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This Week in Texas Music History: The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball

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 celebrate Christmas in June.

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 June 19, 1890, The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball first appeared in an Anson, Texas, newspaper. William Chittenden wrote the poem in celebration of the country dances long held at the local Star Hotel, which had recently burned down. Folklorist Gordon Graham set the poem to music and first performed it at the Anson Christmas Ball in 1946. The song was so popular that it became the event’s unofficial anthem. In 1985, Michael Martin Murphey recorded his rendition of “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball.”

Michael Martin Murphey continues to host The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball every December in Anson. In 2010, the Texas Historical Commission designated Pioneer Hall, where the event takes place, a state historic site.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a band leader whose Latin swing made the governor dance.