Depending on when you came of music age in Texas, you’ve heard Willie wail on about Luckenbach, two-stepped at Billy Bob’s, or reached the high note with Beyoncé. In a state where many famous musicians were born (or at least got their start), music is pretty much celebrated all the time. Here’s a list of five Texas music landmarks that may not be on your playlist but should be.
Technically, Christopher Stubblefield just wanted to be known as a cook, not as a patron of Texas arts. In the late sixties, he opened a barbecue restaurant in Lubbock, where his family had moved to pick cotton when he was still a child. The tiny eatery became famous as a place for musicians to stop in and play for their supper. Among those who played at Stubb’s over the years were Johnny Cash, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Willie Nelson, Robert Cray, George Thorogood, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Linda Ronstadt, Joe Ely, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Today, a whole new generation of Texans are listening to music at Stubb’s (at the Austin location the sound ranges from Liz Phair to Ludacris), and the memory of Christopher Stubblefield lives on.
Sons of Hermann Hall—Dallas
There is a Sons of Hermann Hall in just about every small town in Central Texas. A fraternal organization of men of German descent, the first lodge was established in San Antonio in 1861. The Sons of Hermann Hall, in Dallas, was built at the corner of Elm and Exposition in 1911, and it eventually became a major music venue in the Metroplex, where everyone from the Old 97’s to Arlo Guthrie has played. Many Texas musicians have gotten their start by playing in the old hall, and each of the 148 lodges in Texas symbolizes the influence of Germany on Texas music. Without the German polka in Texas, tejano may never have been born.
Lefty Frizzell Country Museum—Corsicana
This museum in Corsicana is filled with music, memorabilia, and some of the furniture from Lefty Frizzell’s childhood home near Corsicana. Lefty Frizzell? He was born William Orville Frizzell, began singing as a child, and made his first recordings for Columbia Records when he was 22 years old. Frizzell had many songs on the Billboard Top 10 country chart, but he’s probably most recognizable for one of his most popular recordings, “If You’ve Got the Money (I’ve Got the Time).” His musical phrasing inspired two other Texas musicians: Willie Nelson and George Jones.
Roy Orbison Museum—Wink
There aren’t that many people, pretty women or otherwise, walking around the tiny town of Wink, the boyhood home (he was actually born in Vernon) of one of the best-known early rock and roll stars in America. Orbison has influenced everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Bono, and he was one of Sam Phillips’ Sun Records stars. A contemporary of Elvis Presley (though not an early star like Presley), he lived to see himself become very famous. Although there are bigger tributes to Orbison at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in Cleveland, this little museum is at the heart of where it all began.
Blind Lemon Jefferson Grave—Wortham
Perhaps the most influential Texas blues musician ever, Blind Lemon Jefferson was born in rural East Texas. He wrote his own songs and performed them—accompanied by his guitar—in clubs and bars in Dallas’s Deep Ellum, where he was discovered by Paramount Records. From 1925 to 1929, he recorded a number of songs and became the first commercially successful bluesman in the country. In 1929, on a cold winter night in Chicago, he died mysteriously (the exact cause and date of death is unknown, because no death certificate was issued). His body was returned to Wortham, where he was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1967, a Texas Historical marker was placed in the spot where his body is presumed to be buried. In the nineties, after years of neglect, the area around Blind Lemon Jefferson’s gravesite was cleaned up by some of his fans, who also rasied enough money to erect a granite headstone.