The Roots of Ernest Tubb

As I was reading Christine Warren’s Honky Tonk Debutante, I made a mental note at her mention of Ernest Tubb, the man credited with starting honky-tonk music. Tubb, nicknamed “The Texas Troubadour”, had an incredible influence on the sound of traditional country music, and as Warren stated, his hit song “Walking the Floor Over You” was the first honky-tonk hit and started the golden era of honky-tonk music. While Ernest Tubb is an important figure for every country music fan, he is especially notable for me. Before Tubb gained worldwide fame and recognition, he got his start in my hometown, good old San Angelo, Texas.

For those of you who haven’t heard of San Angelo, it is located right smack dab in the middle of Texas, far isolated from any interstates or big cities. It never rains (at one point last year we had just 15 months left in our water supply), and there really isn’t anything to do for entertainment. It’s a typical West Texas oil town.

One thing there is to do in San Angelo is see live music. Texas Country artists like Aaron Watson and Kyle Park are always playing at Midnight Rodeo, and local singers play at bars around town. Famous artists like George Strait and Lee Ann Rimes used to play at the San Angelo Rodeo before they made it big, so there is also lots of history in the city’s music scene.

San Angelo country singer Case Hardin

But as I mentioned above, San Angelo’s real claim to fame is the place that gave Ernest Tubb his start. Tubb moved to San Angelo from San Antonio in 1939, and was given a daily radio show on a local station, where he was paid $2.50 a day. The wage for the radio show wasn’t enough to support his family, so he also drove a beer delivery truck for $2 a day, plus 8 cents for each beer sold. In addition to his two jobs, he was known to set up on the street corner to play his guitar and sing for passersby. Tubb liked San Angelo so much that he wrote the song “Beautiful San Angelo”. Just four years after moving to San Angelo, Tubb was a member of the Grand Ole Opry and in the middle of a career which saw him collaborate with singers like Loretta Lynn, and even garnered him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Tubb was instrumental in the sound of honky-tonk music, and none of it would have been possible without his short time in San Angelo.

Ernest Tubb’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame


Filed under Classic Country, Honky Tonk, Live Music, Reflection, Texas, Uncategorized

2 Responses to The Roots of Ernest Tubb

  1. Ernest Tubb is great! I have a few anthologies of his work on my computer, and I just can’t get over how long a career he had and how generous he was throughout his life while sharing the spotlight with up-and-comers like Loretta Lynn. I didn’t realize he was from San Angelo! Do people there still talk about him?

    • James Pruitt

      I don’t think too many people in San Angelo are aware of Ernest Tubb’s San Angelo roots (or who Ernest Tubb even is for that matter). I have to admit that I had never heard of him until a year or two ago when he was mentioned in a music class that I was taking. I think it’s a cool fun fact that he got his start there and I wish it were a bigger deal.

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