The celebration for 100 Years of Texas State Parks picks up the tempo today with the release of the first single from Texas Wild, a genre-bending album featuring Texas artists covering Texas classics, with all proceeds to benefit our wild things and wild places.
Produced by inventive Austin singer/songwriter Walker Lukens, Texas Wild blends the traditional Texas mix of blues, cumbia and country with unexpected modern flavors like hip-hop, R&B and electronica.
“Your average Texan can easily name 8–10 classic songs made by Texan artists from genres as diverse as country, blues, rock, Tejano, folk, hip hop and R&B,” Lukens said. “What other state can claim to have made significant contributions to so many genres? Texas Wild features fresh takes on classics from all these genres— it’s a funky and soulful best-of-Texas playlist for whenever you’re feeling state pride.”
“(Hey Baby) Que Paso,” by Houston artists Fat Tony featuring Paul Wall, the first public taste of the highly anticipated album, is now available on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. To listen to the single, click here.
"Texas music has helped shape our inimitable spirit, just as the iconic landscapes of our Texas State Parks have inspired our last 100 years,” said Anne Brown, executive director of TPWF, Texas Wild sponsors. “In places like Garner State Park, music has inspired magical summer nights for decades; visitors have danced to Texas tunes beneath the stars at the historic pavilion since the 1940s.”
The simple lyrics of the 1983 song are a mashup of Spanish and English, sliding easily into the comfort zone of both audiences, no matter the level of bilingual ability. Augie Meyers (with Bill Sheffield) wrote lyrics and music, which was recorded in Spanish and the mixed “Spanglish,” with a few Spanish words mispronounced on purpose.
The rowdy singalong’s been claimed as “the national anthem of San Antonio” by some of its more enthusiastic fans, but generations of Texans of all musical tastes can sing every word — and do so with gusto. “Hey Baby” is a boisterous, rollicking romp, despite the melancholy of the underlying jilted lover story.
The memorable first line — “Hey baby, que paso? I thought I was your only vato.” — sets the scene and resonates as a first reaction to just about any breakup that comes as a shock. Through the song’s two verses (that sound like choruses), the singer pleads for his love to turn around and give him a kiss. “My corazon is real.”
On stage, Meyers often told a humorous story about the inspiration for “Hey Baby,” his final conversation with a soon-to-be-ex.
“Why are you always playing that Mexican music?”
“I love it.”
“Well, I don’t.”
“Well, honey, there’s the door.”
The song was popularized by Meyers’ band, the Texas Tornados, a Tex-Mex supergroup that formed around 1990, touring out of San Antonio.
Late country star Freddy Fender, a San Benito native who had international hits with “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” and “Till the Last Teardrop Falls,” was probably the most famous member. Accordion legend Flaco Jimenez — he played with the Rolling Stones and practically invented conjunto — brought the crossover musical flavor that added a flash of habanero heat to the band’s signature sound.
The gig set list centered around the talents of band leaders Meyers and Doug Sahm (who died in 1999), already popular from their successful stint in The Sir Douglas Quintet in the 1960s, with hits like “Mendocino” and “She’s About a Mover.” “Hey Baby (Que Paso)” was a show-stopper, guaranteed to get the crowd on their feet.
The band lasted about a decade altogether (including breaks) until the death of founding member Doug Sahm but released an earlier Austin City Limits performance as an album in 2005. The surviving members (Fender died in 2006) reformed the group with Sahm’s son Shawn and put out another record in 2010.
The new sound
For the 2023 arrangement of “Hey Baby,” Lukens — who wasn’t born when the song was written — collaborated with members of Grupo Fantasma, the Texas Gentlemen and Sir Woman, who take their own creative turns on other tracks of Texas Wild as well.
|Walker Lukens, Texas Wild producer|
Lukens begins the track with stripped-down bass and drums, harder driving than the original. Soon after, the Song Confessional podcaster begins to layer in steel guitar and other instruments to build the full sound but — sorry, conjunto fans — said adîos to Jimenez' trademark accordion of the original. You won’t miss it for long, though, because when the beat drops, Paul Wall’s inventive rap adds a whole new element of storytelling that’s sure to make you hit repeat until you catch every word to sing along.
The result could be described as “San Antonio meets Houston, decides to stick around and have some fun.” The marriage is harmonious but still full of surprises. “Hey Baby” loses none of its infectious spirit as it gets pleasantly stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
“(Hey Baby) Que Paso” is just the first of several single releases slated for Texas Wild, with a second single scheduled for release in June and a third in July, culminating with the digital and limited-edition vinyl release of the entire work this fall.
Texas illustrator Mishka Westell created unique block-print style art for each of the three single releases and the album. The album cover art features Texas native wildlife, including a screech owl, a mockingbird and other Texas critters. Sales from the album will benefit TPWF.
“The two best things about Texas are its physical beauty and its music,” Lukens said. “This record, which was made by some of the finest musicians in our state, benefits Texas State Parks and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, who take care of our public lands. What’s cooler than that?”
A full track listing will be available closer to the album release, but to date, the tracks include:
Fat Tony featuring Paul Wall "(Hey Baby) Que Paso”
Original Track: Sir Douglas Quintet
The Texas Gentlemen "(That's Right) You're Not From Texas"
Original Track: Lyle Lovett
Shane Smith and The Saints featuring Hayes Carll "Pancho and Lefty"
Original Track: Townes Van Zandt
LUNA LUNA “Si Una Vez”
Original Track: Selena Quintanilla
Ryan Bingham "Possum Kingdom"
Original Track: The Toadies
The Suffers "My Maria"
Original Track: B.W. Stevenson
Shakey Graves featuring Jess Williamson "True Love Will Find You In The End"
Original Track: Daniel Johnston
Sir Woman featuring Ray Wylie Hubbard "Texas Sun"
Original Track: Khruangbin and Leon Bridges
Adrian Quesada featuring US and The Soul Supporters "Say My Name"
Original Track: Destiny’s Child
Sarah Jaffe "Flying Too Close To The Ground"
Original Track: Willie Nelson
The Toadies "Since You've Been Gone"
Original Track: Kelly Clarkson
Additional live events celebrating Texas Wild will be announced soon. To keep up with album news, visit TexasWildAlbum.org to sign up for updates, or follow TPWF on Instagram, @texasparkswildlifefoundation.