Music

A Timeline of Houston’s Most Significant Music History

Some of history’s most significant music happenings since the mid-1900s.

By Flash Gordon Parks and Amarie Gipson December 30, 2021 Published in the Winter 2021 issue of Houstonia Magazine

“The sounds of all of the rappers that are considered the greatest can be traced back to a Houston, Texas native,” says DJ Flash Gordon Parks.

Image: Troy Montes

As far back as the early 1900s, there was an important music community developing. Houston’s living encyclopedia of music, DJ Flash Gordon Parks and Houstonia joined forces to provide a snapshot of some of history’s most significant happenings since the mid-1900s. 

1940s

1941 Bill Quinn starts Quinn Recording, which is now known as SugarHill Recording Studio, the oldest operating studio in the nation. 
1949 Don Robey creates Peacock Records and Goree Carter releases “Rock Awhile” one of the first rock ‘n’ roll recordings in the U.S on Freedom Records.

1950s

1952 Big Mama Thornton records “Hound Dog” which is later covered by Elvis Presley.
1954 Clifton Chenier, the inventor of zydeco, releases his first album. Chenier was one of many Louisianians who migrated to the Bayou City in the 1940s. Although widely known for its Creole roots, zydeco was born in Houston’s 5th Ward community.

Houston’s king of the blues, Lightnin’ Hopkins resided in Third Ward.

1960s

1967 TSU Toronadoes create the music for Archie Bell & The Drells’ “Tighten Up” on Skipper Lee Frazier’s Ovide Records. Psychedelic blues-rock band Moving Sidewalks releases their first single, “99th Floor” on Tantara. Two of the band’s members, Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard, later formed ZZ Top.

1969 Joe Sample and Wilton Felder play on The Jackson 5’s first National Hit “I Want You Back” and Lightnin’ Hopkins releases “The Great Electric Show And Dance.”

1970s

1970 Bubbha Thomas releases a spiritual, jazz masterpiece entitled “Free As You Wanna Be” on Judnell Records. Jazz organist Leon Spencer debuts his first album “Sneak Preview.”
1973 ZZ Top releases their third album Tres Hombres, which entered Billboard’s Top Ten and paved the way for the band’s commercial success. Melvin Sparks, a Houston-born jazz guitarist, releases his song “Texas Twister” and Kashmere Stage Band, a tribe of elite high school jazz musicians, releases “Out Of Gas But Still Burning.”

1980s

1981 Houstonians Jennifer Holliday and Loretta Devine star in the Broadway musical, Dreamgirls.  Clay James releases Houston’s first rap song on Jus-Fresh Records called “Thumpin” by Bronx born hip-hop duo Brother’s Disco. 
1989 Scarface joins Willie D, Bushwick Bill and DJ Ready Red to form the new incarnation of the “Geto Boys”

1990s

1991 Geto Boys sell 1 million records led by “Mind Playing Tricks”
1993 H-Town releases classic “Knockin' Da Boots” while Eightball & MJG release “Comin’ Out Hard” on Suave House, a label established in Houston. Chris "Daddy" Dave makes his debut as Mint Condition’s drummer.
1995 DJ Screw releases “All Screwed Up Vol. 2” and “3 ‘N The Mornin” on Bigtyme Recordz. Screwtape classics “No Drank” and “Who’s Next To Plex” are also released.
1998 DJ Screw opens the Screwed Up Records & Tapes store at its first location on Cullen Boulevard. Fat Pat releases his critically acclaimed classic “Ghetto Dreams” one month after his death.

2000s

2002 Big Moe releases “Purple World” which reaches #3 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Charts
2003 Beyoncé releases “Dangerously In Love” which wins a Grammy. Later she would become the first woman to win 28 Grammys.
2004 “Still Tippin” is released which introduces the world to Mike Jones, Slim Thug, Paul Wall and Swisha House

Robert Glasper attended Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, his alma mater.

2010s

2012 Robert Glasper wins a Grammy for “Best R&B Album” for Black Radio before going on to score films, producing soundtracks and working with many other prominent musicians.
2016 Solange Knowles wins grammy for “Cranes In The Sky” and her sister Beyoncé embarks on the Formation World Tour to promote her album, Lemonade. The tour would become her highest grossing of all time.
2018 Travis Scott releases his third studio album, Astroworld to critical acclaim and produces his first #1 Single “Sicko Mode”, featuring Drake.

2020s

2021 Megan Thee Stallion wins Grammys for “Best New Artist”, “Best Rap Song” and “Best Rap Performance”

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