A newly opened exhibit at the Wittliff Collections on the campus of Texas State University pays tribute to “The Songwriters: Sung and Unsung Heroes.”

Curator Hecton Saldaña puts the collection in perspective. “We all love Willie, Waylon, and the boys, right?” he says. “But Willie Nelson would be the first to tell you, there’s just so much more to Texas music.”

Nevertheless, Nelson plays an important role in the exhibit. Lyrics to some of his songs — scribbled on napkins, hotel stationary, and other bits of paper — are on display, for example. And a bust by sculptor Clete Shields is among the first items to greet visitors.

But the exhibit aims to widen visitors’ collective points of musical reference in order to recognize and celebrate the richness and diversity of the songwriters who’ve defined —and who continue to define — the sound of the Lone Star State. It’s a place where Lydia Mendoza, Cindy Walker, Barbara Lynn, Marcia Ball and Terri Hendrix are considered in the same breath as Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.

“The Songwriters” presents, for the first time, many artifacts acquired since the advent of the pandemic and highlights the preservation efforts and research opportunities at The Wittliff Collections.

Here are some highlights.

A bust of Houston native Lydia Mendoza, nicknamed the Lark of the Border, described as the mother of Tejano music.
Display case of guitars owned by legendary Texas songwriters
Blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan’s suede boots
Wille Nelson sculpture by Clete Shields
Willie Nelson’s lyrics — written on a variety of stationery
An early ’60s portrait of R&B great Barbara Lynn
Original sheet music to Cindy Walker’s “Oiltown, U.S.A.”
Stage dress worn by Rosita Fernandez, San Antonio’s “First Lady of Song”

The Wittliff Collections is located on the seventh floor of Texas State’s Albert B. Alkek Library in San Marcos. All photos used by permission of the Wittliff Collections.