This Week in Texas Music History we’ll celebrate the first female singer to work with the King of Western Swing.
Laura Lee Owens McBride died on Jan. 25, 1989, in Bryan, Texas. The daughter of well-known singer-songwriter Tex Owens and the niece of popular vocalist Texas Ruby Owens, Laura Lee began performing on radio at the age of 10. In the 1930s, she moved to California, where she appeared in more than a dozen movies with cowboy star Gene Autry. In the 1940s, she became the first female singer to be hired by legendary Western Swing pioneer Bob Wills. Laura Lee Owens McBride went on to perform with Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb and others. She won numerous awards and opened the door for many other women in country music.
This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll recall a singer, actor and bandleader who carried jazz to Hollywood.
Smith Ballew was born Sikes Ballew in Palestine, Texas on January 21, 1902. He attended the University of Texas, where he organized a jazz group known as Jimmy’s Joys. Ballew worked with Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and several other notable jazz musicians, before starting his own successful band, The Smith Ballew Orchestra, in 1929.
Smith Ballew went on to record for more than thirty record labels including Columbia, Victor and Decca. He also lived in Hollywood for twenty years, where he played music and appeared in two dozen movies.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll celebrate the first woman to work with the King of Western Swing.
This week in Texas Music History, we’ll remember an artist who performed in one of the first African-American bands to record in Texas.
Troy Floyd was born near San Antonio on Jan. 5, 1901. By the 1920s, he was playing clarinet and saxophone in a variety of jazz bands throughout South Texas. Floyd eventually put together his own band, which broadcast live on radio from San Antonio’s Plaza Hotel. On March 14, 1928, Troy Floyd and His Plaza Hotel Orchestra became one of the first African-American bands to record in Texas.
Troy Floyd went on to perform with several prominent Texas jazz artists, including Herschel Evans and Don Albert.
This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll go home with the Armadillo, one last time.
On January 1, 1981, Austin’s Armadillo World Headquarters closed its doors for good. The cavernous venue had opened ten years earlier as a community arts laboratory, but it soon became the epicenter for Austin’s burgeoning live music scene. During its heyday, the Armadillo featured a remarkably diverse array of performers, including Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, the Pointer Sisters, Ravi Shankar, Emmylou Harris, Van Morrison, arris, HarrisFreddie King, and Frank Zappa. On New Years’ Eve, 1980, the Armadillo hosted its final concert, featuring Maria Muldaur, Commander Cody, and Asleep at the Wheel.
The Armadillo World Headquarters was torn down to make way for an office building. However, former Armadillo owner Eddie Wilson opened a Threadgill’s restaurant on the site, ensuring that the Armadillo’s musical legacy would continue to reverberate throughout Austin for years to come.
This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a bluesman who played in corner bars and at Carnegie Hall.
T.D. Bell was born on December 26, 1892, in Lee County, Texas. He began his blues career in the 1940s, performing with piano player Roosevelt Williams, also known as the Grey Ghost. In 1950, Bell moved to Austin. With his band the Cadillacs, Bell helped build a thriving blues scene at the Victory Grill, one of Austin’s most popular nightclubs on the so-called “Chitlin’ Circuit.”
During the 1970s, T.D. Bell took time off from music to run a trucking business. In 1987, he formed the Blues Specialists with Erbie Bowser, a local piano player. Together Bell and Bowser played venues throughout the Southwest, including Austin’s Continental Club. They also toured nationally and performed at Carnegie Hall in 1994.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll go home with the Armadillo, one last time.