Charismatic singer/songwriter T. Texas Tyler was a successful figure
from the late '40s through the mid-'50s, often credited with
helping to popularize the sentimental country "recitation"
a storytelling composition partly or completely spoken by the
performer with his massive 1948 hit "Deck of Cards."
He was born David Luke Myrick in Mena, AR, and from childhood
aspired to become a country performer. As a young man,
Tyler moved to Rhode Island to live with his brother,
who was stationed there while serving in the Navy. He got
his start working in radio in the early '30s and then spent
much of the decade touring and performing on the radio,
creating his stage name by combining the names of cowboy
crooners Tex Ritter and Tom Tyler.
His travels took him as far as Newport, RI, and Los Angeles.
While performing in Charleston, WV, in 1939, Tyler teamed up
with fiddler Clarence Clere to form Slim and Tex.
They remained together playing radio stations in West
Virginia until 1942, when Tyler landed a spot on the
Shreveport, LA, radio station and consistent
talent incubator KWKH.
Tyler served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Following his discharge in 1946, Tyler went to Southern
California and began appearing daily on the radio in Long
Beach and Los Angeles. His proximity to the new record labels
that were springing up in Southern California helped is career along,
and he signed with the small but growing Pasadena label Four Star.
Soon he had moderate hits with several covers of widely
performed country songs of the day: "Filipino Baby" (1946),
followed by "Remember Me" and Jack Guthrie's "Oklahoma Hills."
Tyler had his biggest single in 1948 with the enormously popular
"Deck of Cards," which peaked in the Top Three,
continued to sell for years, and spawned numerous imitations.
The piece had perhaps an older pedigree than any other
in the country repertoire; similar poems in
which a soldier uses a deck of cards as a set of religious
symbols have been found dating back to the medieval era.
THE DECK OF CARDS
During the North African campaign, a bunch of soldier boys had been
on a long hike and they arrived in a little town called Casino.
The next morning being Sunday, several of the boys went to Church.
A sergeant commanded the boys in Church and after the Chaplain had
read the prayer, the text was taken up next. Those of the boys who had a
prayer book took them out, but this one boy had only a deck of cards,
and so he spread them out. The Sergeant saw the cards and said,
Soldier, put away those cards. After the services was over,
the soldier was taken prisoner and brought before the
The Marshall said, Sergeant, why have you brought this man here?
For playing cards in church, Sir.
And what have you to say for yourself, son?
Much, Sir, replied the soldier.
The Marshall said, I hope so, for if not I shall punish you more
than any man was ever punished.
The soldier said, Sir, I have been on the march for about six days.
I have neither a Bible nor a prayer book, but I hope to satisfy you,
Sir, with the purity of my intentions. And with that, the boy started his story:
You see Sir, when I look at the Ace, it reminds me that there is but one God; and the Deuce reminds me that the Bible is divided into two parts, the Old and the New Testaments.
When I see the Trey, I think of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and when I see the Four, I think of the four Evangelists who preached the Gospel; there was Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; and when I see the Five, it reminds me of the five wise virgins who trimmed their lamps; there were ten of them: five were wise and were saved, five were foolish and were shut out.
When I see the Six, it reminds me that in six days, God made this great heaven and earth.
When I see the Seven, it reminds me that on the seventh day, God rested from His great work; and when I see the Eight, I think of the eight righteous persons God saved when He destroyed this earth; there was Noah, his wife, their sons and their wives; and when I see the Nine, I think of the lepers our Savior cleansed, and nine out of the ten didnt even thank Him.
When I see the Ten, I think of the Ten Commandments God handed down to Moses on a table of stone. When I see the King, it reminds me that there is but one King of Heaven, God Almighty; and when I see the Queen, I think of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is Queen of Heaven; and the Jack or Knave is the Devil.
When I count the number of spots on a deck of cards, I find 365, the number of days in a year.
There are 52 cards, the number of weeks in a year.
There are 4 suits, the number of weeks in a month.
There are 12 picture cards, the number of months in a year.
There are 13 tricks, the number of weeks in a quarter.
So you see, Sir, my pack of cards serves me as a Bible, an Almanac and a Prayer Book.
And friends, the story is true. I know, I was that soldier.
T. Texas Tyler
I found this page:
which actually places the story at the end of the 1700's along with a picture
of the first known parchment with the story, which was found in a 1811 bible.
Tyler followed up that smash with another recitation: the
tear-wrenchingly sentimental Mary Jean Shurtz composition
"Dad Gave My Dog Away."
His popularity resulted in a booking at New York City's
Carnegie Hall, and in 1949 he sang a song in the Western
Horsemen of the Sierras. Later that year, he had a
Top Five hit with a cover of Hank Williams'
"My Bucket's Got a Hole in It."
Tyler was given his own television show, Range Round Up,
in Los Angeles, and in the early '50s he favored an upbeat,
folksy style in which sung phrases were frequently
introduced by a hearty, guttural swoop. He had two more
major hits in 1953, "Courtin' in the Rain," and then
went into a personal and professional slump with the
advent of rock & roll.
A marijuana possession arrest in Texas slowed his career,
but many of his recordings were collected in the newly
popular format of the LP album. He signed with the Starday
label and performed several times on the Grand Ole Opry.
In the '50s he became a gospel singer and Assembly of God minister, recording the all-gospel album, The Great Texan, for King in 1960.
Tyler spent the bulk of the 1960s touring and preaching; he also recorded a gospel album for Capitol, a secular country album for Starday (Sensational New Hits of T. Texas Tyler, 1964), and three independently produced gospel albums that he sold at his revivals.
Following the death of his first wife, Claudia, in 1968, Tyler remarried and settled down in Springfield, MO, where he preached to a local congregation and also performed occasionally. "The man with a million friends" died in early 1972 of stomach cancer. ~
James Manheim, All Music Guide