Texas has one of the most storied musical histories in the United States. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the state has also produced some of the best rock bands.
Some of them are locally-known groups that began performing in local bars. Others are internationally renowned bands that significantly influenced the rock music genre.
Below is a list of 13 of the most famous rock bands from Texas and some of their most acclaimed albums and songs. Have fun reading!
1. The Crickets
Our first rock and roll band, The Crickets, was formed in Lubbock, Texas, in 1957. Its founders, vocalist and lead guitarist Buddy Holly, and bassist Joe Mauldin were both born in Lubbock. Drummer Jerry Allison, born in Hillsboro, Texas, and rhythm guitarist Niki Sullivan, from California, completed the group.
Only four months after the band’s formation, their breakout single “That’ll Be the Day” was released. The song peaked at #3 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 list. Their first album, The Chirping Crickets, was released shortly after.
Many music critics consider the album one of the best ever made. The group was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2008 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
2. ZZ Top
From Lubbock, we go to Houston, the origin of one of the most iconic rock bands to hail from Texas. ZZ Top was formed in 1969 and consisted of a trio of vocalist, guitarist, and frontman Billy Gibbons, vocalist, and bassist Dusty Hill, and drummer Frank Beard.
The band released its first album ZZ Top’s First Album in 1971, containing blues-inspired rock songs. Their best-selling album to date is Eliminator, released in 1983. It sold over 10 million copies in the United States alone.
In total, the band has released 15 studio albums. Because of their contribution to rock music, the band got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
Arlington, Texas, gave birth to the heavy metal rock band Pantera in 1981. Its members came from different states but came together as a glam metal band.
By 1986, the band began shifting away from glam metal to heavy metal. This was evident in their 1988 album Power Metal. But it was only in the 1990s that the band would gain international acclaim.
This was after they found their signature sound called “power groove.” It’s a combination of thrash metal and groove metal. From here on, the band’s success continued.
Their seventh album, Far Beyond Driven, is the band’s best-performing project. It debuted at #1 on the US Billboard 200 while it spawned the successful single “I’m Broken,” which received a Grammy nomination. To date, the band has sold over 20 million copies of their albums.
Our next band on our list is Spoon, an indie rock band formed by Britt Daniel and Jim Eno in 1993 in Austin, Texas.
The band released its first album Telephono in 1996. Though it gained mixed reviews, it was notable for its post-punk and pop elements. They found their big break in 2001 with the release of their album Girls Can Tell. It sold more copies than its first two albums combined.
Spoon received further acclaim when Daniel wrote the soundtrack to the 2006 movie Stranger Than Fiction and included four tracks by the group. They have gone on to release nine more albums, the latest being the 2022 Lucifer on the Sofa.
5. Old 97’s
The pioneer of the alternative country movement in the 1990s is Old 97’s. This alternative rock band was formed in 1992 in Dallas, Texas. Their name came from the Wreck of the Old 97, a rail disaster involving the Southern Railway mail train number 97.
Old 97’s came out with their first album, Hitchhike to Rhome, in 1994, followed by Wreck Your Life. Many of their songs included references to Texas, where the lead singer, Rhett Miller, was born.
The band’s other notable albums include Graveyard Whistling and Wreck Your Life… And Then Some, which peaked at #82 and #85, respectively, on the Billboard 200. Their most successful album was Most Messed Up, which peaked at #30 on the Billboard 200. Their most notable singles are “Murder (or a Heart Attack)” and “Nineteen.”
Like Spoon, Fastball is a rock band formed in Austin, Texas, by members Tony Scalzo, Joey Shuffield, and Miles Zuniga. Their first album, Make Your Mama Proud, debuted in 1996 though it did not perform well.
Their sophomore album, All The Pain Money Can Buy, fared much better. It sold over a million copies before the end of the year. The album received two Grammy nominations. It also spawned the group’s breakout single “The Way,” which charted on Billboard’s Top 40 Chart.
Fastball went on to release six more albums. Unfortunately, none of them would achieve the level of success of their second album.
Fort Worth, Texas, witnessed the formation of the alternative rock band Toadies in 1989. They were first recognized as having a “distinctly grunge” and “distinctly Texan” sound.
