Thursday, November 17, 2005

Coughin' Nails

That, to your left, is not Ernest Tubb by the way. But this post is.

A few years ago, one of my favorite bands back in Denver featured a picture of Ernest Tubb on the entire front of the bass drum. Just a black and white "howdy folks" kind of picture, and it was funny and apt. While the names Lefty, Hank, George, Merle, Willie, Johnny, and Jimmie often get passed around as the deities of Country and Western, you don't hear so much the name Ernest. Maybe it's the name itself...not a very cool name nowadays. It's a little embarrassing to say out loud, makes one think of a great uncle who was a little special, or something (like Merle's a real hip name). Maybe Ernest didn't have that rebel personality we like to associate with real Country. So far as i know Tubb wasn't a drunk, didn't do jail time, didn't take the pot (sorry, Woodstock reference), didn't really invent a genre, and didn't die tragically.

Like Patsy Montana and Jimmie Rodgers, it's hard now to fully grasp how big Ernest Tubb was in his day, and all the way up through the 70's, racking up top ten hits and legions of fans. Tubb was one of the most honored and revered Country stars on the planet for almost 50 years. Many, myself included, considered Tubb the quintessential sound of country, from the spot-on arrangements and instrumental prowess, to a dead killer voice that rivals George Jones in its perfect blend of honk, yodel, and cry.

But something happened over the last 10 years or so. Tubb's name started disappearing from lists of influences. No features or career retrospective in popular country music magazines. Ernest got traded for Gram. I'm not saying he's completely disappeared. You can still hear "Walking the Floor" and "Thanks a Lot" being covered by any honkey tonk bar band worth their salt. He's still regarded highly, just not mentioned very often. Perhaps it's sour grapes on my part. Along with the Hanks (Snow, Williams, and Thompson), Tubb's on my short list. I'll ramble on about Ernest to complete strangers if given the chance. Not very successfully, it should be noted. Thanks a lot.

Cornpone vs. the big, big city.

Did I miss the mark?

Two tipplin' tunes from Tubb, then. One with a very special guest (Ernest was know for his duets). Guess who.

Ernest Tubb: Drivin' Nails in My Coffin (mp3)

Ernest Tubb w/Very Special Guest: Bartender (mp3)

Please consider shopping from your local independent.

Holiday fun begins in a week and a day. First entry I know y'all gonna really like. I swear.


Satisfied '75 said...



Ed said...

Another outstanding post! and following that great Sammi Smith.
I can not argue with your statement that Tubb was "the quintessential sound of country". Your selection of the duet with Loretta was an excellent choice. Looking forward to holiday fun.

mister anchovy said...

When I was about 7 years old, my father brought me home an old record player (the kind where you have to balance pennies on the tone arm to stop the skipping) and my first record, Walkin the Floor over You, by Ernest Tubb. I think this sealed what was to become a lifelong love of all kinds of rootsy music. Along the way, he also introduced me to jazz, and trout fishing. He was a hellova guy.

Billy K said...

Yeah...I sing in various country/honky-tonk/rockabilly bands, and even the professionals I've played with don't really have any E.T. arrows in their quiver. They know all the songs, but they're never in the set.

We did learn a few ("Waltz Across Texas," "Drivin' Nails," "Two Glasses, Joe," and "Thanks a Lot"), but there just isn't a surge of recognition like there is for the Willies, Waylons, even Johnny Hortons.

I think you're right that it's because he never did anything really outlandish to draw attention to himself. I think also, he is seen as one-dimensional. His voice is distinct, but his material rarely strayed from his "sound."

I think most importantly, though, a lot of the new recognition of old country heroes comes from rockabillies and just regular ol' rock-music fans nowadays. E.T. just doesn't seem to do it for them.

Well, we'll get there. I did two of his songs Sunday. Not gonna stop any time soon.

Billy K said...

One more thing...

I have to disagree with your comment that he didn't "invent" a genre. In the early days, "Country Music" was referred to in the press and on the charts as "Hillbilly." While I don't have a problem with that now, at the time it was a mild slur. E.T. lobbied successfully to have it changed to "Country Music."

He was also, famously, the first act at the grand Ol' Opry to have a drum set on stage. It was not without controversy at the time. a way, Tubb invented modern Country Music.

countrygrrl said...

hey there big rock..this gets better every your post with ernest tubb. I remember way back when in aberdeen in scotland coming across a vinyl copy of the guy and loved what i heard..i spent my laudry mat money on the album and wore my jeans for a couple of extra weeks..god is that not anorakish or what..anyway .ernest hope you appreciate it...