Southern style: an American composer

tsj column writers - southern styleBy Randall Franks

I was recently saddened to learn of the passing of one of America’s lesser known Christmas composers – Benjamin “Tex” Logan, 87. Originally from Texas, he lived in New Jersey. Tex as his bluegrass friends knew him was a mathematician at Bell Laboratories by profession, and a musician by choice. His choice brought him to bluegrass and ultimately to a relationship with the Father of Bluegrass Music Bill Monroe. As a fiddler, he played with Monroe, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, Mike Seeger, The Lilly Brothers and Don Stover, The Charles River Boys, Peter Rowan and the Green Grass Gringos and his Northeast Seaboard Blues Band.

It was that relationship that created the opportunity for one of his songs to become a Monroe standard – “Christmas Time’s A Comin’” released in 1951. It had been recorded prior by his band but it was Monroe’s version that would carry it around the world.

Christmas carols are an amazing part of the Christmas season but this particular one seemed to fit the country music genre perfectly eventually gaining cuts from most of the major stars, among them Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Ricky Skaggs, and the Oak Ridge Boys and even the cast of TV’s “In the Heat of the Night.”

After the Heat cast recorded the song, the late Carroll O’Connor chose it as the title cut for the CD saying it was the perfect selection.

The beautiful picture of the mountain home with holly in the window, white candle burning, bells a ringin’ evoked an image in the mind of any with a rural background of their childhood memories of home and a desire to quickly return.

I was blessed as a Blue Grass Boy myself to know of Tex’s talents through most of my life, I was greatly honored to be among those with him as he was honored with the IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award in 2010. I was even more honored when he joined me at the Grand Master Fiddler Championship in Nashville to share some experiences about his career with the other fiddlers and the audience.

Of course this was not the only composition he created. Many artists also recorded his song “Diamond Joe.”

But like James Pierpoint’s “Jingle Bells,” despite the fact the days of us riding along in horse drawn sleighs are long behind us, we still sing the song. I think that as long as there is a memory of a little mountain home somewhere, there will be someone singing Tex’s song.

So this year when Christmas rolls around and you hear the song on country radio or perhaps play it at your own family gathering, remember Tex Logan and say a prayer for his family as they sing it for the first time without him.

(Randall Franks is an award-winning musician, singer and actor. He is best known for his role as “Officer Randy Goode” on TV’s “In the Heat of the Night” now on WGN America. His latest CD release, “Mississippi Moon,” is by Crimson Records. He is a member of the Independent Country Music Hall of Fame. His latest book is “Encouragers I: Finding the Light.” He is a syndicated columnist for http://randallfranks.com/ and can be reached at rfrankscatoosa@gmail.com.)

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