Ernest Dale Tubb (February 9, 1914 – September 6, 1984), nicknamed the Texas Troubadour, was an American singer and songwriter and one of the pioneers of country music.
His biggest career hit song, “Walking the Floor over you” (1941), marked the rise of the honky tonk style of music.
In 1948, he was the first singer to record a hit version of “Blue Christmas”, a song more commonly associated with Elvis Presley and his mid-1950s version.
His father was a sharecropper, so Tubb spent his youth working on farms throughout the state.
He was inspired by Jimmie Rodgers and spent his spare time learning to sing, yodel, and play the guitar.
At age 19, he took a job as a singer on San Antonio radio station KONO-AM.
The pay was low so Tubb also dug ditches for the Works Progress Administration and then clerked at a drug store.
In 1939 he moved to San Angelo, Texas and was hired to do a 15-minute afternoon live show on radio station KGKL-AM.
Tubb joined the Grand Ole Opry in February 1943 and put together his band, the Texas Troubadours.
Tubb’s first band members were from Gadsden, Alabama.
They were Vernon “Toby” Reese, Chester Studdard, and Ray “Kemo” Head.
He remained a regular on the radio show for four decades, and hosted his own Midnight Jamboree radio show each Saturday night after the Opry.
Tubb headlined the first Grand Ole Opry show presented in Carnegie Hall in New York City in September 1947.
In 1949, Tubb helped the famed boogie-woogie Andrews Sisters crossover to the country charts when they teamed on Decca Records to record a cover of Eddy Arnold’s “Don’t Rob Another Man’s Castle” and the western-swing flavored “I’m Bitin’ My Fingernails and Thinking of You.”
Tubb was impressed by the enormous success of Patty, Maxene, and LaVerne, and he remembered that their 1947 recording of “The Blue Tail Fly (Jimmy Crack Corn)” with folk legend Burl Ives produced a Top-10 Billboard hit, and he was therefore eager to repeat that success.
He brought the upbeat “Fingernails” tune to the session, hoping that the trio would like it, and they did.
Not realizing how tall the Texas Troubador was, the recording technicians at Decca had the sister’s stand on a wooden box on one side of the one microphone they shared with Tubb so that the audio would balance.
The rhythm trio also wasn’t used to Tubb’s vocal style, as Maxene once remembered, “He sang different than anybody I’ve ever heard.
He sang the melody of the song, but the timing was different. It wasn’t like we were used to…you sing eight bars, and then you sing eight bars, and then you sing eight bars.
The hits slowed in the 60s but Tubb’s popularity did not, and in spite of his health problems, he kept up a rigorous touring schedule and hosted his network television show.
His hits at this time included ‘Thanks A Lot’, ‘Pass The Booze’, his nostalgic ‘Waltz Across Texas’ and a duet with Loretta Lynn titled ‘Mr. & Mrs. Used To Be’.
In 1965, in recognition of his important contribution to the music, he became the sixth member of the Country Music Hall Of Fame.
The many songs that he had written and successfully recorded also led to him being one of the first writers elected to the Nashville Songwriters’ International Hall Of Fame when it was founded in 1970.
During the 70s he played the Grand Ole Opry, hosted the Midnight Jamboree and in spite of the worsening effects of the emphysema that had first developed in 1965, he still kept up a touring schedule that would have taxed younger men.
Ernest Tubb died in September 1984 of emphysema and related complications in Nashville’s Baptist Hospital. He was buried on 10 September in Nashville’s Hermitage Memorial Gardens.