Alright y’all — it’s time to lasso the Top 5 Texas Songs with KUTX’s Laurie Gallardo!
#5 Luckenback Texas, performed by Waylon Jennings
Full title is Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love).
A country number one, it only got to number 25 on the pop charts.
Luckenbach is actually an unincorporated town — not much there but a dance hall, a working saloon, and a general store.
The way the place got associated with music was that Jerry Jeff Walker recorded a live album at the Luckenbach Dance Hall in 1973 — an album called “Viva Terlingua.” Otherwise, the place is pretty unremarkable.
#4 Amarillo By Morning, performed by George Strait
This was actually recorded first in 1973, but the George Strait version which came out ten years later is the one everyone knows. One of the two songwriters — Terry Stafford — actually conceived of the song on a road trip from a gig in San Antonio, driving back to his home in Amarillo.
Stafford also wrote a song called “Say Has Anybody Seen My Gypsy Rose,” which was a bigger hit for Tony Orlando. Strait’s version of Amarillo by Morning never broke the pop country charts, but is considered a much more classic song, reaching number 4 on the country music charts and cementing Strait’s place as one of the greats.
#3 El Paso, performed by Marty Robbins
This is a timeless ballad that sounds very much like the Texas of mid-20th Century mythology — informed by TV Westerns and John Ford films. In fact, on the album this song is pulled from, Marty Robbins is dressed in all black, hiding a freshly drawn six shooter.
At more than 4 and a half minutes, the song itself is a lot longer than most hits of the day.
The song is first-person narrative and a love story — a bit of a southwestern corrido, actually.
The girl in the song was based on one of Robbins’ fifth grade crushes.
In his second comedy special for NBC, Steve Martin made a classic music video remake of the Marty Robbins song. The video most notably featured dancing monkeys.
#2 London Homesick Blues, performed by Gary P Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker
Most people call this former theme song for the PBS TV show Austin City Limits, the “home with the armadillo song”, and think it has to do with Austin’s long-gone music venue the Armadillo World Headquarters. It does not.
The original songwriter — Gary P Nunn — was on an overseas tour playing piano with Jerry Jeff Walker’s band when he got news that his father was sick back home in West Texas. Nunn was literally homesick in London and missed the country music — “from Amarillo to Ab-o-lene”…
Even today, this is considered by many a quintessentially Austin song, even though it wasn’t written specifically about the city.
#1 Galveston, performed by Glen Campbell
The irony: It was an anti-war pop song written by Jimmy Webb — “I clean my gun and dream of Galveston.”
One conservative magazine half jokingly wrote the song ought to be banned under The Patriot Act.
A gorgeous melody, this song was released in 1969 and certified gold. It hit the top 5 on the pop charts and number one on the country charts.
The original promo video, before MTV days: Campbell was dressed in army fatigues.