We've all got to start our careers somewhere, and for bluesman Alger “Texas” Alexander, it all started with a range.
No, we’re not talking roaming buffaloes or frolicking deer and antelope. We’re talking the kitchen appliance. Granted, it’s not the typical focus of a blues tune, but, Alexander made it work well enough that his first record, “Range In My Kitchen Blues,” recorded Aug. 11, 1927, on the Okeh label, was far from his last.
“It establishes him as a definite competitor to the other blues guys out there,” John Tefteller of Tefteller’s World’s Rarest Records said. “You can tell that he’s got lots of promise to do good things in the future, which he did. It’s nothing superior or legendary where people are going to talk about it in 100 years. But it’s decent.”
Alexander’s signature song came later in his lengthy career. Like the music of many of Alexander’s contemporaries, it connected with a broader audience after it was “rediscovered” in the 1960s by The Animals, who turned “Risin’ Sun Blues” into “House of The Rising Sun.”
While “Rising Sun Blues” tends to garner interest among a broader audience because of its connection to The Animals, even that record is within reach for beginning collectors. As a rule, Alexander’s records tend to sell for $1,000 or less, Tefteller said. A copy of his earliest work, “Range In My Kitchen Blues,” would likely sell for $700 or less, Tefteller said, although he hasn’t seen a copy of that record sell lately.
Alexander recorded music on the Okeh label for years made some records for Vocalion later on. But neither of those labels can lay claim to his biggest rarity.
“His rarest record is one that came out on Freedom, which is a Texas label, from 1949. For some reason in 1949, they dragged him out of wherever he was and had him do a cover of Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads,’ and that’s his big rarity,” Tefteller said. “It’s his last record, and it’s very rare. There’s just a few copies out there. It’s one of those kind of secret blues records that some of us know about.”
While Alexander’s musical performances may be interesting, his personal life reads like something out of a blues song. Born circa 1880 in Leon County, Texas, (some sources cite his birthday as late as 1900), he didn’t play an instrument. He often worked jobs outside of music, including as a railroad section hand, according to “Blues Who’s Who.” Alexander toured frequently, and performed and recorded with Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lonnie Johnson, The Mississippi Sheiks, King Oliver, Howlin’ Wolf, and his own cousin, Lightnin’ Hopkins, according to Blues Who’s Who.
From 1940 to 1945, Alexander was out of commission as a musician — he was a guest of the state of Texas, where he was serving time for murdering his wife. His final recording was with Benton’s Busy Bees in 1950 for the Freedom label. Texas Alexander died of syphilis circa 1955.