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Tex Williams

Although not nearly as well-known as figures like Bob Wills, the Maddox Brothers, and Merle Travis, Tex Williams was an important Western swing performer. Like all of the aforementioned musicians, he helped develop country music from its rural, acoustic origins to a more danceable, city-fied, and electrified form with a much wider popular appeal. At his peak in the late '40s, he also recorded some of the most enjoyable country swing of his time, distinguished by his talking-blues vocal delivery. Much of his style can be heard in the Western swing-influenced recordings of revivalists like Asleep at the Wheel, Commander Cody, and Dan Hicks.

The singer and guitarist caught his first big break after moving to Los Angeles in 1942. At that time California was populated by many former Texans and Oklahomans working in the defense industry, creating a need for Western swing entertainment in a region not noted for country music. One of the musicians on this circuit was fiddler Spade Cooley, who employed Jack Williams as his singer, nicknaming him "Tex" to ensure easy identification by the many Texans in their audiences. Several of Cooley's mid-'40s Columbia singles featured Tex on vocals.

Capitol offered a contract to Williams as a solo artist, which strained the relationship between Tex and the tempestuous Cooley to the breaking point. Cooley fired Williams in June 1946, a move which backfired badly, as most of Cooley's band opted to follow Tex rather than remain with their difficult boss. Cooley achieved his greatest subsequent notoriety when he was convicted of beating his wife to death in a drunken fit in 1961.

Tex's renamed backing band, the Western Caravan, was one of the best units of its kind. Numbering about a dozen members, it attained an enviable level of fluid interplay between electric and steel guitars, fiddles, bass, accordion, trumpet, and other instruments (even occasional harp). At first they recorded polkas for Capitol, with limited success. They found their true calling when Williams' friend Merle Travis wrote most of "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)" for him, emphasizing Tex's talking-blues delivery and heavier boogie elements. The song was a monstrous commercial success in 1947, and indeed one of the biggest country hits of all time, making number one on the pop charts.

That set the model for several of Williams' subsequent hits: hot Western swing backup, over which Tex would roll his deep, laconic, easygoing narratives of humorous, slightly ridiculous situations. As enjoyable as these were, they were just one facet of the Western Caravan's talents. The outfit was also capable of generating quite a heat on boogie instrumentals and more straightforward vocal numbers in which Williams actually sang rather than spoke.

Williams' commercial success began to peter out in the early '50s, and he left Capitol in 1951. He continued to record often in the 1950s, mostly for Decca, without much success; in 1957, the Western Caravan disbanded. He pressed on, however, returning to Capitol in the early '60s, and recording a live album that included Glen Campbell on guitar. He had one final country hit, the memorably titled "The Night Miss Ann's Hotel for Single Girls Burned Down," which entered the Top 40 in 1971. ~ Richie Unterberger
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Comedy Song Collection

Disc 1

1. The Thing

2. Little Blue Riding Hood

3. Civilization

5. Life Get's Tee Jus, Don't It

8. Sound Off

9. Old MacDonald Had A Farm

10. I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat

11. Dry Bones

13. Down By The Station

14. Aba Daba Honeymoon

15. Inka Dinka Doo

16. Blue Tail Fly

17. Cement Mixer

18. Twelfth Street Rag

19. There Is A Tavern In The Town

20. The Prune Song

Disc 2

1. I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones

7. C'est Si Bon

8. Hot Rod Race

10. Minnie The Moocher

11. Eh, Cumpari!

14. The Woody Woodpecker Song

15. Your Feet's Too Big

17. Tell Me A Story

18. Huggin' And Chalkin'

19. Cocktails For Two

20. Open The Door Richard

Disc 3

2. I've Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts

4. The Doughnut Song

5. Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)

7. Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy

9. My Ding-A-Ling

11. Mairzy Doats

12. How Much Is That Doggie In The Window

13. Istanbul

14. The Maharajah Of Magador

15. Hooray For Captain Spalding

17. Daffy Duck's Rhapsody

18. Triplets

19. Try

x

Track List: Got A Light, Mac?

2. Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette

3. Cigarette Blues

5. The Old Clay Pipe

6. Cigarette And A Silhouette

7. Don't Smoke In Bed

8. Two Cigarettes In The Dark

9. Smoke Rings

10. Smoke Dreams Of You

12. Caffeine And Nicotine

16. Give Me A Chaw Tobacco

17. To-Bac-A-Wa

18. Cigareets & Whuskey & Wild, Wild Women

x

Track List: Ha! Ha! 24 Great Comedy Songs

1. Inka Dinka Do

4. Triplets

6. I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi (I Like You Very Much)

8. I'm My Own Grandpa

9. Woodman, Woodman Spare That Tree

10. Flat Foot Floogie

11. Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! That Cigarette

12. We're Gonna Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line

13. When I'm Cleaning Windows

14. Mary From The Dairy

15. The Bee Song

16. Everything Is Fresh Today

17. The Laughing Policeman

18. The Lion And Albert

21. The Biggest Aspidistra In The World

22. There's No One With Endurance Like The Man Who Sells Insurance

23. When You're Smiling

24. Somebody Stole My Gal

x

Track List: Ricky Jay Plays Poker

1. Darktown Poker Club

3. Turn The Cards Slowly

4. Five Card Stud

5. Don't Turn The Card

7. Ace In The Hole

8. Little Queen Of Spades

9. Etienne Gonna Die

10. Mr. Mudd And Mr. Gold

12. Gambler's Guitar

14. Dolan's Poker Party

15. Poker Woman Blues

16. Wild Card

17. Ace Of Spades

18. Roving Gambler

19. Bed Spring Poker

20. Ace In The Hole

x

Track List: Swinging Hollywood Hillbilly Cowboys #3: Cowboy & Western

1. Smoke Across The Water

3. Over And Over Again

4. Merle's Buck Dance

5. Artistry In Western Swing

6. Too Far Gone

7. I Can't Help The Way I Feel

8. Red River Valley

9. Easy Payment Blues

10. I'm Gonna Gallop Gallop To Gallup New Mexico

11. Just A Pickin' And A-Singin'

12. Hot Rod Baby

13. The Daughter Of Jole Blon

14. Hamburger Hop

15. Love Fever

16. That Wild And Wicked Look In Your Eye

17. Take It Away Leon

18. Hoot Owl Boogie

19. Catch Me Cheatin'

20. Yodelling Polka

22. Bottle Baby Boogie

23. Out On The Open Range

24. Cattle Call

26. I'm All Through Trusting You

27. Fan It

28. Lazy John

x

Track List: Swinging Hollywood Hillbilly Cowboys: #2: Capitol Towers

1. He's A Real Gone Okie

2. With Tears In My Eyes

3. Sugar Baby

4. Keep A Talkin' Baby

5. Slippin' Around With Jole Blon

6. Juke Box Boogie

8. True Blue Papa

9. House Of Blue Lights

10. Rainin' On The Mountain

11. Paper Heart

12. She's A Mean Mean Woman

14. Bryant's Bounce

15. Speedin' West

16. Talkin' Boogie

17. Jump Rope Boogie

18. Saturday Night Time Blues

20. Hillbilly Hula

21. Boogie Woogie Fever

22. Streamlined Gal

23. Ernest Tubb's Talking Blues

24. Scoot Git And Begone

25. Wild Card

26. Truck Driver's Boogie

27. No Need To Knock On My Door

29. Put Some Sugar In Your Shoes

30. Mail Order Mama

x

Track List: Swinging Hollywood Hillbilly Cowboys: #4 The Hits

1. Triflin' Gal

2. Silver Stars, Purple Sage, Eyes Of Blue

3. One Has My Name The Other Has My Heart

4. So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed

5. Oklahoma Hills

6. My Chickasay Gal

7. Cool Water

8. Whoa Sailor

9. When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again

10. Honey Do You Think It's Wrong

11. The Wild Side Of Life

12. Never Trust A Woman

13. Lazy Mary

14. I Love You So Much It Hurts Me

15. Divorce Me C.O.D.

16. Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes

17. Cigareets And Whuskey And Wild Wild Women

18. Suspicion

19. Wine Women And Song

20. Peepin' Through The Keyhole

21. Tennessee Saturday Night

22. Rub-A-Dub Dub

23. Til The End Of The World

24. The Gods Were Angry With Me

25. I Wish I Had Never Met Sunshine

26. Cocaine Blues

27. Hot Rod Race

28. What A Shame

x

Track List: Texas Hold 'em Poker

1. The Gambler

2. Downtown Poker Club

3. Kentucky Gambler

5. The Rovin' Gambler

6. The Game Of Love And Poker

8. You Win Again

10. Deck Of Cards

x

Track List: Thank You For Smoking (Soundtrack)

1. Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette!

2. Smoke Rings

3. Greenback Dollar

4. Little Organ Fugue

5. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

6. Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray

8. Cigarettes And Coffee

9. Another Puff

x

Track List: The Kings Of Classic Country

1. Okie From Muskogee

2. Wichita Lineman

3. Wings Of A Dove

4. So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed

5. Only The Lonely

6. Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)

7. Shot-Gun Boogie

9. Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes

10. Honey

11. It's Such A Pretty World Today

12. Hello Walls

13. I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby

Comments

Report as inappropriate
This is the man to whom all other western swing musicians paid homage too. I was fortunate to have been able to play some guitar behind him on his last tour.
Report as inappropriate
my all time favorite from the 50's

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