Cody Johnson has garnered three nominations for the upcoming fan-voted CMT Music Awards, which will air live on CBS on Sunday, April 2, from the Moody Center in Austin. This marks the first time the show has been held in Austin, after being held in Nashville for decades.
Johnson is nominated for video of the year and male video of the year, both for “Human,” and for CMT performance of the year for “Til You Can’t,” from the 2022 CMT Music Awards. (The Black Pumas and Mickey Guyton are competing in the same category for “Colors,” also from last year’s CMT show.)
Other Texans scoring nominations include Maren Morris and Miranda Lambert. Both are up for female video of the year — Morris for “Humble Quest,” Lambert for “Actin’ Up.”
Midland’s “Longneck Way to Go” (featuring Jon Pardi) is nominated for collaborative video of the year; LeAnn Rimes (with Ashley McBride and Carly Pearce) is competing for CMT performance of the year for “One Way Ticket” (from CMT Crossroads: LeAnn Rimes & Friends); and Charley Crockett is up for CMT digital-first performance of the year for “Time of the Cottonwood Trees” (from CMT Campfire Sessions).
It’s been a decade since Kacey Musgraves released her career-altering Same Trailer Different Park — the album dropped March 9, 2013 — and the trailblazing singer took a moment to reflect on the iconic album.
“I can’t really comprehend that it’s been 10 years,” Musgraves wrote on Instagram March 1. To commemorate the event, Musgraves, along with designers Drew Tetz and Mackenzie Moore, has released “the most dreamy zoetrope limited-edition vinyl. Watch the record spin under a bright light through your phone camera to see the animation come to life.”
Musgraves’ 12-track album won the 2014 Grammy for best country album, and included career-defining fan favorites, including “Follow Your Arrow,” “Blowin’ Smoke” and “Merry Go Round,” which won the Grammy for best country song. (“Follow Your Arrow,” meanwhile, won song of the year at the 2014 CMT Music Awards.) The album peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart but was No. 1 on the country albums chart.
“Ten years of Same Trailer Different Park,” Musgraves wrote. “It’s wild how many lives I feel I’ve lived since then, and yet I still feel exactly like the same 24-year-old girl who floated these songs out into the world. Grateful for the past 10 and looking forward to the next 10 and whatever songs they may hold. Thanks for sticking around.”
The late music legend Freddy Fender will be honored with an official Texas State Marker at his birthplace in San Benito in April, the San Benito Historical Society and Museum has announced.
Known for his South Texas Tejano and country roots, Fender climbed the Billboard charts in the 1970s and early ’80s with the hits “Before the next Teardrop Falls,” recorded in Houston, and “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights.” Fender, who passed in 2006, achieved global fame with his music. He remains one of the most successful Latino artists to ever hit the airwaves.
The ceremony to unveil the Texas State Marker in Fender’s honor will be held Saturday, April 15, at 10 a.m. at 143 Freddy Fender Lane in San Benito. Following the event, fans are invited to stop by the Freddy Fender Museum (210 E. Heywood St.), which showcases memorabilia amassed over more than 50 years of the three-time Grammy-winner’s career, most of it drawn from family archives. Included are Fender’s gold records, his blue Harley-Davidson and awards such as Most Promising Male Vocalist from the Academy of Country Music, which he received in 1975.
A new documentary by writer, director and producer Kirby Warnock will dive into the life and death of Stevie Ray Vaughan through interviews with the man who knew him best: his brother, Jimmie.
Warnock says the documentary, Brothers in Blues, is the first biographical project Jimmie Vaughan has participated in. With sitting interviews and never-before-seen family photos, the documentary will be a unique look into the rise of both brothers in the music industry.
Brothers in Blues will also be the first time Eric Clapton and Jimmie Vaughan have given on-camera interviews discussing the night Stevie Ray died.
Brothers in Blues will premiere at Texas Theatre in Dallas on March 23 at 7 p.m. The viewing will kick off the Texas tour for the documentary, which will also visit theaters in Waco, Austin and Houston.
