Historical Western Swing - Cindy Walker
In the past several months my articles on the history of Western Swing have appeared in Pencilstubs. Many comments have been received directly by me and many more have appeared below the several articles I have written since the October Issue of 2000. There are still comments being made on the original article because it is referenced any time someone just looks for Western Swing by typing just those two words into a search engine. Well, let’s face it, I love the referrals, and now just thinking of that, I feel I should continue to add all the information I can find on an interesting subject, from all sources beside all the information I have accumulated over the years from clippings and the backs of old record covers.
Here is another article on a very interesting person or band that did so much for
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Composer, Song Writer, Singer
Born July 20, 1918 in Mart, Texas
Died March 23, 2006 in Mexia, Texas
Songwriter Cindy Walker had the unique ability to write hits in a wide variety of musical styles ranging from hard-core country, to Western Swing, to pop. With over 500 songs to her credit, with hits that include Ray Charles' "You Don't Know Me," Bob Wills' "Bubbles in My Beer", "Cherokee Maiden", and "You're From Texas". Ernest Tubb's "Hey Mr. Bluebird" and "Two Glasses Joe" and Roy Orbison's "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)".
Walker was writing songs by the time she was 12. Traveling to Los Angeles with her family in 1941, she insisted her father stop the car when she saw a building that housed Bing Crosby's offices. An absolute unknown, she walked into the office of Larry Crosby and announced that she had written a song for Bing. Brother Larry agreed to listen, liked the song, and made an appointment for Cindy to sing it for Bing the next day at Paramount Studios, where Bing was working at the time. Bing heard it, and liked it. Cindy's first recorded song was ’Lone Star Trail’, recorded by Bing Crosby.
When Cindy went to Decca Records recording studio to make a "Demo" of the song for Bing, it was her good fortune that Dave Knapp, head of Decca at the time, heard her singing and offered a recording contract which resulted, later, in a hit for Cindy. ‘Don't Talk To Me About Men’ was a song she wrote for her first session.
Cindy continued to write and record for Decca, and began writing songs for singing cowboys and appeared in a series of short musical films known as "soundies," a precursor to music videos, and soon was making personal appearances. Top network radio shows and radio transcriptions were being heard daily across the country, in Canada, and foreign markets as well. Slowly but surely, Cindy was making herself and her name, know to country music artists and fans alike.
At the same time, she was writing "Tailor made songs" for Gene Autry, Sons of the Pioneers, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Rex Allen, Wade Ray, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Spike Jones And His City Slickers, who all lived and recorded in Hollywood.
As her songs became popular for these artists, she began getting requests for songs for other recording artists from different parts of the country who came to Hollywood to record such as Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, Ernest Tubb, Al Dexter, Elton Britt, Eddy Arnold, Hank Snow, and Red Foley. Songs she wrote for these artists include:
Blue Canadian Rockies, Bubbles In My Beer, .Cherokee Maiden, Don't Be Ashamed Of Your Age, Dusty Skies, .The Gold Rush Is Over (And The Bum's Rush Is On), .Lorelei, Miss Molly, New Broom Boogie, Put Your Arms Around Me, .Silver Spurs On The Golden Stairs, Take Me In Your Arms And Hold Me, Tater Pie, Triflin' Gal, Warm Red Wine, You're From Texas, and Sugar Moon, all of which made the Number 1 and top ten in the Country Charts, and many of which are still "Standards" today.
While in Hollywood, she was also writing all the Words and Music to 39 songs for the 8 Columbia Motion Pictures, starring Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, the late and great King of Western Swing. These 39 Bob Wills Columbia Motion Picture Songs by Cindy have been published by Hall Leonard Publishing Corp. in a picture and song album titled, ‘Song Souvenirs of Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys’ featuring their recorded hits by Cindy Walker from 8 Columbia Motion Pictures.
Cindy also wrote the theme songs and music for the Billy Graham motion pictures, "Mr. Texas" and "Oil Town, USA" which included Christian Cowboy, Beloved Enemy, and The Wide Rollin' Plains. Cindy also found time to write a hymn book titled, "Of Thee We Sing", containing 18 hymns which she wrote for Youth Choirs and Young Adults, which contains the ever growing gospel favorite ‘The Night Watch’. It is featured in the George Beverly Shea Grammy Award Winner Album "Songs Of The Southland”.
