A genuine Texas and Austin musical hero, Ted and his show are mainstays of the KOOP broadcast schedule. Ted seeks out the historic originators and performers of Texas music, along with obscure yet influential artists in the Lone Star State. He celebrates our melting pot of cultures with interviews, recorded music, and live in-studio performances! We spoke on May 1.
Michael A. Brown: Please tell us about your history at KOOP and the evolution of Under the X in Texas.
Ted Branson: In 2005, I had already been listening to KOOP for many years, including at Vulcan Video where I worked alongside a couple KOOP folks. I especially enjoyed long-time programmer Rod Moag on his Thursday morning show, so I made a point of meeting him at one of his performing gigs and we just hit it off. Rod was blind and I sort of became his chauffeur to and from KOOP. We became really good friends and because I was connected to the Austin music scene, he let me participate on his show and even bring in guests. After about two years of being on Rod’s show every week, he asked if I’d ever considered having my own program. I agreed to do a show and Rod helped me with the theme: Texas roots music, as in 2008 there were NO shows on the Austin airwaves that featured Texas music of any kind. As for the show name, I chose Under the X in Texas, after a Johnny Gimble song. I knew Johnny … one of the most important fiddlers in western swing … and asked if I could use the name. Johnny asked what station the show would be on, and I said “KOOP.” Right away, Johnny replied, “I’d be honored.” My first show was on May 1, 2008. (MAB note: big congratulations to Ted on the 15th anniversary of Under the X in Texas!)
MAB: Talk about some of your favorite show episodes and memorable guest artists.
TB: While I was still subbing on the Strictly Bluegrass show,I hosted a California bluegrass picker, David Thom and his band. Then a big surprise: we were joined by the legendary Alice Gerrard. Turns out she and David had performed together before, so the session at KOOP was incredible! On Under the X in Texas, I’ve had all my heroes, like Alan Munde on the banjo, Redd Volkaert the guitarist, Jason Roberts from Asleep at the Wheel … the list goes on.
One especially memorable show happened in 2016. I and nine other disk jockeys were nominated for the Ameripolitan Music Award for DJ of the Year. Most of them were from big commercial stations … KOOP was the only community radio station that had ever been considered. I invited all the nominees in all the award categories to be on my show the morning of the award presentation and 70 showed up! My wife brought each into the studio and we put them on mic one by one. We got the OK to go over into the next show’s time slot. That night, in the Ameripolitan event at the Paramount Theater, I was thrilled to win the award and receive a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd.
MAB: What sorts of musical things are you involved in beyond KOOP and Austin?
TB: I was involved with the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium in Ruidoso, NM for 15 years. I’m still involved with the Austin Songwriters Group, which runs the Merle Haggard Birthday Bash every April. I also do the San Angelo Cowboy Gathering, and my wife and I volunteer at the Michael Hearnes Big Barn Dance Music Festival in Taos, NM.
MAB: What are the most distinctive aspects of Texas music?
TB: The distinctiveness is due for the most part to all the immigrants in Texas from the very early days … people from Germany, Mexico, Tennessee, Oklahoma, New Mexico. They are considered the pioneers of Texas music because all their styles … blues, Tex-Mex, conjunto … melded here in the Lone Star State. To me, that’s what makes Texas music so different from other places around the country. Nowadays, you hear Texas music everywhere and it’s loved by so many people. And if you tell somebody you’re from Austin, Texas .. man, they want to hear all about it.
MAB: In what ways is Texas music similar to … or different from … country music generally?
TB: When you listen to some of the newer pop country that’s aired on commercial radio, you won’t hear the roots country music of the ‘50s, ‘60s’ and ‘70s … it’s pretty much gone. Folks have to dig to find it, but when they do … like here on KOOP … they really identify with it.
MAB: To what degree is Austin still the “Live Music Capital of the World?”
TB: Well, we kinda got knocked out of the saddle a bit during the pandemic … three years of losing venues and a lot of serious musicians moving out of town. But I do feel that it has come back and is quite incredible. Plus, many of the artists who left have come back, although the songwriters, especially, seem torn between Nashville and Austin.
MAB: What’s coming up on the next couple Under the X in Texas shows?
TB: We just had The Golden Roses with us. On May 9, Bill Hearne will be on the show with his Santa Fe Americana and Roots music. Then in June, we welcome Austinite Bill Kirchen from Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen for his 75th birthday bash.
You can enjoy Under the X in Texas with Ted Branson and every Tuesday morning from 9 ‘til 11am.
Interview by Michael A. Brown