Ernest Tubb is a legend among country music fans. Born and raised in Texas, Tubb was no stranger to country music. One of his biggest idols was Jimmie Rodgers, who greatly influenced him and in some respects, even helped launch him into the music industry. In fact, his first recording was titled, “The Passing of Jimmie Rodgers”, a tribute to his hero and role model. His long-lived career began on radio in 1932 and ended in 1984, when he passed away from lung disease.
Tubb was the youngest child of five and was born in Ellis County, TX. As a pre-adolescent, he had to endure the heartbreak of having his parents divorce and ended up spending most of his teenage years traveling between their two homes. It was in these adolescent years that Tubb first became interested in Jimmie Rodgers’ music. Listening to Rodgers’ music influence Tubb greatly and helped lead him down the path to country stardom. It was in these years that he began learning to play guitar. Unfortunately, Rodgers passed away in 1933. As Tubb dealt with the loss of his great idol, he was inspired to follow in his footsteps and ventured on to San Antonio where he met up with Merwyn Buffington. Buffington and Tubb were old friends and Buffington helped Tubb land a spot as a guest vocalist on the local radio station. This guest spot lead him to have his own regular early-morning show.
Tubb continued to write music and sing, but had yet to find his own style and voice. Most of his early work was very similar to Rodgers’ music. Tubb decided he wanted to meet Rodgers’ widow, Carrie, to learn more about this legend’s life. He easily won over Carrie, who was able to convince RCA to sign him. She also let him use one of Jimmie Rodgers’ guitars in order to do more work. Although he had Carrie backing him, his first few records failed to sell, causing RCA to drop him from their label. Tubb continued to find odd gigs here or there, but didn’t gain much traction until 1939, when he had his tonsils removed. The removal of his tonsils greatly influenced his voice and helped him to develop his own distinctive style. This style was “twangy” and nasally, a far cry from Rodgers’ voice, and eventually led him to a record deal with Decca Records. He produced a minor hit, “Blue Eyed Elaine”. Decca Records invested even more in this young star and gave him a longer contract.
In 1941, Tubb had already written and produced a few more songs, one of which was, “Walking the Floor Over You.” This song became a huge hit and was the first honky tonk song, launching the genre into existence. Not only was this song’s creation important to the development of a new genre, but it was also extremely important to the development of Tubbs’ career. He had the opportunity to sing the new hit single in the movie, Fighting Buckeroos (1941), leading him to another film appearance in 1942. This new found fame inspired Tubb to head to Nashville, where he joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1943.