The song is a salute to Texan traditionalism, giving a nod to country music's roots. The fiddle was a staple of early country music and American folk music In general.
Murry Kellum and Dan Mitchell wrote this song. It's the only track on Roll On that they wrote.
Kellum died in a plane wreck in 1990 at 47, six years after the release of "If You're Gonna Play In Texas." His recording of "Long Tall Texan" was a hit in 1963, and "The Ballad of Archie Who" had success in 1970.
Mitchell died in 2011. He also wrote hits "Rodeo Bombeo" and "Only If There is Another You" for Moe Bandy. He was a career songwriter who penned everything from country music to radio jingles.
This song's success surprised the band. They released it as the B-side to "I'm Not That Way Anymore," which was the third single released from the album. B-sides are generally meant to complement the featured song and aren't themselves expected to be the hits, but DJs ended up playing "If You're Gonna Play In Texas" a lot more than the A-side, and it soon took off with fans.
Alabama was sizzling hot when they released this song. Their previous 13 singles all went to #1 on the Country chart, and "If You're Gonna Play In Texas" made it 14. They ended up with 21 consecutive #1 hits.
The chorus references three country tunes. The first is "Louisiana Man
" by Doug Kershaw; second is "Faded Love" by Bob Wills; third is "Cotton Eye Joe
," a song with origins lost to time, traceable back to the 1800s at least. All three songs rely on expert fiddle playing.
In 2018, Texas senator Ted Cruz used a variation of this song in his re-election campaign, changing the title to "If You're Gonna Run In Texas." The Republican Cruz won, but Democrat votes exceeded what's normally expected in the historically conservative state of Texas.
The album version of this song was a minute longer than the single that most have come to think of as the authentic version. In the original, the song opens with a few bars of "The Eyes Of Texas" and has an extra refrain.
The song is often associated with Houston, thanks to the lines:
I remember down in Houston
We were putting on a show