A Lyrical Life
The day after I arrived in Hollywood, Bing Crosby decided to record my song "Lone Star Trail." I thought, "Shucks, there ain't nothing to this."
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I GREW UP IN WACO, where papa was a cotton buyer. He traveled a lot, and one day, after I had graduated from high school, he said, “I’m going to Los Angeles to sell some cotton. Would you all like to go with me?”
So we moved to California. And as we were riding down Sunset Boulevard, I saw the Crosby building. Oh, that was something. I said, “Papa, stop!” He said, “What for?” See, we hadn’t gotten a place to stay yet. I said, “I’ve got to see Bing. I’ve got a song for him to sing.” I had a briefcase with me, full of songs I had written. Papa said, “Girl, you’re squirrelly. Don’t you know Bing’s not in that building?” I said, “Somebody’s bound to know him.” He said, “Go ahead and go on in. I’ll wait.” My mother, of course, she never said anything.
So I walked up to the girl who was sitting at the switchboard and said, “I want to see Bing Crosby.” She said, “Bing’s not here,” so I said, “Well, who else is here?” She said, “Larry Crosby and Everett Crosby and Daddy Crosby.” And I said, “Tell Larry”—because that’s the first one she named—”Tell Larry that somebody from Texas is here to see him.” She asked me if I had an appointment, and I said, “No, just tell him somebody from Texas is here to see him.” I guess she thought I knew him, because she called him, and he said, “Well, show her in.” Can you beat that?
I went in and sat down on the couch in his office, where he and a man were talking about some song that Bing was doing in a picture. Larry said, “I think that’s too much money. Bing won’t go for that.” I just spoke up: “I’ll let him do mine for nothin'; I’m a songwriter.” He said, “Is that what you are?” He kinda smiled. I said, “Yeah, and a good one too!” I was kinda touchy about that.
He said, “Let me tell my friend here good-bye.” Then he asked me, “Now, what kind of songs do you write?” I said, “I write all kinds of songs.” He said, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll listen to one of them. I’ve got a piano right next door here.” He was amused with me. I said, “Wait a minute!” I had to run downstairs to get my mother, because she played piano for me. I said, “Mama, get out of that car and come up here. I’m gonna sing my song for Mr. Crosby.” Mama said, “Are you kidding me? I’m not dressed for this.” I said, “Don’t argue. Come on!” She went up to his office with me. I said, “I’m gonna sing ‘Lone Star Trail.'” And so I sang it, and Larry said, “You know, Bing has been looking for a Western song to get into his new recording, and he’s going to do it pretty soon. Meet me here at ten-thirty in the morning and I’ll take you over to Paramount, where he’s making a picture, and you can sing it for him and we’ll see if he likes it.”
That’s what I did. Mama wouldn’t go with me; she said I’d embarrassed her to death. I took my little guitar—that’s what I was writing songs with. I wasn’t a good player, but I could get the chords. Anyway, Bing was sitting there in his chair at Paramount Studios, and a publisher from New York was sitting with him. Larry said, “This gal’s name is Cindy. She wants you to hear a song she’s written.” The publisher said, “Can I listen too?” And so we all went up to Bing’s dressing room. I sang “Lone Star Trail,” and he said, “I like it. I’ll do it.” Then the publisher said, “I like it and I’ll publish it.” I said, “Shucks, there ain’t nothing to this.”
So that’s the way it happened. I got a recording contract with Decca, and Papa and Mama got a lovely apartment. While I was in Hollywood, I wrote 39 songs for Bob Wills pictures. I wrote for Eddie Arnold and Ernest Tubb and Roy Rogers and Tex Ritter—everybody you can think of.
Thirteen years after I got to California, after my father had died, my brother wrote me a letter saying I had to bring his mother home so she could meet her grandchildren. So I said, “Well, that’s okay; I can write in Texas as good as here.” I already had it made, don’t you see.
Cindy Walker was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997. She lives in Mexia, where she still writes songs every day.