Hofner, Adolph (1916–2000)

By: Martin Donell Kohout

Type: Biography

Published: November 28, 2006

Updated: May 5, 2016

Adolph Hofner, pioneer of western swing music, was born in Moulton, Texas, on June 8, 1916. Hofner's father was part German and his mother was of Czech extraction. Adolph and his younger brother, Emil, grew up speaking Czech. The family moved to San Antonio in 1928, and Adolph and Emil (nicknamed "Bash") learned guitar and steel guitar respectively. They played in polka bands as teenagers.

In the early 1930s Adolph and Emil teamed up with Simon Garcia to form a trio called the Hawaiian Serenaders. They landed a fifteen-minute spot on radio station KTSA, but the station pulled the plug on them halfway through their first broadcast. Adolph, whose smooth singing style earned him the nickname the "Bing Crosby of Country," first recorded with Jimmie Revard's Oklahoma Playboys, whom he and Emil joined in 1936. Subsequently Hofner returned to San Antonio and worked briefly as a mechanic. He resumed his musical career in the late 1930s with Tom Dickey and the Showboys, with whom he recorded "It Makes No Difference Now," but was fired for showing up late for a radio spot and resolved to form his own band.

Adolph Hofner and All the Boys began playing at clubs in San Antonio and around South Texas. They changed their name to the San Antonians for a recording engagement. Hofner recorded at various times for the Imperial, Columbia, RCA, Decca, and Sarg labels. His first recording success came in 1940, when "Maria Elena" became a minor hit. He claimed to have been the first to record the classic "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (1941), which has since become a standard.

During World War II he briefly changed his stage name from Adolph to Dolph to avoid association with Adolf Hitler. In 1945 he moved to California. For three years he and his nine-piece Texans played on the radio and at various Los Angeles-area nightclubs owned by promoter Foreman Phillips. After returning to San Antonio Hofner renamed his band the Pearl Wranglers, after the Pearl Brewing Company, the sponsor of his radio show. Among those who played in Hofner's band at various times over the years were such well-known musicians as singer and guitarist Floyd Tillman and fiddler J. R. Chatwell.

Throughout his career Hofner switched effortlessly among western swing, honky-tonk, the occasional Mexican standard, and polkas and waltzes, which he often sang in Czech. He continued to perform into the 1990s, though he was slowed by a stroke in 1993. He died of lung cancer in San Antonio on June 2, 2000, and was buried in Mission Park South in that city. Hofner and his wife, Susan, had three children. His many honors include induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame, Texas Polka Music Association Hall of Fame, Country Music Association of Texas Hall of Fame, and Western Swing Society Hall of Fame. Adolph's Beautiful America, a documentary film on Hofner and his music directed by Geoff Gruetzmacher, was released in 2004.

Adolph's Beautiful America (http://www.sixtycycle.com/adolphv2.html), accessed July 29, 2008. Adolph Hofner (http://www.yodaslair.com/dumboozle/western/hofner.html), accessed July 29, 2008. San Antonio Express-News, June 3, 2000.

  • Music
  • Genres (Country)

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

Martin Donell Kohout, “Hofner, Adolph,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 11, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hofner-adolph.

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November 28, 2006
May 5, 2016

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