20 albums recorded in San Antonio that every music fan should know
By Sanford Nowlin
Let's be honest. When it comes to having a fully formed music industry, San Antonio isn't exactly Los Angeles, New York or Nashville. Hell, we're not Austin either.
That said, plenty of local, regional and national artists have recorded stellar albums in the Alamo City, whether in high-dollar studios, downtown hotel rooms or on stages in front of rabid local fans.
These 20 albums are essential listening for anyone who wants to understand the diversity, scope and lasting influence of San Antonio's music scene. From blues and Tejano to metal and hip-hop, this town is steeped in music history.
Eight of the 10 tracks on the late Tejano superstar's debut album were recorded at Manny Guerra's AMEN Studios in San Antonio. While it wasn't the late singer's best charting album, it opened the door for her to dominate the Tejano scene in a way no female singer had before.
Photo via EMI Latin
Dropkick Murphys: "11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory"
These purveyors of Celtic punk have long been associated with the city of Boston, but they actually recorded this 2017 album in San Antonio to get away from howetown distractions. In addition to the usual sing-along choruses and working-class wisecracks, the album is distinguished by the song “4-5-13,” which pays tribute to those lost in the Boston Marathon bombing.
Photo via Dropkick Murphys
Sunny and the Sunliners: "Talk to Me and 11 Other Great Songs"
In truth, we could have included any compilation of singles from this act that helped pioneer San Antonio's West Side soul sound. From the late '50s on, Sunny Ozuna and his band helped forge a Tex-Mex take on soul and R&B that continues to win new fans, even today.
Photo via Teardrop
Butthole Surfers: "Psychic... Powerless... Another Man's Sac"
The Butthole Surfers recorded this, their first full-length album, in SA prior to relocating north up Interstate 35. To many fans, this 1985 release is the purest, most powerful distillation of the cult band's acid-drenched chaos.
Photo via Touch & Go Records
Ozzy Osbourne: "Ozzy Live"
This 1981 recording was released as a double album on Record Store Day in 2012, capturing the former Sabbath frontman and late guitar ace Randy Rhoads in prime form. The recording first circulated as a bootleg, purportedly captured in Indianapolis, but Ozzthusiasts have since researched the recording date and confirmed that it actually happened right here in SA.
Photo via Epic
Hyperbubble: "Airbrushed Alibis"
San Antonio husband-wife duo Jeff and Jessica DeCuir cranked out a number of delightfully subversive synth-pop releases from the 2000s to the present, including this catchy and colorful 2007 album that may be their best.
Photo via Filthy Little Angels
The founders of this pioneering Tejano-Norteno fusion act may hail from the border town of Zapata, but the sextet recorded this polished breakthrough album right here in San Antonio. It's noteworthy for the band's attention to staying true to their roots while trying to broaden their appeal to a wider audience.
Photo via EMI Latin
Sons of Hercules: "Sons of Hercules"
The debut album of San Antonio's long-reigning garage punk kings was recorded in San Antonio and released in 1994. More releases followed, but this one pretty much set the tone for their timeless mix of energy and attitude.
Photo via Unclean Records
Robert Johnson: "King of the Delta Blues"
In 1936, legendary bluesman Robert Johnson recorded in Room 414 of San Antonio's Gunter Hotel, setting a new template for the genre and laying the foundation for rock 'n' roll. You simply cannot call yourself a blues fan unless you've heard these seminal recordings.
Photo via Not Now UK
Lyle Lovett: "Live in Texas"
Texas singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett drew critical raves for this 2006 live album recorded in San Antonio and Austin that showcases an energetic set by his Large Band and a strong sampling of his best-loved tunes.
Photo via Curb / MCA