From the gritty blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan to the rebel country stylings of Willie Nelson, Texas, the Lone Star State has left a considerable mark on the music industry.
My home state boasts a rich cultural heritage and fierce independence that has produced many musical styles. In turn, this rich music culture has given birth to the celebrated musicians that I will discuss in this article. Let’s take a look at some of the most iconic musicians from Texas!
1. Willie Nelson
If you’re a Country music fan, it is highly unlikely that you would have not heard of Willie Nelson. The singer-songwriter was born on April 29, 1933, in a small town called Abbot, located about an hour south of Dallas. Willie got connected with music when his grandpa presented him with a guitar on his sixth birthday.
Highly inspired by the hippie music scene of Austin, TX, and a key part of the outlaw country movement, the 14-time Grammy winner has a unique voice and message. Willie’s style represents the essence of Texas with a mix of country, folk, and outlaw elements.
Willie has enjoyed a decades-long career with many successful hit songs that are accompanied by his acclaimed virtuoso guitar player, as well as charitable works.
2. Beyonce Knowles
Beyonce was born on September 4, 1981, in Houston, Texas, and is one of the most awarded artists in Grammy history.
She started her music career in Houston, where she developed her singing and dancing abilities at the High School for the Performing & Visual Arts. She debuted in the music industry as a member of the famous group Destiny’s Child in Houston alongside her childhood besties Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams.
Indeed, Beyoncé is famous for being one of the most powerful personalities in the industry because of her electrifying, high-octane live performances and hard-hitting music. She was one of the few female frontliners in major music festivals like Coachella, and her recent halftime performance at the Super Bowl in 2016 also gained considerable recognition.
Her recent Renaissance tour grossed more than half a billion dollars, making it clear how impactful she and her music is worldwide. Without a doubt, she is one of Texas’s most famous musicians.
3. Janis Joplin
Janice Joplin is undoubtedly one of the most legendary Texas musicians and composers, whose name has become synonymous with the 1960s counterculture and Rock music.
Born in Port Arthur, Texas, on January 19, 1943, Janis grew up living on conservative and segregated ethnic grounds. Still, her rebellious spirit and passion for music kept her from following similar paths.
Joplin started singing with local bands in Texas, which were influenced by blues and folk genres. Though she had a short career, tragically dying in 1970 at just 27 years old, she had a massive impact on the US music scene. Even after death, Joplin has been given honorary recognition in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame besides the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Her life and career were depicted in the 1979 documentary “Janis” and the 2015 biographical film “Janis: Little Girl Blue.” Many musicians are still deeply inspired by the raw and unadulterated emotions in her performances and music.
4. Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly, whose real name was Charles Hardin Holley, was an American singer and songwriter well remembered for his pioneering role in developing the modern rock and roll era. He introduced the two-guitar, bass, and drum set arrangement and multiple-track recording.
His Texan roots gifted him the flavor of Western Swing and Country music. Later, in Lubbock, he combined them with rock and roll and formed his group known as The Crickets.
The Lubbock, Texas born and bred rockstar, unfortunately, passed away at age twenty-two, in a plane accident on the 3rd of February, 1959. This plane crash also killed Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.
He and his band, The Crickets, have inspired great musicians and bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen, to mention a few. His influence is evident as this simply shows how powerful Buddy and his music have been.
5. George Strait
George Strait is one of the most accomplished musicians from Texas. The country music star is also known as “The King.” A native of Poteet, Texas, George was born on May 18, 1952, and was raised in Pearsall, Texas. He went to college in San Marcos, where he performed with various local musical groups.
He holds world records for the most number-one single hits on Billboard Hot Country Songs and the most number-one album singles on Billboard Top Country Albums.
6. Travis Scott
Travis Scott (real name: Jacques Webster II) is one of the most relevant and buzzing rappers of this decade. He was born on the 30th of April, 1992, in Houston, Texas, and grew up there before relocating to the city of Spring.
The “Astroworld” album of Travis Scott, his most commercially successful work, which came out in 2018, refers directly to the amusement park in Houston. This album is regarded as a revolutionary Hip-Hop album for its iconic ad-libs and trap beats.
