Five Minutes with Texas Country Group The Panhandlers

by Emily Hord on January 2, 2023 in Entertainment, Music,

Texas-country group The Panhandlers recently released their new EP West Texas Is The Best Texas. In a group with Cleto Cordero, Josh Abbott, John Baumann and William Clark Green, this band is one to keep on your radar.

Where does the name, The Panhandlers, come from and how did you guys come to be?

Photo courtesy Mackenzie Ryan Photography

It’s a play on the geographical location where the band most identifies with and is a bit of a play on the concept of “panhandling” — always on the lookout for something or someone. –John Baumann

I was at The MusicFest in Steamboat, Colorado, in January of 2019. There was a Dixie Chicks tribute done by a handful of the female acts in Texas, and I thought how cool it would be if a few of us with West Texas roots did a Flatlanders tribute the next year. So I pitched the idea to John Dickson (who owns and runs the festival); he loved it and asked me who I’d have do it with me. I hadn’t thought about that part, so, off the top of my head, I essentially said, “Well, William Clark Green for sure, since he went to Texas Tech and is one of my best friends. Cleto Cordero from Flatland Cavalry would be a great fit. And how about John Baumann because he loves The Flatlanders maybe even more than I do.” Fast forward a couple months, I called all three of them and got them to sign on. Then we decided, “Hey let’s go re-record some of The Flatlanders songs & sell limited edition vinyl at the festival at our tribute.” Then we decided if we were gonna do that, we needed a band name. Then after that, we decided we should just write our own songs about West Texas and the Panhandle as a tip of the cap to The Flatlanders. Somewhere along the way Bruce Robison agreed to produce the project, and hence, a band was born! Pretty organic story to be honest. As far as the band name, Cleto came up with it. We tossed around several ideas, but once he suggested The Panhandlers, we instantly knew that was the right one. – Josh Abbott 

With a group that is equally talented, how do y’all break apart who sings what?

I think it comes down to who wrote or co-wrote the song, or who can sell it the best, either with emotion or simply who just sings the best. I think we do a great job of passing the hat. -John Baumann

Honestly, it’s been extremely natural and easy thus far. We’re all good enough friends and trust each other, so it’s never once been an issue. We discuss each song, and everyone is always on the same page about whether a song is a solo song, a duo or all four of us. It’s probably the most surprising thing about this project: four lead singers getting along with no ego whatsoever and sharing the spotlight, haha! Usually I guide the initial “here’s who I see singing what on this song”, and when they want to switch sections, then we just switch. As far as harmonies go, we’ve got that ironed out pretty well, too. We all know who sings best with who and which harmony to take. I will say harmonies have been the most challenging aspect simply because, before this project, none of us really sang them or worked on them. But two albums in, we’ve come a long way, and our goal is to continually get better at them. – Josh Abbott

What would you say each person brings to the table in the band, and how is it different from what each person releases outside of this band?

Photo courtesy Mackenzie Ryan Photography

Grit, toughness and great songs. – William Clark Green

The melody machine and smooth vocals. – Cleto Cordero

Whiskey. – John Baumann

It’s different than our solo stuff, because it’s so conceptual and thematic. Our goal with these songs is to tell the stories and perspectives of the people who inhabit the land between Amarillo & Terlingua.
I actually feel like I described it best in verse 2 of our song “This Is My Life”, haha! John’s a brilliant writer. His attention to detail and his phrasing are on an elite level. He’s our Butch Hancock. Cleto is a poet, a deep thinker and a smooth kind voice in addition to being a great writer. He’s a good harmony singer too. He’s our Jimmie Dale Gilmore. William is a rocker, a ball of energy and fire no matter the setting. He’s a deliberate writer, great singer and has done well learning high harmonies. He’s our Joe Ely. I guess I’m the lucky guy that gets to ride along with these guys. It’s been a true pleasure to share this experience with them. – Josh Abbott 

As an already talented group, is there anyone you would like to collaborate with – whether it be vocals or just writing? 

Love working with all the guys and our outside collaborators: Charlie Stout and Erik Dylan. – John Baumann

At some point, we’d love to actually write and/or record a song with The Flatlanders, as well as Terry Allen. We also all highly regard Robert Earl Keen, so having him on an album one day would be a dream come true. – Josh Abbott

Tell us about your new EP, West Texas is the Best Texas.

It’s full of personality and doesn’t take itself too seriously, just what everybody needs after the last couple years. – John Baumann


As a collection, these songs are ornery, feisty, sarcastic and downright witty. They truly represent the zeitgeist and culture of most West Texans: from the subtle friendly jabs at big city folk & Okies to the admitted honesty of the hardships of their own environment to jargon such as a drink called a “Chilton”. When I hear these songs, I see the faces of my friends that still live out there. I see them laughing at these songs and singing the shit out of them. – Josh Abbott

Photo courtesy Mackenzie Ryan Photography

Could there be a tour anytime in the future?

We sure hope so. It’s obviously been difficult to package one so far for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, we all have our own careers with their own touring models and overhead to meet. Second, The Panhandlers itself is a new band and people are still slowly discovering it. So it’s gonna take time for this band to build fans and a touring base the same way we all did with our own bands. But we’re all committed to stay the course, and we fully believe at some point down the line we will have a tour full of sold-out shows. In the meantime, we’re gonna keep writing and putting out music we love making together and playing a handful of shows for the fans that show up to hear them. – Josh Abbott 

Check out The Panhandlers latest EP here.


Cover photo Mackenzie Ryan Photography

Emily Hord is the Assistant Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine and a native Texan. She graduated from Texas A&M University and in her free time, she enjoys going to see live music and spending time with her friends and family.