Waltz Across Texas

Take a waltz lesson down Dallas way and the chances are pretty good that this is the tune the piper (or, more likely, the accordionist) will call. Although it has been recorded many times, it is indelibly associated with the man who wrote and had a hit by it, Mr Ernest Tubb. Here are the opening lines of a bio of Tubb at allmusic.com:

The incomparable Ernest Tubb ("E.T." to all who knew him) became a legend as much for what he was personally as for the half-century career that stretched from his first radio date in 1932 to his death in 1984. Though other singers with better voices and more raw musical talent have come and gone, none has inspired greater love from fans over six decades. Along with such performers as Jimmie Rodgers, Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, and George Jones, Tubb is country music personified.

~ David Vinopal

Tubb recorded this song in 1965, 20-some years into his career, when most of his biggest hits were behind him. That same year he became the sixth inductee into the new Country Music Hall of Fame. A wistful, overtly sentimental piece of songcraft, Waltz Across Texas will serve us well as a simple two-chord jam vehicle that anyone should be able to jump on with relative ease. Plus, you never know when you're going to need a wistful, overtly sentimental piece of songcraft. Or a waltz. On the audio clip that follows, listen for the tasteful guitar riffs slithering around Tubb's vocals on the chorus. The trick to this is adding a little something without distracting from the singer. Try it!

Audio clip: Ernest "ET" Tubb's Waltz Across Texas, 1965

While we're on the subject of tasteful background guitar riffs, producer Chet Atkins attempted much the same thing on a Willie Nelson cut of the song just three years after the original, in 1968. (And yes, that's our now bandana'd boy on the album cover to the left. Cleaner look, if not likely cleaner living during the Summer of Love.) I'm not sure who was playing the snaking guitar lines this time — Chet, Willie, or a hired gun — but in my humble opinion he or she slithers less succesfully. Still, it's a nice cut. Listen for yourself; then you get to play critic.

Audio Clip: Willie Nelson on Waltz Across Texas


In the mid-90's The Osborne Brothers released a tribute album devoted to bluegrass renditions of Tubb's songs. Kind of like getting the kids out of Nashville and up in the hills a piece for air. There are a couple things you might want to borrow from this cut. First, the harmony vocal you'll hear on the chorus; you won't find it done better than by Bobby and Sonny Osborne. Then the instrumentals that follow offer several examples of how you might craft a simple, tasteful solo of your own with only slight variations on the melody. Please do!

Audio Clip: The Osborne Brothers on Waltz Across Texas