Musicians Off the Record: 1930s

1930. Accordionist Roberto Rodriguez, in a San Antonio studio, becomes the first artist to record in the conjunto (or Musica Norteño) style . The next day another accordionist, Bruno Villareal, goes into the same studio. Known as "E1 Azote del Valle" (the scourge from the Rio Grande Valley) on record labels, Villareal becomes very popular and prolific.

1930. Ken Maynard, “The American Boy’s Favorite Cowboy,” who claims Texas as his home, becomes America’s first singing cowboy in cinema. In the film release Songs of the Saddle, he introduces singing to westerns and goes on to appear in over 300 films.

1931. Woodward Maurice “Tex” Ritter, a Beaumont native, acts in a Broadway production, Green Grow the Lilacs, and hosts a series of radio roundups in New York City. He enters the studio in 1933 to record songs such as “Rye Whiskey.” “Get Along, Little Dogie” is a favorite in 1935.

1933. Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, a product of Harrison County, is found in Angola Prison by John and Alan Lomax. They record some of the 500 songs the rural blues artist claims, including “The Midnight Special,” “Goodnight Irene” and “Rock Island Line.”

1933. Bob Wills melds the folk traditions of African-Americans (jazz, country blues) and White Southerners (fiddle song) and arrives at a new genre closely identified with Texas called Western Swing. From Fort Worth, he and the Light Crust Doughboys—later, the Texas Playboys--fill dance halls throughout Texas and Oklahoma and cut their first disc in 1935.

1933. Kenneth Threadgill takes the stage at his Austin gas station/bar to yodel and play. He is still there in 1962 when he befriends Janis Joplin and offers her a place to sing.

1935. The Blue Ridge Playboys, one of the first honky-tonk bands, form, featuring Floyd Tillman, Ted Daffan, Aubrey “Moon” Mullican, Dickie McBride, Leon Selph and Chuck Keeshan.

1935. Dallas resident Aaron “T-Bone” Walker is the first blues guitarist to combine the electric guitar with bass, piano and sax, and as a consequence, lays the foundation for modern R&B. While a 1940s bandleader, he records his celebrated “Stormy Monday.”

1935. Gene Autry of Tioga makes his first western feature film, Tumbling Tumbleweeds. Autry, called country music’s first “multi-media” star, defines country music around the world for two generations, from the early 1930s until the mid-1950s.

1935. Eddie Durham, a native of San Marcos, composes and arranges for big band leaders from Count Basie to Glenn Miller. He is the first to record with an amplified guitar, while in Jimmie Lunceford's band, and his trombone chops underline his genius.

1935. San Antonio’s Boots and his Buddies, led by drummer Clifford “Boots” Douglas, form one of the regional (“territory”) bands entertaining local audiences around the country. They record a blues/up-tempo Big Band sound that garners appreciative audiences. Even small towns often have excellent bands that play frequently and record occasionally.

1936. Ballinger’s David Wendel Guion is a celebrated composer and musician. He arranges the version of “Home on the Range” that FDR likes, hosts a radio show in New York, and composes for the Houston Symphony. He also notates and arranges folk tunes, spirituals and old favorites into concert form, including titles like “Ol’ Paint” and “What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor.”  In 1955 the National Federation of Music Clubs named Guion one of America's most significant folk-music composers.

1936. Santiago Jiménez of San Antonio, called the Father of Conjunto music, releases his first record “Dices Pescao/Dispensa el Arrempujon.” Conjunto grows in popularity throughout the late 1930s and 40s.

1936. Tex Ritter moves to Hollywood and will go on to appear in eighty-five films. In 1952 he sings the title song for High Noon, which is reprised throughout the movie.

1936. Al Dexter, a native of Troup, records “Honky-Tonk Blues.” The song is the first reference to the term on vinyl.

1936. Narciso Martínez, an originator of conjunto, records “La Chicharronera”and brings attention to the new music style in South Texas. Nicknamed “The Hurricane of the Valley,” his first recordings are noted for his driving melodic accordion playing.

1936. Big band leader Milt Larkin, born in Navasota, begins his career in his hometown Aragon Ballroom and later claims a residence at Houston’s Harlem Square Club. The group gains renown on the U.S. jazz circuit but declines recording in its 1930s heydays.

1937. Tex Beneke, of Fort Worth, joins the Glenn Miller band as a saxophonist. He frequently sings, notably in “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo.”

1938. Oran “Hot Lips” Page, one of the Midwest’s finest Swing trumpet players, records as leader of his own orchestra. After a stellar career as a sideman with Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ida Cox and Count Basie, the Dallas native has lesser success as he goes it alone.

1939. Bonham-born guitarist Charlie Christian is discovered by producer John Hammond who places him in Benny Goodman’s Sextet. Christian’s amplified jazz guitar style blends with the era’s big band idiom to create a stunning new musical language.

1939. “Truck Driver’s Blues” (the first truck driving tune recorded) is composed by Ted Daffan, who also authors “Born to Lose,” “I’m a Fool for You” and “Headin’ Down the Wrong Highway.”