There are many cities that want to claim the coveted title of “Live Music Capital” but very few have any real credibility to back it up. Austin, Texas is not one of them.
Starting in the early 20th century, musicians from all over the country made stops in Austin. Some of them even stayed to live there. A large number of venues supported acts in different genres – country, jazz and swing, gospel, rock, R&B and more. Some of the biggest acts to play Austin between the 1940’s and the 1960’s included Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Tina Turner and Ray Charles
It was in the 1970’s, however, that Austin became known as a place for struggling musicians to find an audience. With its volume of music venues, bands and artists could manage to make a living playing music.
In 1991 Austin was finally declared “The Live Music Capital of the World,” and to this day, thanks to mega-festivals like South by Southwest, it has become the premier tour destination for the largest acts in the world.
It’s no wonder that many music legends hail from Austin, or have moved there to significantly contribute to its music scene. Here are some of the better known names:
Willie Nelson – the country music icon needs little introduction. In the 1970s he moved to Austin where he saw his popularity soar with his brand of outlaw country music, which resonated with the independent spirit of the local music fans. Second Street in Austin was renamed Willie Nelson Boulevard in 2010.
Janis Joplin – before the “Queen of Psychedelic Soul” became a fixture of the psychedelic hippie scene in San Francisco, she spent time in Austin attending college, performing, and writing and recording songs. Her work from that period can be heard on the posthumous album This is Janis 1965.
Stevie Ray Vaughn – Rolling Stone ranked him 11th on their “100 Greatest Guitarists”, and the Blues Hall of Famer is one of Austin’s most celebrated musical heroes. Vaughn moved to Austin at the age of 17 to pursue his music career and has never looked back. Following his tragic death from a helicopter crash in 1990, a statue in his honor was erected at Auditorium Shores Park.
Natalie Maines – the Dixie Chick known for her angelic voice and for her controversial statements has a home in Austin Texas together with her husband, the actor Adrian Pasdar. She has performed at South by Southwest among other local festivals and venues.
Robert Plant – if you want the very definition of a music legend, you simply point to the Led Zeppelin vocalist, who in a 2012 interview admitted that he lives in Austin with his girlfriend, folk singer-songwriter Patti Griffin. He is scheduled to perform at a benefit for the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians to be held at Austin City Limits.
Zane Schwarzlose is a writer at Fahrenheit Marketing, an Austin web design company. Zane thinks that Austin music is pretty cool.