Musicians off the Record

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1960s

1960. Navasota native Mance Lipscomb, who grew up in the sharecropping system, releases Texas Songster on Arhoolie Records. A master of blues, folk, barrelhouse, gospel and more, Lipscomb’s haunting voice wins broad audiences. Black artists are no longer performing for exclusively African-American audiences as a revival of the blues takes off.


© John Byrne Cooke / used by permission
Tag: Lightning Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb watching another performer at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

1960. "Lightnin’" Hopkins records "Mojo Hand" in 1960, inspiring other bluesmen and women to link country blues with urban styles.

1960. Roy Orbison reinvents the rock and roll ballad with "Only the Lonely," which rises to number two on the charts. The hits pour for the next five years with "Blue Angel," "Running Scared," "Crying," "In Dreams," "Blue Bayou," "Dream Baby," "It’s Over," and the chart-topper "Oh, Pretty Woman." The commercial success of his brooding, melodramatic narratives lead to an induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

1960. Waco native Carolyn Hester releases her second LP, a self-title for the Clancy Brothers label. She is a principal player in the folk-revival scene, first as a student at the University of Texas and later as a Greenwich Village talent. In 1961, she introduces the producer of her first Columbia album, John Hammond, to an unknown Bob Dylan.


© John Byrne Cooke /used by permission

1960. Tyler’s Johnny Horton—author of "I’m A Honky-Tonk Man"—writes "story songs" that find crossover appeal. "The Battle of New Orleans" goes gold and brings the folk revival to country music and pop-rock audiences. It gains him the Grammy for Best Country & Western Performance. His "North to Alaska," "Johnny Reb" and "Sinkthe Bismarck" bring him further fame.

1960. Ray Peterson scores a couple of Top Ten sellers with the highly dramatic teen tragedy epic "Tell Laura I Love Her,"immediately followed up with "Corinna, Corinna." Peterson’s voice spans four-and-a-half octaves and earns him the moniker "The Golden Voice of Rock ‘N’ Roll."

1961. Gilmer-born, Chicago-raised Freddie King has a moderate hit with the single "Hideaway" and isone of the first bluesmen to sing with a racially-integrated backup band. After settling in Dallas, he produces more of a rock sound, helping create urban blues and influencing guitarists everywhere, from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan.

1961. The #14 song for the whole decade starts off as #1 on the pop chart for five weeks. It is Plainview-native Jimmy Dean’s "Big Bad John." Thirty years later it inspires a feature-length movie.

1961. Three of Willie Nelson’s songs are big hits: "Hello, Walls," sung by Faron Young, "Funny How Time Slips Away" by Billy Walker and "Crazy" by Patsy Cline.

1962. Bruce Channel, a Grapevine native, records a number one hit with "Hey, Baby!" The mid-tempo shuffle, which features Delbert McClinton’s harmonica, becomes an American pop staple. Channel resurfaces later as a top-shelf Nashville songwriter. McClinton had started as a teenager singing in Fort Worth clubs, then toured as a harmonica player backing blues legends such as Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed and Sonny Boy Williamson.

1962. Still a teen, Barbara Lynn of Beaumont releases the blues rocker "You’ll Lose a Good Thing," which soon rockets to number one on the R&B charts. In 1965, the Rolling Stones cover the sixties "Queen" of R&B with "Oh! Baby (We Got a Good Thing Going)."

1963. Trini López of Dallas generates a cheery folk hit with his version of "If I Had a Hammer." López emerges as one of the first and most influential Mexican-American artists to chart on a frequent basis (fourteen albums reach this status).

1963. Jimmy Dean debuts a variety show on ABC, with regulars Roger Miller (of Fort Worth) and Jim Henson’s Rowlf, the piano-playing dog.

1963. Tex-Mex stylists Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs fashion a number one pop and R&B hit with "Sugar Shack," featuring a Solovox (an early synthesizer).

