Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman recalls an often overlooked musician who helped lay the foundation for western swing.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.
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Cloet Hamman, born on May 5, 1899, was the guitarist and last surviving member of the East Texas Serenaders. Although not well known outside of the state, the East Texans Serenaders were one of the most unique and innovative string bands in the Southwest during the 1920s. Featuring fiddle, banjo, guitar and cello, the Serenaders performed breakdowns and other traditional fiddle music, but they specialized in rags and jazzier numbers that drew from African-American musical traditions. The East Texas Serenaders made several recordings in the late 1920s for Columbia and other major labels. The East Texas Serenaders’ records, which blended country, jazz, swing and ragtime, preceded recordings by Bob Wills and Milton Brown by several years and helped lay the foundation for the emergence of Western swing in the 1930s.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll learn about the unlikely origins of one of the state’s best-known songs.