Ernest Tubb: Remembering The Texas Troubadour

In 1936, Tubb met Carrie Rodgers, the widow of Jimmie Rodgers, while residing in San Antonio. Carrie was so impressed by the young man that she helped him get a record deal and, for a short period of time, became his de facto manager. His initial recordings spawned no hits and he spent several years crisscrossing throughout Texas, working on local radio stations and picking up day jobs, such as selling mattresses and distributing beer. In 1941, while working at a Fort Worth radio station, he recorded “Walking the Floor Over You,” most likely inspired by personal marital strife, and practically invented the genre known as honky-tonk music. The song became a significant pop hit and eventually sold over a million copies. (Note – there were no trade magazine listings of country hit songs until 1944, it would have most assuredly been a #1 country single). Tubb became an immediate star in movies, radio, and in jukeboxes around the country. However, the union strike by the American Federation of Musicians in 1942 and the shellac rationing instituted during World War II, put a momentary break in his momentum.

After he resumed recording, he had a #1 country hit and a #16 crossover pop hit in 1944 with the sentimental “Soldier’s Last Letter” and became a regular cast member of the Grand Ole Opry. In fact, the star power of Tubb most likely brought more attention to the Opry than the program did for the singer. Tubb was the first singer to bring an electric guitar sound to the Opry stage and his limited Texas drawl vocal range conveyed a down home sense of geniality and warmth. Through 1950, he would continue to have major country hits, including the #1 singles “It’s Been So Long Darling,” “Rainbow at Midnight,” “Slippin’ Around,” “Blue Christmas,” and the Red Foley duet “Goodnight Irene.” He also had a pop hit with The Andrew Sisters (“I’m Bitin’ My Fingernails and Thinking of You”) and released the Tubb staples “Filipino Baby,” “Drivin’ Nails in My Coffin,” “Seaman’s Blues,” and “Warm Red Wine.”

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