Texas Tropical Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Texas Music

Musician performing at the Victory Grill in Austin
Victory Grill, Austin


The first musical sounds heard across the pre-Texas landscape may have been birdsong, followed by the chants of nomadic tribes. In historic times, the ritual songs of the first Native Americans predate the Spanish colonial hymns brought to the New World by the Catholic Church. Then comes the age of the guitar and the Spanish folk ballad before Anglo-Europeans arrived with pianos and orchestral arrangements, German singing societies, and a cacophony of symphonies, operas, and theatrical scores.

Texas' provincial state of affairs lasted through the end of the second World War and, as a result, its musical tastes tended towards the type of sounds and lyrics that best expressed its rural soul-western swing and country. After the 1950s, musical development in Texas mirrored the general trend rising across the rest of the country, although the state also offered up its own music stars like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Willie Nelson. We can also lay claim to our own unique musical style—Tejano—the Texas/Mexican fusion of balladry, folk, and polka developed in the early 20th century, a style that went global in the modern age thanks to another of our brightest homegrown music stars—Selena.


Texas musicians have created quite a legacy for the state. In fact, winning the coveted Grammy Award is one among many accomplishments garnered by our array of homegrown musicians and musical styles. One Grammy award-winning style in particular, uniquely prominent in South Texas as early as the 1920s, is one we like to consider all our own-Tejano, the dance music rooted in our Hispanic heritage. The rhythms of Tejano are derived from the accordion and guitar sounds of conjunto and the fuller band arrangements of orquestras-favorite musical styles of dance lovers, Mexican and Anglo alike. Check out the full story (in picture and song) along the Tropical Trail at the Tejano R.O.O.T.S. Hall of Fame in Alice and the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame and Museum in San Benito. Once you start to feel the rhythm try it out for yourself at San Benito's La Villita Dancehall. And don't forget to put plenty of salsa in your cha-ah-ah-AY!

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Read more about Texas music in the Handbook of Texas Online.