Lone Star State Praises Songwriters Who Define Texas Culture
The maxim “everything is bigger in Texas” most certainly applies when it comes to having an inordinate per capita concentration of brilliant songwriters. It is therefore almost surprising to note that it took until 2005 for a Texas Heritage Songwriters Association to be formed, with the aim of finally founding a Hall of Fame.
One of the key figures in its origins was a beloved Texan who not everyone realizes had a reputation as “a lover of song and a friend of songwriters”: the University of Texas football coach Darrell K. Royal. But its start actually dates back to a meeting in the back room of an Austin restaurant between designer Terry Boothe and radio personality Bob Cole, during which ideas of who to induct first were jotted down. on a towel.
“I wish we saved that towel,” laughs board member Joe Ables. “There have been a lot of songs written on napkins.”
17 years later, the Hall of Fame can claim around 50, including well-known singer-songwriters Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Buddy Holly, Steve Earle, Kris Kristofferson and Roy Orbison as well as non-performing music creators such as Cindy Walker, Bob McDill, Allen Shamblin and Liz Rose. The waiting list to enter? It’s still long.
On February 12, the list of perceived oversights will be reduced by four. The Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards Show at the Paramount Theater will see a quartet of obvious personalities joining previous inductees: blues god Lightnin’ Hopkins, Americana pioneer Nanci Griffith, classic country star Lefty Frizzell and blacksmith hit Mark James. Hopkins is long gone and James is still with us, but the other two passed by as the annual ceremonies were set to take a COVID break, and their relative closeness may leave the ceremony having some particularly poignant moments, amidst the party.
Board member Joe Ables explains which big names and tracklists are already confirmed for the celebration hosted by Ronnie Dunn. “Mark James is one of the greatest songwriters we’ll ever honor and has written some of the most incredible songs in music history, covered by some of the biggest stars,” says Ables. “We will have (Mavericks frontman) Raul Malo and Ronnie covering some of his hits. The part of the show that breaks my heart is that we were going to pay tribute to Mark two years ago, before COVID, and BJ, Thomas was going to perform the songs that Mark wrote for him, ‘Eyes of a New York Woman’ and ‘Addicted to a Feeling.’ But we were so lucky to get an interview with him where he congratulates Mark before we lost BJ a few months ago. Mark hasn’t seen this video, and it’s going to be very emotional.
Audiences will certainly take the time to pay their respects to Frizzell. “Lefty’s brothers David and Allen Frizzell will be there with (Asleep at the Wheel’s) Ray Benson to start our show with ‘If You’ve Got The Money, I’ve Got The Time’ – it’s going to be quite a bang- bang to start this thing,” Ables promises. “Ronnie is going to contribute one of the Lefty songs that he covered on an album; Brennen Leigh is going to do a song. And this segment will end with Lefty’s brothers doing a duet on ‘I Never Go Around Mirrors’ which is going to be a big part of the show.
With Griffith, who died in 2021 after staying out of the spotlight for years, “we were really sad to hear that she passed away as we were putting these things together, but she learned that she was going to be honored and was delighted to listen to it. Her close friend Robert Earl Keen will offer her a musical greeting.
Last but not least, electrifying Ables promises the finale, saluting Hopkins, will be the longest they’ve ever had at a Hall of Fame ceremony, featuring performances from ZZ Top’s Billy F Gibbons, Ray Wylie Hubbard , Rodney Crowell and Jimmy Vaughan. — plus two of Hopkins’ granddaughters accepting the award.
With so many countries included, Texas’ interests overlap with those of Tennessee, but Ables says there’s no rivalry between Austin and Nashville here: “We’re very recognized in Nashville by our peers and the industry, and we so appreciate their support. There’s a common goal in raising awareness, especially of lesser-known names: “When people leave these ceremonies,” says Ables, “they really know who these songwriters are.” George Strait didn’t write all of these songs. We need to educate the world about the people who did it.