Travis Scott’s music clearly has glimpses of the Houston hip-hop scene and its characteristic “Chopped and screwed” approach.
7. The Chicks (Formally Dixie Chicks)
The Chicks are a Dallas-based Country, Rock, and Pop band, previously known as the Dixie Chicks. The band was established in 1989 in Dallas, Texas, and is home to sisters Martie Maguire (Martie Erwin Maguire) and Emily Robison (Emily Erwin Robison).
The Chicks have been awarded thirteen Grammy awards, among others, making them among the most acclaimed and revered Country acts out of Texas.
8. Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Brianne Clarkson is a famous Soul singer born on 24 April 1982 in Fort Worth, Texas. Kelly Clarkson became famous after winning the first season of the American Idol series.
Clarkson’s connection with Texas runs deep. Her musical fascination began when she visited an African-American church in Fort Worth, Texas, as an eight-year-old. That inspired her to sing at the time.
Today, Clarkson has reached an astonishing milestone, breaking the 100 barrier in her list of number-one hits on the Billboard charts and having sold over 25 million albums and 45 million singles worldwide.
Additionally, she also has several Grammys, American Music Awards, and Billboard Music Awards to her name.
9. Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughan is an American Blues guitarist and singer born in Dallas, Texas, on October 3, 1954. Vaughan and his Double Trouble band’s music earned them several Grammy awards.
Musically, he paid tribute to the Texas Blues tradition and incorporated it into his unique style. Finally, Vaughan’s guitar style, typically described with adjectives such as “blazing” or “soulful,” tied with his commanding stage presence, has been an inspiration for many guitarists.
10. Selena Quintanilla-Pérez
Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, also known as Selena, was a celebrated and admired Texan music artist, performer, and fashion icon. She was born in Lake Jackson, Texas, and brought up in Corpus Christi. That is where she established a link with the society’s vibrant Hispanic community that later played an important role in shaping her identity.
The annual “Fiesta de la Flora” music festival of Corpus Christi honors her legacy and brings fans from all over the world. Selena is called the Queen of Tejano Music due to her work promoting that genre. She is famous for blending English and Spanish music in her songs.
Selena also released several successful albums like “Entre a Mi Mundo,” “Amor Prohibido,” and “Live!” She was also the first female Tejano artist to win a Grammy.
11. Roy Orbison
Roy Orbison’s vocals were revered due to his three octaves and Opera-Rock mix. His haunting falsetto and heartfelt lyrics are some qualities that set him apart in popular music.
His hits, including “Oh Only Lonely,” “Crying,” and “Hoh Pretty Woman” shaped the sound of the 1960s and are classics today. He also received numerous Grammy Awards throughout his career, including a “Best Male Pop Vocal Performance” for “Oh, Pretty Woman.”
Roy Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas, on 23rd April 1936. Orbison’s music was shaped by Country, Rock, and Western Swing styles.
12. Kenny Rogers
Kenny Rogers was highly regarded as a man of many faces. He comfortably moved between country pop and folk styles of music. He recorded many classic songs such as “The Gambler,” “Lucille”, “Coward of the County,” “Islands in the Stream” with Dolly Parton, and “Lady.”
Kenny Rogers, a Dallas, Texas prodigy, was born on August 21, 1938. Raised in Houston, he was exposed to country, blues, and jazz; styles that left profound marks on his music.
He has received many Country Music Hall of Fame awards, along with various CMA awards, AM awards, and Grammy awards, amongst others.
13. Waylon Jennings
Waylon Jennings was another Texas country music artist identified with Willie Nelson in the Outlaw country style. He was born on June 15, 1937, in Littlefield, a small town in the Texas Panhandle.
Overall, West Texas has a huge influence on Jennings’ sound. He blended parts of rock and roll with the trademark Country style.
Jennings embarked on his guitar-playing journey at the tender age of eight and made his debut on KVOW radio at the age of fourteen. His pivotal moment arrived when Buddy Holly enlisted him as the bassist for his new band during a tour across the Midwest in late 1958 and early 1959.