The documentary has been four years in the making and features interviews from former Oak Cliff and Austin bandmates of Vaughan, as well as Clapton, Nile Rodgers, Billy Gibbons and other music industry professionals who crossed paths with Stevie Ray.
Amanda Shires — Texas Music’s 2011 artist of the year — continues to gain national exposure for her latest album, 2022’s Take It Like A Man, which earned a place on Texas Music’s “22 Top Albums of 2022.” She was featured in a lengthy New York Times profile, not to mention articles in People, Pitchfork, American Songwriter, Rolling Stone and the Huffington Post. She’s also appeared on CBS Mornings — in an interview with Gayle King — and, most recently, on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where she was the musical guest.
For that segment, the singer-songwriter and fiddle player from Mineral Wells performed “Hawk for the Dove” with her husband and musical collaborator Jason Isbell, along with a backing band.
Over the course of the rendition, Shires and company offered up a grinding, country-tinged stomper, full of harmonies and riffs, before Shires allowed her bow hair to carve through the tune with buttery and precise articulation two and a half minutes in. Isbell and Shires faced each other during the sonic climax.
When she’s not pursuing her solo work, Shires joins Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile and Natalie Hemby as the Highwomen, who’ve also garnered plenty of national publicity.
Grammy winner and Seminole, Texas, native Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers has been teaching a music class at UT-Permian Basin in Odessa this semester.
“This ole coot has been teaching about life, about songs, about books, about works, about paintings and about feelings,” Gatlin says, “and we’ve had a wonderful time. Or at least I have — I hope they have, too.”
Each student performed a piece as their final project for the class — some sang, others read poetry, and some presented artwork. Gatlin put no limit on what the students could perform.
“I tried to pour into them what the universe and god and the world has poured into me in the last 70-something years,” Gatlin says. “There have been some wonderful moments in that class — all of them have moved us.”
Gatlin was born in Seminole in 1948, but his family lived in several locations — his father was an oilfield worker — including Abilene and Odessa. Gatlin returned to the area earlier this year to teach the course. “I’ve come home to do my little part to give back to this city,” he says, “this little town in West Texas that gave so much to me.”
A new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville honors the influence of Texas — especially South Texas — as a re-emerging hub of the genre’s strong touring tradition, plus regional sounds and styles. The exhibit is part of the museum’s American Currents: State of the Music, which opened March 7. Americana Music Association (ACM) award-winner Charley Crockett, CMA Award-winner Cody Johnson, ACM Award-winner Parker McCollum and ACM nominee Sunny Sweeney all have personal effects featured.
For nearly two decades, Sweeney has been collecting signatures of her favorite country music artists on a customized, rhinestone-adorned Gibson J-45 Historic Collection guitar. Names including hall of famers Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Charley Pride, Connie Smith, Vince Gill and Marty Stuart adorn the instrument now housed behind glass at the museum.
“If seeing that guitar can inspire a young person — perhaps even a fellow Texan — to get involved in music, keep their lives on a straight and narrow path and allow the music industry to fulfill their life’s aspirations, I can’t imagine anything better in the world,” Sweeney says.
The exhibit also features outfits worn by Crockett — a powder blue suit embellished with embroidered flowers, alligators and rhinestones — and Miranda Lambert — a black jumpsuit she wore on CBS-TV’s New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash, in 2021.
The Vandoliers, alt-country rockers based in Dallas-Fort Worth, checked their tour schedule as they began learning more about Tennessee’s anti-drag bill. Their opening set for Joshua Ray Walker at the Shed in Maryville, Tennessee, was just a couple of days away — March 2 — the same day Gov. Bill Lee signed into law a bill that limits “male and female impersonators” to age-restricted venues.
What started as a simple “sign of solidarity” turned into much more, band member Cory Graves says. Rolling Stone took notice and wrote about the dresses — carefully selected with the band’s broad shoulders and personalities in mind — which have since been auctioned to support Knox Pride and the Tennessee Equality Project.
The auction ended at noon March 6, raising $2,277.69 to be split between the two groups.
