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The Victoria-born country star, now 77, had a stellar career in the fifties and sixties that is all but forgotten. His emergence from retirement, along with the newly released deluxe box set Blackland Farmer: The Complete Starday Recordings, and More (Bear Family), may just change that.
You landed your first recording contract at nineteen. How did those early records fare?
They weren’t very successful, but they got me in the business. I was big on all the jukeboxes in Victoria and Calhoun County.
But 1959’s Blackland Farmer found you real success.
Yeah, it was an unusual record. I wrote that song for an old uncle of mine in South Texas. He was a farmer all of his life. It put me in the country music business big-time.
You recorded so many great sides for Starday but later quit at the height of your career. How come?
I was very tired, sick of the road and being gone from my family. We’d travel in cars, with shows four hundred miles apart. I said, “I’m going home.” I didn’t do anything in the business for 25, 30 years. Now I see George [Jones] every so often—we went many miles together—and we’ll sit on his bus and talk. Now with buses and all—that’s the way to go. (Read the full interview.)