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 introduces us to one of the most successful yet least well-known musicians ever to come from the Lone Star State.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. 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 KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.
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Singer and composer Gene Austin died on Jan. 24, 1972. Born Eugene Lucas on June 24, 1900, in Gainesville, Texas, he was only 15 when he began singing in a vaudeville show. Although Austin never learned to read music, he composed more than 100 songs, which were recorded by such stars as Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Some of Austin’s tunes also became early jazz standards. He also appeared in movies and was a popular singer in his own right. He sold more than 80 million recordings, including such hits as “Bye Bye, Blackbird” and “My Blue Heaven.”
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll celebrate a jazz musician who gained fame playing country music.