and Founder, Texas Music
1. Texas Music in Iraq
Asked to travel with Charlie Robison and Kevin Fowler on an Armed Forces Entertainment tour of forward-operating bases in the middle of the Iraq War, I jumped at the opportunity. It was an eye-opening and humbling experience to have an up close (and behind-the-scenes) view of these memorable performances exclusively for America’s troops. It’s the only story I’ve ever written for the magazine — and one I was honored to be a part of.
2. Pat Green
Just as Texas Music was hitting the streets and building an audience, the young, dynamic Pat Green was picking up the torch of Texas country music and carrying it for a new generation of fans. He was on our cover in our third year, and was one of our most popular and best-selling editions at that time.
3. Terri Hendrix
The Terri Hendrix Spotlight was the first story ever written for Texas Music. Our first editor, Richard Skanse, wrote the piece months before our launch, and our art director, Martha Gazella-Taylor, created the design. We printed it at Kinko’s and used that sample story to drive interest from subscribers and advertisers in the upcoming launch. And it worked!
4. Little Joe Washington
Having met Little Joe Washington in a club in Houston in 2012, I became a fan and was pleased to see that one of our correspondents, William Michael Smith, had the pleasure of covering him in our Summer 2010 edition. Since Texas Music is dedicated only to Texas-based artists, we’ve been able to dig a little deeper into the statewide music scene and cover many of the artists who are deserving, but not always receiving, coverage. An under-the-radar legend in the Houston blues scene, Little Joe passed away in November 2014.
5. Top 50 songs
Anytime you create a list of “top anything,” there will be some controversy. We knew that would be the case with our Top 50 all-time classic Texas songs, but it was a task editor Tom Buckley and our correspondents tackled with vigor. By the way, our top three selections were: 1. “That’ll Be the Day,” by Buddy Holly; 2. Gene Autry’s “Deep in the Heart of Texas”; and 3. “Faded Love,” by Bob Wills. Songs by the 13th Floor Elevators and Townes Van Zandt rounded out our Top 5.
Art Director, Texas Music
1. Ray Wylie Hubbard
I was kind of intimidated going into the design and production of our Hubbard feature. He’s so revered, especially by his peers, and I worried he’d be offended by our concept — dressing him up as the Dalai Lama. True to form, he ended up being remarkably good-natured about it, and the woods surrounding his Hill Country home were a perfect mystical backdrop.
When I was assigned this story, it seemed obvious that we shoot Kevin Russell at a barbecue joint with ribs. I really couldn’t believe it hadn’t been done before. But I’m soooo glad no one had, because we got to enjoy the glorious insanity of Russell hamming it up with a platter of greasy (shiny) pork ribs and bottles of sauce. He was magnificent. He was also a perfect creative match to the hugely talented photographer Wyatt McSpadden. Really, all I had to do was stand back and watch. It was a great day — and he’s a great story.
3. Terri Hendrix
We were in production for this issue, two months after my mother unexpectedly passed away, and I was just … gutted. When I arrived at Terri’s property for her cover shoot, I was feeling so low and not in the mood to make nice with a musician and a photographer. However, anyone who knows Terri Hendrix knows you don’t hang out with her in uncomfortable silence. She’s that person you feel like you’ve known forever, and before I knew it, she had me laying out all my grief like the sad wrinkled laundry that it was. And, of course, she wept along with me, hugged me and reminded me that my grief was honoring my mom. I don’t remember the actual creative choices from that shoot — mainly I just remember how healing it was and thankful to have met Terri that particular day.
4. Dale Watson
Dale Watson’s cover and story are easily one of my all-time favorites. Lee Ann Mueller is truly a great photographer, but I don’t know if you can go wrong with Dale’s silver pompadour and smoldering expression. Or with a vintage Harley-Davidson parked on South Congress in front of the Continental Club.
5. Savannah Welch
She has not achieved the fame of some of our other cover artists, but Savannah has one of those moving and inspiring stories that makes me anxious to treat the story design just right. I saw her at Güero’s a couple of weeks after the issue came out. She was getting up to leave, and I went right up to her and introduced myself, blurting out, “I can’t believe I’m meeting you! You amaze me!” And she said, “I can’t believe you put me on the cover! I love it — thank you!” We stood there excitedly talking in the middle of the restaurant, a mutual admiration society. It was one of those neat Texas music moments.
Editor, Texas Music
1. Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley PTA”
Probably my shining moment as a writer, and while I hate the thought of plugging my own work, this one was special. A reluctant Tom T. Hall gave an exceptionally rare interview — after being cajoled by his personal assistant, with whom I’d been speaking for several minutes. The next thing I knew, a booming voice on the other end of the line growled, “Now what the hell can I tell you about this song that I haven’t already told everyone else?!” Plenty, actually, and Riley’s mother, the very trusting Nora Stephenson, FedExed a personal scrapbook she’d kept during the “Harper Valley PTA” years to inform my research. I wrote and rewrote that story so many times, yet every ounce of effort paid off. Normally, I find fault with anything I write. Not this story: I’ll never write anything as good again.
2. Joe Ely
Few performers have appeared in our pages more than Lubbock icon Joe Ely, both as a member of the Flatlanders and as a solo artist. Richard Skanse put together our magazine’s first major piece on the multitalented and multifaceted Ely for our “Texas Tales” department. The story was the longest “Texas Tales” piece we’ve ever run and remains the definitive take on Ely.
3. Bob Wills
Madison Searle took on the task of telling Wills’ story, and the result was an extraordinary piece the quality of which few writers could hope to achieve. In addition to the revealing profile of Wills, the story included a number of compelling sidebars: a first-person account by Carolyn Wills of growing up as Bob Wills’ daughter; drummer Casey Dickens’ recollections of his years with Wills as a member of the Texas Playboys; and a captivating “Story Behind the Song” of Wills’ most famous songs.
4. “Summer of Love”
The ambitious cover story by Joel Selvin for our Summer 2002 issue was titled, “The Psychedelic Sounds of Texans in the Summer of Love,” and explored the Texas influence on San Francisco, then the center of the rock ‘n’ roll counter-culture universe, in 1967. Selvin’s piece focused on a colorful mix of Texans, including legends Janis Joplin, Doug Sahm and Steve Miller, all of whom helped set the scene. Martha Gazella-Taylor’s creative design perfectly captured the mood of the piece — and the times.
5. Whitney Rose
It’s always a joy to feature performers who are under the radar but who possess exceptional talent. Whitney Rose is one such artist. Over the years, we’ve published stories on Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves when they were still finding their footing in the industry. (We worked with Musgraves’ grandmother — her de facto publicist — when we wrote our first piece on her.) When Rose released her latest album, Rule 62, it was clear this was a special talent. She won’t ever achieve the fame of Lambert or Musgraves, but if there were justice in the industry she would. We left it to writer Trey Gutierrez to bring out the best in Rose. When I texted her that I had some extra copies of her issue, she rushed right over to get them.