Songwriters in Texas and elsewhere sometimes fly under the radar in the music industry, overshadowed by the big stars recording their songs. But truth be told, songwriters are the backbone of good country music and deserve to be recognized.
The Lone Star State can claim some of country music's most famous songwriters like Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Townes Van Zandt. There are many Texans who have spent their entire lives writing (and recording) songs for country music fans to enjoy. Let's dig into the songs of a few of the best Texas troubadours:
Jamie Lin Wilson
D'Hanis, TX songwriter Jamie Lin Wilson is one of the best lyricists working today.
Raised in the small town of Golden, the Lone Star State's Kacey Musgraves has been captivating listeners since her 2013 major label debut Same Trailer Different Park.
Lindale-raised Miranda Lambert is as celebrated for her songwriting as she is for her incredible vocals.
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Ray Wylie Hubbard will take you on a ride with his song "Screw You, We're From Texas" and other fan favorites. He wasn't born in Texas, but you can't tell. The state claims him as its own and so we will, too. He's a great guitar picker, a great songwriter and a great Texan.
Terry Allen was raised in the wild West of Lubbock and is going down in history as one of the greats. With 12 records under his belt, he has created work that will influence the next flight of Texas songwriters.
Hailing from Houston, Rodney Crowell has had a career about as big as the Texas sky. With a few Grammys, five No. 1 hits and stars like Waylon Jennings and The Oak Ridge Boys recording his songs, he's a country music legend.
From Stephenville, Courtney Patton brings heart and soul to Texas music. She is a born and bred storyteller. Her most recent record, What It's Like to Fly Alone, debuted at No. 4 on the iTunes country chart and entered the Top 20 of Billboard's Americana Albums Sales chart.
Robert Earl Keen
Robert Earl Keen always brings humor to honky-tonk. His bio says that "some people take up a life of playing music with the goal of someday reaching a destination of fame and fortune; but from the get-go, Keen just wanted to write and sing his own songs, and to keep writing and singing them for as long as possible." That's all you need to know about REK.
Jerry Jeff Walker
Though Jerry Jeff was from New York, he got to Texas as fast as he could. He moved down to Austin in the '70s and reinvented himself. He became an outlaw legend, right next to Nelson and Ray Benson. Jerry Jeff passed away in 2020.
Lyle Lovett was born in Houston and attended Texas A&M in College Station-- it doesn't get more Texan than that. Beyond his contributions to songwriting, the Grammy winner has acted in over 20 films.
From Lubbock, Joe Ely blazed a trail in not only country music, but rock music as well. He was in the band The Flatlanders with fellow Lubbock musicians (and stellar songwriters) Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock. He also spent time on tour with The Clash and sang harmonies on their hit song "Should I Stay or Should I Go."
Michael Martin Murphey
From Dallas, Michael Martin Murphey stormed the rock scene before he ever took the country scene by the reins. His songs have been cut by The Monkees, Kenny Rogers, Roger Miller and Bobbie Gentry. He was known as the Cosmic Cowboy in the '70s as he played Austin with many of the names that preceded him on this list.
Before he became an American icon, Willie Nelson was an aspiring singer-songwriter from Abbot, Texas. Without Nelson's lyrics, country music wouldn't be the same.
"Me and Bobby McGee," "Sunday Morning Coming Down," "Why Me" -- Kris Kristofferson's timeless songs are American standards.
Townes Van Zandt
Fort Worth born Townes Van Zandt was nothing short of a master of songwriting and an American poet.
Guy Clark is the heartbeat of Texas songwriting. His songs have been recorded by the likes of Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris. He won Grammys, was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 2005, the Americana Music Association honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting. Clark passed away in 2016.
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