Perhaps little known, but ultimately influential, Clarence Albert Poindexter (better known as Al Dexter) made his mark on the country music scene during the World War II years.
Dexter was born on May 4, 1905, in Jacksonville, Texas. He is credited with introducing the term and the style of honky tonk to the country music genre. He also became one of the first country artists with a crossover hit on mainstream music charts.
The first accomplishment resulted from his 1937 hit “Honky Tonk Blues,” the second from the popularity of his biggest hit, the 1943 chart-topper “Pistol Packin’ Mama.”
Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters recorded a later version of the edgy song. The songwriter who found fame in the recording studio said that the idea for the lyrics came from his thoughts on how to calm a woman with a gun while chasing away her husband’s newly discovered girlfriend.
Dexter recorded 16 singles from 1943 to 1948, none of them ranking lower than Number 14 on the charts. His style influences country greats like Lefty Frizzell and Merle Haggard, while artists like Glen Campbell and Ronnie Milsap recorded some of his numbers.
As a child, Dexter showed a talent for playing the organ, mouth harp, guitar, and banjo — as well as writing and singing songs. Among his various jobs, he began performing at local parties and barn dances until he found his way to playing on bar stages in Longview during the East Texas oil boom of the 1930s.
He soon formed a band called the Texas Troopers and invested in his own honky-tonk bar, the Roundup Club in Turnertown, Texas, southeast of Tyler. He racked up more hits during his career, including “Rosalita,” “So Long Pal,” “Guitar Polka,” and “Wine Women and Song.”
For the record…
All told, Dexter received 12 gold records for million-sellers in the five-year period from 1943 to 1948. He won an Oscar for “Guitar Polka” and was voted the Leading Artist of 1946 by the Jukebox Operators Association. In the late ’40s, Dexter opened his own club in Dallas; he performed there until his retirement.
Dexter was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971 and the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010. He died in 1984.
Together, let us remember Al Dexter with his song.