Texas Bill Strength (Aug. 28, 1928 ~ Oct. 1, 1973): Although much better known for his career as a radio personality, Texas Bill Strength also cut a series of country and rockabilly efforts, including a session for the legendary Sun Records backed by former Elvis Presley guitarist Scotty Moore. Perhaps his biggest success came as a songwriter, having penned the blockbuster hit, « He’ll Have to Go » for Jim Reeves [actually written by J. Allison & A. Allison].
Born August 28, 1928 in Bessemer, Alabama, Strength was sixteen when he won an amateur contest at Houston’s Joy Theater. Local station KTHT was in the market for a cowboy act and soon he was working part-time on the air. In 1945 Strength began working as a DJ full-time for St. Joseph, Missouri station KFEQ, followed by a stint singing for Sioux Falls, South Dakota radio KSOO. After tenure with Denver’s KMYR, he returned to Houston, in quick succession appearing on KLEE, KATL and KNUZ. During that time, Strength also cut a serie of minor singles for the 4-Star label. Among them were « Who’s the lucky one » and « I’m doing a peach of a job ». By September of 1949 Bill was in Birmingham, Alabama doing daily radio programs at WRBC, which was a network of thirty-seven stations throughout the Southeast. In late 1949, Bill’s career had taken him back to Houston, Texas. Bill was one of the mainstays at a new venue in Houston along with others such as Floyd Tillman and Leon Payne. In early 1950 he was hired by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to promote the organization via radio and convention.
In late 1950, Texas Bill signed to 4 * Records, debuting with « Black Coffee Blues » (4* 1465).
Strength’s Coral stint would prove the most successful and long-lived of his roving recording career. Texas Bill enjoyed his biggest hit there with « You Can’t Have My Love », a duet with the underrated Tabby West (also “Let’s make love or go home“) and also scored with singles including « Nobody Knows This More Than Me » and « I Was Only Teasing You ».
“Black coffee blues“
“We will overcome“(4* CIO-OP 102)
“Frown on the moon“
In 1954 Strength was named Mr. DJ USA by influential Nashville station WSM, and by year’s end he relocated to Memphis station KWAM, where he witnessed the birth of rock & roll via the emergence of Sun acts Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. On Nov. 13, 1954, Texas Bill worked shows in Sheffield, Alabama with Webb Pierce and Red Sovine and with the same pair in Ripley, Mississippi (MS) on Nov. 16 and Clarksdale, MS the following evening. After accepting a position with St. Paul, Minnesota’s KEYD, home to fellow DJs/singers Roy Drusky and Dave Dudley, Strength signed to Capitol Records . A session was held at the Capitol Records (Hollywood, California) studio on Jun 23, 1955, where he recorded twelve sides, including « Cry, Cry, Cry » (Johnny Cash) and « Turn Around » (Carl Perkins). Later that year (1955), he worked a string of shows, winding up at Russwood Ball Park, Memphis, on July 4 along with Goldie Hill, Faron Young, the Wilburn Brothers, Marty Robbins and the Carter Sisters. Strength returned to Memphis in mid-’60, accepting Sun promotional manager Cecil Scaife’s offer to record for the label. With Moore on guitar and D.J. Fontana on drums, he cut seven songs, with only « Guess I Better Go » and « Señorita » receiving commercial release.
After a short stay with Bakersfield, California station KUZZ, and a record on Toppa (# 2021), Strength returned to the Twin Cities, first for KTCR and later for WMIN. He remained there for the rest of his life, recording the occasional single for labels like Starday (Nervous as a Cat), Golden Wing (Let the Chips Fall) and Bangar (Paper Boy Boogie). During the early 1970s, he also penned for the monthly Upper Midwest & Western News Scene a column entitled Down Memory Lane, documenting stories about his life and experiences in the music business.??Some of the more well known venues he appeared were the Palmer House in Chicago, Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Hotel Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah; the National Training School for Boys, Washington, DC, the Hudson Manor in Tampa, Florida and also KWKH’s Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. Texas Bill appeared numerous times on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. In October of 1973, Texas Bill Strength was asleep in a car while driving with a friend on a promotional tour. Their car left the road and flipped several times. Texas Bill was paralyzed from the waist down and later slipped into a coma. He passed away later that month. In 1990, Texas Bill Strength was elected to the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame.
Biography written by: Richard J. Bell: Country Music Historian, May, 2011.
References: Record Research: Country Music Singles 1944 — 1993; Billboard Magazine; Richard J. Bell: Original Country Music Chronicles.
Sources : 78rpm world, 45cat. Uncle Gil’s blogsite
Texas Bill Strength: an appreciation by bopping.org editor.
Whether a honky tonk or a ballad, he always has an ample and strong baritone voice. On Cireco 102, he shares the record – each having his side – with the well-known Texan Jerry Irby (M-G-M sides like « 49 women » or « Hillbilly boogie ») . His vocal has yet to be more assured on « Little I and big you ».
“Little I and big you“
“Paper boy boogie“
I like particularly the great « Black coffee blues » (4* 1465) about getting morning after plastered. Another goodie is « Frown on the moon » (4* 1554), a cheerful tune, adorned by a nice fiddle. On Coral, « Cherry pie » and « Is someone else the lucky one tonight » (Coral 64117) are med-tempo a bit crooning whereas « Let’s make love or go home »(# 64177), an acceptable duet with Tabby West, is a solid shuffle. I like very much too his version of Tommy Trent‘s « Paper boy boogie » (# 64133), very close to the original. « Country love », with its topical lyrics, is a lively honky tonk; the vocal is now assured, and the steel well-present (# 64171).
Next Strength went to Capitol. His renditions of Johnny Cash‘s « Cry cry cry » (# 3217) and Carl Perkins‘ (« Turn around ») are rather convincing. « When love comes knockin’ » is fine for the era, and I retain two more, « Gotta lot of love » (# 3477) and « North wind » (# 3568), with good effects by the steel. « Six fools » (# 3568), from 1956, backed with a banjo, is already a folk song.
1960 is a mixed year. The Sun session (# 346) is nearly saved from pop-country by the presence of Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana. The Toppa cuts are definitely anchored in the Bakersfield (Ca) sound, mostly with the steel of Ralph Mooney. One slow song, very sincere » (« Picture of my heart », the other being the uptempo « Watching the world go by » (# 1021).
In 1963 Strength is to be found on Golden Wing 3023 for the nice « Tears in my beer » [is this the old Hank Williams/Big Bill Lister song?] with a good 6-string guitar. Finally a good recut of « Paper boy boogie » on Bangar 0649 in 1965 or « Nervous as a cat » (Re-car 9001) from 1971 do merit to be kept. All in all, a long career, without true highlights, but same quality, either in slowies or uptempos.
“When love comes knockin’”
“Gotta lotta love”
“Watching the world go by”