Ernest Dale Tubb (February 9, 1914 -- September 6, 1984), nicknamed the Texas Troubadour, was an American singer and songwriter and one of the pioneers of country music. His biggest career hit song, "Walking the Floor Over You" (1941), marked the rise of the honky tonk style of music. In 1948, he was the first singer to record a hit version of "Blue Christmas", a song more commonly associated with Elvis Presley and his mid-1950s version. Another well-known Tubb hit was "Waltz Across Texas" (1965), which became one of his most requested songs and is often used in dance halls throughout Texas during waltz lessons. Tubb recorded duets with the then up-and-coming Loretta Lynn in the early 1960s, including their hit "Sweet Thang". Tubb is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Tubb was born on a cotton farm near Crisp, in Ellis County, Texas (now a ghost town). His father was a sharecropper, so Tubb spent his youth working on farms throughout the state. He was inspired by Jimmie Rodgers and spent his spare time learning to sing, yodel, and play the guitar. At age 19 he took a job as a singer on San Antonio radio station KONO-AM. The pay was low so Tubb also dug ditches for the Works Progress Administration and then clerked at a drug store. In 1939 he moved to San Angelo, Texas and was hired to do a 15-minute afternoon live show on radio station KGKL-AM. He drove a beer delivery truck in order to support himself during this time, and during World War II he wrote and recorded a song titled "Beautiful San Angelo".
In 1936, Tubb contacted Jimmie Rodgers's widow (Rodgers died in 1933) to ask for an autographed photo. A friendship developed and she was instrumental in getting Tubb a recording contract with RCA. His first two records were unsuccessful. A tonsillectomy in 1939 affected his singing style so he turned to songwriting. In 1940 he switched to Decca records to try singing again and it was his sixth Decca release with the single "Walking the Floor Over You" that brought Tubb to stardom.
Tubb joined the Grand Ole Opry in February 1943 and put together his band, the Texas Troubadours. Tubb's first band members were from Gadsden, Alabama. They were, Vernon "Toby" Reese, Chester Studdard, and Ray "Kemo" Head. He remained a regular on the radio show for four decades, and hosted his own Midnight Jamboree radio show each Saturday night after the Opry. Tubb headlined the first Grand Ole Opry show presented in Carnegie Hall in New York City in September 1947.
In 1949, Tubb helped the famed boogie-woogie Andrews Sisters crossover to the country charts when they teamed on Decca Records to record a cover of Eddy Arnold's "Don't Rob Another Man's Castle" and the western-swing flavored "I'm Bitin' My Fingernails and Thinking of You." Tubb was impressed by the enormous success of Patty, Maxene, and LaVerne, and he remembered that their 1947 recording of "The Blue Tail Fly (Jimmy Crack Corn)" with folk legend Burl Ives produced a Top-10 Billboard hit, and he was therefore eager to repeat that success. He brought the upbeat "Fingernails" tune to the session, hoping that the trio would like it, and they did. Not realizing how tall the Texas Troubador was, the recording technicians at Decca had the sisters stand on a wooden box on one side of the one microphone they shared with Tubb so that the audio would balance. The rhythm trio also wasn't used to Tubb's vocal style, as Maxene once remembered, "He sang different than anybody I've ever heard. He sang the melody of the song, but the timing was different. It wasn't like we were used to...you sing eight bars, and then you sing eight bars, and then you sing eight bars. Not with him. He just sang eight bars, ten bars, eleven bars, and then stopped, whatever it was. So, we'd just start to follow him, and then got paid on 750,000 records sold that never came above the Mason-Dixon Line!"
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