By Alanna Nash
Updated December 06, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

Long before Hank Williams cut his first record, Ernest Tubb defined country music’s honky-tonk genre with ”Walking the Floor Over You,” a danceable sliver of anxiety served with an improbable, gravelly baritone. Yet while he became one of hillbilly’s true giants of the ’40s and ’50s and performed nearly until his death in 1984 at age 70, today he lies in a grave marked only by a crude cross, virtually unknown by country’s current young hunk acts and their audience. In Ernest Tubb: The Texas Troubadour, Ronnie Pugh, head of reference at Nashville’s Country Music Foundation and an unabashed fan, dutifully traces Tubb’s career and offers a scholarly discography. But the book’s most illuminating sections profile Tubb’s darker side, which came out in bouts of hard drinking. (During a spat with his wife, he gathered her shoes and demolished them with an ice pick.) As Pugh makes clear, Tubb’s greatest contribution was shaping country music behind the scenes, helping performers like Loretta Lynn and Hank Thompson climb the ranks. Here, finally, Tubb himself gets his due. B