Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Remembering Ernest Tubb

I wanted to take a moment and remember the great Ernest Tubb, who today would have celebrated his 97th birthday. Ernest was born on February 9, 1914 and passed away on September 6, 1984. It goes without saying that Ernest was one of the all time greats in country music and in the history of the Grand Ole Opry.

The Country Music Hall of Famer was noted for the amount of touring that he did and for the way he helped out younger artists trying to make it in the country music business. He established the Ernest Tubb Record Shop and the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree. It was through the Midnight Jamboree that Ernest did most of his work with the newer artists. He was always willing to give air time to someone who he thought was worthwhile. The list is too long to name them all, but Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn are two of the more well known. It was also through his influence that Hank Snow became a member of the Opry. Both of them shared a love of Jimmie Rodgers, the father of country music. He also pushed band members to move on to solo careers, with the most famous of these being Cal Smith and Jack Greene.

Even though he has been gone for over 25 years, his influence is still felt in country music. Almost every artist who comes out of Texas looks up to 2 artists, Bob Wills and Ernest Tubb. Willie Nelson is on the top of the list of admirers.

Ernest's influence on the Opry was great. He was the first to bring electric guitars to the Opry and he fought management all the way to make sure his sound was heard. He did not have the greatest voice in the world, and he admitted it. That was one of the reasons why he always had a great band. Toward the end of his career, after his health problems really took hold, his voice really faltered. He smoked and drank most of his life, and while he did quit later in his career, the damage was already done.

I am not going to go into all the hits that Ernest had, and there were many, or even do a review of his career. It would take too long. Ronnie Pugh, formally of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and later of the Nashville Public Library, wrote an excellent biography of Ernest and if you have not read it, I highly recommend it. Ronnie covers the good and the bad, and really gets into the history of the Ernest Tubb Record Shop and the Midnight Jamboree. I met Ronnie several times, once at the Hall of Fame, and also at the Nashville Library, and I told him on several occasions that I wished he would also write biographies on more of the classic Opry stars, such as Red Foley or Roy Acuff. But, Ronnie told me that a biography really is a lot of work, and for the time, Ernest's was enough.

Ernest made his first Grand Ole Opry appearance on January 16, 1943. At the time, the Opry was at the War Memorial Auditorium. He played the Opry several times over the next several weeks, and officially became an Opry member on February 13, 1943. Before too much longer, Ernest not only had the Midnight Jamboree, but was hosting warm up shows before the Opry on WSM. Although Ernest would remain an Opry member until his death, his final Opry show was on August 14, 1982. That was also the final night that he hosted the Midnight Jamboree. After that final Opry show, he made 4 more personal appearances, the final being on November 13, 1982, in Berlin, Ohio, which ironically is just 20 minutes from my home.

To remember Ernest, here is the Opry line-up and the song list from his final Opry appearance on Saturday August 14, 1982.

6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
4 Guys(host): "Turn Your Radio On"
Wilburn Brothers: "Arkansas"
4 Guys: "A Blaze Of Glory"

6:45: Rudy's
Billy Grammer(host): "Georgiana Moon"
Skeeter Davis: "Just When I Needed You Most"
Billy Grammer: "Aunt Dinah's Quilting Party"

7:00: Shoney's
Ernest Tubb(host); "Thanks A Lot"
Jean Shepard: "Blanket On The Ground" "I'll Be There"
Lonzo & Oscar: "Ramblin' Fever" "Windy City"
Jack Leonard: "I Can't Help It" "Take These Chains From My Heart" "Half As Much" "Your Cheating Heart"
Ernest Tubb: "Waltz Across Texas" "Walkin' The Floor Over You"

7:30: Goo Goo
Billy Walker(host): "When A Man Loves A Woman"
Jeannie Seely: "You Don't Need Me, But You Will" "I'm All Though Crying Over You"
Crook Brothers: "Cotton-Eyed Joe"
Bill Carlisle: "No Help Wanted"
Billy Walker: "You Gave Me A Mountain"

