It all started about 40 years ago, when Willie Nelson finally got the hell out of Nashville and hightailed it back to his native Texas. As a songwriter, he’d had a pretty good run in Nashville through the ’60s, but there ultimately just wasn’t enough room on Music Row for Willie to really be … well, Willie. So the prodigal red-headed son came home, grew his hair out and — together with fellow music rebels like Waylon Jennings and Jerry Jeff Walker — united the hippies and rednecks and started a revolution.
In time, the status-quo suits in Nashville took note and stopped shaking in their shiny designer boots long enough to figure out a way to cash in on the phenomenon, bottling lightning and branding it “Outlaw Country.” But as handy as that handle was in selling a few million records to the masses, it barely skimmed the surface of all the progressive country, folk and roots music that was coming out of the Lone Star State at the time. While the rest of the country couldn’t get enough of Wanted: The Outlaws, those really in the know were also digging such rising talents and future legends as Doug Sahm, Billy Joe Shaver, Delbert McClinton, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Joe Ely and Ray Wylie Hubbard. In the ’80s came the second major wave: George Strait, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen. And the trend continued well into the ’90s and the new century, with DIY phenoms like Jack Ingram, Pat Green, Terri Hendrix, Reckless Kelly and the Randy Rogers Band fanning regional grassroots followings into national buzz both on and proudly under the mainstream radar.
Some of these artists, by nature of their independent ethos, remain Texas’ best-kept secrets. Others have made the leap to major labels and, like Willie and Waylon before them, topped the national country charts. But discerning fans of Texas music the world know that there’s only one place to go on the Web to find them all, from the giants of the scene to the latest rising stars: LoneStarMusic.com.
Founded in late 1999 by diehard Texas music fan Chad Raney, LoneStarMusic.com stocks more than 1,300 different artists — including not only Texans honky-tonkers and songwriters, but a generous selection of kindred spirits from Oklahoma’s “Red Dirt” music scene (Mike McClure, Cross Canadian Ragweed) and other fan-approved “Honorary Lone Stars,” like Johnny Cash and fellow “Johns” Hiatt and Prine. While shopping visitors can also peruse Texas music links and exclusive, in-depth “Artist of the Month” interviews. The Q&A are also featured in LoneStarMusic.com’s newsletter, which is e-mailed each month to approximately 50,000 subscribers. The web site currently receives half-a-million visitors a month.
LoneStarMusic.com was an out-of-the-gate success. By 2001, it was named "Best E-Commerce Music Site" by TechTV, and Texas State University's Institute for The History of Texas honored the company for it's support of Texas music. In 2003, Michael and Clair Devers partnered with Raney and helped the company expand even further with the opening of Lone Star Music's "brick and mortar" record store in beautiful downtown Gruene, Texas (right down the street from the world-famous Gruene Hall). A life-sized, chainsaw-carved statue of Texas music legend Bob Wills - aka "The King of Western Swing" - greets customers at the front door. Inside, music fans can find not only thousands of CDs from LoneStarMusic.com artists, but also vinyl LPs, DVDs, books, gifts and apparel. The Devers also helped launch Lone Star Music Magazine, featuring stories and reviews on both the scene's biggest names and its rising stars. (Speaking of rising stars, here's a fun bit of trivia: Lone Star Music released the independent debut of Ryan Bingham, who would soon sign with major label Lost Highway Records and - in 2010 - win an Academy Award for the theme song to Crazy Heart, "The Weary Kind.")
In late 2009 - just in time for it's 10th anniversary - Lone Star Music (the Web site, retail store and magazine) was bought by another diehard music fan, Zach Jennings. Jennings and his wife, Megan, were looking for the ideal environment to raise their two girls and New Braunfels and Lone Star Music proved to be not only ideal, but a perfect match. Zach hit the ground running and is fully committed to carrying the company to even greater heights in the decade to come (and beyond). Look for exciting changes to come at LoneStarMusic.com, and a brand new look (and commitment to excellence) to Lone Star Music Magazine, which recently welcomed a new editor, Richard Skanse, and graphic designer, Melissa Webb. Skanse was an editor at RollingStone.com in New York and spent the last nine years as editor of Texas Music. Webb is an award-winning graphic artist whose flair for design has graced many a CD and Web site by some of Texas' finest artists.