Top 10 Tunes For Your ‘Dallas’ Playlist
The Dallas Region has served as fodder for lyricists and tunesmiths for nearly as long as audio recordings have existed, perhaps earlier.
Our crack “Say Yes” staff set out to identify the 10 song recordings that best capture the spirit of Big D. Our criteria were fairly straightforward: Points were awarded based on local references, catchy lyrics and the track’s musical quality and authenticity. Some tracks were not included (the theme to the ‘70s television show “Dallas” among them) because they were too obvious, or overtly insipid. Aware of the peril of their task, our “Say Yes” musicophiles delivered a sprawling-yet-controversial soundtrack, performed by the likes of T Bone Walker (the blues legend who once lived in Oak Cliff), local recording artist Erykah Badu, the late rodeo cowboy/country rocker Chris LeDoux and others. It is not necessary to mention Willie Nelson here because Willie Nelson.
Without further ado:
“Trinity River Blues” (T-Bone Walker, 1929)
Showing an unabashed bias toward the blues, our “Say Yes” crew planted T-Bone Walker’s “Trinity River Blues” atop our playlist. Recorded at the beginning of the Great Depression, this track’s plinking piano and still-young T-Bone Walker (known as “Oak Cliff T-Bone” when he lived in the other OC) oozes murky authenticity:
They’re building a levee now, I have no more to worry ’bout.
They are building a levee now, I have no more to worry ’bout.
If that river should happen to rise, won’t have to move my things out.
“Dallas Days and Fort Worth Nights” (Chris LeDoux)
This rockin’ country and Western diddy could make a convert out of the most diehard anti-country listener. Aside from the tune’s catchiness, the lyrics capture the often-overlooked duality of the Dallas Region:
Under the skies of old big D He works a nine to five Bending steel and driving nails By phone in a suit and tie He fights traffic in his Mercedes To put on his cowboy boots Then he climbs on board his pick-up truck And barrels on out of the chute
″Dallas in My Soul″ (Willie Nelson)
Willie Nelson’s homage to Big D references Love Field, Central Expressway, the LBJ highway, Neiman Marcus and Highland Park. “She swings like a blond with a millionaire,” Nelson croons, with a smile in his voice.
“Deep Ellum Blues” (Jorma Kaukonen version)
This recording gives its listeners the vibe of being a fly on the wall, including utterings from a backup vocalist who repeats the phrase “easy peasy” before the picking commences. When it does, we find our feet firmly planted on Blues Island, but there’s nothing stale here. The guitar and vocals are clean and honest as a freshly power-washed Deep Ellum sidewalk on a Monday morning.
“Dallas” (Bad Livers)
This riff on Dallas by the Bad Livers melds banjo, string base and guitar in a Soggy Bottom Boys-kind of way. This trio plays its heart (and fingers) out in the live version, posted here, having the time of their lives performing a song that seems to have something to do with a gambling addiction.
“Woo” (Erykah Badu)
Fans of R&B will appreciate this cool, bass-filled jam. Though there are limited mentions of Dallas in the lyrics, “Woo” is written and performed by Big D’s own Erykah Badu. It’s said that former President Barack Obama has placed this track at the top of his playlist. You should, too.
“If You’re Ever Down in Dallas” (Lee Ann Womack)
Lee Ann Womack’s ode to Big D conjures up the boot-scootin’ heartache that many outsiders imagine happening here. “I’m sure Fort Worth has seen its share of heartaches,” she writes. “But it’s plain to see your heart’s not broken now. You’re in love with someone new, and up on top of the world.” The tune runs a little longer than two minutes – enough time to realize the lyrics’ double-meaning and to circle a saw-dust covered dance floor a couple times.
“Get Up” Cowboys Anthem (Kelly Clarkson)
How many pop, country, rock and rap anthems have been dedicated to America’s Team? Thankfully, that’s not our question to answer. Instead, we submit Burleson native Kelly Clarkson’s glittering pop jewel as Exhibit “A” in our case for how it should be done.
“We’ll Go Walkin’ ” (The O’s)
A walk to East Dallas’ Tietze Park and its signature live oak trees is the central theme of this song’s video, featuring Dallas’ own The O’s. It’s a catchy, rye tune that reflects the team’s off-kilter style. Aside from the mention of Tietze Park, the song itself only lingers briefly on the notion of Dallas, and could have been set anywhere.
“Big D” (Performed by Jo Stafford)
Perhaps the peppiest song on this list, our version of “Big D” is performed by Jo Stafford, who made her mark as torch singer for the Greatest Generation. Though this song is chock-full of local references and hyperbole (Nieman Marcus, “where every home’s a palace,” etc.), it finishes at the bottom because it’s oh-so-cloyingly sweet.