She was born Texas Anna Smith, in Rich Valley, Smyth County, Virginia, the daughter of Alexander King Smith and his wife Sarah Louvenia (née Hammonds); the name Texas was taken from that of an aunt. She married Jim Gladden in 1912 at the age of seventeen. In 1930, the couple lived in Salem, Virginia with their seven children (she had nine in all); Jim worked as a laborer.
She started to gain a public audience through singing at the White Top Festival in Smyth County in the mid 1930s, and made some early recordings for the Virginia Folklore Society. In September 1941, along with her brother, musician Hobart Smith, she began to record with pioneer folk archivist and musicologist Alan Lomax. The largest collection of her work, which includes 37 tracks of songs and interviews, is compiled on the album Texas Gladden: Ballad Legacy, which Lomax produced as part of his Southern Journey series. This album contains traditional ballads of Anglo-Saxon/Celtic origin, such as "Barbara Allen", "Mary Hamilton", and "Lord Thomas", as well as regional songs and even a Civil War-era ghost story. The album was reissued on CD by Rounder Records in 2001.
Texas Gladden died in Salem, Virginia, in 1967. She did not enjoy much fame during her life and has remained a relatively obscure artist. Her work experienced a resurgence in popularity during the 1960s as she was referenced by Joan Baez. More recently her singing has been rediscovered through harpist Joanna Newsom's recording of the traditional Appalachian style song "Three Little Babes", recorded by Gladden as "The Three Babies".
- Fridley, Beth. Smyth County, Virginia Births, 1885-96, at Ancestry,com. Retrieved 12 April 2014. Although according to official sources she was born in 1894, many sources give her year of birth as 1895.
- Stephen Wade, The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience, University of Illinois Press, 2012, pp.3, 237-266
- Liner notes for "Ballad Legacy - Alan Lomax Collection: Portrait" at Musical Traditions. Retrieved 12 April 2014
- 1930 United States Federal Census record for Texas A Gladden, at Ancestry.com. Retrieved 12 April 2014
- Strong, Martin C. (2010). The Great Folk Discography: Pioneers and Early Legends. Edinburgh: Polygon Books. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-84697-141-9.