One of the best as well as one of the only real "cowboy jazz" singers, Smith Ballew is sometimes said to be the fellow who started the Glenn Miller band, only to have it hijacked away from him. The native Texan was much more interested in art than music all the way until his university days. Hanging out in the evenings at the University of Texas, he and his brother Charles Robert Ballew became part of the cultish society known as jazz fans. Smith Ballew decided to learn guitar and banjo, and while he did study music formally at the college, an important part of his musical upbringing seems to be the informal knowledge he picked up hanging out with black musicians on the outskirts of town. The brothers became good enough players to join Jimmy's Joys, a combo led by Jimmy Maloney. The band can be said to have gotten the career of either Ballew off to a good start, as by 1923 the group already had the opportunity to head to California and record for the illustrious-sounding Golden record label.