Legendary pioneer country music stars including radio shows from the 1940's.
In 1943, when he was the top-selling country singer in the land, and when his records were outselling those of international artists (such as Bing Crosby) in Australia, Tex Morton walked out on his record company, the Columbia Graphophone Company. The singer who had almost single-handedly moulded the local country-music industry in Australia through a memorable series of influential discs would not record again for another six years.
The exact reasons for Morton’s virtual abdication of his title of Australia’s premier country recording artist will probably never be fully disclosed, but it seems likely that Morton and Arch Kerr, the Record Sales Manager for Columbia, had a disagreement over the use of backing groups on Morton’s records, the means by which backing musicians would be paid when they did accompany Morton, and perhaps the signing to Columbia of Buddy Williams, another ‘cowboy’ singer whom Morton probably saw as a rival. Whatever the reasons for Morton’s departure from the recording scene, the fact remained that the years 1943 to 1949 (when he made some records for the Rodeo and Tasman labels) marked a recording ‘drought’ in Morton’s career. In 1975 country-music authority Eric Watson described the situation as “One of the great tragedies of country music”, and stated: “What gems would have been produced in those years we will never know”.
Although we will probably never discover all the facets of Morton’s music during the years 1943 to 1949, this recording can, however, provide a glimpse into the type of material he performed during that time. This is because the songs and monologues have been taken from previously unissued sources: transcription discs made for radio-station airplay. Like its predecessor, TEX MORTON “Showtime Radio”, it affords an insight into the world of ‘live’ country music on radio during the formative years of Australian country music.
At the time these recordings were made (about 1948), Tex Morton had not made a record for the Columbia Graphophone Company for about five years. The Columbia Graphophone Company had a monopoly on the local country-music product and Arch Kerr, who decided who and what was recorded for the company, seemed unperturbed by his absence. “Tex knows where we are,” he told Ron Wills his assistant. “Let him come back and ask.”
Although he had burned his bridges with Columbia, Morton continued to tour with his rodeo and variety shows. On most of these he was accompanied by his duet partner and travelling companion, ‘Sister’ Dorrie (Dorothy Ricketts), who had cut some songs with Morton in 1941. These discs established her as the first female Australian country recording artist. Judging by the accompaniment on some of the tracks on this recording, Morton was using the ‘Rough Riders’ backing group, who – together with Sister Dorrie – gave his music a fuller sound than the often sparse accompaniment on his early Columbia discs.
The music in these radio programs demonstrates that Morton continued to perform many of his previous hits during 1943-1949 recording drought. Nearly all the songs on this recording are ‘live’ performances of songs that he had previously recorded for Columbia. Two exceptions are the monologues, Soldier’s Sweetheart (which he recorded about a year later) and Along The Stock Route. These suggest that Morton became increasingly interested in monologues during the 1940s. He recorded a number of these in the United States and Canada during the 1950s, and on his return to Australia made whole albums of verse reading. In his later years, Morton hones his monologue skills to a fine art: he could speak with a surprising variety of accents, and his resonant voice stamped him as one of Australia’s leading exponents of the genre.. These recitations from 1948 are, therefore, especially interesting because they showcase an earlier stage of another facet of Morton’s multi-dimensional career.
Morton recorded the American chestnuts Hand Me Down My Walking Cane and Red River Valley as duets early in his career – the first with Pat Fraley, a wrestler, in 1939 (Regal-Zonophone G23896); the second with Harry Thompson in 1938 (Regal-Zonophone G23416).
Elsie McWilliams wrote My Little Lady about a girlhood friend names Haydee. Her brother-in-law America’s famous ‘Singing Brakeman’, Jimmie Rodgers, recorded the song in 1928 and it was released in Australia in 1930. Morton may have learned it as a teenager in New Zealand. In later years, Morton – like many other Australasian country singers – credited Rodgers as being a major influence in the development of country music in Australia and New Zealand.
Contents selected from radio programmes believed to have been broadcast in 1948. The studio accompaniment was most probably The Rough Riders Band.
Tex Morton: vocals, guitar, yodeling and monologues.
Sister Dorrie: vocals.
- Hand Me Down My Walking Cane
- My Little Lady
- Deep in the Heart of Texas
- Soldier’s Sweetheart
- I’ll Be Hanged If They’re Gonna Hang Me
- Beautiful Queensland
- Old Rover
- Wyoming Willie
- Red River Valley
- Red River Valley (version two)
- The Big Rock Candy Mountain
- Through the Sin of a Son
- Rover No More
- Sleepy Hollow
- The Martins & The Coys
- Along the Stock Route
- She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain
- The Yellow Rose of Texas
- The Black Sheep
- Ragtime Cowboy Joe