Texas is defined not by its diverse landscape or rich culture but by its natives, that take fierce pride in the uniqueness of their home state! Texans leave no chance to celebrate their pride – a quality evident by the countless Texas references in pop culture, especially music. You can find songs praising Texas in almost every music genre, but country music has special ties to the Lone Star State. Making a playlist of Texas songs is difficult due to the shedload of tunes spread throughout different genres, but we are here to help! We have listened to legions of Texas songs and prepared a list of the top ten songs that best capture the essence of the Lone Star State below!
Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
Any playlist of Texas songs is incomplete without the King of Western Swing’s signature soundtrack featuring on its top. Originally when Bill Wills wrote the song as an instrumental in 1838, he named it San Antonio Rose. However, later on, the band members made additions to the lyrics, and the song was renamed New San Antonio Rose in 1940. People instantly fell in love with the upbeat melody and country fiddle of the track topped with Tommy Duncan’s haunting vocals who mourned his lost love. The song became a radio-favorite in no time and was even listed in the Top 100 Western Songs of All Time.
Written by Linda Shafer and Sanger Shafer, this song was the second single in George Strait’s seventh studio album Ocean Front Property. In this heartfelt song, the King of Country reminisces his time in the Lone Star State, where he had a concatenation of tumultuous relationships, which eventually led him to flee to Tennessee. He alluded to several famous landmarks of Texas while recalling the poor out-turn of all his relationships:
Sweet Eileen’s in Abilene
She forgot I hung the moon
And Allison’s in Galveston
Somehow lost her sanity
The song received favorable criticism from the general audience and even received a nomination for Best Male Country Vocal Performance at the 30th Annual Grammy Awards.
Written by Paul Fraser and Terry Stafford, this single was originally recorded by Stafford in 1973. In this song, Stafford recounts the story of a bull rider who faces many misfortunes on his way around the county fair, but the thought of returning to his home, Amarillo, brings him hope. The bull rider’s story is an allegory to how Stafford felt when playing at a rodeo away from home in San Antonio.
This Western-style rambling of a rodeo rider was received so positively by critics that many singers covered it. Among all covers, the one by George Strait became the most iconic country tunes in history. His version peaked charts, reaching No.1 on Canadian RPM Country Tracks and No.4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles.
A genre classic, this Western-style ballad was written and recorded by Marty Robbins for his fifth studio album. Released on October 26, 1959, as a single, it became an instant smash on not only the country charts but also the pop music charts. It secured top position on both charts at the beginning of 1960 and bagged the 3rd Annual Grammy Award for Best Country and Western Recording. It also secured a place in the Western Writers of America’s list of Top 100 Western songs of all time.
El Paso is famous for its action-packed narrative and Tex-Mex acoustics, set off by the evocative harmonies of vocalists Bobby Sykes and Jim Glaser. The ballad is set in the Wild West, narrating the story of an El Paso cowboy who is smitten by a Mexican girl named Faleena and commits murder in the name of his unfeigned love! He flees from El Paso, commits another major crime (horse theft) on his way to escape but eventually comes back for his yearning is insufferable and dies in the arms of his love! Sad, isn’t it?
It is impossible to make a playlist of Texas songs without including this classic. First recorded by Perry Como in 1941, the song garnered praise and soon over five different versions featured in the 1942 Billboard charts. Out of all its covers, Gene Autry’s version, featured in the 1942 film Heart of the Rio Grander, remains the most popular one. It is impossible not to hum along and clap your hands four times whenever someone sings, “the stars at night are big and bright.” You can find this melodious Western-style tune making appearances in pop culture even today!
Widely considered the unofficial other of the City of Galveston and the Galveston Island, Glen Campell’s signature song is one tune that will remain in people’s hearts till the end of time. Although originally recorded by pop music singer Don Ho in 1968, it was Campell who popularized the song and made it a chart-topper. His version, released in 1969, secured No.1 spot on the Hot Country Songs and Easy Listening charts and reached No.4 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The record-breaking song is a first-person narrative of a soldier at war dreaming about his hometown. In the beginning, the soldier recalls the beauty of his seaside town and his lover to distract him from the battle, but towards the end, he finally expresses fear for his life.
Many consider the original solemn tune an anti-war song as it evokes strong empathy for all those battling on the front-line. However, Campell played it up-tempo and turned it into a somewhat patriotic song.
