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Tex Morton
Born:  August 30, 1916
Died:  July 23, 1983
Australasian Country Music Roll of Reknown (1976)

About The Artist

Tex Morton was born Robert Lane in Nelson, New Zealand, on August 30, 1916, the eldest son of a respectable middle-class family. He attended the prestigious Nelson College as a teenager but left at the age of fifteen to pursue a music career.

He was especially influenced by early "citybilly" artists such as Vernon Dalhart, Carson Robison and Frank Luther; by the British Alpine yodeller Harry Torrani; and by Goebel Reeves. But, later, his major influence appears to have been Jimmie Rodgers, whose style he emulated. Morton was a skilled yodeler and could perform complex Alpine-style yodels, Rodgers-style blue yodels and Reeves-type trill yodels.

As a teenager he performed in various small entertainment roles in New Zealand, adopting the moniker "Tex Morton", and in the early 1930s he recorded some private (vanity) discs, three of which came to light in 2003.

Sometime around 1932 to 1934 (the precise date is unknown) he travelled to Australia and initially led a nomadic life, busking on streets in cities and towns, working in traveling shows, and being employed in various trade-related occupations - a life he recalled with some bitterness in his later years, and which he described in his song "The Good Old Days".

In 1936 he won a radio-station talent quest and made his first commercial recordings for the Columbia Graphophone Company (a subsidiary of British Columbia). He achieved enormous success with these recordings, and from 1936 to 1943 he cut 93 sides for Columbia - songs embracing pseudo-cowboy themes ("Going Back To Texas", "Texas In The Spring"), sentimental songs ("There Are Tear Stains On Your Letter Mother Dear"), hobo songs ("So You're Going To Leave The Old Home, Jim" - essentially "The Tramp's Mother", "The End Of The Hobo's Trail"), rodeo and buckjumping songs ("Rocky Ned", "Mandrake") and late-Victorian chestnuts ("The Letter Edged In Black").

Increasingly, he sang and wrote songs about Australia and its stockmen ("Wrap Me Up In My Stockwhip And Blanket") or hobos ("On The Gundagai Line", "Travel By Train"). One song about a railroad policeman ("Sergeant Small") resulted in the aggrieved policeman successfully seeking an order to have the record removed from the catalog. Morton's composition "I'm Dreaming Tonight Of The Old Folks" was even recorded (in smoother style) by the American Dickie McBride.

In 1943 Morton clashed with Columbia's Record Sales Manager, Arch Kerr, and walked out on the company. One bone of contention might have been his insistence on recording with his band, The Roughriders (fiddle, steel guitar, accordion and guitar).

During his career with Columbia, he had recorded with harmonica player Harry Thompson, American wrestler Pat Fraley, and the first Australian female to record country music, Sister Dorrie (Dorothy Carroll), who was closely associated with Morton until 1949. She also was his assistant with his sharpshooting act (Morton was an expert marksman), having cigarettes clenched between her teeth or pieces of chalk held between her fingers shot by Morton.

During the 1940s, Morton organised his travelling rodeo, featuring buckjumping, whip cracking, sharpshooting, boxing, circus acts and his singing. He regularly drew crowds of 2000 or more nightly, and was extremely popular and influential: other seminal Australian artists such as Buddy Williams and Slim Dusty freely acknowledged his immense influence.

His Columbia Graphophone recordings essentially became the bedrock of early Australian country music.

In 1949 he met Ralph Peer, then in Australia, and recorded two dozen songs (mainly from Peer's Southern Music catalog). These were released on New Zealand's Tasman label and Australia's Rodeo label. The songs are usually considered to have been made in New Zealand, but some might have been cut in Sydney.

From 1950 to 1959 Morton was in the USA and Canada. He performed with the Canadian Dixie Bill Hilton and his Calgary Range Riders and toured with Pee Wee King probably in early 1952.

In March 1953 he recorded seven songs for OKeh in Nashville, accompanied by some of Nashville's finest musicians (Ernie Newton, Jerry Byrd, Tommy Jackson, Owen Bradley and either Hank Garland or Grady Martin) but his contract was not renewed.

Instead, he toured Canada and parts of the USA as "The Great Morton" - a stage hypnotist act. Newspaper clippings of the time suggest he was extremely popular and earned considerable amounts of money (most of which he spent).

In 1959 he returned to Australia with an Oscar Davis managed tour featuring Roy Acuff, the Wilburn Brothers and June Webb, but the tour was not successful and had to be cancelled. Instead, Acuff and his crew made some 39 Roy Acuff Open House television shows in Sydney, and these were later shown in South East Asia and the USA.

Morton toured Australia and the Far East, recorded sporadically, made albums of narrations, and acted in television series and movies. In 1976 he was the initial inductee into the Australasian Country Music Roll of Renown (Australia's equivalent of the Country Music Hall of Fame) and is generally acknowledged as "the father of Australian country music".

