Cliffie Stone Family Photos
Cliffie promoting his songwriting book in 1992 on Ernest Tubb’s Saturday night ‘Midnite Jamboree’ on 650/WSM radio show in Nashville - which has a stage for musicians as well as seats for an audience. (To see a photo of Cliffie with Ernest Tubb at the Grand Ole Opry in the late-1940s, please go to “Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award” section.)  Whenever we visited Nashville in the 1990s, Cliffie always enjoyed going to the historical Saturday night “Midnite Jamboree” show (Ernest started both the Ernest Tubb Record Shop and the “Midnite Jamboree” in 1947). Inevitably, Cliffie would be invited to come up on stage and since he never met an audience or a microphone that he didn’t love, he gladly obliged. Cliffie deeply admired Ernest and he loved his numerous recordings, especially “You Don’t Have to Be a Baby to Cry” - written by Bob Merrill & Terry Shand.  (In 1955, Cliffie was Ernie Ford’s full time manager and during a song material meeting with Lee Gillette (Ernie’s producer at Capitol Records), Lee felt that the A side should be a cover tune. Ernest Tubbs’ 1949 hit, “You Don’t Have to Be a Baby to Cry” was mentioned and everyone readily agreed that it was a great idea! The B side was “16 Tons.” Although Capitol promoted “You Don’t Have to Be a Baby to Cry,” it didn’t become a hit because a Billboard reporting deejay turned the single over and played “16 Tons” and the rest is country music history.) The following is an outline that highlights Ernest’s career, which is not only historically interesting, it’s also inspirational! No matter what obstacles or setbacks that occurred in his life, his love for country music kept him diligently pursuing his dream. Ernest Tubb was nicknamed The Texas Troubadour and his friends called him “ET.” He was a great ambassador for country music who was one of the first honky-tonk singers to achieve national and worldwide recognition, especially when he headlined the first Grand Ole Opry show at the Carnegie Hall in New York in 1947. (The cast included Shorty Warren, Rosalie Allen, Cy Sweat, Radio Dot, Smokey Warren, Dick Richards, Bob McCoy, Smokey Swan and comedienne, Minnie Pearl). On February 9, 1914, Ernest was born in Crisp, TX. His father, Calvin, was a sharecropper and early on, Ernest experienced the daily hard work in the fields and all the chores that make up life on a farm or ranch. In 1920, his family relocated to Benjamin, TX; and his parents got a divorce six years later. Although he would go visit his father, most of the time he lived with his mother, Sarah, who played piano/organ and sang at the local church. When he was fourteen, he heard the great Jimmie Rodgers singing one of his blue yodel songs, and he instantly became a fan. He started learning and singing Jimmie’s songs and when he had extra money, he bought his records. The great depression of 1930 occurred and he worked at whatever odd jobs that he could find, one being in road construction. He became friends with a young guitar player, Merwyn ‘Buff’ Buffington who liked his singing, and he encouraged Ernest to learn how to play the guitar. Buff taught him his first chords. Once his job was over for the day, he would practice his guitar, yodeling and singing. He moved to San Antonio and located his friend, Merwyn, who was the guitar player for the Castleman Brothers who had a radio show on KONO. Ernest was given the chance to be a guest singer, which led to his early morning show; he was on the air twice a week. Since it didn’t pay much, he also had to work at a variety of odd jobs to help support himself; and one of these jobs (which he had for a number of years) was being a delivery man/clerk for a drugstore owned by Benny Cantu. Since I have the pleasure of knowing Ernest’s daughter, Elaine, I called her up and we discussed several aspects of her Father’s career, especially Jimmie Rodgers, who was ET’s hero. She said to the effect that her Dad had wanted to meet Jimmie and when he finally contacted him, they made arrangements in the future to meet. However, Jimmie passed away before they could meet, which really affected Ernest. He decided then and there that he was going to have a music career, like his hero, Jimmie Rodgers. (Jimmie was the first inductee in the Country Music Hall of Fame and he is called the “Father of Country Music.) Eventually, he met Carrie Rodgers, Jimmie’s widow She liked his sincerity and she gave him a autographed