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 celebrates a successful artist whose musical career almost ended before it began.
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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Saxophonist Henry “Buster” Smith was born in Alsdorf, Texas, on Aug. 24, 1904. As a boy, Smith would crawl up on a bench to play the keyboard of the family organ, while his brother crouched below working the foot pedals. Smith’s grandfather was convinced that playing music would lead the boys toward a life of sin, so he sold the organ, hoping to end his grandson’s dreams of a musical career. Undaunted, Buster Smith persevered and went on to play with many early jazz greats, including Count Basie, Charlie Christian and Benny Moten. Buster Smith also mentored such younger artists as Charlie Parker and T-Bone Walker, who would go on to become musical legends.