Poster for Ernest Tubb and His Texas Troubadours, City Auditorium, Salem, Missouri, December 11, 1957
Born on a cotton farm in Ellis County, Texas, in 1914, Ernest Tubb spent his youth working on farms throughout the state. He spent his spare time learning to play the guitar, yodel and sing. In 1936, with the aid of singer and musician Jimmy Rodger’s widow, Tubb was offered a recording contract with the RCA Corporation, recording two unsuccessful records.. He switched to Decca Records in 1940, recording six records with the company. It was his sixth Decca release, the single “Walking the Floor Over You”, that gave Tubb stardom and a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America late in 1965.
Ernest Tubb and his band, The Texas Troubadours, joined the Grand Ole Opry in February of 1943. His first band members were Chester Studdard, Ray “Kamo” Head, and Vernon “Toby” Reese. Tubb and his band were a regular on the radio show for four decades; and Tubb hosted his own radio show, the Midnite Jamboree, which followed the Grand Old Opry each Saturday evening.
Ernest Tubb surrounded himself with some of Nashville’s best musicians. Guitarist Jimmy Short added to the Tubb sound with his single-string guitar picking and clean, clear riffs. Steel guitarists Tommy “Butterball” Paige and Jerry Byrd, who eventually replaced Jimmy Short, added their sounds to Tubb’s recordings. Billy Byrd, who brought jazzy riffs to the instrumental interludes of the songs, joined The Troubadours in 1949 and added the four-note riff at the end of his guitar solos that became a recognizable part of Tubb’s songs. Billy Byrd would remain with Ernest Tubb until 1959, when he left to make several solo albums, later returning to play again with Tubb.
In 1949 Ernest Tubb teamed up with the famous Andrew Sisters to record a cover of Eddy Arnold’s “Don’t Rob Another Man’s Castle” and the western-swing “I’m Bitin’ My Fingernails and Thinking of You”. This two-song record sold 750,000 copies. Later that year, he teamed up with singer and musician Red Foley, recording “You Don’t have to Be a Baby to Cry”. The duo of Tubb and Foley released seven albums together, maintaining a friendly ‘on-the-air” feud over the years.
Known for having one of the best bands in country music history, Ernest Tubb was inducted into the County Music Hall of Fame in 1965. In 1970, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Tubb inspired some of the most devoted fans of any country artist; his fans loyally followed him though out his career, long after his songs stopped making the charts. He remained a fixture at the Grand Ole Opry and continued to host his Midnite Jamboree radio show. Tubb appeared as himself in Loretta Lynn’s 1980 autobiographical film “Coal Miner’s Daughter” along with fellow country stars Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl.
Tubb’s singing voice remained intact until late in life, when emphysema developed. He still continued making over two hundred appearances, traveling with an oxygen tank, shaking hands and signing autographs with every fan who stayed after the show. His health problems eventually halted his performances in 1982. Ernest Tubb made his final appearance at the Grand Ole Opry on August 14, 1982. He died in 1984 and is buried in Nashville’s Hermitage Memorial Gardens.