Houston Scores Big Time In Latest Editon Of Encyclopedia Of Country Music: Part 2

jerry irby.jpg
Leon Payne, Hank Williiams, and Jerry Irby
Our second installment of Houston connections in the recently published second edition of The Encyclopedia of Country Music is a truly monumental list of writers, performers and performances that show that while Houston may not have been the musical business center that Nashville became, the Bayou City has always had mucho talent and plenty of twang.

Jerry Irby: If Jerry Irby had never done anything but write "Driving' Nails in My Coffin," he would still likely merit inclusion in The Encyclopedia. Covered by Floyd Tillman and Ernest Tubb in 1946, the clever lyric put Irby on the map as a singer-songwriter. Bob Wills covered another Irby song in 1947, "Keeper of My Heart."

Irby, who worked for a while with Ted Daffan, opened the Texas Corral night club in Houston in 1948, but by the mid-1950s his musical career began to unravel.

Ted Daffan: While he came into country music as a sideman, Ted Daffan would become one of the earliest mainstream hit-makers from Houston. He became so influential that The Encyclopedia says Daffan "helped usher in the modern era of country songwriting."

He was also one of the best-selling artists of the 1940s. Before initially making his way to country music via legendary Houston icons Leon "Pappy" Selph and the great songwriter/guitarist Floyd Tillman, Daffan's first musical love was Hawaiian steel music.

With the help of a popular radio program, Daffan and his Blue Islanders were hitting Houston hard when the Western Swing craze eclipsed most other music fads. Joining Selph and Tillman in the Blue Ridge Playboys (1934), Daffan quickly mastered the new idiom and began writing country songs and, early on, almost single-handedly inventing what became known as "truckers songs" when Cliff Bruner cut Daffan's "Truck Driver's Blues" in 1939.

It sold over 100,000 copies and brought Daffan to the attention of Columbia Records, leading to a solo career. By 1941, Daffan had formed the Texans, which featured two accordionists and an electric lead guitar that gave Daffan a unique sound vis a vis the other fiddle-and-steel dominated country bands. Once with Columbia, Daffan produced hits with "Worried Mind" and "I'm a Fool To Care."

But his two-sided follow-up, "Born To Lose" b/w "No Letter Today" sold two million copies and made Daffan a major country star. Daffan's band was much in demand on the West Coast for a number of years, but by 1955 he had returned to Houston and disbanded the Texans. He then formed a label, but most of his income came from covers of his former hits, especially Ray Charles' versions of "Born To Lose," "No Letter Today" and "Worried Mind." A true legend, Daffan passed away in late 1996.

Claude Gray: Born in Henderson, Claude Gray holds the distinction of recording Willie Nelson's "Family Bible" at Houston's Gold Star Studios for "Pappy" Daily's D Records in 1960. The song became both men's first hit (although Nelson had sold the song to Gray and two partners for $100), and led to Gray signing with Mercury Records, where he immediately had two top five hits and continued to be frequently in the charts the next decade.

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 this is big doings...a pic of the one and only King of country music, Hank Sr., back in the day onstage in Houston...can't wait for baseball season to start up & get back to hangin round the greatest city in Texas. onward, JD

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