This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll learn about the first-and-only four-way-hit songwriter.
Mickey Newbury was born on May 19, 1940, in Houston. He began his musical career while working on shrimp boats along the Gulf coast. In the early 1960s, Newbury moved to Nashville and joined a new generation of young Texas songwriters that included Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. In 1968, Newbury became the first and only songwriter to have Number One hits in four different musical genres at the same time. Dozens of artists have recorded Mickey Newbury’s songs, including Andy Williams, Eddy Arnold, Solomon Burke, and the First Edition, featuring a young vocalist from Houston named Kenny Rogers.
Mickey Newbury moved to Oregon in the mid-1970s, where he continued to write songs until his death in 2002. In 2008, he was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a true visionary who helped redefine Texas-Mexican music.
This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll follow a songwriter down country music’s “lost highway.”
On May 17, 1922, Leon Payne entered the Texas School for the Blind in Austin. Born without sight in Alba, Texas, in 1912, Payne performed with Bob Wills and others before establishing himself as a talented songwriter. He penned a number of tunes for such prominent artists as George Jones, Elvis Presley, and Jim Reeves. However, Leon Payne may be best remembered for writing one of Hank Williams, Sr.’s biggest hits, “Lost Highway.”
Leon Payne died in 1969. In 1971, country music legend and fellow Texan, George Jones, recorded an entire tribute album of Payne’s songs. In 1997, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll learn about the first-and-only four-way-hit songwriter.
This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll hear how the civil rights struggle took an operatic turn.
On May 8, 1957, news broke that the University of Texas at Austin had forbidden African-American student Barbara Smith from performing in an opera, simply because she was black. Smith was highly regarded within the Music Department, and the faculty had chosen her specifically to play the lead role in Dido and Aeneas. However, state legislators who opposed desegregation in higher education pressured the university president to remove Smith from the production. She found out about the decision only days before the opera debuted.
Barbara Smith’s plight became a national civil rights issue. Harry Belafonte offered to pay for her education elsewhere, but she remained at the University of Texas. After graduating, she left her home state and became a renowned opera singer in New York and Europe, performing under the name of Barbara Smith Conrad. Despite her difficult ordeal a half-century earlier, she returned to Austin in 2010 to be honored by the university and the Texas legislature.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll follow a songwriter down country music’s “lost highway.”
This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a salesman who rode the airwaves to the Governor’s Office.
On May 1, 1938, W. Lee O’Daniel filed to run for governor of Texas. The flour-salesman-turned-politician was born in Malta, Ohio, in 1890. In 1925, he moved to Fort Worth to become manager of Burrus Mills. O’Daniel adopted the nickname “Pappy” and started his own radio show to promote Burrus Mills flour. The program featured a local band, the Light Crust Doughboys, which included future Western swing pioneers Bob Wills and Milton Brown. In 1935, O’Daniel formed his own flour company, along with a new band, the Hillbilly Boys.
“Pappy” O’Daniel’s tremendous popularity as a radio personality prompted him to enter politics. With the Hillbilly Boys providing musical support, he campaigned to large crowds throughout the state. Although he proved to be a very controversial governor, O’Daniel still managed to defeat a young Lyndon Johnson during a 1941 race for the U.S. Senate.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll hear how the civil rights struggle took an operatic turn.
This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet “the other Z.Z.” of Texas blues.
On April 23, 1984, Z.Z. Hill gave his last performance at the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas. Arzell Hill was born in Naples, Texas, in 1935. He began his musical career at 19 when he moved to Dallas to sing gospel. However, Hill also enjoyed blues and R&B. In 1964, he recorded his first single, “You Were Wrong.” Hill did not record again until 1972, when he released a string of blues and R&B hits, including “Down Home Blues” and “Love Is So Good When You’re Stealin’ It.”
By the early 1980s, Z.Z. Hill was poised to capitalize on a growing interest in Texas blues. However, in February 1984, he was involved in a car accident that caused health problems from which he would never fully recover. Despite these difficulties, Hill continued to perform, giving his last concert in Dallas just days before his death.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a salesman who rode the airwaves to the Governor’s Office.