Musicians Off the Record: 1920s

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1922. Amarillo’s Alexander Campbell "Eck" Robertson, a fiddler, becomes America’s first country music artist to cut a commercial record with "Sally Goodin."

1923. Sippie Wallace, a Houston native, records "Shorty George" and "Up the Country Blues," confirming her as an early classic blues diva.

1923. San Antonio’s Oscar Julius Fox is the first Texas composer to draw worldwide attention to Texas music themes. He arranges music for John A. Lomax’s cowboy collection, and is renowned for songs such as "Whoopee Ti Yi Yo, Git Along, Little Dogie" and "The Old Chisholm Trail." Among his top original compositions is "The Hills of Home."

1923. Fort Worth’s WBAP radio produces America’s original barn dance program.

1924. Classical sacred composer and TCU professor William Marsh writes the state song, "Texas, Our Texas."

1925. Clarence "Blind Lemon" Jefferson, born on a farm in Couchman, is the first country bluesman to enter the studio and becomes perhaps the most influential blues singer in music. Among his more notable songs recorded from 1925-1929 are "Matchbox Blues" (1927), "Black Snake Moan" (1927) and "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean"(1928).

1925. Gene Austin, "Voice of the Southland," is the most popular singer of the late 1920s. Among his hits are "My Blue Heaven," "Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby," "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue," "Bye Bye, Blackbird," "Ramona" and "Carolina Moon."

1925. Pianist and bandleader Alphonso Trent shifts to Dallas, where his orchestra becomes one of the dominant territorial bands in the Southwest. The Adolphus Hotel-based outfit follows the dance circuit around the country and is America’s first African-American band to appear regularly on the airwaves (on Dallas’ WFAA).

1925. Carl Sprague, raised near Alvin, becomes the first recorded singing cowboy with "When the Work’s All Done This Fall."

1925. Vernon Dalhart, of Jefferson, becomes country music’s first gold-selling artist with "The Prisoner’s Song," which is perhaps the best-selling record of the acoustical era.

1926. Woody Guthrie begins a ten-year trek in Texas, settling in the Panhandle’s Pampa.

1926. Victoria Spivey, of Houston, records her first tune, "Black Snake Blues," whichbecomes the most recorded blues title of the 1920s. Other compositions like "TB Blues" and "Organ Grinder Blues" propel her to collaborations with artists such as Louis Armstrong and Bill "Mr. Bojangles" Robinson.

1927. Gospel blues artist Blind Willie Johnson, of Beaumont, rides his bottleneck slide guitar to success for Columbia Records with "Jesus Make up My Dying Bed," "Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)" and "Nobody’s Fault But Mine."

1927. Vernon Dalhart’s recorded performance of the Texas ballad, "Home on the Range," inspires mass commercial appeal of the music form across the country.

1928. "Queen of Tejano" Lydia Mendoza begins her recoding career performing with La Familia Mendoza. As perhaps the first popular Spanish language dialect singer along the border, Lydia is credited with giving Norteño music a lasting foundation.

LydiaMendoza from Arhoolie Records
Lydia Mendoza from Arhoolie Records

1928. The Troy Floyd Orchestra, a San Antonio ensemble, casts a spotlight on the Alamo City’s Shadowland Club. Their arrangements "Shadowland Blues," "Wabash Blues" and "Dreamland Blues" fuse Texas country blues with New Orleans jazz.

1929. Trombonist Jack Teagarden is a rare white player in jazz circles but yields great influence. On March 5, the Vernon native becomes the first Caucasian to record in "mixed" company on Louis Armstrong’s "Knockin’ a Jug." By 1939, he leads his own act.

1929. The "Father of Country Music," Jimmie Rodgers, moves to Kerrville.

1929. Archie "Prince Albert" Hunt and the Texas Ramblers, of Terrell, are one of the first acts to play a form of music that would evolve into Western Swing. Their studio cuts, including "Wake Up Jacob,"are amongst the first of the genre.

1929. Trumpet player Don Albert and his Ten Happy Pals maintain the swing band momentum in San Antonio and later enter a recording studio in Dallas. Albert has a singular effect on racial harmony both on the dance floor and behind the stage.

Don Albert, center, and his Ten Happy Pals
Family photo obtained by Christopher Wilkinson, Jazz on the Road: Don Albert's Musical Life, University of California Press, 2001.