He died on 23 July, 1983.

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its appreciation to Andrew Smith of Australia for providing us with the biography of Tex Morton.

Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

 
Columbia
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  C-2241 A I've Known The Truth
  C-2241 B I Was Born In Old Wyoming
  DO 9025 A The Transport Man
  DO 9025 B The Black Sheep
  DO-10256 A Bob The Log
  DO-10256 B There's A Bridle Hanging On The Wall
  DO-4762 A The Green Green Grass of Home
  DO-4762 B Tex Morton's Protest Song
  DO-4785 A The Cream Inbetween
  DO-4785 B 21st Birthday
  DO-5031 A The Jailhouse Window
  DO-5031 B Barnacle Bill The Sailor
  DO-8303 A Welcome To The Club
  DO-8303 B I've Got You (Right Out Of My Mind)
  GD 254 A The Big Rock Candy Mountains
  GD 254 B My Sweetheart's In Love With A Swiss Mountaineer
 
OKeh
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  18014 A I've Known The Truth
  18014 B I Was Born In Old Wyoming
 
Rodeo Records
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  10-0007 A A Rolling Stone
  10-0007 B Slipping Around
 
Philips
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  P24506 H A I've Got You
  P24506 H B Railroad Boomer
 
Tasman (NZ)
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  TA-001 A He Holds The Lantern
  TA-001 B One Has My Name
  TA-002 A Don't Make Me Go To Bed
  TA-002 B Frankie And Johnnie
  TA-003 A You And My Old Guitar
  TA-003 A You And My Old Guitar
  TA-003 B My Daddy Is Only A Picture
  TA-003 B My Daddy Is Only A Picture
  TA-004 A Stockman's Prayer
  TA-004 B My Little Lady
  TA-005 A Soldier's Sweetheart, Part 1
  TA-005 B Soldier's Sweetheart, Part 2
  TA-006 A When You Have No One To Love You
  TA-006 B Teardrops In My Heart
  TA-007 A A Rolling Stone
  TA-007 B Slippin' Around
  TA-008 A This Cold War With You
  TA-008 B Treasures Untold
  TA-009 A I'll Never Slip Around Again
  TA-009 B Rock My Cradle
  TA-010 A Waiting For A Train
  TA-010 B Rose Of Shenandoah Valley
  TA-011 A Just Because
  TA-011 B Wabash Cannonball
  TA-012 A One Golden Curl
  TA-012 A Rock My Cradle Once Again (w/Sister Dorrie)
  TA-012 B When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again
  TA-012 B Just Because (w/Sister Dorrie)
 
