About The Artist
T. Texas Tyler was a native of Mena, Arkansas where he was born as David Luke Myrick. His parents were James Earl and Ida Bell (Cagle) Myrick. He attended grade school in Mena and in 1930 relocated first to Rhode Island and then to Philadelphia.
He first seems to have appeared on radio at WMBA in Newport, Rhode Island (whether as a single or regular appearance is unknown). His main early entertainment came through Major Bowes Amateur Hour and subsequent tours with him.
Ozark Mountain Dave
Ira Brock provided some additional insight into those early years in a 1967 column when Tyler was making appearances in Florida. It was in 1935 that David Myrick set out to the east coast and make a name for himself with the Major Bowes amateur radio show. But Major Bowes had a problem - the young singer was using the name Ozark Mountain Dave. He told Myrick, "I'll put you in one of my touring units but under a new name." He asked him, who were some of his favorite movie cowboys. He rattled off Tom Mix and Tim Tyler. Major Bowes told him, "That's it. Call yourself Smiling Texas Tyler." But Tyler told Mr. Brock he did not care for the "Smiling" part of that name, so he just dropped it and added the "T." and well, the rest is history.
T. Texas Tyler
What type of songs Myrick sang in that period has not been recorded, but he was definitely country when he came to WCHS Charleston in 1937 with an outfit known as Deacon Wayne's Melody Boys. This group's stay in West Virginia was brief, but Tyler remained. He teamed up with fiddler Clarence "Slim" Clere, forming a duo known as Slim and Tex as Myrick had taken the stage name Tex Tyler combining the names of cowboy stars Tex Ritter and Tom Tyler. A little later, Clere introduced him as T. Texas Tyler.
He added occasional growling sounds in his vocals (not used in sacred songs) in a performance at the Old Farm Hour and it became his trade mark. After a year at WCHS, they went their separate ways for a couple of months and then combined again at WSAZ Huntington where they remained until the spring of 1942.
While in Huntington, Tex married his first wife Claudia (both would later be buried there). Slim and Tex were to change places with the WMMN Fairmont duo of Cherokee Sue and Little John Graham, but as events worked out only Tyler went to Fairmont where he teamed up with Jimmy Dickens. After a few months there they went to WIBC Indianapolis where their combo broke up when Tyler entered military service.
After the war Tyler went to California, then at the beginning of a country and western music boom. Briefly signing with the Black & White label, he then joined the roster of Bill McCall's Four Star Records. Based on the number of his Four Star discs you still see, he must have been their biggest seller.
Sunny Ciesla wrote in a 1946 column that T. Texas Tyler was quite a busy person. He had a 50 minute morning show over KLAC at 6:10am in the morning. He would bring in his Martin guitar on occasion, perhaps even do some yodeling. But he would always read at least one poem a day on his show. On Monday nights, he and His Oklahoma Melody Boys would entertain folks at the 97th and South Main Street Corral. Other nights saw him doing personal appearances in Southern Calfornia.
Ms. Ciesla wrote of the human side of Tyler. He had a thing for helping those less fortunate. One day, Tyler and his announcer, Bob McLaughlin, charted an ambulance and took a fan (Anna) who had been bed-ridden on 'her first long ride in seven years.' They toured many places in Southern California as time and traffic would allow. Tyler would on occasion pull out his guitar and sing for her.
His songs extended from old British ballads such as "Black Jack David" through new secular and sacred lyrics to covers of other artists' hits, and all seemed to do well. But the recitation of "Deck of Cards," the top hit of 1948, ranked as the one that made him a major star. He followed it up with the Mary Jean Shurtz sentimental poem "Dad Gave My Dog Away." Moving into the new decade, he scored with "Bumming Around," and a revival of the old late 19th century comedy number "Courtin' in the Rain."
Within three months after he recorded "Deck of Cards,", he was invited to be the star of an "American Folk Recital" in New York's famed Carnegie Hall. Tyler told Ira Brock, it was just him and his guitar, but it went so well, they had two intermissions.
