Gill, Cecil Harris (1912–1978)


By: Joe W. Specht

Type: Biography

Published: October 4, 2014


Cecil Harris Gill, a popular country music balladeer on Fort Worth radio stations in the 1930s and 1940s, was born on September 19, 1912, in Dallas County, Arkansas. He was the son of Barner Blount and Lucy (Land) Gill. The Gills moved to Texas when Cecil was seven, and the 1920 census reported the family living in McCaulley, Fisher County. Gill was sixteen when he began his radio career on radio station KFYO, then located in Abilene, as “The Yodeling Country Boy.” He was also participating in amateur music contests with Stuart Hamblen at the Palace Theater. Here in 1929 he met Jimmie Rodgers the legendary Blue Yodeler, who was in Abilene for a concert at Simmons University. Rodgers invited the lad to appear with him at the concert during which Cecil sang “Never No More Blues,” a song Jimmie had recorded the previous year.

In 1930 Gill moved to Fort Worth and signed on at KTAT. For the next twenty-plus years, “The Yodeling Country Boy” was a constant presence on Cowtown radio stations—on WBAP, then KFJZ and KGKO. After World War II he appeared on KXOL, KCUL, KCNC, and KJIM. The daily broadcasts featured Cecil and his guitar serving up songs from the past such as “The Ship That Never Returned,” “Utah Carroll,” and “The Engineer’s Child.” In 1941 he opened Cecil Gill’s Eat Shop, and he started an independent laundry pickup service in 1957. Gill was still operating the laundry service when he died suddenly of a heart attack on March 28, 1978.

Gill’s recording career was brief. He waxed six songs in 1946 for the local Silver Star Record Company. “Teardrops in the Rain”/“Say Goodbye” (Silver Star 101) proved popular enough to be reissued in 1949 on Rich-R’-Tone Records, a Tennessee label specializing in bluegrass music. He did not return to the studio until 1963 to record four albums worth of favorites from his radio days for Bluebonnet Records in Fort Worth. In 1971 he recorded a gospel album, How Big Is God, for Arlington-based Inspiration Records.

Gill estimated that he stood in front of the microphone for 6,448 live radio broadcasts, and his sustained popularity, especially in the Fort Worth–Dallas area, offers an excellent example of how regular exposure on the airwaves during this period was frequently more important for a performer’s career than were recording opportunities. Furthermore, by singing the old-time ballads and folksongs, Gill is also an example of a radio troubadour who played an often overlooked role in the dissemination of traditional material.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 29, 1978. Liner notes, Cecil Gill “The Yodeling Country Boy” (Bluebonnet Records BL114, 1963). Joe W. Specht, “The Blue Yodeler is Coming to Town,” The Journal of Texas Music History 1 (Fall 2001).

Categories:
  • Music
  • Genres (Country)
Places:
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth
  • North Texas

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

Joe W. Specht, “Gill, Cecil Harris,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/gill-cecil-harris.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 4, 2014

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