"When I moved to Texas there were a few guys who were doing it already. They were the true Texas troubadours. Doak was one of the guys I gravitated toward. He can build you a house with words where the roof won’t leak. He’s mighty good at it." – Hal Ketchum
A native of Bronte, Texas, Doak Snead was one of the most in-demand artists on Austin's burgeoning Progressive Country/Redneck Rock scene in the early 1970s. Leading the Doak Snead Band as well as working on his own, Snead's uniquely crafted story songs were a favorite at Armadillo World Headquarters, Soap Creek Saloon and other clubs integral to the formation of this new and exciting sub-genre.
On an official survey of acts that most often played the Armadillo, published by the Journal of Texas Music in 2010, Snead is ensconced at No. 5, with nearly 50 appearances, including opening shows for blues legend Mance Lipscomb, Texas music icon Kenneth Threadgill, folk pioneer Ramblin' Jack Elliot and bluegrass band the Dillards. Several of the distinctive Guy Juke posters advertising those bookings are featured in the recently published Armadillo World Headquarters: A Memoir. Snead was also among the artists mentioned in a September 1974 issue of Billboard spotlighting the growth of Texas music and in June 1975, fronted the first country-rock band to ever perform with the Houston Pops Orchestra.
In 1977, Snead's first solo LP, Think of Me Sometime, was co-produced by Huey P. Meaux (with Danny Epps) for Meaux's Crazy Cajun label at Houston's legendary SugarHill Studios. The 1978 follow-up, Powderhorn (on HearSay Records), was co-produced by the singer-songwriter with musician (and future Austin City Limits Hall of Fame inductee) Lloyd Maines. In 2018, the LP is scheduled to be re-released on vinyl by Nashville's Delmore Recording Society label.
Through the late '70s and into the '80s, Snead was a fixture of the main stage at the Kerrville (Texas) Folk Festival, and he began making trips to Nashville at the urging of his friend Townes Van Zandt, moving to Music City permanently in 1990, at which time Van Zandt took him to immediately to Cowboy Jack Clement's fabled studio, the Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa, where he would record numerous demos in the ensuing years. While working a day job as a tour guide at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (and RCA's historic Studio B), he played numerous writer's nights around town, and eventually began hosting his own "Writer's Wrodeo" at such respected venues as Douglas Corner and the Bluebird Café, giving fellow songwriters a showcase for their talents.
Snead's personal life was transformed immeasurably when he received airplay on Nashville's popular Lightning 100 radio station, as one of the listeners was Kelley Sallee, an aspiring singer-songwriter who worked as an administrative assistant at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Just a few years later, she would become Kelley Sallee-Snead, with the couple forming not only a personal relationship (which would include the birth of a daughter in 1995) but an ongoing collaboration as songwriters.
Snead would sign on as a staff writer at Reba McEntire's Starstruck Publishing in 1993, with songs recorded by Lari White (his "John Wayne Walking Away, co-penned with Austin Cunningham and Jerry Boonstra, earned a positive review in People magazine upon its release in 1995), as well as Grammy-nominated Contemporary Christian group Avalon. Others who recorded his songs include musician Mark W. Winchester (Emmylou Harris, Brian Setzer Orchestra), Americana artist Lanie Marsh and duo J.P. and Red Fontaine.
After his exit from Starstruck, Snead recorded four self-produced albums, including Inside, which CMT's Country Music Today magazine hailed as "frighteningly brilliant." He also recorded two children's albums under the pseudonym Mister Doak, including Kids Rule!, helmed by Grammy-winning producer Drew Ramsey (Jonny Lang's 2007 album, Turn Around). In 2008, the Doak Snead Band reunited briefly to release After 331⁄3 years, After 331⁄3 rpm. Catalogue, a career-spanning compilation, was issued in 2017.
In 2016, with his wife battling a form of Parkinson's disease, the couple completed work on what would be her final recordings, a sterling collection of songs titled Roses and Tumbleweeds. Kelley Sallee-Snead passed away in May 2017.
In 2018, Mastermind Recordings will issue a new 7-song EP featuring Snead's extraordinarily original material. Produced by label owner Bob Clement, who began his career working with Country Music Hall of Fame member Cowboy Jack Clement at the Cowboy Arms Hotel & Recording Spa, and engineered by Mastermind president Cameron Davidson, the new record will be available on CD and digitally and is due for release in the spring.
To listen to a few of Doak's songs from his upcoming record, look for the music player at the bottom of the screen.