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff(host): "Wabash Cannonball"
Connie Smith: "The Key's In The Mailbox" "'Til I kissed You"
Charlie Walker "Don't Squeeze My Charmon"
Roy Thaskerson: "Orange Blossom Special"
Carol Lee Singers: "A Song The Holy Angels Cannot Sing"
Roy Acuff: "I'll Fly Away"

8:30: Acme
Bill Monore(host): "My Sweet Blue Eyed Darling"
Roy Drusky: "I Really Don't Want To Know"
Del Wood: "The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise"
Vic Willis Trio: "Faded Love"
Fruit Jar Drinkers w/Earl White: "Katy Hill"
Bill Monore: "Little Cabin Home On The Hill"

9:30: Kelloggs
Ernest Tubb(host): "Seaman's Blues"
Skeeter Davis: "Me And Bobbie McGee" "The Old Rugged Cross" "The King Is Coming"
Wilburn Brothers: "I Know A Goodbye When I See One" "Because He Lives"
Ernest Tubb: "Another Story, Another Time, Another Place"

10:00: Little Debbie
Bill Monroe(host); "On & On"
Connie Smith: "Satisfield"
Bill Monore: "Come Hither To Go Yonder"

10:15: Sunbeam
Billy Grammer(host): "Wildwood Flower"
Lonzo & Oscar: "Old Songs"
Billy Grammer: "I Was Born In Renfro Valley"

10:30: Martha White
Roy Acuff(host): "Meeting In The Air"
Roy Thackerson: "Sally Goodin'" "Orange Blossom Special"
Roy Acuff: "Cabin In Gloryland"

10:45: Beechnut
Billy Walker(host): "A Million To One"
Jean Shepard: "Alabama Jubilee"
Crook Brothers: "Liberty"
Billy Walker: "Cattle Call"

11:00: Coca-Cola
Roy Drusky(host); "There'll Never Be Anyone Else But You For Me"
Jeannie Seely(host); "I'm Almost Ready" "Healing Hands Of Time"
Fruit Jar Drinkers: "Sugar Tree Stomp"
Kirk McGee: "Blue Night"
Bill Carlisle: "Elvira"
Roy Drusky: "Just A Closer Walk With Thee"

11:30: Bama
4 Guys(host): "Cottonfields" "Mariah"
Del Wood: "There's A Big Wheel"
Charlie Walker: "Don't Play Me No Songs About Texas"
Vic Willis Trio: "Shenendoah" "You Were Always On My Mind"
4 Guys:"Made In The USA"

Just a couple of notes:
Ernie Ashworth was scheduled for the 9:30 segment, but canceled out. Also, if you notice, the 4 Guys were on the very first segment and the final segment. This was the time period when they had their dinner theater going and on a Saturday night, they would do the 1st Opry segment, then rush to do their 2 shows at their Harmony House, and then rush back to do the final segment, either as hosts or guests, on the Opry.

I think I got all the sponsors right and I have to admit, I draw a blank with one of the perfomers, Jack Leonard. I could not remember who he was and I even searched and could not come up with it.

Ernest's final night at the Opry was a pretty normal show. Mostly all Opry members and a few of the bigger names, such as Marty Robbins, Jimmy Dickens, Grandpa Jones, Loretta Lynn and Hank Snow among the missing.

Hope you all enjoy the look back at Ernest Tubb.


  1. What a wonderful remembrance of ET, and I love that lineup. I find it interesting that Earl White was in with the Fruit Jar Drinkers that night, since he also was the fiddle for the Crook Brothers.

    All anybody really needs to know about ET is this. He GAVE Charlie Walker "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down," and he and Ray Price had a golf game one day, heard a song on the radio, and he spent the whole time telling Ray he needed to record it because the original singer didn't do well. The song was "City Lights." Bill Anderson owes him, too.

  2. Jack Leonard was the front man for Ernest's band at the time.

  3. Barry, thanks a lot. I knew someone could help me out with that one.