1964. Lefty Frizzell has a crossover pop and country chart hit with "Saginaw, Michigan."

1964. After years of successful song writing and unsuccessful song recording, Roger Miller scores #1 hits with "Dang Me" and "Chug-a-Lug," in which he lets his humor and natural sound come through. "Do Wacka Do" follows, "Where Have All the Average People Gone?" and "Lonesome Me" follow in a burst of success. The Grammys recognize this new success: Best Country and Western Vocal Performance, Male; Best Country and Western Song; Best Country and Western Single and Composer for "Dang Me." He wins Best New Country and Western Artist and Best Country and Western Album for Dang Me/Chug-a-lug.

1965. The incredibly popular "King of the Road" comes out. The single is on the top of the country charts for five weeks and becomes Roger Miller’s biggest pop hit. The album, The Return of Roger Miller, is another crossover success and goes gold.  He wins six Grammys: Best Contemporary (R&R) Single, Best Contemporary (R&R) Vocal Performance Male, Best Country and Western Single, Best Country and Western Album, Best Country and Western Vocal Performance Male, Best Country and Western Song. Miller is best known for the wacky songs, but he also has serious songs like "A Man Like Me."

1965. Soul singer Joe "Tex" (Arrington) of Baytown is heralded for the Top Ten ballad "Hold On To What You’ve Got." It is the first Southern soul record that also makes the pop charts. His up-tempo "S.Y.S.L.J.F.M. (The Letter Song)"(1966), "Show Me" (1967) and the platinum seller "I Gotcha" (1971) are marked by a curious preacher-rap and raucous humor. "Skinny Legs and All" is a delicious precursor to funk. Although Tex had won the amateur competition at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem four times before he finished high school, his first hit comes at age 31.

1965. Ernest Tubb finds commercial success with his standard "Waltz Across Texas."

1965. The title Trini López at PJ's sells more than 500,000 copies. He also appears in more than half a dozen movies and records 50 albums in a career that spans four decades.

1965. Houston-born Michael Nesmith becomes a TV pop idol as a member of the fabricated pop group the Monkees, whose singles "Last Train to Clarksville" and "I'm a Believer" rest at number one for weeks. The band’s first two albums monopolize the top spot for 30-plus weeks as the TV show wins a huge share of teen eyes in 1966 and 1967. Although such boy bands are usually barred from composing or producing their own material (chosen as they are to match a formula), musician Nesmith wins an argument with management for the band’s right to author and record its own material.

1965. Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, formed in Dallas, have a smash hit, "Wooly Bully,"which signals the arrival of Tex-Mex rhythm to rock. Led by vocalist Domingo Samudio, the group records another novelty sensation with "Li’l Red Riding Hood."

1965. Producer Huey P. Meaux assembles a group of Tex-Mex musicians from San Antonio and tags them with an odd English moniker, the Sir Douglas Quintet. Led by Doug Sahm, the group lands a hit with "She’s About a Mover." The group, which also includes Augie Meyers, Frank Morin, Harvey Kagan and Johnny Perez, has another success with "The Rains Came" and 1969’s "Mendocino."

1965. Houston’s B.J. Thomas begins a recording career that will generate Top 40 crossover successes with fifteen pop hits, ten country hits, five Grammys and two Dove Awards. Following the success of his cover of Hank Williams’ "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," produced by Huey Meaux, Thomas' early hits include "Mama," "Billy and Su," and "The Eyes Of a New York Woman."

1966. Dallas-based group the Five Americans record a pop hit, "Western Union." Their title "I See the Light" is another high-energy favorite.

1966. El Paso’s Bobby Fuller Four have noteworthy success with "I Fought the Law."

1966. The Psychedelic Sounds of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators is released. It is the first time "psychedelic" has been used to describe recorded music. Lead singer Roger "Roky" Kynard Erickson is 19 years old.


Photo by Melanie Suzanne Ruddick © Madeline Maxwell

1967. Port Arthur native Janis Joplin steals the show with the psychedelic rock outfit Big Brother and the Holding Company at the Monterey Pop Festival with Big Mama Thornton’s "Ball and Chain." Their 1968 LP Cheap Thrills earns wide praise for "Piece of My Heart" and "Summertime."