It was also in Hollywood where Walker first met Bob Wills, who eventually recorded more than 50 of her songs, including more than 30 that were featured in his movies. Walker's tenure on the West Coast also led to several other hits, including Eddy Arnold's "Take Me in Your Arms and Hold Me" and Ernest Tubb's "Warm Red Wine."
Cindy was proud, too, that she was from Texas and had Texas parents. Her mother, Oree Walker, was a wonderful musician, and the daughter of Cindy's grandfather, F.L. Eiland, one of the great sacred song writers of the southwest who wrote, among many other great hymns, Hold To God's Unchanging Hand, Look Away From The Cross To The Glittering Crown, .and The Hands That Were Nailed To The Tree.
Her lyrics and the sheet music of The Hill Country Theme, written for the television documentary Lyndon Johnson's Texas, has been made a part of The President Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, and accepted into the archives by Mrs. Johnson.
In 1954, Walker and her mother moved back to Texas, and Walker began spending more time in Nashville. Although Arnold's 1956 recording of "You Don't Know Me" only reached No. 10 on the charts, their co-write is acknowledged as one of the greatest country classics of all time. Walker had additional success with Hank Snow's "The Gold Rush Is Over" and "The Next Voice You Hear" and George Morgan's "I Love Everything About You." Other Walker hits include Gene Autry's "Blue Canadian Rockies," Jim Reeves' "Distant Drums" and "Anna Marie," Sonny James' "Heaven Says Hello" and Jerry Wallace's "In the Misty Moonlight."
She continued to write and turn out top songs such as: Answer The Phone, Born To Love You, China Doll, Distant Drums, Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream), Flyin' South, Give Me Love, Hey, Mr. Bluebird, I Don't Care (If I'm Not The First), In The Misty Moonlight, Sunshine Wine, Thank You For Calling, This Is It, and You Are My Treasure.
Cindy was, and had always been, a Writer/Member of Broadcast Music, Inc. and a Nashville Million-Aires member. This organization is for writers whose songs have achieved 1,000,000 (one million) broadcast performances. She was honored that she was chosen to represent Country Music Writers in the House of the 86th Congress in Washington, DC. She was also present during the revision and passage of the Copyright Law.
Yes, Cindy's more than 500 recorded songs have been played and sung around the world by some of the greatest recording artists, but if you would have asked her which is her favorite and her best, she would have told you "China Doll" is my favorite, but my best? Well, I haven't written that yet, and maybe that is why Cindy's songs are among the best. Cindy was inducted into the NSAI Song Writers Hall Of Fame in 1970.
In 1990 and 1991, Cindy had the honor of being inducted into The Western Swing Hall of Fame in three states, Arizona, California, and Texas. She is also the recipient of The Golden Guitar Award from The Texas Music Association. Later happenings include induction into The Country Music Hall Of Fame on September 24, 1997, Nashville, TN. She was also honored by Don Edwards and Leon Rausch in Ft. Worth, Texas, with a tribute to her songs at the Scott Theatre. Her home town of Mexia, Texas, honored her with "A Cindy Walker Day", and the "Legends Award". She received the 1998 Derrick Days Award from: Navarro County, The Lefty Frazzell Hall of Fame, The City of Corsicana, Texas, Radio Station KAND's Roy Miller, Bobby Fluker, and The Nite Lighters Bill Balwin Band.
Also, in 1990, her song You Don't Know Me was performed by the Academy Award nominated actress/ singer of 1990 in the motion picture, "Post Cards From The Edge" by Meryl Streep. Her song Christian Cowboy, was featured in the highly acclaimed Broadway Production "Smoke On The Water",which toured the world.
In 1996, You Don't Know Me, was also performed in the motion picture, "Faces In The Mirror", starring Barbara Streisand and Lauren Bacall. Cindy was nominated for the CMA Hall Of Fame and was honored by the BBC Broadcasting Company in London, England for her song, Distant Drums, along with the late and great Jim Reeves, as his all time greatest recording in England. In 1996, she was inducted into The Washington State Western Swing Hall Of Fame.
