I remember down in Houston
We were putting on a show
Texas is notorious. What do I mean by that? There are so many answers. Off the top of my head, I can tell you the state began as its own independent republic and has threatened to secede about twice every decade. Texas is also the only state – out of 50 – allowed to fly their flag at the same height as the Star Spangled Banner. Everything is bigger, faster, louder, and crazier in Texas. The state dishes out more death row executions than every other state combined (your political persuasion will determine whether you see this as a positive or negative characteristic). And in the summer of 1984, a well-known, country-rock band out of Alabama found out the hard way that when you tour and play music in Texas, you GOTTA have a fiddle in your band.
Alabama rose to stardom as one of the first country "crossover" groups, meaning they seamlessly blended traditional country/western with southern rock and gospel elements. Their catchy hooks earned them airplay on Top 40 radio stations across the nation and they discovered the mainstream appeal of well-written songs – regardless of genre. They literally popularized country music for a mass audience. During the 1980s, Alabama had over 27 No. 1 hits, including "If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta have a Fiddle in the Band). "
Hermann Park in Houston
This song pays particular homage to what's gone before, liberally dropping the names of earlier songs ("Louisiana Man," "Faded Love," "Cotton-Eyed Joe") and even opening with a fanfare and the band singing "The Eyes of Texas" a cappella (actually "I’ve Been Working on the Railroad" as adapted for the University of Texas in 1903 by John Sinclair). Immediately following the final sung note, a distorted, electric guitar strums a single chord which opens the song up to a lively jaunt about playing in a Texas country bar. What remains unclear is whether or not the lyrics were based on a single moment during Alabama’s touring days or just the general feeling (perhaps a series of moments) while they played for Texans. But it certainly sounds like the band was most accommodating and, after some initial trepidation, the Texans welcomed them heartily for making the effort.
Texas existed as a sovereign nation from March 2nd, 1836, to February 19th, 1846, after gaining independence from Mexico in the Texas Revolution. The territory comprised Texas with parts of present-day Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Originally a piece of New Spain, the area of Texas experienced a surge of settlers in the early 19th century from both Mexico to the south, and the United States to the east. Tensions grew as the Mexican leadership forbade white immigrants to move into the region from the US.
Already outnumbering the Mexican population by a considerable margin, minor skirmishes in the 1830s led to open rebellion in October 1835 at the Battle of Gonzales, and less than 6 months later, the Texas convention declared their independence from Mexico. The independent nation didn’t last long. In 1843, US President Tyler pursued the annexation of Texas to become an official state and the issue took center stage in the election of 1844. But the Tyler-Texas annexation treaty was voted down by the US Senate until Milton Brown added an amendment to the bill.
The amendment offered benefits to slave-owners in Texas, a move that would appeal to southern plantation owners and their representatives in both houses of Congress. The legislation proposed to recognize Texas as a slave state and give power to the federal government to negotiate border disputes with Mexico. The bill, with this proposed amendment passed in the House and the Senate within 48 hours and President Tyler signed it on March 1st, 1845.
It was thus that the independent Republic of Texas was ended and the great state of Texas was born. If you ask any Texans now, they’ll reaffirm they live in the best state in the union. But that’s another debate for another time.
~ Justin Novelli