photo of Jimmie and said that she’d listen to his radio show. She was impressed and not only loaned him one of Jimmie’s guitars, she also gave him one of Jimmie’s tuxedos that he could wear when he performed. Carrie was also instrumental in getting him a record deal with Bluebird Records (a sub-label of RCA Victor Records). One of his first recordings was a tribute to his hero, "The Passing of Jimmie Rodgers." However, when this release and the one following didn’t sell well, he was dropped from the label, but this didn’t discourage him. He stayed positive and continued to perform at numerous clubs and radio stations. After he had his tonsils removed in 1939, he discovered that he could no longer yodel. Once again, he did not become discouraged because his love for music was so great that he developed his own unique Texas twangy style of singing. During this time frame, the Gold Chain flour company sponsored him and he toured and appeared on Fort Worth’s radio station KGKO. In 1940, Decca Records took a chance on him and recorded one of his self-penned songs, “Blue Eyed Elaine,” which sold enough copies that got the Decca executives’ attention. They offered him a newly-revised contract, which was the beginning of a long record label relationship. In 1941, he recorded six more songs with Decca. One of KGKO’s staff ‘electric’ guitar players, Fay “Smitty” Smith, played on these recording sessions, which gave honky-tonk an exciting new sound! The first release was another one of his self-penned songs, “Walking the Floor Over You,” which sold 400,000 records the first year (eventually it sold over a million records). It became Ernest’s signature song, which propelled him to stardom and put a huge spotlight on the honky-tonk genre as well. He sang this song in Charles Starrett’s film, ‘Fighting Buckeroos’ and in 1942, he appeared in another Charles Starrett’s movie called ‘Ridin’ West.’ In this time frame, he was released from his Gold Chain contract and he decided to move to Nashville. In 1943, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and he was the first musician to use an electric lead guitar on the Grand Ole Opry stage. During this time frame, a musicians’ union strike occurred, which affected recording sessions. ET put a high value on musicians and he surrounded himself with the cream of the crop. He put together a band, which he named the Texas Troubadours. Its original members included: Tommy “Butterball” Paige, Jack Drake, Hal Smith, Bill Drake and Ray “Kemo” Head. So he and his Texas Troubadours started to tour with acts such as Pee Wee King and Roy Acuff. There’s always a high turnover of musicians when they tour extensively; and down through the months and years, members in his band would change. Another one ET’s Troubadour band members was Jimmy Short who played electric guitar and he is credited for creating the single-string guitar picking, which also featured the guitar riffs throughout Tubb’s records; these unique guitar riffs would become synonymous with the Ernest Tubb “sound” on recordings as well as on stage. Jimmy’s brother, Leon Short, was also in the band (acoustic guitar). Other Troubadour musicians down through the months and years includes: Johnny-boy Sapp (Fiddle), Moon Mulligan (songwriter/piano), Dickie Harris, Rusty Gabbard, Billy Byrd, and later, Owen Bradley on the piano (who was also ET’s record producer). Once the union strike was over, he started recording solely with his Texas Troubadour band. ET became one of the first country artists to record in Nashville (the other was his good friend, Red Foley). In this time frame, his two self-penned Decca releases “Try Me One More Time” and “Soldier's Last Letter" started a fifteen year ‘Country Hit Parade’ of over fifty records that became Top Ten singles. (Note: “Soldier’s Last Later” took a little time to become a hit because it was during the war and people didn’t have the money to spend on records.) Over this fifteen year period, his hit songs included: “It’s Been So Long, Darling,’ ‘Rainbow At Midnight,’ ‘Slippin’ Around,’ ‘Blue Christmas,’ ‘Let’s Say Goodbye Like We Said Hello,’ “Two Glasses Joe,’ “Tomorrow Never Comes,” “Drivin’ Nails in My Coffin” and the list goes on and on. Many of ET’s songs would become country classics. ET also sang duets with his buddy, Red Foley, such as “Tennessee Border No. 2” and “Goodnight Irene.” ET also sang and released a record with the energetic pop trio, the Andrews Sisters, which helped them to crossover to the country genre. It was titled, “I’m Biting My Fingernails & Thinking of You” (Ernest Tubb, Ernie Benedict & Red West). This song sold over 750,000 copies. In the 1960’s, he had a few hits such as “Thanks A Lot” and “Waltz Across Texas.” He also recorded three Decca-released albums of duets with up-and-coming artist, Loretta Lynn and their hits include: “Mr. and Mrs. Used to Be,” “Our Hearts Are Holding Hands,” “Sweet Thang,” and “Who’s Gonna Take the Garbage Out.”   