The Man Who Invented Country & Western Music | Sharon Henry
Let me tell you a story about the Ernest Tubb Record Shop and the Mid Nite Jamboree. Sunday mornings growing up, my sister and I were subjected to country and western music cranked-up on the record player. Protests and pillows failed to mute those torturous sounds to ears that preferred The Go-Gos, Bryan Adams and Madonna. This was our Dad’s time of the week to unwind with his kind of music; Charley Pride, Kitty Wells and his favourite (my worst), Ernest Tubb, playing the Midnite Jamboree. It was so embarrassing.
Imagine my surprise when decades later I stood star-struck in front of a brass statue of Ernest Tubb inside ‘THE’ Ernest Tubb Record Shop in Nashville, Tennessee, where ‘THE’ Midnite Jamborees took place. My teenage self would have died of embarrassment. Memories of those Sunday mornings returned in a flash and I wished my Dad were there.
For non-country fans or those whose dads didn’t inflict the genre onto them, Ernest Tubb is a legend in country and western music. Indeed, I found out that he coined the term, ‘country and western.’
A Pioneer Of Country Music
Cue, Victor Black, the shop sales manager and a self-confessed historian of country music. Attracted by my excited state he struck up conversation about the great man. “The only person who sold more records than Ernest Tubb on the Decca Records label was Bing Crosby,” Victor told us warming to his subject. “Ernest told Decca Records, this is not right, my song ‘Walking The Floor Over You’ was number one only on the Hillbilly Chart in 1941. They said, well what do you want us to call it?
“He replied, well we were all raised in the country, call it country music. What about those cowboys in Hollywood making music, came the response. They’re making westerns, call that western music, suggested Ernest. So it’s called Country & Western today because of Ernest Tubb,” said Victor.
Ernest Tubb died 6 September, 1984 aged 70, but his legacy lives on inside this record store. Country CDs of all genres stand alphabetically on racks. The walls are covered with photographs, some yellow with age, in honour of artists who played the Midnite Jamborees. Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Patsy Cline, Skeeter Davies, even Elvis Presley all performed to packed audiences from the small stage rigged at the back of the shop.
Walking The Floor Over You
The Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree was a live, free radio show every Saturday night following the ‘Grand Ole Opry’ at the Ryman. “Ernest would play 26 Saturday nights of the year,” said Victor, “because back then to be a member of the Opry you had to play 26 Saturday nights. If not you lost membership.” The Midnight Jamboree show lasted from 1951 to 1974, until the Opry left the Ryman.
Country legend, Loretta Lynn made four duet albums with Ernest Tubb. The Midnite Jamboree scene in her biopic movie, ‘Coalminers Daughter’ was filmed inside the actual shop. “This is where Loretta got her start,” said Victor. “These are the Coca-Cola cases she used to stand on so that the crowds could see her. Ernest Tubb plays himself in the movie, even though Sissy Spacek plays Loretta Lynn.”
Ernest Tubb Record Shop and the Mid Nite Jamboree
And guess what? I stood next to that stage and posed with a cardboard cut-out of Ernest Tubb, the man who had ‘ruined’ many a Sunday morning. The teenage me would have been mortified. But the adult me was so impressed with Ernest Tubb and his story, she later downloaded ‘Walking The Floor Over You.’ And it’s actually pretty good…