Margaret Cage Whitley Adams, western swing pioneer and bandleader, was born on January 27, 1917, in Smithville, Texas. She was the daughter of Stephen B. and Maude (Hector) Cage. After the death of her father, she moved with her mother, sister, and three brothers to Pearsall. A talented musician and vocalist, Margaret planned to study voice at Juilliard in New York but instead married local western bandleader Olan Smiley Whitley. They had two daughters.
Together they played Texas swing in the San Antonio area. Smiley Whitley’s Texans were so popular, in fact, that in the late 1940s Margaret formed her own band, an all-girl group called the Texas Tomboys, to play at extra bookings. Margaret performed as the drummer. Her Texas Tomboys, along with her husband’s Texans, helped popularize western swing throughout the Southwest in the 1940s and 1950s.
Her group performed at area clubs, such as the Cabaret in Bandera, and played a regular syndicated program broadcast over the Mutual Radio Network on Saturday afternoons. They also appeared on Louisiana Hayride and played the first annual San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo and subsequent rodeos. One of the most memorable shows for the Tomboys and the Texans was the glamorous opening of the Shamrock Hilton Hotel in Houston on March 17, 1949. The event attracted more than 2,000 attendees, including many Hollywood celebrities. The Whitleys’ eldest daughter, about ten years old at the time, performed as a featured singer.
The Whitleys made their life in music for twenty-six years. Margaret Cage Whitley Adams, a lifelong Methodist, died on January 10, 2008, in San Antonio. She was buried in Leakey-Floral Cemetery in Leakey, Texas.
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Hurley Funeral Home, “Margaret Cage Whitley Adams” (http://devine.hurleyfuneralhome.com/obit_print.asp?id=49&locid=3), accessed June 1, 2009. San Antonio Express–News, January 18, 2008.
World War II
Texas Post World War II
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Laurie E. Jasinski,
“Adams, Margaret Cage Whitley,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 21, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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