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<i>Texas Music</i> Magazine Finds an Audience

One glance at newsstands in the United States shows a multitude of magazines on just about every imaginable topic. In the music section, jazz fans have Downbeat, folk music lovers can select from Dirty Linen, or Sing Out, and rock fans usually turn to Rolling Stone. But, another music magazine is growing in popularity.

What do Lyle Lovett, Norah Jones, and Willie Nelson have in common? They've all been on the cover of Texas Music magazine. This is the first magazine dedicated exclusively to the Texas music scene, featuring artists either from Texas, based there, or recording at Texas studios. Stewart Ramser is the publisher. How did he come up with the idea?

"I was in business school at the time at UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles]," he said. "I was on vacation in Hawaii. I was heading to the beach, and on the radio they were talking about Texas music, and how there was all this great history, and how there was such great music coming out of the state today. They were going to play a whole set of music from Texas artists."

A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Stewart Ramser attended college at the University of Texas-Austin. He spent much of the six years after graduation working overseas, and discovered that Texas music had fans in faraway cities.

"I saw Willie Nelson in Stockholm [Sweden]," said Ramser. "I saw people like Ian Moore and Delbert McClinton in Paris. Over there, people really responded to Texas musicians. And they really wanted to hear Texas country [music]. And Texas blues. So, I just thought at that point, there's such a rich history, there is such great music coming out of the state today, that it needed a vehicle for promotion."

So after the great idea. Then what happens?

"I write a business plan about it during my final quarter of business school in 1998," he said. "That was when all my friends, and business school classmates were getting 'real' jobs and consulting gigs, and I thought 'Well, this would be an opportunity for me, just coming out of business school, to maybe spend a year and try to develop this idea and see if I could make it fly."

Texas Music debuted in December 1999. The first issue, featuring Lyle Lovett on the cover, was available in just two stores in Texas. Today, Texas Music reaches fans in 48 states and 12 countries via subscription. It's also available on newsstands in 43 states, and in more than 2,500 stores across the country. After hearing those figures, it should comes as no surprise to hear that Stewart Ramser received a top score on his final classroom assignment.

The current Texas Music, issue number 22, features Spoon on the cover, and is filled with photos, CD reviews, and stories about artists who are spreading the sound of Texas music around the world. It's the second issue to include a free CD of music by artists featured in the issue. Some are by up-and-coming acts like Austin rockers Libra's Rib, and Houston's Buffalo Speedway. Better-known performers include Jimmie Dale Gilmore, with Colin Gilmore singing fellow Texan Billy Joe Shaver's "Heart's A Busting," and Robert Earl Keen, performing "What I Really Mean" the title track from an album to be released May 10.