In 1997, Cindy was excited by the new release A 50 Song Tribute To The Music Of Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys by Leon Rausch and Tommy Allsup and the greatest musicians of Western Swing today. It includes songs written by her for the Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys in their 8 Columbia Motion Pictures made in the early Forties in Hollywood, California.
Her composition, written for one of those films, was used by the Microsoft Company for one of their CD Roms, "Miss Molly". Released in October 1997, was a C.D. of Cindy Walker singing her own songs titled "Words and Music" issued by Sony Records. In 1997, Cindy was honored by The Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium in Ruidoso, New Mexico, with "Cindy Walker Day", October 9th for which she composed Ruidoso, a new song which was introduced and performed by the great Leon Rausch of western swing fame.
She received Song Writer Of The Year, from Rope International, Professional Entertainers preserving the Integrity Of Country Music.
Indicating the timeless quality of Walker's songs, Ray Charles' version of "You Don't Know Me" was a highlight of Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music, his groundbreaking album from 1962. Mickey Gilley had a No. 1 hit with the song in 1981, and Ricky Skaggs topped the chart a year later with "I Don't Care," originally a 1955 hit for Webb Pierce. Her songs have been recorded by a long list of artists, including Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell and Michael Nesmith.
A Special, “Who Wrote That Song?" will be presented to the public in five (5) 90minute cassettes in box form when licenses are completed..
One of the highlights for Cindy was the acceptance of Ruidoso, the title of the song written for The Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium of Ruidoso, New Mexico...by the City of Ruidoso as it's official song.
In her personal life Cindy Walker shunned the limelight. It was often reported that she never married, though in an interview with the New York Times shortly before her death Walker stated she once had “a very short-lived marriage”.
Cindy Walker’s custom was rise at dawn each day to write songs. She typed her lyrics on a pink-trimmed manual typewriter and Oree Walker helped work out melodies for her daughter’s words. Each year Walker and her mother would operate from an apartment in Nashville for five months or so in order to market the songs.
Cindy Walker’s mother died in 1991. In an interview in 2004 Ms. Walker stated: “I miss Mama every day”.
It has been estimated that more than 500 of Cindy Walker’s songs have been recorded and that her songs made the top-forty charts (country or pop) more than 400 times. In September 1997 Cindy Walker was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (together with another songwriter, Harlan Howard). During her acceptance speech Ms. Walker recited some verse she had written for the occasion:
In the 1980s, my mother bought me a dress for a BMI affair
And she said “when they put you in the Hall of Fame, that's the dress I want you to wear.”
And I said “Oh Mama, the Hall of Fame? Why that will never be.”
And the years went by, but my mother's words remained in my memory.
And I know tonight she'd be happy, though she's gone now to her rest.
But I think of all that she did for me, and tonight I'm wearing this dress.
Her speech was followed by a standing ovation and Walker left the stage in tears after softly blowing a kiss. During the proceedings renowned songwriter (and fellow Hall of Fame inductee) Harlan Howard described Cindy Walker as "the greatest living songwriter of country music".
Cindy Walker was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in Carthage, Texas, August 22, 1998, along with the induction of Gene Autry, Jim Reeves, Tex Ritter, Willie Nelson, and Joe Allison. Walker was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997. Cindy was also inducted into The Cowgirl Hall Of Fame, October 30, 1998 in Ft. Worth, Texas
In 2001 the Country Music Television network honored the 40 Greatest Women in Country Music. The women were selected for their contribution to the genre by a survey of hundreds of American artists and music historians and Cindy Walker was ranked at number 32 in the list.
In March 2006 American music icon Willie Nelson released a CD album featuring thirteen of Walker's well-known songs. The album title is You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker. Cindy Walker died at the Parkview Regional Hospital in her hometown of Mexia, Texas on March 23, 2006, aged 87 years (just nine days after Nelson's tribute album was released). She had been ill for several weeks prior to her death.
What the word "Sterling" means to silver, the name Cindy Walker means to Country Music. There is hardly a name in Country Music that has not recorded or sung a Cindy Walker song. Her songs have been recorded and performed in motion pictures and on T.V. by great names in the Pop Rock, Sacred, Gospel and Jazz fields.
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