More Driving Songs of East Texas

December 10, 2009 | Insights

By Bob Latham

In the summer edition of the IP Litigation Insider, I prepared a list of the Top Ten Driving Songs of East Texas – songs that were either by an artist from East Texas, recorded in East Texas or somehow connected to East Texas, and that were appropriate to have on your play list as you drive the roads from courthouse to courthouse in that part of the country. The feedback I received was immediate, plentiful and much appreciated.

I had tried to vary the genres in my initial top ten list and therefore I necessarily limited the number of blues songs included on the list. But it is clear from the feedback that I overcompensated in this regard, as the cries for Leadbelly, T-Bone Walker, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Gatemouth Brown, Freddie King, Lightning Hopkins and the like were loud and forceful.

My thanks to all of you who contacted me with your comments, suggestions and insights. Steve McConnico of Austin gets the award for both the number and variety of suggestions – everything from Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto by Van Cliburn (of Kilgore) to the Soul Stirrers (who gave a singing job to a young Sam Cooke).

So, without further gilding the lily (or the Tyler rose), I offer up a list of ten more driving songs, several of which were alternates on the first list.

10. “East Texas Pines” – Sunny Sweeny

Okay, Sunny Sweeny fans, I give up. Yes, this song is all about East Texas, by title and otherwise. Yes, Sunny Sweeny is from Longview, one of the most East Texas-y of East Texas towns. It’s only the singing voice that prevented Sunny from being on the first Top Ten Driving Songs list. And, though still not a fan, I will throw this into the last slot of the second ten, just because its theme is right on point.

9. “(Making the Run To) Gladewater” – Michelle Shocked

In East Texas, it is sometimes necessary to drive a distance for an adult beverage. Shocked’s song about making the run to Gladewater conjures up an image familiar to many East Texans.

8. “Coahuila” – Old 97’s

The second alternate on my original list and sung by Ken Bethea from Tyler.

7. “Smell of Incense” – Southwest F.O.B.

This suggestion comes from 60’s escapee Michael Schneider of the Texas Association of Broadcasters, who is a bottomless reservoir of musical information. Like Mouse & the Traps, who were on my original list and who drew a surprising amount of recognition from readers, Southwest F.O.B. recorded at Robin Hood Studios in Tyler. I had blues, rock, country, pop and I thought just about every genre of East Texas music on my original list. Nevertheless, here’s a rare chance to add some late 60’s psychedelic to the mix, which I can’t pass up. Two members of Southwest F.O.B. would find success in the 70’s as England Dan and John Ford Coley. Yes, “England” Dan was actually from Texas.

6. “All the Rage in Paris” – The Derailers

This was the first alternate on my original list and is about the town in East Texas, not the city in France. From the same CD, “Here Come the Derailers,” you might also consider “Bar Exam,” a clichéd twist on the entrance to our profession but worth a listen.

5. “My Time is Expensive” – Gatemouth Brown

Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown was from Orange and indeed was/is buried there. He was last in the news when his coffin floated out of its quarters during Hurricane Ike. Thankfully, he is safely resting in peace once again. While “Okie Dokie Stomp” was tempting to put on this list, the title of this track is much more apropos to lawyers travelling through East Texas.

4. “No Place to Fall” – Townes Van Zandt

Brenk Johnson was the strongest advocate for Townes, pointing out that not only did Willie Nelson call him the greatest songwriter Texas has ever produced, but also that Van Zandt County in East Texas is named after his family. Clearly he deserves to be on the list. While “Pancho and Lefty” is probably his most well known song (and was covered by Willie Nelson himself), “No Place to Fall” fits in better on this play list.

3. “Stormy Monday” – T-Bone Walker

Clearly, T-Bone Walker and George Jones were my most serious omissions from my initial list. John Council of The Texas Lawyer made an eloquent case for T-Bone when he interviewed me for his video blog. T-Bone was from Linden and his legacy is profound. B.B. King has always referred to him as his greatest single influence.

2. “A Good Year for the Roses” – George Jones

Many noted my omission of George Jones on my initial list, most notably retired State Senator Don Adams. Jones was originally from Vidor and was also a DJ in Jasper. “A Good Year for the Roses” is not only one of Jones’ best, but it is certainly appropriate as you drive through Tyler. If you’re not a George Jones fan, Elvis Costello’s cover of this gut wrencher is superb.

1. “My Ride’s Here” – Warren Zevon

This selection is inspired by Melissa Smith of Marshall who suggested that a bone be thrown to those attorneys who prefer that their case be transferred out of the Eastern District of Texas. While “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by The Animals comes to mind, it has no connection to East Texas. However, the lyrics of Warren Zevon specifically address this very sentiment:

“Shelley and Keats were out in the street
And even Lord Byron was leaving for Greece
While back at the Hilton, last but not least
Milton was holding his sides
Saying, “You bravos had better be ready to fight
or we’ll never get out of East Texas tonight
The trail is long and the river is wide . . .”

You might also consider Bruce Springsteen’s live cover version of this song from “Enjoy Every Sandwich,” a magnificent tribute album to Warren Zevon, performed by Bruce within days of Zevon’s passing.

To those of you who stay in East Texas, may your drives be safe, pleasant and musical.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

In This Story

Robert P. Latham
Partner, Dallas