Al Dexter, who wrote and recorded many western-country songs in the mid-1940s up to 1960s, passed away on this day in 1984. He died of heart attack in his home in Lake Lewisville at the age of 78.

He was born Clarence Albert Poindexter, on May 4, 1905. A native of Jacksonville, Texas, Dexter began his recording career in 1930s. He is best remembered for his biggest hit “Pistol Packin’ Mama.” And to commemorate his 35th death anniversary, we revisit his most famous record that sold over 10 million copies. It also became one of the popular recordings during the World War II.

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1970: Photo of Al Dexter Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“Pistol Packin’ Mama”

Al Dexter’s initial recordings were mainly religious as confirmed by his family. However, after a friend asked him if he wanted to “write pretty songs or make money,” he was inspired to switch to honky-tonk music. It was in March 1942 when Dexter recorded the song which he also wrote. He borrowed the melody from the American folk song “Boil Them Cabbage Down.” Released in 1943, “Pistol Packin’ Mama” became the first ever song to top the Juke Box Folk Record chart. The music list is known today as the Hot Country Singles chart.

Also in 1943, the multimedia star Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters recorded the song and their version also peaked at No. 1 on the same chart. This recording has influenced the original version from Dexter and His Troopers to re-appear on the chart, occupying the second spot. Both versions also entered the Harlem Hit Parade chart’s Top 5.

Dexter’s recording sold three million copies on its release year. The song’s B-side, “Rosalita,” was also a top and best-selling hit. During the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, Dexter produced a total of 14 songs that sold more than one million copies each.

Listen to Al Dexter’s “Pistol Packin’ Mama” below.

Aside from Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, several other artists recorded and performed Dexter’s hit. Among them were Pied Pipers, Louis Jordan, Gene Vincent, and Flamin’ Groovies.