Waylon Jennings pays tribute to the splendor of a simple life with his 1977 record Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love). The chart-topping song featured lyrics by Bobby Emmons and Chips Moman and was released as the first single for Jennings’ studio album Ol’ Waylon. It centers around a couple who are enervated by the demands of high-society life. In the face of a strained relationship and financial burdens, Jennings suggests that they return to a simpler life in Luckenbach, Texas, where they can finally drop the charade and enjoy the basics of love. To tie up the old country-style ballad beautifully, the final verse features a guest vocal by none other than Willie Nelson himself! Sometimes all we want is an escape from our lives, and for such times, this song acts as a means of catharsis!
Josh Abbott Band ft. Pat Green
My Texas by the Josh Abbott Band is nothing but a hymn to the Lone Star State’s uniqueness in every aspect! In this Southern-style rock laced tune, the songwriter lists a number of Texas-special activities like climbing up to the Enchanted Rock, drinking cold shiner, and seeing the majestic Abilene sunset. He concludes that if you have not experienced these things, you are not acquainted with his Texas. The stirring verses are oozing with the band’s affiliation to Texas, and although they might sound like a personal narrative, almost every native can relate to them. The song also features a verse by fellow-Texan Pat Green!
If you are a line dancer or someone who even once went to line dance, you must be able to recognize this song just from its tune! God Blessed Texas was released in 1993 by Little Texas and became its signature song in no time! The band pays homage to their native hometown through this song by praising its unique geography and demography. Although the country music band started in Nashville, its founding members had their roots in Texas – evident by the band’s name. In their flag-waving song, they testify to the feelings of every Texan by referring to Texan as Heaven on earth. Thanks to its catchy tune and heart-warming lyrics, it has become one of the legendary Texas tunes of all time!
Unlike the other songs on our list, Beautiful Texas is not a chart-topper; instead, it is an earnest anthem for the State of Texas. This song was released in 1968 and concluded Willie Nelson’s seventh studio album Texas in My Soul. Like the other songs in this album, Beautiful Texas, too, is a means of celebrating Texas pride. Willie’s utmost devotion to his hometown is evident from the song’s lyrics, where he repeatedly hymns Texas’ heavenly landscape. Not sure about settling in Texas? This song will surely change your mind!
- The Bluest Eyes in Texas
Released in 1988 by Restless Heart, this is a classic song for our heartbroken fellas whose hearts ache not only for Texas but someone they left there. It is simply a song about a blue-eyed girl whose memory haunts the singer even years after departing from them. The lead single from Restless Heart’s third studio album, The Bluest Eyes in Texas, peaked on charts the year it was released, reaching the top position on the Billboard Hot Country Songs and second position on RPM Country Tracks.
- Waltz Across Texas
Waltz Across Texas by Ernest Tubb perfectly captures the essence of country music in the 60s. This waltz piece was written by Quanah Talmadge Tubb, Ernest Tubb’s nephew, and released in 1965. Known for its slow swinging-style tune, this piece is undoubtedly the pioneer of country music’s most widely-recognized creation. The haunting vocals of Tubb make for a pleasant listen on a long road journey.
- Texas (When I Die)
Tanya Tucker, a fellow Texan, covered Texas (When I die) in 1978 as the first single for her ninth studio album TNT. The song was originally recorded by Ed Bruce; however, it was Tanya’s version that garnered massive success. Tanya went overboard in her celebration of Texas pride by comparing the Lone Star State to Heaven itself! Her tribute became a classic Texas tune that was used by the Dallas Cowboys as their touchdown song throughout the 1980s.
- If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)
Although the name of the band suggests otherwise, this song is all about the Lone Star State! To put it simply, this song is a guide on how to please the crowds when you play in Texas. Written by Murray Kellum and Dan Mitchell, If You’re Going to Play in Texas is one of the highest-grossing songs of Alabama. Released in July 1984, this upbeat song became the band’s fourteenth consecutive single to sit atop the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.
- Girls From Texas
Pat Green ft. Lyle Lovett
In this song, Pat Green reminds everyone that everything about Texas is unique, including its women. Featuring Lyle Lovett, Pat released this legendary song in September 2014. He admits in this chart-topper song that even though girls from other states are all unique in their own, girls from his hometown are ‘just a little bit better.’ This freestyle tribute featured in Home – his first record in six years – and brought him back into the spotlight.
Now that you have seen our top picks for country music’s best tunes about the former republic, it is time you make your own playlist and blast it in your car to feel at home even when not in Texas!