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All Over the Map:
True Heroes of Texas Music.
Revised Edition.

By Michael Corcoran

North Texas Lives of Musicians Series, Number 11.


(Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2017)
Pages 308. Illustrated. Hardcover.
ISBN: 978-1-57441-668-8. $ 29.95.

Review by Dr. Kirk Bane

November 1 , 2017

"To be a high school weirdo in 1960 in Port Arthur, Texas, was to set yourself up for a rough time, and Janis Joplin knew it. But she'd made up her mind that she was going to live her life her way, damn the small-minded. She discovered the blues during the time of segregation and read Kerouac and Ferlinghetti in a town where both bookstores were Christian. The townies made her life hell, which made Joplin's sound of getting out especially powerful. Freedom was not just another word to the East Texas misfit who became the first female rock star…Courage and insecurity were the oversized lenses through which Janis saw the world, at least from the last half of her 27 years. It was that mix of strength and vulnerability that came through in her singing. The rebel side started at about age 14, when Janis realized she'd never be one of the pretty girls, the popular girls, at Thomas Jefferson High School." So observes Michael Corcoran in this engagingly written, well-illustrated examination of more than forty Lone Star musicians.

Initially published in 2005 by the University of Texas Press, this second edition of All Over the Map has been substantially overhauled. "In the past dozen years," Corcoran asserts, "I've done a lot of researching and writing about Texas music pioneers, so I've rewritten the whole thing, plugging in new information, and adding [new] chapters…There's also a new section on behind-the-scene-heroes." Corcoran's text now discusses such diverse artists as Lefty Frizzell, Guy Clark, Bobby Ramirez, Ray Price, King Curtis, Nick Curran, Barbara Lynn, Calvin Russell, Bobbie Nelson (Willie's sister), and legendary saxophonist Bobby Keys, who toured and recorded with the Rolling Stones.

The author divides his book geographically: sections include East Texas; Houston; Dallas and Fort Worth; the Waco area; Austin; San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley; and West Texas. Corcoran also features a segment titled "The 34 Greatest Texas Recordings." These significant songs include Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely" (1960); George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (1980); Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day" (1957); Z Z Top's "La Grange" (1973); Jim Reeves' "He'll Have to Go" (1959); Destiny Child's "Say My Name" (2000); George Strait's "Amarillo By Morning" (1982); Glen Campbell's "Galveston" (1969); Gary P. Nunn's "London Homesick Blues" (1973); and Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave is Swept Clean" (1927). Considering Marty Robbins' classic "El Paso," Corcoran maintains: "Quite a 'gunfighter ballad' by singer/writer Robbins, giving a musical movie plot in four minutes and 38 seconds, and with Grady Martin's Spanish guitar, you can almost feel the spirit of border town love." Evaluating Johnny Horton's "Honky-Tonk Man" (1956), he contends that the Tyler native "would go on to greater success with historical songs such as 'Battle of New Orleans' and 'North to Alaska.' Horton was killed by a drunken driver in Milano, Texas, in 1960 after playing the Skyline Club in Austin. In an [eerie] coincidence, his widow Billie Jean was married to Hank Williams when he played his final public concert at the Skyline eight years earlier."

Students of popular culture, especially those interested in Lone Star musicians and Texas-themed tunes, will enjoy this commendable volume. Corcoran deserves a hearty round of applause!

Review by Kirk Bane, Ph.D.
Managing Editor, Central Texas Studies

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Reviews by Dr. Kirk Bane

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