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This Week in Texas Music History: Al Dexter

by Stephen Becker 25 Jan 2013 2:00 PM

This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll learn about a musical pioneer who drew inspiration from a barroom brawl.


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 in Texas Music History, we’ll visit a place that puts the official state seal on the sounds of Texas.

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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Al Dexter died in Lewisville  on Jan. 28, 1984. Born in Jacksonville, Texas, in 1902, he gained popularity writing songs describing his experiences in East Texas nightclubs. In 1936, Dexter released “Honky-Tonk Blues,” the first country record to use the term honky-tonk in its title. In that song and others, he described the rough-and-tumble nightlife found in many Texas beer joints. In 1943, Al Dexter wrote what would become his biggest hit after witnessing a jealous woman brandishing a gun while chasing her husband’s mistress through a barroom.

Al Dexter’s “Pistol-Packin’ Mama” achieved early country-crossover success when Bing Crosby recorded it with the Andrews Sisters in 1943.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet the original “Gangster of Love.”