Texas Bill Strength

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Although much better known for his career as a radio personality, Texas Bill Strength also cut a series of country and rockabilly efforts, including a session for the legendary Sun Records backed by former…
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Although much better known for his career as a radio personality, Texas Bill Strength also cut a series of country and rockabilly efforts, including a session for the legendary Sun Records backed by former Elvis Presley guitarist Scotty Moore. Born August 28, 1928 in Bessemer, Alabama, Strength was all of 16 when he won an amateur contest at Houston's Joy Theater -- local station KTHT was in the market for a cowboy act, and soon he was working part-time on the air. In 1945 Strength began deejaying full-time for St. Joseph, Missouri station KFEQ, followed by a stint singing for Sioux Falls, South Dakota radio KSOO -- after a tenure with Denver's KMYR, he returned to Houston, in quick succession appearing on KLEE, KATL and KNUZ. During this time, Strength also cut a series of little-heard singles for the 4-Star label, among them "Who's the Lucky One" and "I'm Doing a Peach of a Job." In early 1950 he was hired by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to promote the organization via radio and convention appearances -- for 4-Star, he even cut the labor anthem "We Will Overcome." He also continued his radio career for Atlanta's WGST and Decatur's WEAS, and in late 1950 signed to Coral Records, debuting with "Black Coffee Blues." Strength's "Coral" stint would prove the most successful and long-lived of his peripatetic recording career -- he enjoyed his biggest hit there with "You Can't Have My Love," a duet with the underrated Tabby West, and also scored with singles including "Nobody Knows This More Than Me" and "I Was Only Teasing You."

In 1954 Strength was named "Mr. DJ USA" by influential Nashville station WSM, and by year's end he relocated to Memphis station KWAM, where he witnessed the birth of rock & roll via the emergence of Sun acts Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. After accepting a position with St. Paul, Minnesota's KEYD, home to fellow DJs/singers Roy Drusky and Dave Dudley, Strength signed to Capitol Records for efforts including "Cry, Cry, Cry," "Turn Around" and "Do You Think I'm Happy" -- in the Twin Cities, he also hosted a children's television show, Adventures With Texas Bill. But as his long battle with alcoholism grew more severe, Strength returned to Memphis in mid-'60, accepting Sun promotional manager Cecil Scaife's offer to record for the label -- with Moore on guitar and D.J. Fontana on drums, he cut seven songs, with only "Guess I Better Go" and "Senorita" ever receiving commercial release. After a short stay with Bakersfield, California station KUZZ, Strength returned to the Twin Cities, first for KTCR and later for WMIN. He remained there for the rest of his life, recording the occasional single for labels like Starday ("Nervous as a Cat"), Golden Wing ("Let the Chips Fall") and Bangar ("Paper Boy Boogie"). During the early 1970s, he also penned for the monthly Upper Midwest & Western News Scene a column entitled "Down Memory Lane," documenting stories about his life and experiences in the music business. On August 5, 1973, Strength was paralyzed from the waist down following an auto accident -- he then slipped into a coma, dying on October 1 at the age of 45. He was inducted into the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame in 1990.