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 meet a salesman who rode the airwaves to the Governor’s Office.
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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On May 1, 1938, W. Lee O’Daniel filed to run for governor of Texas. The flour-salesman-turned-politician was born in Malta, Ohio, in 1890. In 1925, he moved to Fort Worth to become manager of Burrus Mills. O’Daniel adopted the nickname “Pappy” and started his own radio show to promote Burrus Mills flour. The program featured a local band, the Light Crust Doughboys, which included future Western swing pioneers Bob Wills and Milton Brown. In 1935, O’Daniel formed his own flour company, along with a new band, the Hillbilly Boys.
“Pappy” O’Daniel’s tremendous popularity as a radio personality prompted him to enter politics. With the Hillbilly Boys providing musical support, he campaigned to large crowds throughout the state. Although he proved to be a very controversial governor, O’Daniel still managed to defeat a young Lyndon Johnson during a 1941 race for the U.S. Senate.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll hear how the civil rights struggle took an operatic turn.