Country and Western Singer Tex Williams Dies
NEWHALL, Calif. (AP) _ Country and western singer Tex Williams, whose hits included ″Smoke 3/8 Smoke 3/8 Smoke 3/8 (that Cigarette),″ died Friday after a long battle against cancer, his daughter said. He was 68.
Williams, the first president of Academy of Country and Western Music, sold a million copies ″Smoke 3/8 Smoke 3/8 Smoke 3/8″ which was released in 1947. Other hits included ″California Polka,″ and ″Texas in My Soul.″
Williams died at Newhall Community Hospital, said his daughter, Sandi Aiello.
Born Sol Williams in Fayette County, Ill., he had his own radio program at age 13 in Decatur, Ill., in which he acted as a one-man band, playing five- string banjo and harmonica and singing sad cowboy songs.
Williams joined the Spade Cooley band as a sideman and lead vocalist and sang the vocals for ″Shame on You,″ a country and western hit in the mid- 1940s.
In 1946 he formed a 12-piece band called Western Caravan whose initial release, ″The Rose of the Alamo,″ sold over 250,000 copies.
Several releases later he topped that with ″Smoke 3/8 Smoke 3/8 Smoke 3/8″ a Tex- Ritter-Merle Travis composition that became Capitol Record’s first million- seller.
″He discovered ‘Smoke 3/8 Smoke 3/8 Smoke 3/8’ and he recorded ‘The Night They Burned Down Miss Calamity Jane’ and ’The Cowboy’s Prayer,‴ said longtime friend and record producer Bill Teel.
Williams enjoyed his greatest popularity in the 1930s and 1940s, Teel said.
Williams worked with Tex Ritter in a Western called ″Rollin’ Home to Texas,″ the first of many films in which he appeared from the late 1930s to 1950s.
″He’s been in 25 different Westerns, which were before my time, and I’ve never seen any of them,″ Ms. Aiello said. ″They show them sometimes at 3 in the morning.″
Before forming Western Caravan, Williams played with Peggy West and her Rocky Mountaineers, Cliff Goddard and his Reno Racketeers and the Colorado Hillbillies headed by Walt Schrum, Teel said.
″He was going everywhere, playing everywhere,″ he said.
Western Caravan often was featured on such shows as the Grand Ole Opry, the Porter Wagoner Show, and the Jimmy Dean Show, until it disbanded in 1965.
The city of Newhall last year awarded Williams his own star in the local Western Walk of Fame for his accomplishments in the music and motion picture worlds.
Ms. Aiello said her father had been sick for about a year and had given his final musical performance last New Year’s Eve.
Williams, who had been hospitalized several times during the year, had his bladder removed but the cancer spread to his liver, said Teel. In the end, he suffered kidney failure, his daughter said.
In addition to his daughter, Williams is survived by his wife, Dallas, and a granddaughter.
Funeral services were pending, his daughter said.