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This Week in Texas Music History: Alphonso Trent Orchestra

Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll remembers a rockabilly cat who sang his own version of a nursery rhyme.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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Alphonso Trent died on Oct. 14, 1959. Born in Fort Smith, Ark. in 1905, he achieved his greatest success in Dallas during the 1920s as the leader of the Alphonso Trent Orchestra, the first all-black jazz band to appear regularly at the famed Adolphus Hotel. The band’s weekly radio broadcasts from the Adolphus Hotel attracted a large following of both black and white fans from throughout North Texas.

Because Alphonso Trent and his Orchestra attracted a large and racially diverse audience, they received threats from the Ku Klux Klan and other racist groups. Despite this, Trent and his band continued to perform, thereby helping lay the foundation for the big-band sound of the 1930s and inspiring such Texas artists as legendary jazz guitarist, Charlie Christian.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a singer who was known as the “Sweetheart of the Americas.”