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This Week in Texas Music History: Smith Ballew
by Stephen Becker 21 Jan 2011

This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll recall a singer, actor, and bandleader who carried Texas jazz to Hollywood.


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 a singer, actor and bandleader who carried Texas jazz to Hollywood.

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 KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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Smith Ballew was born Sykes Ballew in Palestine, Texas, on Jan. 21, 1902. He attended the University of Texas, where he organized a jazz group known as Jimmie’s Joys. Ballew worked with Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and several other notable jazz musicians before starting his own highly successful band, the Smith Ballew Orchestra, in 1929. Smith Ballew went on to record for more than 30 record labels, including Columbia, Victor and Decca. He also lived in Hollywood for more than 20 years, where he played music and appeared in two dozen movies.