Here are five Texas holiday songs to get you in the spirit

From Khruangbin to Kacey Musgraves, these songs give a Texas twist to the seasonal standards.

By Kristen Cabrera & Raul AlonzoDecember 21, 2023 2:33 pm, ,

It’s the holiday season, and though in Texas the weather outside ain’t frightful,  the tunes can be so delightful.

When it comes to seasonal staples, Texas has more than its share. Susan Castle, DJ at KUTX in Austin and song programmer for TMX.FM, joined the Standard to share a few of her favorites.

‘Pretty Paper’ – Willie Nelson

Beloved Texan Willie Nelson wrote this song 60 years ago this year, Castle says, and it has been covered by dozens of artists, including fellow Texan Roy Orbison, who turned it into a big holiday hit before the Red Headed Stranger recorded his own version.

“When he did record his own version, it became the definitive version, as it usually happens with Willie Nelson,” Castle said.

‘Christmas Time is Here’ – Khruangbin

Originally composed by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, the hypnotic psychedelic Houston trio Khruangbin brought their own spin to the track.

Castle says bassist and vocalist Laura Lee once recounted that the three members had very different Christmases growing up, but soon discovered that they all shared the exact same favorite Christmas song.

“And when they realized it, they sat down to play it. It came together instantly,” Castle said. “They recorded it in like 15 minutes, and she said it was like the best Christmas present ever.”

‘Christmas Time in Texas’ – Dale Watson

Honky Tonker Dale Watson learned about Texas Christmases firsthand during the many years he lived in Austin.

Castle says that inspired Watson when recording his album “Christmas Time in Texas” at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis.

“It is a 100% Texas holiday album with tunes such as ‘Honky Tonk Christmas,’ ‘Hot Texas Christmas Day,’ [and] ‘Santa and My Semi,” Castle said.

‘Present Without a Bow’ – Kacey Musgraves and Leon Bridges

Golden, Texas native Kacey Musgraves released “A Very Kacey Christmas” back in 2016, featuring eight traditional Christmas songs and four originals.

“She said she wanted to create a whimsical throwback holiday record that evoked feelings of nostalgia and simpler times and wanted to include, you know, all the emotions – sadness and happiness – of course, with a dash of Western swing,” Castle said.

Willie Nelson also makes an appearance on the album, as well as breakout Fort Worth star, Leon Bridges, who features on this pick.

‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ – The Texas Tornados

The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, as Castle recounts, was written back in 1939 by Robert L. May – a 34-year-old copywriter for the Chicago based Montgomery Ward department stores. The store used to hand out holiday promotional booklets for their customers.

One year, May, inspired by his own childhood experiences with bullying, wrote the story about Rudolph, and they distributed about 2.4 million copies. As luck would have it, his brother-in-law was songwriter Johnny Marks, who wrote “Rockin’ and Around the Christmas Tree” and “Holly Jolly Christmas.”

“It was first recorded by Texan Gene Autry – at the insistence of his wife, I might add,” Castle said. “And she was right about it. It hit number one, sold 2 million copies, and everybody knows the Gene Autry version.”

But to put an additional Texas twist on a classic Christmas song, Castle picked the Tex-Mex version by the Texas Tornados.

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