Updated: Jun 6, 2021
This Ernest Tubb honky tonk classic changed country music forever!
Original 1941 version
To say that "Walking The Floor" heralded in the golden era of country music may be the most understated sentiment in the genre today. Like Lefty there are many that don't know who Ernest Tubb was, and what he did for country music. Before Ernest country music consisted of cowboy songs, and plaintive styled folk music. Like Lefty, one of his greatest heroes was Jimmy Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman from Mississippi. If you listen to just one of Rodger's Blue Yodel you'll understand why.
In the early 40s Bob Wills type Western swing was still hot. But it was hard to eeke out a living. The bands were large, and the venues were small. I really don't know what made Ernest pick up an electric guitar, and twang up country music, but he did. He was the first to do so. He also streamlined it more by using two to three musicians. They could actually play the honky tonks, and dive bars without a problem. They could go where the swing bands could not.
In 1941 Ernest had already been dumped by RCA. And his Decca singles had not done well either. Things were not exactly looking great, but he was working in radio, and gigging all over Texas. I guess no-one had told his wife when she went on a shopping spree that money was tight. An easy mistake given the fact that Ernest, who by then was touted as The Troubadour was so popular in Texas, and the surrounding states.
Ernest did not have the money to pay for his wife Lois' purchases. When he confronted her, she left with their son, and stayed gone. Ernest was wrecked with sadness, anger, and worry over how he was going to pay the bills.
He found himself pacing back, and forth in the tiny Fort Worth Texas apartment he called home while his wife visited her momma.
It was this angst filled time that drove Ernest to write the iconic Walking The Floor Over You. It's a simple song that takes a page from Ernest's life to the beat of a danceable melody. The song is truly the quintessential honky tonk song, if you really think about it.
He's shredded to pieces in the song, but it's nothing a little sawdust can't temporarily fix henceforth the upbeat tempo. The song made it to the top 25 on the Billboard Pop charts. Ernest started getting calls from Hollywood, which led to a movie deal. He was also among the first to play New York's prestigious Carnegie Hall after the song's unprecedented success. Unfortunately, his marriage did not have the same success. Lois and Ernest were divorced about six years later.
One of the most enviable benefits of the hit song was being accepted into the Grand Ole Opry family. Ernest remained a fixture of the hallowed circle until his death in 1984. But the most enduring testament to the importance, and relatability of the song is confirmed by the who's who list of artists that have recorded the tune. Some of the notable luminaries include Bing Crosby, Little Jimmy Dickens, Jerry Lee Lewis, Asleep At The Wheel.
Possibly one of the most heartwarming renditions is the one Ernest recorded with Merle Haggard. It was his last top 40 song peaking at #31. The little simple song with a stripped down acoustic, and one electric guitar went on to become a honky tonk standard.
According to the book Music in the 20th Century the song eventually sold over 1 million copies!
Ernest Tubb & Merle Haggard