Who was/is Tex Atchison ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more


A stalwart of the west coast country scene for many years, Shelby David 'Tex' Atchison was best known as a fiddle player, although he mastered many instruments and wrote a few fairly well-known songs. He was born near Rosine, Kentucky on February 5, 1912, five months after Bill Monroe was born on the next-door farm. They attended school together although their musical paths soon diverged. Atchison became a western swing and dancehall fiddler; Monroe, of course, became the father of bluegrass. In 1920, when Atchison first picked up his father's fiddle, no one expected him to be able to play it because he was left-handed and the fiddle was built for a right-handed player. But Atchison persevered. "My father was considered one of the best fiddlers around," Atchison said in 1980. "He never played for money, but he could have been a pro in later days when country music became more commercial." A local bandleader heard Atchison and brought him into Faught's Entertainers, a band that combined hillbilly music and Dixieland jazz.

The black guitarist Arnold Shultz, cited as one of Monroe's inspirations, was in the band. Atchison dug coal by day and played fiddle, saxophone and clarinet by night. "I think the first show I played, I got three dollars," he said. "I was making $2.56 a day in the mines." In 1932, he left the mines forever when the Kentucky Ramblers offered him a job. Atchison headed north to WOC in Davenport, Iowa, and its sister station, WHO, in Des Moines, where Ronald Reagan was their announcer. In Iowa, Shelby became Tex, maybe around the same time the Kentucky Ramblers became the Prairie Ramblers. They moved from Des Moines to WLS's National Barn Dance in Chicago, and in 1935 they joined WOR in New York. Their first recording contract was with RCA Victor in 1933. The Ramblers' female singer was Patsy Montana, and Atchison played on her 1935 million-seller, I Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart. Gene Autry enlisted the Ramblers to join him on film and on record, and by 1942 they were in Hollywood.

In 1945, Atchison moved over to Foy Willing's Riders of the Purple Sage. "I went with Jimmy Wakely and Johnny Bond," he said. "We took the place of the Sons of the Pioneers in the Charles Starrett movies. We did 11 pictures a year for three years and then I freelanced for the next 20 years, doing bit parts, riding and minor stunt work, like falling off horses." Several of his songs became hits. Sick, Sober And Sorry was a smash for Johnny Bond and Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor did well for Jess Willard, Kay Starr, and later Johnny Horton. Atchison recorded as a solo artist for several labels, including Crystal, King and its related labels, and Imperial.

He first got into rock 'n' roll when he wrote Some Like It Hot for Sammy Masters. His 1961 recording of Tennessee Hound Dog featured Roy Lanham's sparkling electric guitar… in fact, Lanham's solos were the only reason to part with 99 cents. Atchison's vocal made it clear that he was an older guy trying to get with the new music…even if the new music wasn't so new in '61. By the late 1960s, the Hollywood dream had soured, and Atchison was back home in Kentucky. He died on August 4, 1982 at his daughter's house in Granite City, Illinois.

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