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Screens & Tech

'Texas Music Scene' gets its due

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson, the host of Texas Music Scene.

It's a simple, remarkably straightforward idea that's already been tried successfully once. "It's like Austin City Limits circa its beginning in 1976," said Tom Hoitsma, creator of Texas Music Scene, a weekly public-television music show dedicated to Texas musicians.

Its precursor, Austin City Limits, pushed well beyond our borders long ago. Nowadays Texans seem to appear on the show only by happenstance rather than intent. With a long history in TV, a reform-minded Hoitsma set about establishing his own syndicated television show dedicated solely to Texas musicians two years ago. As he began developing the idea he settled upon the perfect host and supporter — Ray Benson. The towering (6 feet 7 inches) Asleep at the Wheel frontman had been involved in Austin City Limits since its early days but had long complained that they'd strayed from their original mission of showcasing local artists, but he said his fellow board members were enjoying their national profile.

"I said we need a second tier to showcase the Texas music scene, but they were having enough trouble financing [Austin City Limits] each year," Benson recalled. "So when Tom came to me, I said, 'Absolutely.' And I said I don't just want to do the contemporary artists, and they said, 'We also want to do Texas music legends at the end of the show.' I said 'I'm on then.'"

After a pilot launch in April 2010 on Dallas station KTXA, sponsors started to line up. When a rain-shortened Rangers game put them up against the 10 p.m. news and they still tied the other stations, everyone realized they had a winner on their hands. They initially filmed at the Gibson Guitar Showroom in Austin, but this spring they moved to the recently renovated Texas Music Theater in San Marcos.

"Austin is sort of an indie and alt-rock town, and this show is about Texas music. While there are a lot of fans and artists there, something made more sense about having it filmed in San Marcos. That feels better to me as far as what the show is about," said Hoitsma.

Benson and his son Sam help out doing the show's audio, while the nine-time Grammy winner also hosts. Each half-hour show features four acts and airs in over 15 Texas markets. It's the number one rated show in its Saturday 10:30 p.m. slot here in San Antonio on KSAT-TV, and it also tops its time-period in Dallas, Austin, Beaumont, and Abilene. Things are going so well, it's hard to believe it only began its official run in October.

San Antonio native Pat Green recently appeared on the show, and points to a healthy scene that's constantly brewing up new talent to supplement an already rich lineup of artists.

"There's been a ton of talent coming out. Every four, five years somebody gets to climb to the top of the ladder. Right now it's Josh Abbot's turn," said Green, who just released Songs We Wish We'd Written II, his first independent album in 12 years. "I love that I got to be one of the guys at the top a while. I think Ray Benson said it best — 'Pat you're only the hot young thing for about a year, and that was eight years ago for you.'"

Benson's justifiably proud and hopeful about this new venture. One thing's for sure: There's no dearth of source material.

"Texas music scene is so varied," Benson said. "There isn't a style of music that's not practiced and exported from Texas. So while there are plenty of stereotypes of what Texas music is, bottom-line is — it's everything. The diversity of music and the public's thirst for it makes this place special." •

Texas Music Scene feat. Bob Schneider, Pat Green, Michael Martin Murphey, Foster & Lloyd

10:30pm Sat, May 26

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