Texas Gladden was born into a musical family in Smyth County, Virginia. Her grandparents played fiddle, her parents played banjo, and her brother Hobart Smith was a multi-instrumentalist who often accompanied Texas with his guitar. She began singing with her family in their home and became a song collector in her own right with over 200 ballads in her repertoire.
Texas never pursued a commercial music career. She raised nine children through the Great Depression and primarily sang only at home, referring to her ballads as lullabies. She did occasionally perform at community events and festivals at nearby Whitetop Mountain. In 1946, Alan Lomax invited Texas and her brother to be interviewed and perform at a festival with Andrew Rowan Summers and Jean Ritchie. Alan later returned to visit Texas and record her ballads as part of his Southern Journey project in the 1950s.
Texas may not have had a commercial career, but her music has touched and inspired many through Lomax’s recordings, including a resurgence in popularity after Joan Baez rediscovered her during the 1960s. In addition to her extensive repertoire, she is known for her unique voice and use of grace notes, which she defined as an unexpected twist on a note, a singing technique she learned from her mother.