Tex Williams (1917-1985) was one of the champions of the West Coast country scene, singing western swing, honkytonk and boogie songs with equal aplomb. He's best known for classic novelty hits such as "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)" and the cheerfully mysogynistic anthem "Never Trust A Woman." In the 1940s, Williams was the featured singer in Spade Cooley's band, though when they parted ways, Williams cherrypicked several of the best musicians for his own group, and continued recording and touring throughout the '50s and '60s and even had modest chart success in the early '70s. Here's a quick look at his career...
Tex Williams & His Western Caravan "Vintage Collections" (Capitol, 1996)
In the 1940s, Williams was a star performer in Spade Cooley's band, and was one of western swing's great singers. This disc's a little uneven, especially towards the end, but it's still a spiffy collection, probably the best overview of Williams's career. Also check out a young guitarist named Glen Campbell backing Williams up on an early '60s concert recording... Now there's some country music history for you...!
Tex Williams "The Very Best Of: The Shasta Years" (Varese Sarabande, 2000)
This collection picks up where the Capitol collection (above) left off: in the twilight of Williams' career, in the early 1960s, when he was recording for cowboy singer Jimmy Wakeley's independent Shasta label. These are not, frankly, the greatest country recordings ever, and the lingering traces of his western swing past are all but gone at this point. It's okay, but there's certainly better material to be heard elsewhere...
Tex Williams "That's What I Like About The West" (ASV, 2001)
Novelty-oriented Californian western swing, featuring the jovial vocals of Spade Cooley's former lead singer... Williams set out on his own after WWII, and had hits of his own, notably "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette" and the cheerfully misogynistic "Never Trust A Woman." This brisk collection gathers 25 of his best recordings from 1944-49, including several with the Spade Cooley Orchestra, and plenty more from the years that followed. Williams had kind of a raspy voice, which sometimes precluded him from singing serious heartsongs (but not always, as a few tracks on this disc demonstrate...) but when it came to humorous, half-recited novelty ditties, he was the king. Admittedly, the schtick can wear thin, but for the most part it's still pretty fun... There have been other fine Tex Williams retrospectives before, this is one of the liveliest, with little-known gems such as "Wild Card," "Ham & Eggs" and "Who? Me?" as well as the lofty "Artistry In Western Swing," a countrified cover of Stan Kenton's groundbreaking jazz-classical crossovers of the late '40s. Nice record... definitely recommended!
Tex Williams "On the Air: 1947-1949" (Country Routes, 1997)
Tex Williams & Spade Cooley "A Western Swing Dance Date With Spade And Tex" (Jasmine, 2000)
Tex Williams "...And His Western Caravan: 1946-1951" (Country Routes, 2002)
Tex Williams "Hey Mr. Cotton Picker" (BACM, 2005)
Tex Williams "River Of No Return" (BACM, 2005)
Tex Williams "Artistry In Western Swing" (Binge Disc/Bronco Buster)
Tex Williams "Western Swing Nostalgia" (Binge Disc/Bronco Buster)
Tex Williams "Country And Western Dance-O-Rama" (Decca, 1955) (LP)
Tex Williams "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!" (Capitol, 1960) (LP)
Tex Williams "Country Music Time" (Decca, 1962) (LP)
Tex Williams "...In Las Vegas" (Liberty, 1963) (LP)
Although Williams himself as a vocalist is typically static and lumbering, the band backing him brings new vitality to these golden oldies... Tex uses a perfunctory cover of "My Window Faces The South" to give shout-outs to the band, which included the up-and-coming guitarist Glen Campbell, one of several pickers who gave this live gig a little boost of energy, and made this a more enjoyable album than it might have otherwise been. (Note: this was reissued as Tex Williams, on Liberty's Sunset imprint, with a few tracks left out. Alas.)
Tex Williams "Tex Williams" (Liberty-Sunset, 1966) (LP)
A (partial) reissue of the Live In Las Vegas listed above, with three tracks deleted from the set list.
Tex Williams "Voice Of Authority" (Imperial, 1966) (LP)
Tex Williams "Two Sides Of Tex Williams" (Boone, 1966) (LP)
Tex Williams "A Man Called Tex" (Monument, 1971) (LP)
Tex Williams "Those Lazy, Hazy Days" (Granite, 1974) (LP)
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