“What’s happening in Tennessee is a blatant attack on a marginalized class,” lead singer Joshua Fleming says. “I have lots of friends in the LGBTQ community. We have fans in that community. I’ve opened for bands in that community. I’ve had bands open for us in that community. This is a big part of my heart.”
One of the finest singers in the Spanish-speaking world has announced dates for his latest U.S. tour. Pepe Aguilar will perform across the country beginning in July, with two stops in Texas in October.
Aguilar has sold over 12 million albums worldwide and has won four Grammys and four Latin Grammy Awards. Born in San Antonio and raised in Zacatecas, Mexico, he’s the son of singer-actors Antonio Aguilar and Flor Silvestre, both Mexican cultural icons in their own right.
Outside of a few dates, Aguilar hasn’t had a proper U.S. tour since 2017. His first Texas show will be Oct. 20, at the Moody Amphitheater in Austin, before he heads to the Rio Grande Valley for a show on Oct. 29, at the Payne Arena in Hildago.
Between his solo tour dates, Aguilar will also be headlining his popular Jaripeo Sin Fronteras tour with brother Antonio Aguilar, the band HIJO and two of his own children, Ángela and Leonardo Aguilar. The tour has sold out some the biggest venues in Mexico and the U.S. over the past five years.
Michael Rhodes, the bassist and session musician who played on iconic hits by Shawn Colvin and Lee Ann Womack, died March 4 in Nashville at age 69. No cause of death was given.
Rhodes was born in Monroe, Louisiana, in 1953. At age 11 he taught himself to play guitar, which he began playing professionally before taking up bass. After stints living in Austin and Memphis, he wound up in Nashville in 1977, where he joined local rock band Nerve and Tree Publishing’s house demo band. It was there he got what he called “a great crash course in the art of playing a song, and what was needed for a song.”
He went on to have a prolific career in session work, playing on award-winning songs including Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home” (1996) and Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” (2000), and even had the honor of playing on both LeAnn Rimes’ and Trisha Yearwood’s 1997 versions of Diane Warren’s “How Do I Live.”
His lengthy list of credits includes recordings for Willie Nelson, the Chicks, Rodney Crowell, George Strait, Billy Joe Shaver, Etta James, Elton John and Johnny Cash.
Southern Living, in its latest issue, names Gruene Hall the best dance hall in Texas. It’s also the oldest dance hall in Texas. Since its founding in Gruene in 1878, “the oldest dance hall is still the coolest place in town,” writes Kaitlyn Yarborough.
And undeniably authentic. Timeworn photographs and newspaper clippings remember past headliners like Willie Nelson, George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Earl Keen and other country legends, iconized in black-and-white on the paint-chipped walls. “The more people heard about the magic, the more they wanted to come see it for themselves,” says Mary Jane Nalley, co-owner of Gruene along with Pat Molak since 1975.
The white-clapboard venue hasn’t changed much since its founding in Gruene in 1878, barring the occasional coat of paint. Cases of beer surround the bar, the swinging doors hang askew on their hinges, and side flaps make room for open-air dancing. The stage is small, there’s no green room or backstage, and that’s the way it stays, no matter who you are.
But there’s no shortage of memories of Gruene Hall’s lasting magic. There was the time Little Richard drove his Cadillac through the back gate and hopped up on stage to sing “Good Golly, Miss Molly.” Or when Ryan Bingham, now on Yellowstone, performed acoustically at the small makeshift stage by the bar at the beginning of his career. (“I’d met him around a campfire in Marfa,” Nalley says, “looking scruffy and playing the guitar”). Or the time Willie Nelson snuck in through a hole cut out of the men’s restroom to escape a packed crowd.
With more dance halls closing as urban migration marches on, groups such as the Texas Dance Hall Preservation are committed to saving these historic sites, as well as the music and culture that can still be found within them. Whether at the Broken Spoke in Austin, John T. Floore’s Country Store in Helotes, Twin Sisters Dance Hall in Blanco or Waylon Jennings’ folkloric Luckenbach, you can still hear Texas’ true sound every day of the week, and the packed dance floors signal there’s hope yet.
