The ‘True Heroes Of Texas Music’ Don’t Always Get The Credit They Deserve

Music critic Michael Corcoran profiles underrated and overlooked Texas musicians and producers who left a mark on the industry.

By Leah ScarpelliJune 9, 2017 12:07 pm| ,

How does something like a Texas music history museum, which would seem like an obvious hit, have so much trouble getting off the ground? Especially considering the astonishing number of important figures in music – game changers, even – who happen to hail from Texas.

A new book underscores that point but with a major twist. Michael Corcoran, a long time music critic with the Austin American-Statesman and the Dallas Morning News, has written a book called “All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music.”

The book, which came out last month, is actually the second edition of a book he wrote more than a decade ago. Corcoran cut several chapters, including one on Willie Nelson, to make room for 24 new profiles.

He says he doesn’t think of this version as a new edition – rather, it’s a completely new book.

“This time I went through, and with 12 years more research and 12 years more knowledge, [there was] that determination to really have the thread what makes Texas music so special,” he says.

Corcoran speaks to Texas Standard about Texas musicians who he believes haven’t received due credit for their influence on the music industry.

On why Janis Joplin doesn’t get the credit she deserves:

“I saw this documentary on her, it was called ‘Little Girl Blue,’ and it opened a whole new idea in my mind of who Janis Joplin was, and just her lust for love, which is what I named the chapter. I think Janis Joplin really never gets the due for being not just the first female rock star, but in a way she’s up there with Iggy and the Stooges [and] with the MC5. I think she was definitely one of the precursors of punk rock and she never gets that kind of credit… When she went to UT, within two months of arriving, they already had an article about her in The Daily Texan called ‘She Dares to be Different.’ So that’s how much of an iconoclast she was.”

On why producer Tom Wilson is an unsung hero of Texas music:

“He’s the man that produced Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel’s first hits. Then he went over to MGM and produced the Velvet Underground and the first record by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. Here’s a black man from Waco who went to Harvard, who didn’t really have any background with this kind of music – he was really more of a jazz guy. But I compare him to Rick Rubin, you know he just has these monster ears. Rick Rubin could produce Johnny Clash, Slayer, the Beastie Boys, because he got to the essence of the song and that’s what Tom Wilson did. He doesn’t get his due because… he didn’t have a sound, he served the artist.”

On why country singer Ray Price is underrated despite his fame:

“Here’s the man who in 1957 really pushed back against Elvis Presley. All the other country guys were freaking out like, ‘oh my gosh, what are we going to do, it’s all about Elvis now. We have to do rockabilly.’  Ray Price said, ‘no, I want to make it more Texas.’ So he did ‘Crazy Arms.’ He invented the shuffle beat, a new way to dance. He kept the Texas in country music. And then a few years later, he decided to start using strings. Everybody kind of knocked him for using the strings on country music, but that also saved country music a second time. Here’s a guy that was so important – him and Hank Williams were roommates, they were like best friends – and I think that next to Hank Williams, Ray Price was probably the one most responsible for keeping country music going all these years.”

 

Written by Molly Smith.