The band’s first album, Rubberneck, was released in 1994 and peaked at #56 on the Billboard 200. It went on to sell over one million copies. It features the band’s most popular single, “Possum Kingdom.” The band toured and opened for other popular bands and was a regular in music festivals in Dallas and Houston around this time.
Their second album, Hell Below-Stars Above, was not as successful. The band split up in 2001 but reunited in 2008 to release No Deliverance. Since 2008, the band has released four more albums.
8. Butthole Surfers
Singer Gibby Haynes and guitarist Paul Leary were still students at a university in San Antonio, Texas, when they formed the amusingly named Butthole Surfers. They became known as a hardcore punk rock band that made use of the elements of noise rock and punk in their songs.
The group released their first album, Psychic… Powerless… Another Man’s Sac, in 1984. The album did not chart in America, but it did peak at #12 in the UK indie chart.
The band recorded a total of eight albums. Their penultimate album, Electruclarryland, became their most successful. It contained the Top 40 hit “Pepper.”
Another hardcore punk rock band that hailed from Austin, Texas, is MDC (Millions of Dead Cops). They are notable in that they were among the pioneers of hardcore punk in Austin. With other bands, The Dicks and Big Boys, they were responsible for forming the Austin hardcore scene.
MDC’s first album, Millions of Dead Cops, came out in 1982 and had notable singles like “John Wayne Was A Nazi” and “I Remember.” The band has nine albums, the latest being Millions of Dead Cowboys, released in 2020.
The current lineup consists of Dave Dictor, Russ Kalita, Barry Ward, Ron Posner, and Mike Smith. The band has had at least twenty members since its founding.
10. Drowning Pool
Up next is Drowning Pool, a heavy metal rock band formed in 1996 in Dallas, Texas. The band’s name came from The Drowning Pool, an American thriller movie.
Their first album, Sinner, came out in 2001 and received platinum certification in several months. It contains their most famous song, “Bodies.” It sold over one and a half million copies despite its controversial interpretations.
The group has six other albums, the latest being the 2022 release Strike A Nerve. The band also went from one vocalist to another following the death of their original vocalist.
11. The Afters
Our next band on the list is The Afters, a Christian rock band from Mesquite, Texas. Founding members Joshua Havens and Matt Fuqua used to perform for their customers while working at Starbucks in Mesquite.
The band initially performed under the stage name Blisse. However, they had to change it as another band already existed with the name. Now calling themselves The Afters, the group continued performing around the Dallas area. INO Records discovered them and were signed to the label.
Among the band’s six studio albums, the most successful is their second, Never Go Back To OK, released in 2008. The album debuted at #41 on the Billboard 200 chart. A notable single from their discography is “Light Up the Sky,” which topped the US Christian Charts.
12. The Sword
Formed in 2003, The Sword is a heavy metal rock band from Austin, Texas. In its early years, many considered them a doom metal band releasing music influenced by Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.
Their first album, Age of Winters, came out in 2006. It did not chart despite the band going on tours to support it. However, it received positive reviews from critics. Their second album, Gods of the Earth, reached #102 on the Billboard 200 Chart.
However, their third album, Warp Riders, did much better. It debuted at #47 on the Billboard 200 and sold 9,000 copies in its first week. All in all, the band released six albums before splitting in 2022.
13. Polyphonic Spree
Lastly, we have The Polyphonic Spree, a choral rock band from Dallas, Texas. Its founder, Tim DeLaughter, formed the band in 2000. The group is notable for having a backup choir that performs using instruments such as flutes, trumpets, and trombones.
The band released their first album, The Beginnings of… The Polyphonic Spree, in 2002. Most notably, it made an appearance in British music charts but did not chart in the US.
Their second and third albums, Together We’re Heavy and The Fragile Army, fared much better, reaching #121 and #113 on the Billboard 200.
Summing Up Our List Of The Greatest Rock Bands From Texas
As our list showed you, Texas has produced some of the best rock artists in America’s history. Moreover, these rock bands are diverse in that they dominate different sub-genres within the rock genre.
For example, the state has produced some of the country’s best heavy metal and punk rock bands.
Overall, Texas is home to a diverse talent pool that has produced songs that will endure long past their time and influence future generations. These bands all made Texas proud.