Houston Scores Big-Time In Latest Edition Of Encyclopedia Of Country Music: Part 4

Our fourth installment of Houston-area country-music pioneers honored with inclusion in the second edition of The Encyclopedia of Country Music details the last of an amazing group of local musicians from the '30s, '40s, and '50s who left their brand on the people's music.

While the Appalachian and Tennessee pickers and composers usually get the lion's share of the credit for inventing and shaping country music, it doesn't take much perusal of the Encyclopedia's latest volume to realize that Texas played a most distinctive part in developing the Western Swing and honky-tonk elements that comprise the genre, and that Houston's Western Swing pioneers and Pappy Daily and his influential D Records label were key cogs in the development of mainstream America's favorite music.

Ernest Tubb: While Tubb never lived in Houston, after a career false start during which he essentially mimicked Jimmie Rodgers, Ellis County native Tubb was given a second chance to record after a tonsillectomy lowered his voice and made it impossible for him to imitate Rodgers' patented yodel.

Decca Records executive Dave Kapp signed Tubb in 1940 and sent him to Houston to record four sides. Two of those, "Blue Eyed Elaine" b/w "I'll Get Along Somehow," became Tubb's first national success and lifted his foundering career. The following year he cut his biggest hit, "Walkin' the Floor Over You," which marked the ascendency of honky-tonk within country music. Tubb went on to huge success on the Grand Ole Opry and later television, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1965.

Carl T. Sprague: Known as the Original Singing Cowboy, Carl T. Sprague grew up on a ranch near Alvin. He entered Texas A&M in 1915, where he began appearing on the student radio station.

After a stint in World War I, he returned to A&M and graduated in 1922. In 1925, on the heels of the success of another Texan, Vernon Dalhart, Sprague cut ten sides for the Victor label; "When the Work's All Done This Fall" sold 900,000 copies. While Sprague was not the first person to record cowboy tunes, he was the first true cowboy to do so.

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William Michael Smith