George Strait starred in a "Don't Mess With Texas" add in 2010. 

George Strait starred in a "Don't Mess With Texas" add in 2010. 

Screengrab from Don't Mess With Texas on YouTube
It's an iconic phrase, so well-known and oft-quoted that it can be easy to forget its original meaning. But, "Don't Mess With Texas" isn't a mere warning to out-of-staters or a boastful nod to our beloved state's superiority. It was coined  30 years ago for an anti-litter campaign by the Texas Department of Transportation to keep roadways clean of cigarette butts, beer cans, and Dr Pepper rings, you know, among ephemera less symbolic of daily Texas life in the 1980s. Over the years, the campaign has attracted a number of Texas-born or -raised artists to its cause.
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It began in 1986 with a wailing instrumental by late blues rocker Stevie Ray Vaughan, and this year's spots feature the Eli Young Band, Grupo Fantasma and Lukas Nelson, son of Willie. In keeping with tradition, Nelson recreates his father's 1989 spot, strumming and singing "Mammas Tell All Your Babies Don't Mess With Texas," a reworking of the Ed and Patsy Bruce song Willie and fellow Texan Waylon Jennings took to No. 1 in 1978.


Here's a look back at some of the biggest and best homegrown stars to grace the campaign, plus the newly inducted 2016 class. 

Check out others at the full ad archive online. 

Stevie Ray Vaughan -- 1986

Jerry Jeff Walker -- 1988

Willie Nelson -- 1989

Lyle Lovett -- 1990

LeAnn Rimes -- 1998

Matthew McConaughey -- 2000

"I Wouldn't Do It" -- 2007

Featuring Chuck Norris, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Owen Wilson, Erykah Badu, Lance Armstrong, Los Lonely Boys, Lee Ann Womack, Chamillionaire and Matthew McConaughey. 

George Strait -- 2010

Kevin Fowler -- 2014

Jack Ingram -- 2014

And, now for 2016: Lukas Nelson, Eli Young Band and Grupo Fantasma


Love Texas artists? Here's current news and some of our favorite stories from the archives:

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