A 17 year-old Birmingham lad named Henry Strzelecki took in with wide-eyed awe the man’s colorful attire, his large, white Stetson, big shiny boots, easy gait, and height.
Then Strzelecki wrote the famous song that went pop as a million-selling hit recorded by Murry Kellum. The song the lad penned waws entitled Long Tall Texan and the subject was none other than Tex Ritter.
Birmingham, AL-born Henry Strzelecki started out in country music in his teens, recording with songwriter Baker Knight on the Decca label out of Nashville in the mid-'50s. He played with his brother Larry in the Four Flickers (later the Four Counts), who toured the southern and border states late in the '50s. The Four Flickers was the first group to record the song in 1959 which was released by the Memphis Lee label (Lee 1003).
Jerry Woodard, a rockabilly singer of Strzelecki’s acquaintance, recorded it for Century Ltd, a small label run by another Jackson, Mississippi artists, Andy Anderson & the Dawnbreakers. [Century Limited 603, 1960]. Though Woodard’s version wasn’t a hit, Andy Anderson liked ‘Long Tall Texan” enough to play it on personal appearances.
Murry Kellum, a local kid who occasionnaly sat in with the Dawnbreakers, was even more taken with the song. He decided to record it himself with help from his parents, who put up the money for a session at the Pepper Studio in Memphis in March 1963. Kellum was accompanied on the trip by his friend, Glen Sutton, and members of Sutton’s band – brother Ronnie Sutton on bass, Sammy Martin on piano, Woody Coates, sax, and Dick Thomas on drums. Kellum sing and played guitar on ‘Long Tall Texan’ while Sutton performed on the other side.
‘Long Tall Texan’ b/w ‘I Gotta Leave thius Town’ was issued on Kellum’s own K&M label (the initials stood for his parents’ names)
Glenn Sutton :
« For $182 we cut four sides, including « Long Tall Texan ». We came back to Jackson and pressed about two hundred records and put ‘em out there in town. And a little guy at a record store in Jackson, Mississippi, played it for a salesman at Hi Records in Memphis. They leased as it was, the two sides. I was one side of the record, and Murray was the other . ‘Long Tall Texan’ – his side – went to number fifty with a bullet in the pop charts .Joe Cuoghi, a Memphis distributor who owned the mighty Hi label, re-issued Kellum’s master on his M.O.C. subsidiary and with national distribution, ‘Long Tall Texan’ crept up to #51 in the late summer of 1963.
The Beach Boys further popularised the song by including it on their best-selling “Beach Boys Concert” LP n 1964.
Kellum, who was born in Jackson in 1942, tragically died in a plane crash at the age of 47 in 1990.
Murry Kellum : Long Tall Texan