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.