Austin musicians are unsung heroes of countless hits


by TYLER SIESWERDA / KVUE News with photojournalists MATT OLSEN and ANDREW SOWDER

Posted on November 6, 2013 at 11:42 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 7 at 4:03 PM

AUSTIN -- Many famous songs on the radio became hits because of people you've never heard of, and a lot of them live in Austin.

The band Confederate Railroad made "Trashy Women" a top 10 hit in 1993. Austin legend Jerry Jeff Walker was the first to record the song about a certain type of woman back in 1989.

But all the credit for giving "Trashy Women" a voice goes to a man you may not know.

"I had this guy come up to me, actually it was a couple of people, and they go, 'Now what were you thinking about when you wrote 'Trashy Women'?'"

Austin musician Chris Wall struck musical gold during a night out with friends.

"We saw this gal out at a nightclub in California who was startlingly attractive, and she had a leather jump suit on, and everybody was remarking 'she's a very attractive woman.' Somebody said something about her attire and I said, 'I like them a little on the trashy side, and I just went 'Oh there you go.'"

Many country artists write their own music, but many are unsung heroes behind countless hits. This includes Wall who discovered his talent as a young man.

"It just came to me. The first thing I did when I learned G, C, and D was start writing songs. I don't know why," Wall said.

Wall realized he could make a living off his talent. His music was first discovered by Jerry Jeff Walker. The royalties helped pay a few small bills between playing gigs. But when "Trashy Women" hit it big, so did Chris.

"My previous check from BMI had been $122 or something. That had been all Jerry Jeff money.  I misread the check. I thought it was for $920, which I thought was terrific. It was for a lot more than that."

It was for 100 times more than that to be exact.

"It changes your life," he said.

The Austin music scene is full of people who have had that life-changing moment.

Wimberley's own Susan Gibson wrote "Wide Open Spaces" for the Dixie Chicks. Bruce Robison wrote for the Chicks as well. He also wrote the number one hit "Wrapped" for George Strait.

"I bet you there's a hundred songwriters in this town that have number one hits," Wall said.

KVET's Bama Brown has spent 25 years on Austin radio. He's watched musical styles change and Nashville's formula approach to hit-making. But he says Central Texas remains a hot bed of hits.

"Texas artists…they're known as being better than the rest and Nashville knows that. The second place that Nashville looks is Austin, Texas I promise you," he said.

Brown says Austin is a place where songwriters like Robison or David Lee Murphy can work out their songs in front of live audiences and have fun doing it.

"You'll see David Lee out somewhere just playing and having fun. This guy has written Jason Aldean's last three hits," he said.

Bama admits that he has missed a few artists.

"All DJ's have missed an artist. Mine was Kenny Chesney.  Interviewed him 20 years ago.  Love the guy, we are friends. He knows this. He walked out and I went, 'That kid will never make it.' And they don't get any bigger than that. My partner Rob Mason, we've been together 15 years, his was Garth [Brooks]."

Missed artists aside, when it comes to great lyrics and perfect structure, Bama knows a hit.

"It's the structure of the song and doing it correctly so that it can get picked up by a good artist. Can you recognize that when you first hear it? Absolutely. First time you hear them you'll know it's a hit," he said.

Go here for more information on Chris Wall's first acoustic album released in 10 years.