Click to listen

Click to listen

Sept. 18: This record helped establish Roger Miller as a hot new songwriter in late ’50s Nashville — and it forever elevated the pedal steel guitar to a key element of the sound of Ernest Tubb.

In his book Ernest Tubb: The Texas Troubadour, Ronnie Pugh tells the story:

According to legend, Miller called Tubb in the middle of the night to pitch an early, unfinished version of “Half A Mind.” There’s some dispute about how the song was completed; Miller is the only composer listed, but Tubb’s nephew Douglas Glenn Tubb is said to have played a role. And Bill Anderson says E.T. himself wrote the last verse, explaining that his pal Miller enjoyed the inspiration part of songwriting but avoided the perspiration phase.

As for the music, Tubb’s signature lead instrument had for years been the electric guitar, which he demanded be played in single-note, repeat-the-melody-line style. But E.T. hired the hottest young steel player in the business, Buddy Emmons, in the spring of 1958. When “Half A Mind” was recorded on June 11, Emmons provided an instrumental break that was out of this world, and the electric guitar was virtually absent. That wasn’t the end for the six-string, but it would share the spotlight from then on. Says Pugh: “The pedal steel had come to stay in the Ernest Tubb sound.”

Roger Miller

Roger Miller

With “Half A Mind,” Tubb had his first real hit in four years, reaching No. 8 on the Billboard country chart. And MIller became one the top tunesmiths of the 1950s, writing hits including “Billy Bayou” (Jim Reeves), “Invitation to the Blues” (Ray Price) and “That’s The Way I Feel” (Faron Young). After that, the ’60s and superstardom for Mr. King of the Road.

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