Watching the world watch Texas.

Issue No. 1, 2024

In this issue of Branding Texas: Houston’s favorite daughter Beyoncé Knowles now reigns in country music; a solar eclipse threatens the locals of Bell County TX with a zombie apocalypse of wandering dark-day tourists; Greg Abbott has new bait in his endless and successful campaign to hook new business for Texas.

Thomas Graham


Can Queen B rule country music too?

Houston’s favorite daughter, Beyoncé Knowles, released two country songs – “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages” – right about the time of the Superbowl, which came as a pleasant shock to those who knew her principally as the dominating ruler of the Black pop charts.

Despite the initial reluctance of one Oklahoma station to play the releases, the Guardian newspaper notes that Queen B quickly became the first Black woman to top the US Hot 100 with a country song.

Billboard took the historic moment to remember other mainstream Black country artists who hold space in the genre.  Stars like Darius Rucker and Kane Brown, who preceded Beyoncé by a country mile and then some, “boast a combined 24 top 10 hits on the charts [of country music]” and continue to have traction in contemporary Nashville.

North Carolina’s Luke Combs delighted the Country Music Awards show in February when he opened with a cover of Tracy Chapman’s classic “Fast Car” done with a down home rhythm only to have Chapman herself pop up to make it a live duo performance.  The Luke Combs cover won the 2023 CMA award for single of the year.


When the sun goes out over Texas on April 8

total solar eclipse will move over North America on April 8 and its “path of totality” – a moving shadow that will mean almost total darkness on Earth’s surface – will cross North Texas that day at 1:40 p.m. CT. It will be the last total solar eclipse visible from the U.S. until 2044.

National media, including USA Today, are promoting the event, including noting that the Texas passover, given our likely sunny skies in April, will offer the best places to watch.

The climactic event seems to have caused a bit of an ‘end times’ stir in Bell County – north of Austin, south of Waco on I-35. The county issued a state-of-emergency eclipse edict on February 22. Seems nervous local politicos are anticipating a day or more of crowds, fuel shortages, road closures, and unbearable strains on the small county’s few first responders, restaurants and hospitals.

The concern isn’t over countrified resident sky gawkers, who are expected to take this manifestation of  “the lord’s mighty works” in stride despite Matthew 24:29. County electeds are worried about transient outliers who might swan in from metro Texas and even from outside the state like a wandering zombie army that want to be in on the thrill and the modest chill (temperatures are expected to drop briefly something less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit).

The Bell County declaration also requires registration of any suspicious “events” such as watch parties or campouts. Bell County cattle ranchers with room to spare and shopkeepers with generous parking lots looking to cash in will be expected to provide “adequate” toilets and waste disposal during the planetary event – or face the celestial wrath of local law enforcement.

And intergalactic solar surfers to cross the “border” from New Mexico to stage their own Heart-of-Darkness party in Bell County, take note: In Texas and federal law, recreational use of marijuana is still illegal.


Fishing for new business with a property-tax lure

Governor Greg Abbott’s relentless campaign continues unabated to lure national corporate headquarters and new job-promising tech startups to Texas with ever more attractive incentives.

Our state’s success in attracting business is nothing short of stunning. And the drive is older than Abbott’s governorship – he was first elected to the state’s highest office in 2014. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas says in its recent report that Texas saw 25,000 businesses relocate to the Lone Stare from other states from 2010 to 2019, which brought along more than 281,000 jobs.

As the Economist inelegantly put it last year: “The state is sucking in people, companies and federal spending.”

The latest gambit is a refresh of our state’s current come-hither program, replacing a prior clunky job creation system with a program that depends more heavily on offering much leaner property taxes to Newcos entering the state for the first time.

The Texas Jobs Energy, Technology, and Innovation (JETI)  program passed with bipartisan support by lawmakers last year.  The new program offers a 10-year reduction in property taxes, eliminating a much criticized feature of the previous plan:  Companies can no longer make direct payments to schools in return for tax breaks, a practice that came under fire as “corporate welfare” that was directly incentivizing inequality in school funding.

Favored targets for recruitment under the new legislation include companies that feature R&D or support job creation in general manufacturing, hydrogen fuel production, carbon capture, and semiconductor chips.


Another Election, Another Visit to The Border by A President.

And, of course, Super Tuesday primaries bring media attention (and current and former presidents) to Texas. Both President Biden and former President Trump made sure to make their case to voters with competing narratives over what’s actually taking place at the Rio Grande, here in The Washington Post.

Trump blames Biden. Biden blames Trump. And now Biden asks Trump to “work with him” on the fix. Maybe after the election?


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