AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Keeping track of your exes? Aiming to get to Amarillo by morning? If you’re aiming to appreciate the Lone Star State as a whole or reflecting on a place close to your heart, or just need an upbeat Texas tune, it has a song ready for you.
In fact, there are so many songs about Texas that the people on the High Plains have an especially long list of suggestions.
MyHighPlains.com asked our audience to weigh in on what they think are the best songs about the Lone Star State, and used their responses to compile a list of 12 of the locals’ most-loved.
All My Ex’s Live in Texas – George Strait
An iconic Texas tune known for its Western Swing rhythm, “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” was released on the George Strait album “I’m All Behind You Now” in 1987. As the title suggests, the song follows along with the narrator’s lament about their wish to live in Texas, and the tumultuous relationships that led the narrator to flee the state. From Texarkana to Galveston, there seems to be no region of the Lone Star State that isn’t home to a disastrous old flame.
Billboard and American Songwriter ranked the song numbers two and five, respectively, on their lists of the Top 10 Greatest George Strait Songs – a sentiment widely shared by fans.
Amarillo by Morning
Yet another iconic song, yet another iconic rendition by George Strait, but “Amarillo by Morning” was originally written and recorded by High Plains native Terry Stafford in 1973.
The song centers around a professional saddle bronc rider and his late-night drive to a county fair in Amarillo, in which he reflects on his volatile career and the conflict between his love of the sport and his relationships. Melancholy and musing, “Amarillo by Morning” not only settled itself into the hearts of the people of the High Plains but among the ranks of the greatest country songs of all time.
Stafford himself is buried in the Llano Cemetery in Amarillo. At the end of his life and his varied career, much like the narrator of his beloved song, Amarillo is where he’ll be.
Boogie Back to Texas – Asleep at the Wheel
If you’ve got a mind that wanders and a ’57 Chevrolet, and a hankering to get back to your hometown, you might be able to boogie back to Texas with the Western Swing band Asleep at the Wheel.
“Boogie Back to Texas” was released with the band’s album “10” in 1987. As straightforward as its title, the song focuses on the narrator’s enthusiastic rush across the United States back to their home in Austin.
Asleep at the Wheel also recently marked its 50th year of performing, with upcoming shows scheduled through the beginning of 2023. The band also played the Starlight Ranch in Amarillo on June 11.
Deep in the Heart of Texas
With lyrics by June Hershey and music by Don Swander, “Deep in the Heart of Texas” has seen countless covers and widespread national and international acclaim since its initial release in 1942.
Alvino Rey, Ted Weems, The Merry Macs, Bing Crosby with Woody Herman and his Woodchoppers, and Horace Heidt’s Musical Knights all released versions of the song in 1942, all of which reached the Billboard charts. From then on, the song has seen decades of covers and features in film and television; it’s also a staple of multiple Texas sports team bands to play and sing during games.
“Deep in the Heart of Texas” became so ubiquitous that the BBC censored the song, banning it from being played at certain times during World War II because of the worry that factory workers would neglect their tasks by joining in on the clapping routine.
To be fair, it’s incredibly catchy. From elementary school classrooms to restaurants, sports games, and community events, it often only takes a chant of the iconic “The stars at night burn big and bright–” to summon a chorus of clapping and answering shouts.
- Click here to listen – Alvino Rey
- Click here to listen – Gene Autry
- Click here to listen – George Strait
El Paso – Marty Robbins
First released on “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs” in 1959, Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” is a western ballad that quickly became a legendary hit. The song is considered a genre classic for its haunting harmonies, time shifts, and tense narrative that follows a jealous murder and the narrator’s eventual death at the hands of a posse.
Among the many cover versions and variations of the song are the frequent renditions by the Grateful Dead in concert, which were a staple in the band’s performances from 1969 through 1995.
London Homesick Blues – Gary P. Nunn
The theme song for Austin City Limits and the most famous song from the father of the progressive country scene, Gary P. Nunn’s “London Homesick Blues” was released in 1973 on the “¡Viva Terlingua!” album by Jerry Jeff Walker and the Lost Gonzo Band.