On April 17, 1948, T. Texas Tyler broke an attendance record in a concert at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. The hall had a seating capacity of 3,500, but they allowed 4,000 to attend, seating them in the aisles or even on stage. They estimated another 2,000 were turned away.
In 1949, National Hillbilly News provides an indication of the popularity of Tyler. An article told readers he did four personal appearances in three days at very different venues and audiences. First, there was a night club engagement in Pomona, CA. Then he did a dance engagement in San Bernardino. He was a featured act in Newhall on Sunday afternoon. And that Sunday evening, he did a concert of Gospel tunes at the Bright Corner Community Church in Long Beach where the Rev. Larrimore was minister.
Columbia Studios in Hollywood tapped Tyler to do a movie with Charles Starett in 1949, "Horsemen of the Sierras." He played himself and sang "Fair Weather Baby" and "Remember Me."
Then came a downward spiral and "the Man with a Million Friends" as he had become known lost many of them through heavy drinking, drug usage, and an arrest for transporting illegal substances across the border at El Paso. However, he made a comeback of sorts and briefly joined the Grand Ole Opry.
1957 - Arrest
In September of 1957, Tyler was in his hotel after a performance at the Municipal Auditorium in San Antonio, TX. It was promoted as a Grand Ole Opry show, headlined by Hank Snow. Other acts were Jimmie Rodgers Snow, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, Sleepy McDaniel and Mother Maybelle (Carter). Police arrested Tyler as detectives stated he had 45 marijuana cigarettes in his possession. He was booked in stage costume and all under his real name of David Luke Myrick at the San Antonio city jail. News reports indicated that Tyler had stated he had used marijuana for about ten years; he denied stealing the cigarettes that were confiscated, but did not reveal where he got them.
In December of 1957, a Bexar County grand jury indicted David Myrick on narcotics charges. He surrendered himself to San Antonio authorities, returning from his home in Nashville. He had been released on bond on the initial charges, but had to make a new bond upon the indictment.
On December 10, David Luke Myrick (T. Texas Tyler) pled guilty to a charge of illegal possession of narcotics. He was initially sentenced to five years of jail time, though news reports indicated a move or appeal to put him on probation was being discussed. One news report indicated to District Judge John Onion that he had bought them as a favor for $15 from an unnamed musician who was 'down on his luck.' He claimed he had not smoked any marijuana in almost three years. He was being held in jail in lieu of $7,500 bond. At the time, his wife and two children were living in West Virginia and he was working out of Nashville.
Myrick had requested for suspension of the sentence and Judge Onion took it under advisement pending an investigation by the county probation officer. He was granted probation on December 17, 1957. He was to leave immediately for Los Angeles to fulfill recording and television filming engagements.
The advent of rock and roll received part of the blame for his problems but it likely went deeper than that.
1958 - Conversion
In early 1958, it appears he had a conversion experience. From that point on, his personal appearances were at various churches around the country and Canada. He was ordained a minister on March 5, 1965 in the Oregon District Countil of Assembly of God Churches, Salem (OR).
T. Texas Tyler actually wrote of his conversion experience in a publication called "Herald of Hope" that was published in the May-June 1965 issue. He wrote of his life, how he started as an entertainer, the life he was living, the reason why he asked the Grand Ole Opry for a leave so he could tend to some business in Los Angeles. The real reason at first was to seek help via Alcoholics Anonymous. It was after a golf outing he had with two movie stars and Carl (Squeakin' Deacon) Moore, then a DJ at radio station KFOX in Long Beach. Deacon was driving Tyler home and he asked what was bugging him. That opened the door to the next steps he was about to take.
Before going on, Tyler began his essay with some background of his early life in entertainment. He was born and raised in the heart of the Ouachita Mountains, the foothills of the Ozarks near the Oklahoma border. He said he was raised by a "Christian mother who came from a long line of Hard Shell Baptists." There were three boys in his family, he was the youngest. He noted that they were all named from the Good Book - James Odell, Daniel Paul and he was David Luke.
