Josh Abbott. Wade Bowen. Cory Morrow. William Clark Green.
They’re the next generation of Texas country, but they have something else in common – actually, some place – and it’s not just them.
These four and other notable country artists, including Pat Green, Terry Allen, Bob Livingston, and Butch Hancock and Jimmy Dale Gilmore of the Flatlanders, all share the same connection. They’re alumni of Texas Tech University.
“All those names, they are stalwarts, and they’re right in the thick of Texas country,” says cowboy poet and storyteller Andy Wilkinson, who teaches songwriting at the university. “But if you wrote down the names of the better-known Texas country artists and counted the number that have a Texas Tech affiliation, it would be a substantial number of that group.”
Texas Tech was where Wilkinson first met William Clark Green. Back then, Green was one of his most promising songwriting students: “He comes across as a goofy party guy and such,” Wilkinson says, “but he’s a brilliant young man, a hard worker and an incredible reader.”
But that determination isn’t unique to Green. Out here, we call it “grit,” and it’s what defines the musicians – and, indeed, the students of any discipline – who pass through Texas Tech.
“Lubbock music does not have a Memphis sound,” Wilkinson says. “We don’t have a Muscle Shoals sound, a Kansas City jazz sound or a Los Angeles punk sound. What’s characteristic to me about Lubbock music is that all these musicians who come out of here, no matter who they are, they are alike in that their process is the same. They are fearless at combining elements of different things and giving it a new sound.”
Although Red Raiders are pretty well known for our motto, “From Here, It’s Possible,”TM it’s not just a motto to us. We prove it again and again.
Fifteen of Pat Green’s singles have charted on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, with “Wave on Wave,” from his gold-certified album of the same name, peaking at No. 3. Josh Abbott and Wade Bowen have both enjoyed Top 5-ranked albums on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, and eight of Cory Morrow’s albums have made it there. William Clark Green’s album “Ringling Road” reached No. 18 on the Top Country Albums chart, while singles “Sympathy” and “She Likes the Beatles” have topped the Texas Music Chart.
“Tradition builds, and we’re awfully proud to say that as a university,” Wilkinson explains. “We come from a place that produced Buddy Holly, who’s a stellar international star, and Mac Davis, who was one of the biggest stars ever in American popular music history. We have this huge legacy of creative work in music, and that makes it more accessible.
“If you’re a kid growing up in Lubbock, or if you’re a kid like Wade Bowen, who grew up in San Marcos but came to Texas Tech to go to school, all of a sudden, you’ve got a hall pass to be a musician. That’s a key element in any creative work: somebody giving you permission to go ahead and be as creative as you can be.”