AUK’s interviews maestro Martin Johnson is not an easy man to follow. His choice last week also left me trying to follow Guy Clark (how the hell do you do that?) through Martin’s selection of ‘Hemmingway’s Whiskey’. After many days of walking around in a daze, scratching my head and furrowing my brow, something finally sparked in my head. ERNEST Hemingway. How many other Ernests do I know? Ernest Tubb! That’s it – Ernest Tubb it is.
Ernest Tubb was known as ‘The Texas Troubadour’ and was one of the pioneers of country music with his 1941 hit ‘Walking the Floor Over You’ being recognised as the song that gave rise to the honky-tonk style. Like many country stars he emerged from poverty through his talent for music. His first paid music job was a singer on a San Antonio radio station when he was 19 years old. Tubb got a record deal with RCA in 1936 but failed to get a hit. In 1940 he joined Decca and looked to be heading the same way until his sixth record for the company, the aforementioned ‘Walking the Floor Over You’ sold over a million copies. He went on to have many more hits including ‘Drivin’ Nails in My Coffin’ in 1946, which is the track featured here. The performance shown comes from a 1961 TV appearance. Amongst those in his band here are guitarist Leon Rhodes who as well as his long spell with Tubb was also well known and respected as a staff guitarist at the Grand Ole Opry. Renown for the speed and accuracy of his playing, Vince Gill said of him “Leon Rhodes can play circles around most guitar players”. Also featuring in Tubb’s band is the great Buddy Emmons on steel guitar. Emmons went on to be a much in demand session and live musician, playing with countless greats, not just of country music, but many other genres too. He won The Academy of Country Music’s ‘Best Steel Guitarist’ Award no less than nine times. He is also credited with pioneering the ‘split-pedal’ set-up which is now standard on steel guitars and co-founded the steel guitar making company ‘Emmons’ which has since closed although the instruments are still much sought after.