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 remembers a pioneering musician who helped open doors for other female artists in country music.
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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“Texas Ruby” was born Ruby Agnes Owens, in Wise County, Texas, on June 6, 1910. She began singing at the age of 3 with her brother, Tex Owens, who would later compose the Eddy Arnold hit “Cattle Call.” By 1937, Texas Ruby was performing on the radio and recording for Decca Records. She wrote and sang the kind of songs that normally were off limits to female performers at the time. Such tunes as “Don’t Let Your Man Get You Down” hinted at the type of proto-feminist themes that would appear decades later in songs by Tammy Wynette, Jeannie C. Riley and others. In 1939, Texas Ruby married well-known fiddler Curly Fox. Together they performed for years on the Grand Ole Opry, until her death in 1963.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll look at a popular Texas ballad based on an actual gunfight.