Like many classics, the narrator of “London Homesick Blues” takes the listener on a melancholy, steady muse on the things they miss about the Lone Star State – from country music from Amarillo and Abilene to the friendliest people you’ve ever seen.
Nunn is also expected to perform at the Starlight Ranch Event Center in August.
Lubbock or Leave It – The Chicks
While it might be perceived as a look at the narrator’s antagonistic relationship with the South, “Lubbock or Leave It” from The Chicks’ 2006 album “Taking the Long Way” is still among the ranks of iconic Texas songs.
In stark contrast to many other songs on the list, “Lubbock or Leave It” passes up homesick reminiscing on the Lone Star State in favor of the narrator reckoning with being a well-praised figure from the South while also feeling hated by its people.
Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love) – Waylon Jennings
Released in 1977 as the first single on the album “Ol’ Waylon,” Waylon Jennings’ “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” focuses on a couple considering leaving their “high society” life in order to reconnect with one another in the small, titular town. It also features guest vocals by Willie Nelson, in the final refrain.
Despite its popularity, though, Jennings later wrote in his autobiography that he didn’t like the song. However, he reasoned that the song became popular because “every state has a Luckenbach; a place to get away from things.”
New Strings – Miranda Lambert
Released in 2006 on the “Kerosene” album from Miranda Lambert, “New Strings” follows its narrator’s determination to leave Amarillo, and Texas, behind in an effort to find a new path out West after a devastating heartbreak.
Despite the determination, Lambert’s narrator appears to be a kindred spirit with the narrator in George Strait’s “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” – leaving Texas offers a new start, but the act of putting it in the past is laced with a blow to their pride. However, the song remains hopeful for the future as the narrator puts faith in an old guitar and a new set of strings.
Texas – Chris Rea
Written by British singer-songwriter Chris Rea, the song “Texas” was released on the 1989 album “Road to Hell.” The song dreamily follows the album’s narrator as they consider that a move to Texas, with its long roads and vast blue sky, could be the best decision for their family to escape the crowded stress of city life.
However, the song’s narrator is as optimistic as the song’s writer is critical. As Rea said in the book “Classic Albums,” he felt the song’s narrator is misguided.
“He’s going for that big Western apple in the sky,” said Rea. “He’s thinking it should be like Texas, and he’s thinking of large, cheap steaks, every woman is 6′ 4″ and has massive legs and looks like Jerry Hall, there’s no trouble because they say there’s no trouble. But really, if you’ve been there, it’s even three times more violent. And it is, it’s poison on top of poison.”
Still, the song’s popularity is a continued testament to how those with Texas in their hearts and histories can both love the Lone Star State as well as evaluate its imperfections – and despite its faults, it remains incredibly easy to dream about the possibilities in those vast skies and sprawling plains.
Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughan
Released with the debut studio album of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble in 1983, of the same name, “Texas Flood” is a cover of the song originally recorded by blues singer Larry Davis in 1958. While Vaughan followed Davis’ original song, he added several sections of improvised guitar soloing that not only near-doubled the length of the song but provided a showcase for his electric guitar style.
The song is blues all the way through, no matter if it’s a five or ten-minute version. The narrator laments literal flooding in Texas which has toppled phone lines and left them in the lurch, unable to call loved ones. While many songs on this list are focused on a narrator’s homesickness for Texas, Vaughan and Davis’ narrator is overwhelmed with the desire to be anywhere else. Still, it’s quite at home on many playlists across the High Plains.
Texas (When I Die) – Tanya Tucker
Yet another staple for country covers, “Texas (When I Die)” was first released in 1977 by Ed Bruce – also known for “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” – and later released by Tanya Tucker in the 1978 album “TNT.”
New York couldn’t hold the narrator’s attention, and Detroit City couldn’t sing their song – the narrator of the song makes it clear that nowhere in the world, and perhaps beyond, can hold their heart and soul like Texas. While the Lone Star State may not be heaven, it could certainly be close enough.
“When I die, I may not go to heavenTexas (When I Die)
Well, I don’t know if they let cowboys in
If they don’t
Just let me go to Texas, boys
Texas is as close as I’ve been”
Did your favorite song about Texas make our list?
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