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The Backstory: The Texas governor who led a popular hillbilly band

“Pappy” O’Daniel parlayed his popularity as a singing radio star right into the Texas governor’s office.

AUSTIN, Texas — Wherever he went to campaign for Texas governor in 1938, W. Lee O’Daniel drew big crowds, popular not so much for where he stood on the issues, but because he was true, home-grown Texas celebrity who led a western swing band heard on radio stations across the state every day.

O’Daniel led a band called The Light Crust Dough Boys, where western swing music legend Bob Wills got his start.

Light Crust was a flour company that sponsored O’Daniel’s radio show. When the Doughboys disbanded, O’Daniel started his own flour company and formed a new band.

He got the nickname “Pappy” O’Daniel after a slogan heard frequently on his radio show – "Pass the Biscuits, Pappy" – that made him a household name.

O’Daniel campaigned on promises of raising pensions and blocking sales taxes. The press depicted him as a true everyman, with campaign pictures depicting him hunting buffalo and milking cows.

He became Texas governor in 1938 and was re-elected in 1940.

O’Daniel ran for the U.S. Senate representing Texas in a special election in 1941 and served until he decided not to run again in the 1948 election.

He would eventually leave the music scene – and politics - and work as a business owner until his death in 1969.

By the way, if you’re a fan of the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” you may recall that actor Charles Durning plays a fictitious Mississippi governor named - you guessed it -  Pappy O’Daniel.

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