Music in Texas is unique because of the astounding array of immigrants who migrated to Texas during the 1800s. Because Texas was less segregated than the Deep South ethnic groups such as Irish, Scottish, African, Czech, Polish, and Jewish moved freely into Texas. The rugged environment and harsh living condition necessitated cooperation among traditionally disparate groups. The great cattle drive thru Texas made the cowboy an almost mythical figure within the folk culture of the Southwest. Music of these cowboys mixed with the songs of the other ethnic groups helped create Texas country music. Texas country music artist was greatly influenced by a songwriter, Cindy Walker, who was not well-known outside the country music scene of Texas.
James Robert Wills, born in 1905 in Limestone County, TX was an American swing musician and bandleader. He was universally known as the King of Western Swing. Bob Wills formed several bands and played radios station around the South and West. In 1934, he formed the well-known Texas Playboys. Aside from the normal array of the stringed instrument, drums, and piano he added a horn section to expand the bands sound.
The Texas Playboys recorded with several publishers, including Okeh, Columbia, and MGM. The band toured extensible throughout the years until about 1962 when Wills had a heart attack and a second one later the next year. Wills was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1968 and in 1972 he accepted a citation from the American Society of Composers. He was recording an album in 1973 with Merle Haggard when a stroke left him comatose until his death in 1975. For a collection of great Bob Wills music, Click On AMAZON.COM for the “Still the King” CD!! A collection of songs’ done by Bob Wills, performed by Asleep at the Wheel.
All told Bob Wills recorded more than fifty songs written by Cindy Walker, including “Cherokee Maiden” and “Bubbles in My Beer”. Wills also recorded her very first song “Dusty Skies”, written as a teenager after reading about the Dust Bowl in her grandmother’s scrapbook.
Ernest Dale Tubb, born in 1914, nicknamed the Texas Troubadour, was an American singer and one of the pioneers of country music. Born on a cotton farm in Ellis County, TX. His father was a sharecropper, so Tubb spent most of his youth working on farms in Texas. At age 19, he took a job as a singer on a San Antonio radio station, but the pay was so low he had to dig ditches and clerk at a drug store. He also drove a beer delivery truck to support himself.
In 1936, he contacted Jimmie Rodgers’ widow to ask for an autographed photo. A friendship developed and she was responsible for getting Tubb a recording contract with RCA. A tonsillectomy in 1939 affected his singing style, so he turned to songwriting. In 1940, he started recording again and recorded “Walking the Floor Over You” which brought Tubb to stardom. It sold over one million copies. Tubb joined the Grand Ole Opry in February 1943 and put together his band, the Texas Troubadours. Tubb recorded and toured throughout the years with some of the best musicians of that time and in the 60s he was well-known for having one of the best bands around. Health problems finally halted his performances in 1982 and he passed away in 1984 in Nashville, TN.
Ernest Tubb recorded some two dozen songs written by Cindy Walker. Some of which were “Warm Red Wine” and “Two Glasses, Joe”.
Willie Nelson was born in 1933, in Abbott, TX. Willie has worked at just about every profession under the sun and has toured all over the world. He wrote his first song at age seven and when he was nine, played guitar for a local polka band. He was a relief phone operator in Abbott and was a tree trimmer for the local electric company, as well as pawn shop employee. Willie also had a short stint in the Air Force but was discharged because of back problems. He has worked as a bouncer, as a parts man in an auto parts store, and saddle maker. Willie has written or co-authored over 337 songs throughout the years.
Couldn’t talk about Outlaw Country without talking about Waylon Jennings. Waylon was born in 1937 near Littlefield, TX. The name on the birth certificate was Wayland, meaning land by the highway. Lorene Jennings changed the name to Waylon shortly after his birth. Waylon dropped out of school at the age of 16, after several disciplinary infractions. Jennings worked as a laborer on the G. W, Bitner farm and drove a cement truck Waylon’s primary interest was only in music. He worked at several radio stations as a disc jockey and performed his songs while on the radio. Jennings remained a popular performer, touring extensively until 1997. He died in 2002 in Chandler, AZ.
Willie Nelson recorded an all Walker CD in 2006, in which he recorded the song “You Don’t Know Mr”. Throughout the years Waylon Jennings and Roy Orbison performed several of Cindy Walkers’ songs. One of the biggest hits was “Dream Baby”.
Cindy Walker – American Songwriter
One could say Cindy Walker was the foundation of Texas Country music. Born in 1918, in Mart, TX, she was the daughter of a cotton broker, her maternal grandmother was a noted composer and a fine pianist. From childhood, Cindy was interested in poetry and wrote constantly. As a teenager influenced by the dust storms in the 1930s, she wrote “Dusty Skies” which was recorded later by Bob Wills. By the end of the 30s, Cindy Walker was singing and dancing in Texas Stage shows.
In 1940 at the age of 22, her family moved to Los Angeles.and while driving down Sunset Boulevard she convinced her father to stop at the Bing Crosby Enterprise building. Walker went inside and pitched her song “Lone Star Trail” to him. Bing was impressed and arranged for Cindy to record a demo with Dave Kapp of Decca Records, who was impressed and offered her a recording contract. “Lone Star Trail” was recorded and became a top hit for Bing Crosby!
Walker remained in Los Angeles for 13 years, recording and writing. She adopted an approach that was craftsmanlike, when writing her songs, often tailoring particular songs to a specific artist. She produced Top 10 hits spread over five decades. The list of artists that recorded her songs was way too many to list here. A lot of her songs were performed in movies, by artists like Gene Autry and many more. Probably her best-known song “You Don’t Know Me” was recorded by Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Jerry Vale, and Lenny Welch. “Anna Marie” was a hit for Jim Reeves, in 1957 and the start of an artist-writer association which ended in 1965. Reeves recorded many of Walker’s compositions.
It is estimated that more than 500 of Walker’s songs have been recorded and her songs have made the top forty charts over 400 times. Renowned songwriter Harlan Howard described Walker “the greatest living songwriter of country music” after her induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2006 Willie Nelson released a CD album with 13 of Walker’s songs. The title is You Don’t Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker.
Cindy died in Mexia, TX on March 23, 2006 (where she had lived since 1954) nine days after the release of Willie’s tribute album. She typed her lyrics on a pink-trimmed Manuel typewriter and her mother helped her work out the melodies for her songs. They lived part of the year in an apartment in Nashville to market her songs. Her mother Oree Walker died in 1991.
Cindy shunned the limelight and lived mostly a quiet life. Even though she was not well-known outside of country music, there are a lot of Country and Western singers who can tell you, their careers would not be what they were, had it not been for Cindy’s prolific writing. Without a doubt, she was the catalyst to many, many Country and Western Artist.
Cindy is buried in the Mexia City Cemetery. Her gravestone is a sculpture of a large pink granite guitar (in her signature color).
I just thought it fascinating that someone not that well-known outside Western Music, could have had so much influence on so many people!!
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