The Texas Historian, Volume 38, Number 4, March 1978 Page: 2
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Huddle was an only child, it is not surprising
that family members recall him as: a kind of
spoiled, only-boy in the family who got most
of what he wanted. He attended Lake Chapel
School on Caddo Lake near Elizabeth, Texas,
until the fourth grade. In school his classmates
remembered him as the "smartest, the biggest,
and the best!"
Huddie's musical life began at age two
when he started playing simple tunes on the
accordion and mandolin. At home, his mother
taught him lullabies, Negro spirituals, and
children's play songs:
"Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you.
Happy birthday, dear Huddie,
Happy birthday to you."
Before his sixth birthday, Huddie acquired
a "windjammer" (a trumpet-like instrument)
from his uncle Terrell Ledbetter, a traveling
minstrel in East Texas and West Louisiana.
With the instrument, Huddie learned the rudi-
ments of "backwater" Negro music.
Huddie visited Shreveport for the first
time when he was twelve. It was there that
Huddie was introduced to the glamorous and
not so glamorous world of entertainment. Ac-
companying his father who had gone to
Shreveport to purchase supplies, Huddie met
"Sycamore Slim," a tall skinny seventy-year-
old friend of his father, who could play vir-
tually any musical instrument. While Wes was
off making his purchases, Huddie and Slim
played and sang along Texas Avenue and in
several saloons. As they rested in an alleyway
after their exhausting day, an incident oc-
curred that made a deep impression on Hud-
die. When Slim refused to get up from the
curb' while speaking to a white man, the sev-
enty-year-old man was beaten to death by two
men who were "very drunk and very white."
In the commotion, Huddie's precious wind-
jamer was trampled. This sad incident inten-
sified Huddie's fear and dislike of the white
man. It also increased his determination to ex-
press his mission in song. Once, home, he pur-
sued that interest in earnest.
With a guitar to replace the broken wind-
jammer, Huddie's musical career continued. By
age fourteen his homespun songs were in
great demand in the East Texas-Louisiana
towns surrounding Shreveport:
"Lost my partner, Skip to My Lou,
Lost my partner, Skip to My Lou,
Lost my partner, Skip to My Lou,
Skip to My Lou my darlin'.
"Can't get a Bluebird a Jaybird'll do...
"Fly in the sugar bowl, shoo fly, shoo...
"My old shoe is torn in two...
"Stole my partner, what'll I do?...
"I'll get another one quicker than you!...
"Hey, hey, Skip to My Lou..."
Physically, he was developing into a large,
muscular young man; he was often the center
of attraction at Negro gatherings.
In 1903, at age eighteen, Huddie moved to
Shreveport. It was there the singer joined the
life of street-fights, whiskey drinking, and red-
light fantasies that made Fannin Street one of
the most notorious in the Southwest. Playing
for tips only, Huddie apparently prospered,
for it was said he could afford "flashy clothes."
Always a rambler, Huddie eventually tired
of Shreveport and returned to East Texas after
oil was discovered along Caddo Lake. In 1905
he began working for the Gulf Oil Corporation.
Though a working man, he continued to prac-
tice his music playing at local "sukey-jumps."
Huddie's stay in East Texas was brief. Yearn-
ing for the excitement of the entertainment
world, Huddie set out for New Orleans. His
journey, however, ended abruptly at Bossier
City, a strip-joint center located just across
the Red River from Shreveport. There he met
Letha Massey, an eighteen year old stripper.
Letha was the main woman in Huddie's life
for the next seven or eight years.
At Letha's insistence Huddie cancelled his
New Orleans plans. Instead the couple moved
to Dallas hoping to further their careers. In
order to support themselves, however, both
were forced to find jobs outside entertainment.
Huddie worked in the rich cotton fields east
of Dallas; Letha worked as a waitress. From
his years in East Texas, Huddie had such ex-
perience picking cotton that he could pick
three times as much per day as any other man:
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Texas State Historical Association. The Texas Historian, Volume 38, Number 4, March 1978, periodical, March 1978; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth391271/m1/4/: accessed May 25, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.