In 1966, Ernest was diagnosed with emphysema and he followed his doctor’s advice - he stopped smoking which added eighteen years to his life. (The effects of 2nd hand smoke were not known at this time and country venues such as bars and hall rooms were always filled with 2nd hand smoke). Although his doctor advised him to stop touring, he continued performing because that was his life - that’s what he did and that’s who he was! (It is sadly ironic that both Ernest and his hero, Jimmie Rodgers, were both afflicted with lung disease, which would eventually take their lives! ET had emphysema; and Jimmie contacted tuberculosis when he was in his mid-twenties and he would suffer from it off and on for the rest of his life.) Regardless of Ernest’s declining record sales, his concerts were always standing room only. He deeply valued his fans and he always took time to shake their hands, talk with them and sign autographs. No other country artist loved, respected or inspired their fans more than Ernest Tubb did! They, in turn, became devoted lifelong fans, who were loyal to him throughout his long career regardless of whether or not he had a hit record on the charts. His prestigious awards include: The Country Music Association’s Hall of Fame in 1965; the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970; the Academy of Country Music’s “Pioneer Award” in 1984; Music City News ‘Living Legend” Award (1984); Texas Country Music Hall of Fame (1999) and member of the Grand Ole Opry (1943 – 1984). Ernest was also an excellent business man. In 1947, he opened his first Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Broadway in downtown Nashville, which was around the corner from the Ryman Auditiorium. So he had a built-in audience who would meander over to his store before and after the Grand Ole Opry. He would also advertise the record shop on his “Midnite Jamboree” WSM radio show which came on right after the Grand Ole Opry. He would feature up-and-coming artists on “Midnite Jamboree.” ET was known for helping newcomers such as Hank Snow and Hank Williams. Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers were also featured on “Midnite Jamboree” at the beginning of their careers. Current worldwide country fans, especially those who are true-blue fans who respect and are interested in the roots of country music history, are well aware of the historical ‘Ernest Tubb Record Shop’ on Broadway in Nashville, which has been owned by David McCormick for years; David has done a great job in keeping, preserving and honoring Ernest Tubb’s memory; the other people who are involved and work at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop includes Rick Lunningham (General Manager) and Ernest’s daughter, Elaine, who is the book buyer. There are a total of three locations: one in downtown Nashville on Broadway, one near the Opryland Hotel (where the “Midnite Jamboree” now takes place every Saturday night) and one in Pigeon Forge, TN. They sell a variety of country artist CD’s as well as books. One of the book titles that they sell is: “Ernest Tubb: The Texas Troubadour” (written by Ronnie Pugh) which started out as a college thesis and ended up becoming a biography. Since both of Cliffie’s books (“Everything You always Wanted to Know About Songwriting” and “You Gotta Be Bad Before You Can be Good”) are available at the Ernest Tubb Record Shops. I’ve gotten to know Ernest Tubb’s daughter, Elaine, over the years and it’s always a joy to talk to her on the phone and to have lunch with her whenever I’m in Nashville. As I previously mentioned, I read the foregoing outline about her father to her, and she gave me more inside information, which I appreciated and included in this caption. For more detailed info about Ernest Tubb’s life and career, I recommend that you visit various websites on the internet. You can also order “Ernest Tubb, The Texas Troubadour” at

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