June 2009: The Texas Stillwater is…Waco?

That was the thought racing through my mind after a conversation I had with Rodney Pyeatt (Stoney LaRue, Selena, Blacktop Gypsy) a few months back at a show. He mentioned to me that there is more musical talent in the central Texas area of Waco-Temple-Killeen than any other area west of the Mississippi.
A bit grandiose and hyperbolic I thought at the time, despite my obvious inclinations to root for the area. Yet, as the night wore on and I watched Derrick Dutton rip through Modern Day Drifter’s set on lead guitar, I began to realize what Pyeatt was saying. My brain shuffled through all the great musicians from central Texas and got me to thinking that, aside from the Lubbock area that produced Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Joe Ely, Lloyd Maines, et al that he was probably onto something.

Historically, the Waco area has been home and birthplace to many musical legends. Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys perfomed on WACO-AM radio in the 1930’s. A clean-cut Willie Nelson played all the beer joints out on Highway 77 in the 1950’s when the area was a haven for hell-raising airmen stationed at the local airbase, and even attended Baylor University for a short time. Banjo-playing funnyman Steve Martin calls Waco his hometown. While, arguably the greatest songwriter to ever come out of Texas, Billy Joe Shaver, has called Waco home for decades. Johnny Gimble has been fiddlin’ around the world from his Waco base for years.

Yet, it is the contemporary crop of musicians impacting our scene of Texas/Red Dirt that Rodney was referring to.

The most obvious connection is that of Pat Green. Pat’s parents still call Waco home, he’s still the Mayor of Salsaritaville each August and he helped turn a Baylor-area dive bar into a Texas icon with one album and song. Say what you will about the musical direction of Pat’s last few efforts, and plenty people have, but you cannot deny his impact, influence and passionate dedication. Songs like “Washington Ave” and “Galleywinter” exhude central Texas literally. There are traces of the time Pat spent in college in Lubbock and hiding out in the hippie wonderland of Austin in his music, but it’s always Waco at the core.

As has been well documented, Wade Bowen followed in Green’s footsteps from a busy childhood in Waco to the dusty, rowdy college life in Lubbock then onward to Austin. Wade recently said “What is it about your hometown that makes it seem cooler as you get older?” That’s a good question that I don’t have an answer for, but I do know that his hometown has produced some incredible music.

Aside from singer/songwriter/bandleader stalwarts like Green and Bowen, there are some incredible axemen in this scene with roots in far reaching outposts of the U.S. Yet, somehow they were drawn to the magnetic musical pull of Waco.

Gary Wooten (Wade Bowen) is originally from North Carolina, and currently lives in Austin when not on a tourbus. However, he did his time in Waco. Playing the dive bars of downtown and anywhere else he could pick up a gig. He’s blossomed into one of the finest players in the country let alone Texas. Cue the 1:10 mark.

Kris Farrow (Josh Grider/Micky and the Motorcars) was a jazz saxophone playing cat from upper state New York when he made the trek to Texas to tackle independent music. Guitar is essentially his third best instrument, but you would be hard pressed to figure that out by watching him in concert.

And, the aforementioned Derrick Dutton (Modern Day Drifters) grew up the son of a southern rock musician in Portland, OR of all places before landing in Waco for college. He’s now the tastiest blues based lead player in the Texas scene. Cue the 3:30 mark.

And in the continuing interest of trying to spur more conversation, I’d love for you to hit up the comments and talk about what region of Texas you think has produced the most impressive list of musicians impacting this scene. I look forward to reading your idea of what the best region is.


-Had a guy ask me the other day who I thought would be in the Super Bowl, and I told him…”I have no idea…it’s not like last June I was proclaiming…Arizona Cardinals, baby!” Let’s get to the All-Star Break before thinking about football. Sports season fatigue. Seasons are far too long. I heard a while back that the NHL and NBA used to be over by mid-April before giving way to MLB. But, not now…the cash grab is forcing the NFL to even look at adding more games. Give me tired head.

-Setting out for my first trip in a couple years to Memphis and Nashville next week. Planning on catching Modern Day Drifters on Tuesday and the Randy/Wade acoustic tourstop on Wednesday. Open for suggestions on places to stop/see/eat. I have my favs in the area, but always enjoy hearing what other people suggest.

-We are moving again, and moving just plain sucks. No two ways about it. I like paying people a huge hourly rate to dent/ding my stuff.

-Greenfest is right around the corner on July 25-26! We are building “hang time” into the evening and scaling things back to focus more time on the music and definitely more time on the fellowship. Should be a cool evening. Then, of course the next day features our Acoustic Showcase/River Float with Drew Kennedy and friends. Also, remember that this event/weekend is a family reunion, not just a concert. Make your plans to be there now, and drag your friends along with you…they’ll thank you later.

-Summer Bash details are out: House Concert on Lake Corpus Christi on July 4th featuring Josh Norman. Good times my friends, good times.

-I knocked out several books in May including Slash’s autobiography. Juicy, but no Dirt or Heroin Diaries. Up next, Scar Tissue by Anthony Keidis. Any other suggestions?

-Summer tv is such a wasteland it makes me want to pick up another hobby with the extra time I don’t have.

-Sad to see the GM Bankruptcy stuff. As a guy who grew up with a family that owned a full-service gas station for fifty years and catered to Chevy’s, it was a tough pill to swallow. My first three vehicles wore the bowtie. I’m hopeful that it will rebound.

-I wish George Carlin was still around to take the piss out of this entire situation our country finds itself in. I know he’d have some hilarious insights. Such as: “These days many politicians are demanding change. Just like homeless people.”

-This month’s recommended film: The Terminator: Salvation. Christian Bale might be a prick but he does an amazing job of bringing life to dated popcorn franchises.

-This month’s recommended album: Charlie Robison-Beautiful Day. Some people would call this a comeback album, I just call it a continuation. Heavily influenced by Robison’s divorce, along with one of his favorite albums of all-time, Willie Nelson’s Phases and Stages, this record plays like a sequel to Good Times.

-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”-Mark Twain

Brad Beheler

Raised in Waco, refined in the Hill Country, escaped from DFW. I've worked in just about every facet of the music business for 20 years. I like to write about it all. e-mail Brad Editor-in-Chief

5 thoughts on “June 2009: The Texas Stillwater is…Waco?

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