Songwriters Across Texas is a Texas-based TV show that highlights the state’s noteworthy musicians. As the creators anticipate the launch of their new website, they’re including a new series that will grow consumer access beyond the TV show.
The new short-form series, On the Rogue, launched this month and takes viewers on a journey inside live musical performances by legends and up-and-coming artists at renowned venues around the state with behind-the-scenes interviews. The series is hosted by Austin-based musician Ginger Leigh. Having come from multiple generations of professional musicians from Texas, Leigh brings with her an extensive knowledge of the music industry, songwriting and her own unique flair for humor and intelligent conversation.
For nearly a decade, Songwriters Across Texas has aired locally in Austin on the CW. The show’s 10th season is currently broadcast in Central Texas, and full episodes are streamed on the show’s YouTube channel on the same day the show airs. The YouTube channel also features weekly content from the back catalogue of previous seasons. (On the Rogue will also air on YouTube and the CW.)
The show has generated nearly 120 episodes over eight seasons. In 2019, the show was acquired by Bruce Craig of Lucky 7 Downloads, and has since produced an 8th, 9th and 10th season. Performers in season 10 include Jon Dee Graham and Miss Lavelle White.
Season 11 is currently under production with a release date of early 2024.
Alfredo Guerrero has continued the legacy of the legendary Chicano Tejano band Tortilla Factory and its leader, his late father Tony “Ham” Guerrero, establishing himself in the Tejano industry.
But he wasn’t sure what to think when he got a call from the governor’s office, asking to see him. “At first I was scared,” Guerrero says. “Did I do something wrong?” Upon arrival, Guerrero was taken into Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, who greeted Guerrero with a proclamation. “He said, ‘Alfredo, we here at the State Capitol would like to honor you with this.’”
Abbott presented a 50th-anniversary proclamation by the State of Texas celebrating five decades of Tortilla Factory music and proclaiming Feb. 17 Tortilla Factory Day. Guerrero was overcome with emotion.
“For decades, Texans of all ages and backgrounds have gathered in throngs to witness the talent that cements your status as a touchstone of Tejano music,” the proclamation reads. “Your unique fusion of R&B, salsa, jazz, hip hop and Tejano music has garnered accolades from the Grammys, Latin Grammys, Austin Chronicle Music Awards, and you have secured your rightful place in the Austin Music Awards Hall of Fame. Critics and concertgoers alike have long recognized Tortilla Factory as a pioneering voice within the genre, and you remain an influential force to this day.”
Tortilla Factory birthed a new kind of Latin soul from 1973 into the ’80s, somewhere between Doug Sahm’s West Side San Antonio gang and Santana. Funkier than but closely related to the ’60s Latino hybrid of Chicano soul, Tony “Ham” Guerrero, the trumpeter, built red-hot rhythms, white-rock influence and brassy Tejano melodies into one explosive sound.
Artist Sarah Thomson’s Austin home is filled with art and antiques. “We just love old stuff — retro and vintage,” she says. “We’re always collecting. And we’re makers.”
She and her husband own a business, Roadhouse Relics, where they create vintage-looking neon art. But when she’s not working, Thompson heads to a tiny trailer in back of her house. The trailer’s walls are decorated with paintings of her favorite country music singer, Loretta Lynn. “This is definitely Loretta-themed,” Thompson says.
But Thompson’s newest painting honors another old favorite, Waylon Jennings. “I’ve done Johnny Cash and Hank Williams,” Thompson explains, “and I thought, ‘Let’s do ol’ Waylon.’”
Thompson is actually a native of Canada who moved to Austin, in part, because of the live music scene. She’s been painting as long as she can remember, and even sold one of her creations to another famous face.
“Claire Danes was filming a movie here in Austin, and she came in and bought a piece,” Thompson recalls. “It was of Dolly Parton — she bought it as a gift for either her producer or director.”
You can’t put a price on what you love, and Thompson says she’s right at home in her small trailer creating country artwork.
Cover photo courtesy Cody Johnson (codyjohnsonmusic.com)