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This Week In Texas Music History: Jim Beck

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 learn how one man almost made Dallas—not Nashville—into Music City, USA.

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 podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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Jim Beck was born on Aug. 11, 1916, in Marshall, Texas, but soon moved with his family to Fort Worth. By the age of 14, Beck had constructed a fully functioning radio station in his bedroom. After serving in World War II, he returned to the Dallas area, where he built one of the most technologically advanced recording studios in the country. During the 1950s, Beck produced some of the highest-quality recordings of Texas country singers, including Ray Price and Lefty Frizzell.

The high quality and distinctive sound of Jim Beck’s recordings caught the attention of such major labels as Columbia and Decca, both of which considered relocating their country music operations to Dallas. Had they done so, Dallas might have become known as Music City, USA, instead of Nashville. However, Beck died unexpectedly in 1956. His assistant took over the studio but was never able to replicate the quality and sound that Beck had achieved.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll visit a tiny town that had a huge impact on Texas music.