© Baron Wolman Photography/ used by permission

1967. Sylvester "Sly" Stone, a Dallas native, is a leading purveyor of funk, fusing R&B and psychedelic rock with his band the Family Stone. Their second LP earns a hit with the title cut "Dance to the Music." At the close of 1968, they dominate the pop and R&B charts with "Everyday People" and "Sing a Simple Song."

1967. The astonishing guitarist Steven Stills was born in Dallas, though he went to high school in the Panama Canal Zone. Stills forms Buffalo Springfield, the California folk-rock band that is responsible for one of the anthems of the 1960s, "For What It’s Worth." The song is more recognizable by its first lines: "There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear." The band does not last long, but the influence is still lasting today.

1967. Steve Miller starts the Steve Miller Band and offers a spot to his old friend Boz Scaggs—they had both attended St. Mark’s School together in Dallas and played together at the University of Wisconsin. The Steve Miller Band flew to England to record their first album, Children of the Future. It gets wide airplay on progressive FM stations throughout the country and is highly acclaimed. The next albums make it to the Top 40. Miller records "My Dark Hour" with Paul McCartney appearing under the alias Paul Ramon. This song features Steve on lead and rhythm guitar, with McCartney on drums and bass.

1967. Kenny Rogers leaves the New Christy Minstrels for the First Edition and scores a hit with "I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)." Other hits are "Ruby, Don’t Take Your Guns to Town" and "Reuben James." They are popular on both country and pop charts and land their own TV show.

1967. Michael Nesmith, still enjoying commercial success with the Monkees, writes a breakout hit for the Stone Poneys, featuring Linda Ronstadt, entitled "Different Drum." Two years later, he leaves the group for a solo career. By 1981, Nesmith is a renowned video production innovator and receives the first video Grammy for "Elephant Parts."

1968. Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton records her composition "Ball and Chain." Janis Joplin covers the tune shortly thereafter.

1968. B.J. Thomas reaches the Top Ten with "Hooked on a Feeling." Then "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" confirms his superstar status. "I Just Can't Help Believing" and "Rock and Roll Lullaby" follow. A second career as a country artist unfolds with "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song." Thomas is the only artist ever to have the "Song of the Year" on the Pop, Country and Gospel charts.

1968. Waylon Jennings wins a Grammy for "MacArthur Park" but still feels uncomfortable in the Nashville "system."

1968. Jeannie C. Riley, born in Anson, has an international smash hit with Tom T. Hall’s "Harper Valley P.T.A." It earns her a Grammy for Best Country Performance with Vocal, Female. It later inspires a movie and a TV series.

1969. Stephen Stills authors "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" as a principal in the group Crosby, Stills & Nash. Joined by Neil Young in 1970, the LP Déjà Vu soars up the charts. Later in the same year, Stills’ self-titled solo debut features the hit "Love the One You're With."

1968. Johnny Winter of Beaumont follows up his regional success and a trip to England with the national (Columbia) debut of a self-titled blues LP that establishes him as the standard-bearer of Texas’ blues guitar tradition. He follows it with Second Winter (1969), Live Johnny Winter And (1971), which went gold, and the best-selling ever Still Alive and Well (1973).

1969. King Curtis claims a Grammy in the category of Best Rhythm and Blues Instrumental Performance for "Games People Play."

1969. Texas International Pop Festival. Two weeks after Woodstock, thousands gather in Lewisville on Labor Day Weekend to continue the music with B.B. King, Canned Heat, Chicago, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Freddie King, Grand Funk Railroad, Herbie Mann, Incredible String Band, James Cotton Blues Band, Janis Joplin, Johnny Winter, Led Zeppelin, Nazz, The Quarry, Rotary Connection, Sam & Dave, Santana, Shiva's Headband, Sly & the Family Stone, Space Opera, Spirit, Sweetwater, Ten Years After and Tony Joe White.