Back to top

Texas Troubadours

Texas Troubadours

A first-of-its-kind volume—evocative black-and-white portraits of more than fifty Texas singer-songwriters, including Kris Kristofferson, Alejandro Escovedo, Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.

Series: Jack and Doris Smothers Endowment in Texas History, Life, and Culture, Number Twenty

January 2007
This book is out of print and no longer available.
136 pages | 8.25 x 11.75 | 55 duotones |

Whether they headline major music festivals or play in small, nearly empty clubs, singer-songwriters are among Texas's most authentic and enduring musicians. Steve Harris has been photographing these artists for many years, creating an unsurpassed photo gallery of both well-known and emerging Texas singer-songwriters. In Texas Troubadours, he showcases over fifty songwriters with evocative black-and-white photographs accompanied by original quotes in the musicians' own handwriting, which allow viewers to engage with the musicians both visually and personally.

Texas Troubadours is a virtual who's who of singer-songwriters. The book includes such nationally and internationally acclaimed musicians as Kris Kristofferson, Alejandro Escovedo, Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, along with singer-songwriters whose followings are growing. In his introduction, Steve Harris describes how the losses of Townes Van Zandt and Doug Sahm inspired him to document Texas singer-songwriters and how the book developed as he took his 4 x 5 camera and notebook wherever a singer-songwriter was willing to be photographed.

The portraits in Texas Troubadours are as genuine and soulful as the musicians themselves. When you look into these faces, you see lives that, as Kinky Friedman says, have known "the road, the cheap motels, the beer joints and half-filled houses, the days when our autographs were bouncing, the long nights of pain and beauty beyond words and music."

  • Contents
  • Foreword by Kinky Friedman
  • Introduction by Steve Harris
  • Portraits
  • Acknowledgments

Steve Harris is a professional photographer based in Houston, Texas. In addition to photography, which he pursues for work and pleasure, Harris climbs mountains, surfs remote waves, skates empty pools, and rides mountain bikes.



I've been a fan of Texas music for a long time, and have been documenting live shows since the early 1980s. As the house photographer for many years at Houston's infamous Rockefeller's Nightclub, I had access to every musician who played that stage. Shooting live and backstage left me with a very cool collection of black-and-white images that evolved into a formidable body of work.


The year before Townes Van Zandt passed, I spent a memorable evening photographing a solo Townes with a full house. I processed the film the next day and watched the soulful images develop before me. That was the last time I saw Townes play. Not long after Townes, the master, left us, Texas lost another piece of its history with the passing of Mr. Doug Sahm, and I realized that someone needed to document the visual existence of these amazing singer-songwriter artists. I did some research and discovered that nothing existed with the scope that I envisioned.


Next I had to figure out exactly how to approach this daunting task. Obviously some trial and error and planning were required, but armed with a bit of patience and my 4 x 5 camera I set out on a labor of love that would end up spanning almost six years.


No sponsorships, no free film, nada. Only a small hope that perhaps one day I might be able to actually turn this project into a book that would serve not only as a visual record of sorts, but also as a "who's who" of the world of Texas singer-songwriters.


My focus was to shoot tight, intimate portraits and have each artist hand-write a quote about anything they wished. With these, I would be able to give a two-page spread to each artist, making for a visually strong layout.


For obvious reasons, my initial instinct was to try and stay away from the musicians' management as much as possible. I started with those musicians I knew, and from the start, the response was overwhelming. Everyone was thrilled to be a part of such a project and accepted willingly.


As the project moved forward, I began keeping a 5 x 7 spiral-bound sketchbook, placing my favorite image from each artist's shoot on the right-hand page, and their quote on the left. This format was an early iteration of the vision that would eventually guide the book to completion.


As I continued with the project, each artist would read the other quotes and have to outwit their friends, trying to be more profound or funny. It was fun to see their reactions and hear what they had to say about their buddys' writing.


Along the way, I've sometimes had to chase down a quote long after making the corresponding image... all because someone or other wasn't feeling the "writing groove" at the time. For instance, Willis Alan Ramsey. I was able to shoot his portrait relatively quickly, but it took a few years to get a quote out of him; I guess that for someone working on a follow-up record to his first 1970s release, a few years for a quote is right in line with the creative pace.


This entire project has been everything I imagined. I was skeptical at first, wondering exactly how to approach each artist, but I finally decided to let the moment delegate the approach to each portrait, and that's how it has gone. I may have had to travel to Terlingua and beyond to get the images, but that's just part of a project of this nature. Looking back and reflecting on the creative process of the project as a whole, I am reminded of the joy that the successive portraits brought me, as each took me a step closer to my goal.


It took quite a bit of persistence to get to a lot of the artists in this book, as it should have. But once I was able to show them the project, I usually had their undivided attention. I'm sure that I haven't pleased everyone, but I think I've covered a great portion of what is considered Texas troubadour music, which brings to mind a fond memory or two. Early on in the project, I was preparing to shoot Ray Wylie Hubbard for his Eternal and Lowdown CD. After contacting the Hubbards, they invited me to spend a few days at their Hill Country home as well. What a treat to be invited into someone's home as a stranger, and leave as a friend! It took more than a year to finally get Alejandro Escovedo to look at the project, but once I arrived at his home, I was welcomed as a friend. Later, Alejandro extended an open invitation to come by any time I was in the area.


It's nice to know that these kinds of encounters can still happen. I shouldn't be surprised though... after all, it is Texas.

  • Terry Allen
  • Dave Alvin (Honorary Texan)
  • Seth Anderson
  • Mike Barfield
  • Vince Bell
  • Hayes Carll
  • Guy Clark
  • Rodney Crowell
  • Jesse Dayton
  • Richard Dobson
  • Steve Earle
  • Joe Ely
  • George Ensle
  • Alejandro Escovedo
  • Rosie Flores
  • Sarah Fox
  • Michael Fracasso
  • Kinky Friedman
  • Davíd Garza
  • Jimmie Dale Gilmore
  • John Dee Graham
  • Joel Guzman
  • Butch Hancock
  • Terri Hendrix
  • Sara Hickman
  • Tish Hinojosa
  • Ray Wylie Hubbard
  • Jack Ingram
  • Flaco Jiménez
  • Robert Earl Keen
  • Kris Kristofferson
  • Jimmy LaFave
  • Bob Livingston
  • Lloyd Maines
  • James McMurtry
  • Abra Moore
  • Sisters Morales (Lisa and Roberta)
  • Trish Murphy
  • Gary P. Nunn
  • Lee Roy Parnell
  • Patrice Pike
  • Jimmy Pizzitola
  • Ruben Ramos
  • Willis Alan Ramsey
  • Shake Russell
  • Tom Russell
  • Mando Saenz
  • Mingo Saldivar
  • Billy Joe Shaver
  • Eric Taylor
  • Rick Trevino
  • Patricia Vonne
  • Django Walker
  • Jerry Jeff Walker
  • Don Walser
  • Dale Watson
  • Rusty Wier