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 World War I doughboy who helped launch the singing cowboy craze of the 1930s and 1940s.
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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Beginning on Aug. 3, 1925, Carl T. Sprague recorded 10 cowboy songs for the Victor Recording Company of New Jersey. Born in Brazoria County, Texas, on May 10, 1895, Sprague had learned cowboy songs as a child growing up on a cattle ranch. During World War I, he joined the U.S. Army. After serving in France, he returned home to earn a degree at Texas A&M University. While working as an athletic trainer at A&M, Sprague made his recordings for the Victor label. One of those tunes, “When the Work’s All Done This Fall,” was the first cowboy-themed song to become a national hit.
Carl Sprague marketed himself as a genuine Texas cowboy, often performing in chaps, boots and a hat. His popularity helped start the singing cowboy craze of the 1930s and 1940s, which launched the careers of fellow Texans Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, Dale Evans and many others.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a singer who seemed to have an answer for everything.