Justin Wayne Tubb, singer and songwriter, was born in San Antonio on August 20, 1935. He was the eldest son of country superstar Ernest Tubb and his wife, Elaine. He started his career in country music by singing on KGKL radio in San Angelo when he was four years old, and debuted on the Grand Ole Opry five years later.
Justin's interest in country music was complicated by his father's prominent role in the business. Never intending to ride on Ernest's coattails, Justin worked hard to distance himself from his father. Although he wrote a song that Ernest recorded, he seldom presented himself as Ernest's son. Nevertheless, while enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin in 1952 pursuing a degree in journalism, Justin formed a country band and played at some Austin-area venues. His college career suffered at the expense of his interest in country music and he dropped out from the university.
He then moved to Nashville and got a job as a disc jockey at WHIN, Gallatin, where he was able to perform his own songs on the air. This exposure led to a contract with Decca, but the singles Tubb released did not have great success. His lighter duets were better received. By 1954 he made it on the country charts with two duets with Goldie Hill ("Looking Back to See" and "Sure Fire Kisses"). A year later, at age twenty, he was made a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Tubb had a few recordings of his own that enjoyed success, including "I Gotta Go Get My Baby" and "Take a Letter Miss Gray," but he was more successful as a songwriter. He penned many hit songs for other performers, including "Keeping Up with the Joneses," "Love Is No Excuse," and "Lonesome 7-7203." Ultimately, six of his songs won awards.
Part of the reason Justin Tubb's singing and songwriting career paled in comparison to his father's is that both Ernest and Justin Tubb favored one style of country performance and country songwriting, a style often described today as "traditional." By the time Justin's career was established in his mid-thirties, this traditionalist style was already passé. Although he never again reached the success he had in his early twenties, he made his mark in the 1970s by artistically protesting the decline of traditional country music, especially with his song "What's Wrong With the Way That We're Doing It Now?" The song was well-received when it debuted on the Grand Ole Opry, and also did well as a recording.
While Justin never wanted to capitalize on his father's hard work, the two worked cooperatively, especially when Ernest was ill. During the 1960s, Justin worked with Ernest on various business projects. Also, towards the end of his own life, Justin completed an album of duets with his father, using recordings Ernest had made before his death. The album, Just You and Me Daddy (1999), was released after Justin himself died unexpectedly in Nashville on January 24, 1998. He was buried in Hermitage Memorial Gardens in Old Hickory, Tennessee. Tubb was survived by his wife, Carolyn McPherson Tubb.
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Michael Erlewine, et al., eds., All Music Guide to Country: The Experts' Guide to the Best Recordings in Country Music (San Francisco: Miller Freeman, 1997). Colin Larkin, Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 3d ed. (New York: Muze, 1998). Bill C. Malone, Country Music, U.S.A., rev. ed. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985). Nashville Scene, February 12, 1998.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Tubb, Justin Wayne,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 09, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
December 7, 2006
Most Recent Revision Date:
October 16, 2015
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: