4AL DEXTER [Clarence Albert Poindexter] (1902–1984)

Clarence Albert Poindexter, a country music singer better known as Al Dexter, was born in Jacksonville, Texas, in 1902. While working as a house painter, Dexter began performing in local bars and clubs. In the early 1930s he put together a band to perform in the outskirts of Longview, Texas. He signed a recording contract with American Record Corporation in 1936. Dexter’s “Honky Tonk Blues,” which he wrote with James B. Paris, was the first country song to use the term honky-tonk. In the late 1930s Dexter owned a honky tonk himself, the Roundup Club in Turnertown, Texas.

Through his experiences there and in other roadhouses, Dexter developed the idea for his future hit, “Pistol Packin’ Mama.” Art Satherley, Dexter’s producer, helped him by arranging a recording session with Gene Autry‘s backup band, for which Dexter had expressed admiration. Dexter recorded “Pistol Packin’ Mama” and “Rosalita” with them at Columbia’s Hollywood studios. The record was released in 1943 and in its first six months sold a million copies. The song “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” a controversial number due to its lyrics, remained at Number One onBillboard Magazine’s best sellers chart for eight weeks. In 1944, when Billboardstarted its “Most Played Juke Box Folk Records” chart for country music, “Pistol Packin’ Mama” was still at the top. “Rosalita” also had a week at Number One, and Dexter received such widespread recognition that he launched national tours.

From 1944 through 1948 Dexter recorded other country hits, including “Too Late to Worry,” “Wine, Women and Song,” and “Calico Rag.” The popularity of his honky tonk sound decreased over time. Although he recorded other songs with King, Decca, and Capitol, he never had another hit. In 1971 Dexter was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. He had invested in savings and loan, motel, and real estate businesses in Texas and died a wealthy man. On January 28, 1984, Dexter died from a heart attack at his home on Lake Lewisville in Lewisville, Texas. He was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.