The right side of Texas in song

The title of The Atlantic’s Top 10 piece “The Geography of the Year in Music” sounded like a good idea at the time. I envisioned, perhaps, a top 10 of cities mentioned in popular music for the year or something of the sort. Instead, it was kind of, how can I say this, boring as hell. Essentially, the piece uses information which a doctoral student in urban planning gathered through a database of hit songs or hit-making acts per city. The result was how many singles were produced per 100,000 for a specific city. Just trying to explain it here has already taken more out of me than was intended.

Look, I know the writer wants to write a piece and the doctoral student in urban planning wants to play with data. I am sure a large number of people will read the article because The Atlantic is bordering on the kitten’s PJs as far as I am concerned. I just found the article left me feeling as if I was in the Recovery Room after major surgery.

But I feel as if I too can write an article that combines what are, to me, the interesting topics of geography and music. Furthermore, I believe that I can bore the hell out of you as well if you are so disposed. Otherwise you might find some redeeming quality or, God forbid, learn something in my little Internet list, which examines:

The Top 5 East Texas Towns in Song

There is no hocus-pocus-focus with statistics here. Believe me, I work with stats part-time and sometimes even that is too much. These towns are picked as favorites of mine and mine alone because of the song, the town or the combination thereof. Purists might argue the tie for No. 5 are not really East Texas and perhaps they aren’t in soul. I say: “Get a map.”

1. “Rock and Roll Doctor” — Sung by the late, great Lowell George with Little Feat. “It’s just a country town but patients come/from Mobile to Moline from all around/Nacogdoches to New Orleans/in beat-up old cars or in limousines/To meet the doctor of soul, he’s got everything.”

2. “She’s Crazy For Leaving” — The No. 1 country single for Houston native and great songwriter Rodney Crowell. Crowell attended my alma mater, Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. “So I punched out my truck on a telephone pole/No she never looked back she just said “go driver go.” Well I know I could a caught her/But I ran out of luck/She was long gone to Lufkin by the time they cut me out of my truck.”

3. “Stars on the Water” — Another, older Rodney Crowell tune. “Beaumont to Biloxi/Sea breeze at your door/Gypsy rains, dang hurricanes/White silver sandy shore/Blue Light lounge is shinin’/Way out on the view.”

4. “Teneha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair” — A real oldie by East Texas singing cowboy Tex Ritter. The song refers to communities in Shelby County, to which I know I have been to the first two. Perhaps it was an Army cadence call and for sure something called out in a crap game, Tex explains all in his song.

5. (Tie) “Galveston” — The 1960s hit penned by Jimmy Webb and sung by Glen Campbell. I had long heard it was a protest song about the Vietnam War, but knowing the lyrics, I didn’t see it. Webb later said he had imagined the line “I clean my gun and dream of Galveston” as during the Spanish-American War back in the island city’s heyday.

5. (Tie) “Midnight Special” — A traditional folk song made famous by blues legend Huddie Ledbetter a.k.a. Leadbelly. My favorite version is, of course, by Creedence Clearwater Revival on their “Willie and the Poor Boys” LP recorded in 1969. “If you’re ever in Houston/Boy you better do right/You better not gamble/And you better not fight/Cause the sheriff will grab you/And the boys will bring you down/The next thing you know boy, you’ll be prison bound.” I don’t know if those are the exact words. It’s one of those songs meant to be sung in the way you feel. ‘Cept you best sing Houston. Leadbelly’s words likely doesn’t portray the image that the Houston visitors bureau would like you to visualize. Still, Huddie Ledbetter’s words about Houston law enforcement remains fairly accurate.