Regal Zonophone (AUS)
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  G22714 A Texas In The Spring
  G22714 B Going Back To Texas
  G22715 A Happy Yodeller
  G22715 B Swiss Sweetheart
  G22716 A Wyoming Willie
  G22716 B You're Going To Leave The Old Home Jim
  G22717 A The Oregon Trail
  G22717 B Carry Me Back To The Lone Prairie
  G22872 A The Prairie Is A Lonesome Place At Night
  G22872 B Sing You Cowboy
  G22904 A Wrap Me Up In My Stockwhip And Blanket
  G22904 B Wandering Stockman
  G22905 A Old Ship Of Mine
  G22905 B Ragtime Cowboy Joe
  G22950 A Just Drifting Along
  G22950 B The Yodelling Bagman
  G22951 A On The Gundagai Line
  G22951 B All Set And Saddled
  G23058 A Lonesome Valley Sally
  G23058 B Take Me Back To Dream By The Old Mill Stream
  G23064 A The Black Sheep
  G23064 B You Only Have One Mother
  G23145 A Old Pal Of My Boyhood Days
  G23145 B Across The Great Divide
  G23146 A Why Should I Work
  G23146 B The End Of A Hobo's Trail
  G23166 A The Railroad Bum
  G23166 B Fanny Bay Blues
  G23167 A Barnacle Bill The Sailor
  G23167 B Peg Leg Jack
  G23278 A My Sweetheart's In Love With A Swiss Mountaineer
  G23278 B The Big Rock Candy Mountain
  G23279 A Rockin' Alone In An Old Rockin' Chair
  G23279 B There Are Tear Stains On Your Letter Mother Dear
  G23382 A The Greatest Mistake Of My Life
  G23382 B I'm Dreaming Tonight Of The Old Folks
  G23383 A The Letter Edged In Black
  G23383 B Yellow Rose Of Texas
  G23415 A My Blueridge Mountain Home
  G23415 B Weeping Willow Tree
  G23416 A When It's Night Time In Nevada
  G23416 B Red River Valley
  G23476 A Old Shep (w/Sister Dorrie)
  G23476 B Through The Sin Of A Son (w/Sister Dorrie)
  G23493 A Sergeant Small
  G23493 B The Martins And The Coys
  G23494 A I Left My Heart In Red River Valley
  G23494 B Bird In A Gilded Cage
  G23529 A The Martins And The Coys
  G23529 B Move Along Baldy
  G23582 A Dying Duffer's Prayer
  G23582 B Young Pat Maloney
  G23631 A Dreaming With Tears In My Eyes
  G23631 B My Old Cripple Daddy
  G23682 A Old Man Duff
  G23682 B Crime Does Not Pay
  G23756 A Bonny Blue Eyes
  G23756 B My Old Bunkhouse Buddies
  G23757 A Travel By Train
  G23757 B Murrumbidgee Jack
  G23849 A Dreams Of Silver
  G23849 B Rocky Ned
  G23853 A I'll Be Hanged If They're Gonna Hang Me
  G23853 B I'm Gonna Yodel My Way To Heaven
  G23895 A The Day I Left Daddy Alone
  G23895 B The Ned Kelly Song
  G23896 A Hand Me Down My Walking Cane
  G23896 B Let The Rest Of The World Go By
  G23933 A Billy Brink The Shearer
  G23933 B Little Sweetheart Of Days Gone By
  G23934 A When The Bloom Is On The Sage
  G23934 B Sleepy Hollow
  G23995 A Freight Train Yodel
  G23995 B Aristocrat
  G24029 A Beautiful Queensland
  G24029 B She Came Rolling Down The Mountain
  G24030 A If You Please Miss Give Me Heaven
  G24030 B Just Plain Folks
  G24031 A Old Boko And Me
  G24031 B The Stockman's Last Bed
  G24172 A Old Rover
  G24172 B You'll Never Be Missed
  G24263 A In The Luggage Van Ahead
  G24263 B The Drover's Wife
  G24314 A Come Back To The Valley
  G24314 B Everything But You
  G24345 A Mandrake
  G24345 B Don't Sat Goodbye (Tex Morton & Sister Dorrie)
  G24376 A Old Shep
  G24376 B Through The Sin Of A Son
  G24394 A When The Cactus Is In Bloom
  G24394 B Rover No More
  G24731 A The Flowers Never Bloom In Lonesome Valley
  G24731 B The Story Of Parson Joe
  G24732 A The Good Old Droving Days
  G24732 B Neath The Silver Willow Tree
 
Sego
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  70048 A The Yellow Rose Of Texas
  70048 A The Letter Edged In Black
  70048 B She Came Rolling Down The Mountain
  70048 B Beautiful Queensland
 
Festival
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  FK-259 A The Disqualified Jockey
  FK-259 B The Letter Edged In Black
  FK-3170 A The Cat Came Back
  FK-3170 B Rye Whiskey
  FWA-117 A You And My Old Guitar
  FWA-117 B Dreams Of Silver
  FWA-118 A Wrap Me Up With My Stockwhip And Blanket
  FWA-118 B Flowers Never Bloom In Lonesome Valley
  FX-10 356 A The Cat Came Back
  FX-10 356 A In Eleven More Months
  FX-10 356 B The Tramp's Mother
  FX-10 356 B Don't Go Down The Mine, Dad
  FX-10 546 A Waltzing Matilda
  FX-10 546 B I Belong To Glasgow
  FX5115 A Wrap Me Up With My Stockwhip And Blanket
  FX5115 A They Cut Down The Old Pine Tree
  FX5115 B Sleepy Hollow
  FX5115 B May I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight Mister Morris
 
Picture Record Co.
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  PRS 001 A The Goondiwindi Grey
  PRS 001 B Drinking With The Dead (The Glass On The Bar)
 
Rodeo Records (AUS)
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  10-0001 A One Has My Name, The Other Has My Heart
  10-0001 B He Holds The Lantern (While His Mother Chops The Wood)
  10-0002 A Frankie and Johnnie
  10-0002 B Don't Make Me Go To Bed And I'll Be Good
  10-0003 A You And My Old Guitar
  10-0003 B My Daddy Is Only A Picture
  10-0004 A Stockman's Prayer
  10-0004 B My Little Lady
  10-0006 A Slipping Around
  10-0006 B A Rolling Stone
  10-0007 A A Rolling Stone
  10-0007 B Slipping Around
  10-0008 A This Cold War With You
  10-0008 B Treasure Untold
  10-0009 A I'll Never Slip Around Again
  10-0009 B Rock My Cradle
  10-0010 A Waiting For A Train
  10-0010 B Rose Of Shennandoah Valley
  10-0011 A Just Because
  10-0011 B Wabash Cannonball
  10-0012 A One Golden Curl
  10-0012 B When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again