The Fabulous Thunderbirds / 1986

The band, which included front man Kim Wilson and guitarist Jimmie Vaughan, performed in the middle of a highway, singing, “Don’t you trash that Texas highway / Don’t you throw it in the road / Don’t you mess with Texas” to an approaching carful of young women.

Fabulous Thunderbirds

MCCLURE: That year, the Fabulous Thunderbirds had had a hit with their song “Tuff Enuff,” so we rewrote the lyrics for them to sing to a group of women speeding toward them in a beautiful vintage ’53 Cadillac. The young ladies were in high school, which seemed right to us because they were the band’s audience. The car was loaned to us by a photographer friend of mine in Houston, Joe Baraban, but because it was old, its brakes were shot, and as we were filming, we had no idea if it would actually stop when it reached the band in the middle of the road.

Mike Scott / 1987

Houston Astros pitcher and Cy Young Award winner Mike Scott hurled a wadded-up ball of paper into a “Don’t Mess With Texas” trash can, which exploded into flames. “You know, there’s a brand-new sport catching on here in Texas,” he said to the camera. “It’s called trashball.”

Mike Scott

MCCLURE: We had a number of close calls when filming for the campaign, but this was one of the most spectacular. A demolition expert rigged the trashcan with explosives for us, and we went with his expertise when it came to deciding how much to put in. Well, the first time Mike threw his paper ball, the explosion literally knocked him over. He was lying there on the ground, and his agent said, “That’s it. We’re done here.” But Mike got back up, and we shot it again—this time with fewer explosives.

Tyler Longriders / 1992

A biker walked up to a buddy shooting pool and growled, “They’ve been messin’ with us again.” Within seconds, a gang of intimidating bikers hit the road—to go pick up litter along their adopted two-mile stretch of highway. The closing line was delivered by one tough-looking member of the gang after spearing some trash with his pool cue: “Some people are such animals!”

Tyler Longriders

MCCLURE: We originally pitched the Hells Angels, but they declined for fear that such a do-goody thing would ruin their image. But the Tyler Longriders really got into it. They were as nice as can be but also pretty scary, so our film crew was a little terrified. It took a while for everyone to warm up to each other.

HOWDESHELL: They had bad-boy names like Weasel and Juice. And they actually did adopt two miles of highway; they cleaned it up for years afterward.

This Is / Trashball / I Wouldn’t Do It / 2006

In three different versions of the spot, eleven celebrities—Chuck Norris, Erykah Badu, Owen Wilson, Lance Armstrong, Matthew McConaughey, Lee Ann Womack, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Chamillionaire, and Los Lonely Boys brothers Henry, Jojo, and Ringo Garza—took turns cautioning viewers against messing with Texas. The commercial first aired during the Cotton Bowl, exactly twenty years after Stevie Ray Vaughan kicked off the campaign.


DAVIS: This one was, shall we say, logistically challenging. But Lance was the first to agree, and once he’d said yes, all the others fell into place. We went to where each person was: We filmed Lance at his ranch in Dripping Springs; we shot Chuck Norris in his front yard; Chamillionaire in the Valley, where he was doing a show; Erykah Badu near her home, in Dallas. Los Lonely Boys were filmed outside Dallas, and they didn’t arrive until about half an hour before the sun set, so theirs is maybe the shortest shoot in the history of the campaign. But that riff you hear with them singing “Don’t mess with Texas” to the tune of “Heaven”? That was spontaneous.

HOWDESHELL: Of course, all the girls liked Matthew McConaughey so much we had to show him last, with the trashball.