Ray Benson, “Pappy” O’Daniel and LBJ

March 19, 2009

Enjoying  Asleep at the Wheel Ray Benson’s delightful “On the Road with Bob Wills”  last weekend at the Long Center in Austin brought back memories of long ago, together with political history that few Texans may know.

Ray’s play/musical is about the life of western swing icon Bob Wills. In his early days, Wills  and his band were employed by a Fort Worth flour salesman, W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel of Burris Mills, who named the group the “Light Crust Doughboys” and sponsored their mid-day broadcast on KFJZ radio.  I remember very well that as a youngster working on my father’s ice wagon, I watched them perform on a flatbed tailer alongside a boarding house on West 6th Street in downtown Fort Worth, and hearing O’Daniel hawk his flour,

Wills split with O’Daniel and his band became “The Texas Playboys” . “Pappy”  founded his own O’Daniel’s Hillbilly Flour Company and formed a new band, Pappy O’Daniel and his Hillbilly Boys. Riding his notariety from years on the radio, O’Daniel ran for Governor of Texas in 1938, pitching his flour and the need for pensions and tax cuts. He won the Democratic Primary with 51 percent of the vote over 12 opponents. (No worry abot Rs–they hunted Republicans with dogs in those days).  Once in office, O’Daniel proposed a sales tax, which did not  pass. He handily won re-election in 1940.

In 1941, O’Daniel ran  for the U.S. Senate in a special election. He defeated a young Lyndon B. Johnson by 1,306 votes in one of the most controversial elections in history. He is the only person ever to defeat Johnson for elective office.                                                                 –Julian Read

One Response to “Ray Benson, “Pappy” O’Daniel and LBJ”

  1. Mark Says:

    LBJ I am told loved Texas Swing music. He should be put on Asleep at the Wheel covers. I sure miss ol democrats like LBJ and his love for such music.

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