He wrote that when his two brothers got "old enough to lie about their age," one joined the U. S. Army and the other joined the U. S. Navy. That meant Tyler was left to do all the work on the family farm. He said when he turned 14, he thought "I knew it all." He had a $3.98 Sears and Roebuck guitar, he put it in a gunny sack, hopped aboard a Kansas City Southern freight train and proceeded to run away from home.
His travels took him to numerous towns and gave him the ropes of the entertainment business. In 1935, he won a Major Bowes Amateur Contest on national radio singing "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine."
He had billed himself as "Ozark Mountain Dave." Research of old newspaper radio program listings shows that he had a 15-minute show over radio station WDEL in Wilmington, DE in September 1936. He also had a 15-minute program on radio station WIP in Philadelphia that same month.
After the success on the Major Bowes show, he wrote that it took him on a journey to various radio stations that had "barn dance" shows. While in West Virginia, he 'discovered' a young singer named Little Jimmy Dickens, helping him understand the entertainment business and getting him started.
He served his country as a sergeant in the Field Artillery of the U. S. Army during World War II. After his discharge in 1944, he headed to Los Angeles. He had a program over KPAS in Pasadena andn executive from the Four Star record company heard him and signed him to the label.
As the hit records came seemingly one after the other, his life became a complicated web of other people inserting themselves into his life and essentially controlling his purse strings. He had a booking agent, press agent, financial agent, business agent, business manager, bodyguard. He had seven such people working for him at one time and noted he had foolishly turned over power of attorney to them, giving them control over his bank account. He was getting $1,200 per appearance plus travel expenses. He was being robbed blind he writes, but he did not seem to mind as he was making 'big money' and having '...a wild old time.'
He wrote that he began drinking in 1937 while in Chicago, at first being sociable, but over the next couple of decades, he found he had become an alocholic. In October of 1957, he took stock of his life, noting he had made so much money in ten years, but did not have a dime to show for it. He had debts that kept him doing appearances. He wrote of liens, garnishments, attachments, debts incurred due to his drinking. He wrote, "It finally got through to me that if I ever expected to have security for my wife and two boys, I would have to quit drinking."
He was working with the Grand Ole Opry at the time when he decided he wanted to go to California. He told them he needed to make some shows in Los Angeles; the Opry granted him a short leave of absence. He did go to Los Angeles,he did make some appearances, but he said his primary goal was to get 'competent help' from Alcoholics Anonymous.
The essay continues with the efforts of the Deacon helping Tyler. During the drive to Tyler's home, the Deacon asked him, "I have been watching you since you came back to California. What on earth has happened to you in the last two years?" Tyler knew it was no secret in the entertainment world that he was a chronic alcoholic. He told the Deacon that things seemed to be getting worse rather than better, telling him things he had tried to do.
When they got to Tyler's home, the Deacon turned the car motor off and they continued to talk. Tyler wrote, the Deacon turned and looked at him, with tears in his eyes, and told Tyler, "Tex, if you have tried all these things and haven't received any help, why don't you try God?" That seemed to resonate with Tex and he thought spiritual help could be a path. The Deacon told Tex, "I know He will. Tex, promise me you will think about it seriously. I am going to phone you every day until you decide to do something about it."
Tex thought of himself at that time to be a "spiritual hitchhiker," a person he though would go to heaven on somebody else's salvation. He kept thinking if only he could get caught up and oout of debt, things would change. But he noted, "I found out that God wanted me just as I was."
True to his word, the Deacon called Tex the next day and pointedly asked Tex, "What are you going to do about what we were talking yesterday?" He told Deacon he had a favor to ask - call a friend in Glendale, have him come to his house that afternoon. That person was Rev. Larry Larimore, pastor of the Foursquare Church. After they hung up, the Deacon gave Rev. Larimore a call and was at the home of Tex in 20 minutes. The date was March 11, 1958. Tex noted he had been drinking all day long. He thought he could hide it from his guest as he went into the bathroom and rinsed his mouth out with Listerine. But he did not fool the Reverend. Before they could start talking, he told Tex to get on their knees by the couch and pray.
