About The Artist
Benjamin Franklin Logan, Jr. was a Texas-born hillbilly fiddler who acquired the nickname Tex when he went east to attend graduate school and eventually became something of a legend in his field. Unlike most people in his trade, Logan also obtained three college degrees, held a key position at the Bell Labs in New Jersey, and held patents. He also composed the ultimate bluegrass Christmas song "Christmas Time's A-Coming" as immortalized by Bill Monroe in a 1951 Decca recording.
Logan was born in Howard County, Texas and initially learned the fiddle fundamentals from his father beginning at age nine. About four years later, he heard Bill Monroe's recording of "Katy Hill" with fiddle by Tommy Magness. Not long after that he attended college at Texas Tech where he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering at age nineteen. His advisor suggested that he do further graduate work and secured him an assistantship at MIT in New England. He spent the next several years alternating between being a country/bluegrass fiddler and a graduate student.
During that period he worked with the team of Jerry and Sky in Boston where he received the nickname "Tex." In an initial three-month stint at WWVA Wheeling, he worked with Red Belcher and the Cumberland Ridge Runners. It was there that he recorded "The Old Gray Goose" with Red's group on the small Page label. Mary Jean Shurtz told readers in a column in 1949 that she had been "...hearing a lot about this handsome young fellow who is now playing fiddle on Red Belcher's show." She wrote that Tex could most certainly play her favorite tune, "The Mocking Bird." She was looking forward to meeting him.
In March of 1949, Mary Jean wrote again that Big Slim and Hawkshaw Hawkins had teamed up for a show at WWVA. They included 'that fiddlin' man' Tex Logan. Hawkshaw brought along his steel player, Jiggs Lemley from WFIL and that gave them a full show.
He also met the Lilly Brothers and they became not only lifelong friends, but the musicians with whom he would be most identified. He also became close to Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper with whom he would work three summers and record three sessions on Columbia. The Coopers would later record his song "Diamond Joe." In Boston, he worked at WCOP with Frank and Pete, the Lane Brothers.
When one of the Lanes got drafted, the other one and Tex went looking for a replacement. They found one in the person of Everett Lilly, then working as a Foggy Mountain Boy with Flatt and Scruggs at WPTF Raleigh, North Carolina. Shortly after, they formed the band known as the Confederate Mountaineers which also included Mitchell B. Lilly and Don Stover. This foursome brought full scale bluegrass to New England. The band also began an off-and-on eighteen year stint at the nightclub, The Hillbilly Ranch.
Although Tex left Boston, moving to New Jersey in 1956 to work at Bell, he still played fiddle whenever he could. Ironically, for someone so renowned for fiddle work he never seems to a recorded an album of his favorite tunes.
One of the later opportunities included an album on Prestige with the Harvard-based bluegrass band the Charles River Valley Boys in 1964 which had two fiddle tunes featuring Tex, "Cherokee Shuffle" and "Sally Goodin." The liner notes tell of the Charles River Valley Boys and their experience working with Tex. At the time he was still working at Bell Laboratories. One of the pleasures the band describes was meeting Tex's family and spending two evenings at their home.
At the beginning of our sessions Tex protested that he was "rusty" and and would slow us down. We soon discovered that when Tex says he's rusty it's about as much cause for worry as Bobby Osborne saying he's hoarse. At one point we played a double-fiddle recording of an old hoedown and in fiftenn minutes could not only play the tune, but could play both fiddle pares most the way through. Playing with him was a pleasure and a privilege for all of us.The liner notes also tell of the tune "Sally Goodin" was played by Bob Siggins and Tex Logan using instrumental styles from the early days of bluegrass over twenty years ago. "Uncle Pen" was another tune the band enjoyed recording with Tex. The tune "Cherokee Shuffle" was a fiddle tune co-authored by Tommy Jackson. Joe Val played the lead on the tune. While the tune was unknown to Tex at the time of the session, he learned it very quickly in their practice sessions. The Lilly Brothers became less active after 1970, but still played bluegrass festivals with Tex and Don Stover. At other times he worked with Peter Rowan and became part of a New Jersey band, The Northeast Seaboard.
Tex retired from Bell in 1993. His wife, Carolyn "Peggy" died on March 27, 2008 at the age of 83. The same year he was honored as a Pioneer of Bluegrass. They had two daughters, Laura and Jody. Her obituary noted that she was helpful in establing a blue grass magazine — Mule Skinner News.
Tex passed on seven years later, his epitaph is the best line from his song "Christmas Time's a'coming and I know I'm Going Home."
Credits & Sources
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