Tex Williams Biography

Sollie Paul Williams, 23 August 1917, Ramsey, Fayette County, Illinois, USA, d. 11 October 1985, Newhall, California, USA. His father was a keen fiddler, and by the time he was 13 years old, Williams had a local radio programme as a one-boy band. He toured with the Reno Racketeers but he soon turned to Hollywood. In 1940 he appeared alongside Tex Ritter in Rollin’ Home To Texas and then made a long chain of westerns, many of them Saturday morning serials. He managed to overcome his limp, a legacy of childhood polio, and he became known as ‘Tex’, as, presumably, Illinois Williams did not have the same ring. Williams also played bass and sang with Spade Cooley’s western swing band, establishing himself as a vocalist on Cooley’s 1945 country hit, ‘Shame On You’. In 1947, Capitol Records had their first million-selling record with Williams’ fast-talking, deep-voiced monologue, ‘Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)’, which he wrote with Merle Travis. As his songs often praised smoking, he became known as ‘The Man Who Sings Tobacco Best’, but this was before the link between cigarettes and cancer was known. In 1948, Williams had success with another narration, ‘Life Gits Tee-jus, Don’t It?’, but the composer Carson Jay Robison took the main honours. Williams’ other successes included ‘That’s What I Like About The West’, ‘Never Trust A Woman’, ‘Don’t Telephone, Don’t Telegraph, Tell A Woman’, ‘Suspicion’ and ‘Talking Boogie’. He and his band played dancehalls all over the USA and he promoted Nudie’s stage suits, helping Nudie become the tailor to country stars. His 1963 album, Tex Williams In Las Vegas, was recorded at the Mint Club in 1963, featuring Glen Campbell and produced by one of the Crickets, Tommy Allsup. His subsequent singles included ‘Too Many Tigers’, ‘Bottom Of The Mountain’, ‘The Night Miss Nancy Ann’s Hotel For Single Girls Burned Down’ and ‘Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! ’68’ with Merle Travis. The smoke, smoke, smoke caught up with him and he died of lung cancer in 1985 at his home in Newhall, California.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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