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James Head

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ALEXANDER, ALGER [TEXAS] (1900–1954). Blues singer Alger "Texas" Alexander was born in Jewett, Texas, on September 12, 1900, the son of Sam "Ernie" Alexander and Jennie Brooks. He was raised by his grandmother, Sally Beavers, in Richards. He spent most of his life working as a railroad section hand or on farms in East Texas. He was a short, stocky man who sang with a deep, booming voice. He often shouted out his lyrics in the tradition of field slaves, although this sometimes made his words difficult to understand. He always carried a guitar with him but could not play it. When he sang in migrant work camps, in honkytonks, or on the streets, he sought out a guitar player to accompany him. His accompanists included Blind Lemon Jefferson, John T. (Funny Papa) Smith, George (Little Hat) Jones, and Alexander's cousin Lightnin' Hopkins.

Pianist Sammy Price discovered Alexander in the early 1920s and arranged a recording session for him. Alexander recorded extensively after that, collaborating with other blues legends, including Lonnie Johnson, the Mississippi Sheiks, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Little Hat Jones. Between 1927 and 1934 he recorded more than sixty sides on the OKeh and Vocalion labels. His extensive recording helped him become one of the most popular blues singers of that era. He also served at least two prison terms, including a stint in Paris, Texas, for allegedly killing his wife. Alexander's songs reflected his prison and work experiences. After his release from jail in the mid-1940s he and Hopkins performed for tips on Houston street corners and buses. After moving back to Richards in 1951 he spent the last years of his life in poor health. He died of syphilis on April 16, 1954, in Richards, and is buried in Longstreet Cemetery in Grimes County.


Michael Erlewine et al., ed., AMG All Music Guide To the Blues (San Francisco: Miller Freeman, 1996; 2d ed., San Francisco: Miller Freeman, 1999). Sheldon Harris, Blues Who's Who (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1979). H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie, eds., The New Grove Dictionary of American Music (New York: Macmillan, 1986). Frank Scott, The Down Home Guide To the Blues (Chicago: A Cappella, 1991).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, James Head, "ALEXANDER, ALGER [TEXAS]," accessed July 13, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fal83.

Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Modified on June 19, 2020. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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