A total of ninety-one chart hits spanning 35 years provides only some idea of the imprint that Ernest Tubb made on country music. The “Texan Troubadour” became both a member of the Grand Ole Opry and a star of the silver screen before he was out of his 20s. Both of those landmarks date from 1943, when he starred in the first of his several western films, Fighting Buckaroo.
By then, he had already had his first major success with the gold-certified 1941 staple “Walkin’ The Floor Over You.” Tubb’s first appearance on the country bestsellers, with “Try Me One More Time,” came in the very week that Billboard introduced that chart, when the magazine debuted Most Played Juke Box Folk Records in January, 1944.
A rapid-fire array of hits ensued: three that year, and at least the same number every year, for the next decade and more. His first No.1, very much a song of the Second World War, was “Soldier’s Last Letter,” in September of that year. Further Tubb releases featured on other Billboard charts sporadically from 1944 through to 1953.
On the November 17, 1945 list, as the world picked up the pieces from the end of the conflict, one of country’s new heroes not only continued his popularity, but expanded it. Ernest entered that juke box chart with his latest Decca 78rpm release, “It’s Been So Long Darling,” another self-composed number showcasing his relaxed baritone. The song was, if you chose to interpret it that way, another wartime refrain, with such lyrics as “It’s been so long darling, since I had to go away” and “…but now I’m coming home.”
The listing, topped by Wesley Tuttle’s “With Tears In My Eyes,” contained only eight records, with Tubb at a joint No.5. Just three weeks later, it became his second No.1, with four non-consecutive weeks at the top. Tubb’s tally of six chart-toppers, the last with the perennial “Goodnight Irene” in 1950, didn’t fully reflect his pre-eminence on the country scene. A total of 58 top ten hits was a more accurate indication.
“It’s Been So Long Darling” went on to be covered in the 1950s by Don Cherry and Hank Snow, then by Eddy Arnold, George Jones, and Bill Anderson in the early 1960s. The song’s introduction to country’s next generation was further helped by a young Glen Campbell, who included it on his 1963 LP Too Late to Worry – Too Blue to Cry, his first to credit him solo. The album also included his versions of another Tubb hit of the era, “Tomorrow Never Comes,” and indeed of “Walkin’ The Floor Over You.” Interpretations of “It’s Been…” followed by George Hamilton IV, Loretta Lynn, and Carl Smith, before Merle Haggard picked up on it as an oldie but goodie on his 1980 album The Way I Am.
‘It’s Been So Long Darling’ is on Ernest Tubb’s Country Music Hall of Fame Series compilation, which can be bought here.