July 2009: 30 Years of Musical DNA


I often get asked what my top five bands/albums/songs etc are, and I find that such an impossible task. There is too much music out there. Both the kind stored on my mp3 player and in my brain…as well as they kind I’ve yet to discover. I’m turning 30 this month. Not old by any means, but definitely a milestone. And quite a lifetime of music I’ve experienced through the years. I’ve waxed nostalgic in this space often, and what better time than now?
I figured I’d take this month to take a trip down memory lane at the influences that carved me into what I am at this point, as well as, hopping behind the wheel of Doc Brown’s Delorean for a trip into what the future might hold. It’s probably a similar journey for many other Generation X’ers near my age, and shares something with those older and younger than me, so I look forward to the comments section being filled with your own musical timeline.

It’s also evident to me upon looking back, that this collection of influences are really what led me to Texas/Red Dirt as a saving grace.

Music’s been a part of the fabric of my soul for as long as I can recall, and even before memory served me. A story I often relate is that my very pregnant mother took me to a Doobie Brothers concert while I still resided in her belly. I rocked along in the womb apparently. She’s even joked that I kicked along with the beat. That early indoctrination to music definitely kickstarted a passion that has only grown evermore consuming as the years go by.

As I think back to songs I actually remember hearing, the first one that comes to mind is “Elvira” by the Oak Ridge Boys. I’m convinced I saw them on TNN or something, but it could’ve been the Barbara Mandrell tv show…at any rate…I probably thought they were cartoons with William Lee Golden looking like the Grizzly Man and Joe Bonsall passing for a live action Muppet. Not to mention the tugboat bass of a voice owned by Richard Sterban and his “oom pappa mahw mawh”-ness.

My next musical memory is of “We Are the World”. Someone gave me a tape that said “USA FOR AFRICA” on it. I had no idea or concept who all these voices I was hearing were, let alone the cause…but I knew I liked it and proceeded to listen to it for about a month on steady repeat. Two of the voices on that track would immediately impact my musical world as I would blare the Born in the USA and Thriller albums on repeat. Again, with the Springsteen I had no idea that the lyrics to the title track were actually not happy and shiny…in my young mind it was just a joyous affirmation of patriotism.

And, with Michael Jackson I was just swept up in what other people thought was cool. I think they gave Thriller away for free in the mail with as many people had that album, and I wasn’t very discretionary at age five. The MJ songs were merely a soundtrack for the videos I saw playing out on MTV for hours at a time as my sister babysat me by placing me in front of it for hours at a time like the kid in the early 90’s sitcom Dream On.

Throughout my childhood, as I was dropped off at a grandparents’ house for the weekend, we would always be surrounded by music. Whether it was church on Sunday rooting me in gospel music, or blaring old school jazz and big band LPs on a huge old-school record player cabinet/piece of furniture as they regaled me of stories of Tommy Dorsey and Sammy Davis, JR. Between this and the many TIME Life commercials popping up during the 80’s, I began to assimilate all these foundation pieces into my own musical DNA.

I was also getting to the age where I got to pick out my own music. Some of the first I remember purchasing with my allowance, on cassette at the local K-Mart with the big, unnecessary plastic cases around them, were RUN DMC and Beastie Boys. Even at a young age, I was searching out something unique. Something different. Something fresh. Definitely not my parents or grandparents music anymore. From there, with the help of the ever present MTV of the day and influence of my friends older siblings, I dug hard into the hits of the day…most notably hair metal. I was seduced by the soaring choruses and weird looking freaks on tv singing catchy melodies about going home sweet home and living on prayers.

Please remember that throughout my independent dalliances were nightly viewings of Ralph Emery’s Nashville Now show on TNN and constant helpings of George Strait, Mel McDaniel and Hank Williams, Jr as I traveled anywhere in a vehicle.

