Musicians Off the Record: 1940s

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1940.Harry James, a masterful trumpeter from Beaumont, becomes America’s favorite wartime-era bandleader. After a stint with Benny Goodman, James soars as a solo with the hit "You Made Me Love You." James, who had discovered Frank Sinatra in 1939, churns out chart-toppers from ballads to pop numbers to up-tempo dance tunes that sell in the millions.

1940. Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys' first national success, "New San Antonio Rose," puts them on the path to becoming an American institution. The group writes a series of classics, such as "Take Me Back toTulsa" and "Faded Love."

1942. Tex Ritter enjoys significant success with Texas songwriter Cindy Walker’s classic "Jingle, Jangle, Jingle." (In 1945, Ritter scores an 11-week chart-topper with "You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often.")

1943. Foy Willing, of Bosque County, forms Riders of the Purple Sage. Known for their rich harmonies, they strike gold with "Ghost Riders in the Sky." They are frequent performers on radio, recordings and in the movies, with singing cowboys Monte Hale, Roy Rogers, Ken Curtis and others. In 1957, they tour with Gene Autry.

1943. Ernest Tubb, born in Crisp, takes Texas honky-tonk to Nashville and performs at the Grand Ole Opry on the heels of his hit "Walking the Floor Over You."

1946. Blues pianist Charles Brown delivers a smooth, jazzy style on "Drifting Blues" with Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers. The Galveston-bred artist transforms R&B and wins numerous awards, including an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

1946. Centerville’s own "Lightnin’" Hopkins first records with "Katie May" and later achieves a national hit with "Shotgun Blues" in 1948.

1947."El Rosalito," arguably the finest canción ranchera ever recorded, propels Valerio Longoria to wide popularity. He is the first artist to sing while playing the accordion, and he also introduces the Cuban-Mexican bolero and trap drums to conjunto audiences.

1947. Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, a native of Orange, makes his debut at Houston’s Peacock Club by strolling onstage and plucking a weary T-Bone Walker’s guitar, much to T-Bone’s surprise. Brown’s recordings are inspired by a melding of blues, R&B, jazz, country and zydeco, and as a multi-instrumentalist, he remains unmatched for decades.

1947. Dale Evans of Uvalde marries Roy Rogers and the couple assumes the honorary role of "King of the Cowboys and Queen of the West." Evans writes the couple's signature theme song, "Happy Trails to You" in 1950.