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Country Music Hall of Fame Series: Tex Ritter

Tex Ritter

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Album Review

This CD contains 16 of the 30 songs that Ritter cut for Decca between 1935 and 1939. It is not his best material — it was on Capitol that he had his hits — but it is, in many ways, his most interesting body of songs. The early material here is more rough-hewn than most Western songs of the era, and, in keeping with Ritter's stage success as a folk-type balladeer in the cast of the Broadway show Green Grow the Lilacs, draws from folk as much as Western material. His first single, "Sam Hall," was a traditional British folk ballad that Ritter had sung in the show. "(Take Me Back to My) Boots and Saddle" comes off almost like a field recording, with none of the guile or sophistication that one expected of singing cowboys, and Ritter's natural, untutored baritone voice seems to come right out of the bunkhouse rather than the theater or the Hollywood soundstage. By 1936, and "The Hills of Old Wyoming," "High, Wide and Handsome," and "Sing, Cowboy, Sing," he was already developing a more sophisticated sound in keeping with his cowboy movies, although Ritter always sounded grittier than Gene Autry or the Sons of the Pioneers — he sounded more like a real cowboy who was singing, rather than a singing cowboy, with a beautifully raw, honest quality that made him more realistic if not as overtly attractive as a singer. Some of the latest material here, such as "When Its Lamplighting Time in the Valley," is engaging Western pop, a match for any of Autry's records in sophistication but driven by Ritter's unique, mournfully expressive baritone voice.

Biography

Born: January 12, 1905 in Murval, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Singing cowboy Tex Ritter stood as one of the biggest names in country music throughout the postwar era, thanks to a diverse career that led him everywhere from the Broadway stage to the political arena. He was born Maurice Woodward Ritter in Marvaul, TX, on January 12, 1907, and grew up on a ranch in Beaumont. After graduating at the top of his high school class, he majored in law at the University of Texas. During college, however, he was bitten by the acting bug and...
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Country Music Hall of Fame Series: Tex Ritter, Tex Ritter
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