Man, there’s nothing better to get your country music pants going crazy like a good ol’ supergroup, and it appears we got a new one that’s formed right under our noses. Called The Panhandlers, it’s not in reference to the vagrants your local city council is always fighting over what to do with, it pertains to that flat-ass piece of land in West Texas that sticks up like a chimney pipe on the map, and happens to be a proving ground for some of the best songwriters country music can boast.
Right now we’re pretty light on information about what the hell this is all about. We’re in the that phase where they’re screwing with us by dropping little hints on social media to get us all frothy with anticipation. And like a bunch of suckers, we’re falling for it. But we do know who’s involved, and we know there’s likely an album tied to it due in 2020, and that Bruce Robison’s “The Next Waltz” project is also involved, which has been ramping up operations lately.
Lubbock, TX is the home of Buddy Holly, The Blue Light, and Texas Tech, and has birthed dozens of country music songwriters and pickers over the years, from The Flatlanders, to Lloyd and Natalie Maines, to the latest crop of musicians that might be the most wide and diverse yet. All four of the Panhandlers have played together before in one combination or another. Just last year William Clark Green and Flatland Cavalry played a show at Floore’s Country Store, with John Baumann opening. They’ve also participated in the 806 Songwriter Retreat (806 is the Panhandle area code), which was put together by William Clark Green in 2016.
We don’t know the “how” or “why” The Panhanders have formed just yet, but we do know the “who.” So sit tight for more info, and in the meantime, here are the principle members, just in case you’re not familiar with them.
William Clark Green – She likes the Beatles, and he likes The Stones. Green is considered the heir apparent to one those precious headliner spots that are so important in the Texas music scene as soon as someone like Randy Rogers or Wade Bowen croaks, while headlining events of his own in the meantime. A little bit younger than those guys, his crowds are more omnivorous and feisty. Originally from Flint, TX in the east, and later graduating high school in College Station, he moved to Lubbock to attend Texas Tech University and it was all downhill from there, eventually falling in with the songwriting riff raff, which is the reason it took him six years to finish a four year degree. He has yet to be swayed to the dark side of a major label like some of his Texas compadres.
Super Powers: Gamma rays, clairvoyance, communing with circus folk.
Cleto Cordero – The consummate frontman of the Lubbock-based Flatland Cavalry, he’s like an Evan Felker understudy without all the baggage. Able to conjure all the feels and with infectious songs and melodies ripe for Texas fiddle music, he makes country music cool for the kids in Texas and Oklahoma, and beyond. Cleto and Flatland Cavalry are considered by many as the Texas/Red Dirt band of the future. He’s also engaged to songwriter and performer Kaitlin Butts.
Super Powers: When Cleto was 14, he was hiking in Palo Duro canyon north of Lubbock when he gave chase to a lone coyote with a silver stripe down its back. This led him to an undiscovered cave that acted as an ancient Native American burial tomb. It was there he discovered a silver tomahawk that when held aloft, commands lightning to strike down one’s foes. With this magical relic, Cleto patrols the streets of Lubbock at night, striking down would-be robbers, menacing kidnappers, and international terrorists, saving the streets from the denizens of evil.
Josh Abbott – The long-time leader of the Josh Abbott Band, an undeniable apex predator of Texas music, and the most popular member of the supergroup, he puts a serious spotlight on The Pandhandlers from his mere presence. Some love to criticize Abbott for being the Texas music version of pop country, which is probably fair when it comes to some popular JAB tunes. But that doesn’t mean his records don’t also include a lot of the quality songwriting that the Panhandle region is known for. Josh Abbott formed the Josh Abbott Band while attending Texas Tech in 2006.They just released a new EP in 2019 called Catching Fire.
Super Powers: Impenetrable force field, immunity from self-awareness.
John Baumann – The wild card of the bunch, consider him the Kris Kristofferson of this supergroup. Nominated for Saving Country Music’s Song of the Year in 2017 for the tune “Old Stone Church,” he received a much more financially lucrative accolade when Kenny Chesney chose his song “Gulf Moon” for his record Songs For The Saints from 2018. He’s a songwriter’s songwriter, who also co-wrote and appeared in the collaboration “Country Music’s Dead” with Mike and the Moonpies. Officially, Baumann is from Austin, not Lubbock. But who cares? The guy’s got chops.
Super Powers: X-ray vision, ice blasts, procuring royalty money from bald country stadium performers.