In 1975, Waylon Jennings was named the Country Music Association’s Male Vocalist of the Year, but the breakthrough for Jennings and the Outlaws came through record sales. Their album, “Wanted! The Outlaws,” featuring Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser, went platinum, marking a historic moment in country music.
14. Lyle Lovett
Lyle Lovett’s music is characterized by its eclecticism and distinct character created by the infusion of Country, Folk, Blues, Jazz, and Gospel. His genre-blurring style has garnered critical acclaim and a dedicated cult fan following over the years.
The Houston-based artist is also a talented songwriter known for his insightful and often wry lyrics. His songs cover many topics, from love and relationships to quirky character studies and social commentary.
Overall, his willingness to challenge genre boundaries and his deep appreciation for the Texas cultural landscape have made him a beloved figure in both the music world and Texan culture.
15. Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr. was born on February 15, 1984, in Austin, Texas. At the age of twelve, Clark took up guitar and made incredible progress in a short time span. He is generally associated with playing different guitar styles but still manages to put an appealing spin on it.
He is quite versatile since his music strides across genres of blues, rock, soul, and hip-hop. That also helps him attract a wide range of audience. Passionate and heartfelt performances are why his fan base adores him.
He has released several albums, including “Blak and Blu” (2012) and “This Land” (2019). These albums received critical acclaim and earned him Grammy Awards. Many of Clark’s songs carry social and political messages, addressing topics such as racism, inequality, and the state of the world.
16. Megan Thee Stallion
One of the most current iconic musicians from Texas is Megan Thee Stallion, known for her empowering lyrics that celebrate female sexuality, independence, and self-confidence. Her songs commonly cover issues of self-confidence and assertiveness.
In addition to that, Megan has also worked with some acclaimed musicians, among them Beyoncé, Cardi B, and Nicki Minaj. She was raised in Houston, Texas, and attended Prairie View A&M University, where she both studied and started working on building her rap career.
She is seen as a pioneering figure for women rappers, her poignant words and inspiring statements and attitudes.
17. Dimebag Darrell
Darrell Lance Abbott, known by his stage name Dimebag Darrell, is one of the most famous heavy metal guitarists known for pioneering groove metal sounds. He was a member of Pantera and Damageplan.
Darrell was born in Arlington, Texas, on August 20, 1966. He had started playing guitar as a child. In the 80’s, he began to form his first band, Pantera, with his brother, Vinnie Paul Abbott. The first impression people have of him will be that he is a metal and rock guitarist.
Dimebag Darrell has been noted for some of the best guitar licks in history. They are characterized by heavy riffing, angry solos, and an insane playing style. He is generally recognized as one of the greatest heavy metal guitarists in history.
However, such is the price of being great. Unfortunately, he passed away tragically in 2004 when he was shot dead by a fan shortly before playing at a gig.
18. ZZ Top
The legendary rock band – ZZ Top – has created an unforgettable style of rock music – by combining it with blues. Originating in Houston, Texas, in 1969, the band is composed of the trio: Billy Gibbons doing guitar and vocals, Dusty Hill taking care of the bass and vocals (until his sudden death in 2021), and finally, Frank Beard on the drum.
The band debuted in 1969 but gained popularity in the 1970s. Their music was mainly influenced by blues rock and boogie-woogie, which made them stand out in live performances due to their strong energy.
In general, ZZ top is famous for its unusual sound, which comes from Billy Gibbons’ dirty guitar work mixed with Dusty Hill’s good bass lines and Frank Beard’s reliable beats. What was considered “fresh” about the band in its day was how it blended blues music with rock.
There is an extensive range of styles from Texas musicians with discographies in a host of genres, including country, blues, rock, hip-hop, Tejano, etc.
The artists discussed in this article are some of the most influential artists born from this city’s rich culture, music festivals, recording industry, and general influences. Texas also boasts a unique guitarists line-up comprising artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Billy Gibbons, Freddie King, and Dimebag Darrell, among others.