March 28, 2018

When Tex Ritter Dreamed He Was in “Hillbilly Heaven”

When Tex Ritter Dreamed He Was in "Hillbilly Heaven" 1

Tex Ritter/

About the singer, Tex Ritter

Woodward Maurice ‘Tex’ Ritter was born January 12, 1905, near Marvaul, Panola County, Texas, and grew up on a ranch in Beaumont. After graduating high school, he majored in law at the University of Texas. During college, however, he was bitten by the acting bug and moved to New York in 1928 to join a theatrical troupe.

After a few years of struggling, he briefly returned to school, only to leave again to pursue stardom. He appeared in five Broadway plays in the early 1930s, including Green Grow The Lilacs. During his New York years, he also appeared as a dramatic actor on radio’s popular Cowboy Tom’s Roundup and co-hosted the WHN Barn Dance with Ray Whitley making his first records with Art Satherley for ARC in 1934.

Along the way, he recorded prolifically, initially for ARC and Decca. In 1942, he was the first singer to sign with the new Capitol Records. He provided the label with a long string of hits, becoming one of country music’s biggest sellers of the 1940s.

Tex did not have a great voice, but his unusual accent, odd slurs, and phrasing allied to a strong feeling of genuine honesty made his voice one of the most appealing in country music history. He presented a repertoire of diverse material from cowboy ballads, religious material, children’s songs, country and western swing tunes, and recitations. His best-known hit came in 1952 with his rendition of the haunting High Noon, one of the most famous western movie themes of all time that won an Academy Award.

A lifelong student of western history, he was instrumental in setting up The Country Music Foundation and The Country Music Hall Of Fame, to which he was elected in 1964.

Dreaming of “Hillbilly Heaven”

Tex Ritter opened the song with a short melody narrating that he dreamed of a “hillbilly heaven.” He then continued with the spoken verses narrating what had happened in his dream.

Last night I dreamed I went to hillbilly heaven. And you know who greeted me at the gate? The ole
Cowboy-philosopher himself, Will Rogers. He said to me, he said “Tex, the Big Boss of the riders
Up here has asked me to kinda show you around. Now, over yonder are a couple of your ole compadres.”
My, was I glad to see them, Carson Robison and the Mississippi blue yodeler Jimmie Rodgers.

While strumming his well-pitched guitar, he then continued the spoken verses.

He introduced me to Wiley Post, and he showed me the Hall of Fame with all the gold guitars and fiddles
Hanging on the walls. Then he said, “Tex, step over this way, there are two more of your friends I know
You’ll want to see, they’re waitin’ for you.” There they were standin’ side by side and smilin’ at me–
Hank Williams and Johnny Horton.

Before ending the song, his wickedly unique voice gasps, and slurs as he went to close the tune.

Then I asked him who else do you expect in the next, uh, say a hundred years? He handed me a large book
Covered with star dust. Will called it the Big Tally Book. In it were many names and each name was branded
In pure gold. I began to read some of them as I turned the pages: Red Foley, Ernest Tubb, Gene Autry
Roy Acuff, Eddy Arnold, Tennessee Ernie, Jimmy Dean, Andy Griffith, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter 
Tex Ritter? Oh, well, that’s when I woke up, and I’m sorry I did, because

I dreamed I was there in hillbilly heaven.

Watch the talented legend Tex Ritter as he performs one of his greatest hits, “Hillbilly Heaven.”

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Hillbilly Heaven, Tex Ritter

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