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Ernest Tubb
The Texas Troubadour
By Ronnie Pugh
Duke University Press
1998
512 Pages
ISBN:   0-8223-1859-8

Buy this Book

In this definitive biography of Ernest Tubb, Ronnie Pugh brings one of country music’s greatest performers back to center stage. Tracing a career that began in the 1930s and continued until just a few years before Tubb’s death in 1984, Pugh presents not only the long and legendary life of the Texas Troubadour but also an unparalleled view of the world of country music in which Ernest Tubb played an essential part.

Tubb began his career as an imitator of Jimmie Rodgers, but stormed the country music scene in the 1940s with a new honky tonk sound and a string of hits that included “Walking the Floor Over You.” His innovations marked an important transition in country music to a style and lyric in tune with modern American working people, or at least that offered the real-life themes of hard drinking, divorce, tough times, and ruined lives—changes that helped define the music we recognize today as “country.” A member of the Grand Ole Opry until 1982, Tubb hosted a live radio broadcast from the Ernest Tubb Record Shop in Nashville for years and became one of the first country music stars to host his own television show in the mid-1960s. Always popular and on the road much of the time even after his prime hit-making years had ended, he was well-known for promoting the careers of many new performers on the rise.

Delving into fan club journals, songbooks, newspaper broadcast logs, record company files, and hundreds of interviews, Ronnie Pugh draws a picture of Tubb—exploring both his personal and professional life—that is unprecedented in its intimacy, detail, and vitality. We get a close-up view of Tubb riding the crest of his popularity, setting the pace for Nashville, facing the onslaught of Elvis Presley and rock ’n roll, and surviving as a country music legend. Richly illustrated with almost a hundred photographs, many of which are rare unpublished shots from private collections, Ernest Tubb also contains a detailed and complete sessionography, a resource that will be of continuing importance for serious record collectors.

A biography that has been long awaited from Ronnie Pugh, unquestionably the leading authority on Ernest Tubb, this book will delight readers from among the fans of country music, those interested in the history of country music or American popular music and culture generally, and, of course, Ernest Tubb fans.

“Ernest Tubb . . . he was always bigger than life to me. Every time I sang with him, it was always the same . . . he is immortal. His life and helping hand touched mine and many more in a special way. Ronnie Pugh captured the heart and soul of Ernest Tubb in Ernest Tubb: The Texas Troubadour. This book should be a part of every country music fan’s library.”
—Loretta Lynn

“Ronnie Pugh has spent years studying and researching the life and career of my father, Ernest Tubb . . . and the picture he has painted is right on the money! It’s all here, the good and the bad. Reading the book was like having my dad back for a little while.”
—Justin Tubb

“The first phonograph record I ever purchased was by Ernest Tubb. He was my hero long before he became my friend. Country music has never produced a kinder, gentler, more caring humanitarian than the Texas Troubadour. Ronnie Pugh’s book is a vivid and touching portrayal of a gifted entertainer and a marvelous human being.”
—Bill Anderson

“In many ways, Tubb is the father of modern country music, and this book is the definitive account of his career. It chronicles an age of country music that has too often been ignored by earlier writers in the field, a terra incognita in which are found the wellsprings of modern country music and the methods of presenting it. This is the best biography of any modern country music artist I have read. It will become a definitive book on American culture.”
—Charles Wolfe, author of Kentucky Country, Tennessee Strings and co-author of The Life and Legend of Leadbelly

“This book takes its place as a standard in country music studies. Ronnie Pugh’s outstanding scholarship goes very far beyond much that remains tawdry in pop culture hype. He stands with Bill Malone, Bob Pinson, Joe Dan Boyd, Dave Whisnant, and fellow ‘natives’ who loved ‘their’ music in childhood and, as adults, paid it the dues of critical respect.”
—Archie Green, author of Only a Miner and Wobblies, Pile Butts, and Other Heroes

  • Ronnie Pugh is Head of Reference at the Country Music Foundation, Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of numerous articles on country music and has written the liner notes for dozens of country music recordings.