Yet, I continued to search on my own, again landing in the dangerous world of hip-hop. From the feelgood stuff like Sir Mix Alot, Kid n Play and MC Hammer to the edgy stuff like NWA and Eazy-E. Typical, rebellious stuff for a kid in a no-stoplight town in Texas. But, don’t blame me…I got it from the neighbors!

Around this time, the neo-traditionalist movement began to sweep country music with guys like Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam, along with the infamous class of ’89 (Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Alan Jackson and Travis Tritt). As music like that was steadily pumped into my consciousness, there was a huge movement happening. Grunge was happening. It was the fall of ’91 and I remember the media making a big deal out of Michael Jackson releasing Dangerous and the “Black and White” video simulcast…but nobody I knew was interested.

We were more interested in seeing how many times MTV would play “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Something that spoke to us. Something outside the lines.

The edge found in that musical moment caused me to chase the dragon of danger from then on. So, my tastes trended to harder and harder stuff until I was blaring Pantera, White Zombie and old Metallica (among others) so loudly and often that I’m pretty sure I damaged my hearing.

As the decade began to wear on, and country music’s constant presence in my life was waning due to the Shania-ized crap radio was pushing, someone gave me a Robert Earl Keen cd. Then, next thing I know I was invited to see some kid from the hometown play at a dive bar. His name was Pat Green. And, from there I dug deeper into Texas Music. Where my core still is. Sure, I’ve continued to dabble and search for cool stuff in all genres, but my homebase is Texas/Red Dirt.

And, the reason I think that I stay there at the core is that Texas Music embodies all 30 years of styles that make up my musical DNA. Of course there are the country/honk-tonk notions…but the best of this scene showcase themes of blues, rock, and even the edginess of gangsta rap at times. It’s not slick. It’s dangerous. And it keeps me forever searching for the next cool thing. That’s how I ended up here…30 years of music soaking into my soul…how about you?


-The Michael Jackson stuff has been crazy. But, I must admit like the cliches played out in the media…this death has made me re-evaluate and remember how good his music was in the first place. I’ve watched countless YouTube videos of his in the past couple weeks and came away so impressed by the performance aspect of some of the live clips I saw. He was dancing full steam ahead without lip-synching and never missing a lyric. Amazing.

-Am I the only one that hears “down, down doo doo brown?” when “Cupid Shuffle” is played? And for the love of all that is holy, people please stop line dancing. PLEASE!

-On a recent roadtrip I was reminded of the time some buddies and I were lost in San Antonio and one of them exclaimed “We can call my cousin!”. Me, “Does he live down here?” Him: “No, he lives in Dallas.” This was in the dark ages before cell phones and GPS were prevalent. So we were lost until another one of my friends got directions that told us to simply go to the end of the street and take a left. What a fantastic invention that GPS is!

-Another all-star break with the Rangers at/near 1st place. Let’s see what happens from here on out. If they’re still hanging in there in late August I’ll be happier than Kirstie Alley at a Golden Corral.

-Glad so many people liked my piece about Georgie, the chick from London we picked up at Graceland. She will be at Steamboat, so you can holler at her in person!

-Greenfest is this month. Cool to feel the vibe being just right about it. Nice mix of old-skoolers coming back and newbies. We’re all family. Come on out if you can make it. Sat July 25-Momo’s in Austin. Sun July 25-LoneStarFloathouse in New Braunfels.

-Heard a story on the news recently about a former TCU Football player that was shot over the weekend in Florida over accidentally spilling his stepfather’s beer. Bizarre. Hope his stepfather stays away from Greenfest!

-This month’s recommended film: The Hangover. Quite frankly, one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. That’s all I’ll say. Go see it.

-This month’s recommended album: Walt Wilkins-Vigil. Classic Walt. Some songs you know. Others you don’t. Folksy and soulful. All for a good cause. Every penny of the proceeds will benefit the Longevity Foundation – an Austin-based charity supporting research into a cure for ataxia-telangiectasia, a degenrative disorder causing premature aging of the nervous and immune systems.

-“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

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