Tex wrote of that moment. His hands raised up; he did not hear a sound; felt something spoke to him, thinking later it was the Holy Spirit. He began praying, "Lord, if you will just break this drinking habit for me, I will quit this old life that I am living. Lord, if you take away all the appetite and the urge of drink, I will quit Country and Western music." The thought stunned him, but he went on, "Lord if you will help me out and give me the strength to fight the devil, I will go to work for you." After they got up Rev. Larimore invited Tex to visit his church on Thursday evening. Tex noted he was drunk when he got on his knees, but felt he was sober when he was done praying.
He wrote of the next morning, having a cup of coffee rather than his regular half pint before even thinking of breakfast. He wrote for over eight years, he could not sleep without the aid of narcotics. That day, he had a good breakfast. That evening, the Deacon and his wife came to Tyler's house and they drove him and his wife to Rev. Larimore's church.
Similar to an experience another singer had (Stuart Hamblen) when he was converted, he felt a bit uneasy upon entering, but felt different about this invitation. He said he experienced 'tears of repentance on his cheeks' while waiting for the altar call. He said a prayer, "Lord I am a sinner, have mercy on me." He said he felt the peace of God come into his heart. He felt his past had been 'washed clean and the old account was settled.'
He began the process of ending his contractual obligations such as in Hollywood and the Grand Ole Opry and others and he was relieved of them without much difficulty. But there was one promoter who had him under contact to appear at rodeos and fairs in the next summer. He had a phone conversation with that person and told him he wanted out of that contract. The promoter thought it was an ironclad contract. He told the promoter he had been saved to which he asked Tyler if he was drinking.
The promoter told him, if you break that contract, everybody concerned with it will sue you, including him. Tex told him to just go ahead, bring the suit; he felt he could break it. The promoter then asked him, "Why don't you tell me over the telephone how you think you can break it. It may save us a lot of money going to court."
Tex told him to look at page three of the contract. There were seven things he had to do in order to get paid. One, he had to be back stage 30 minutes before each appearance. Two, he must be sobert before each appearance (it was capitalized and underlined). There were five other items. The promoter told him, "Listen Tyler, I don't see where you can break this." Tyler told him to hold on, he was not finished. He told him of a clause elsewhere in the page in smaller print that said, "All of the above clauses in this contract are binding and applied directly to T. Texas Tyler, with the exception of an Act of God." That caused the promoter to stammer a bit and finally just hung up. He never heard from him again.
He wrote, "When he had his attorney write that "Act of God" clause in that contract, he never dreamed, and neither did I when I signed it, that a real act of God would ever happen to me."
Cowboy Becomes a Reverend
Research shows that his visits to various communities were usually promoted in advance with news articles. In those articles, one gets an idea of what attendees would see and here of his evangelistic efforts. He would tell how he gave up his life as an entertainer to become a preacher of the Gospel. He was converted in early 1958 and dedicated himself to his new path. He would play the guitar, sing many gospel songs. A "love offering" was a standard practice for his appearances. He would also sell his gospel albums after the service.
In 1969, articles were beginning to promote a 30-minute color movie that told the story of his earlier life, conversion and subsequent evangelistic work.
Although Tyler made a comeback of sorts, he never regained his old popularity. He had some new recordings on Capitol and Starday in the sixties, had a conversion experience and became an Assembly of God evangelist.
Claudia (Sunny Ciesla told readers Claudia was born on June 8, 1921) died in April of 1968 and was buried back in her hometown of Huntington. Some of Tyler's old friends such as Slim Clere, Molly O'Day and Lynn Davis had a brief reunion at the funeral home.
After that Tex based his evangelistic work in Springfield, Missouri and remarried.
However in a June 1971 letter to Clere, he informed his old pal that he had terminal cancer of the stomach and expired six months later. Survived by his second wife and two sons, he was laid to rest in Huntington beside Claudia.
Several of his recordings have been re-issued in Germany and the United Kingdom as well as the USA.
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