Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan was born in Waco, Texas, on January 12, 1884 to a Catholic family. Her parents were Michael and Bessie Guinan, two recent Irish immigrants. While living on a ranch in Waco, her parents were traditionalists and kept a tight rein on her and her siblings. She had a parochial education. Her parents, wanting their daughter Mary to have a musical career, had her sing in the church choir. Mary, however, wanted to be a performer, leading her try out rodeo. Surprising to most, she actually could rope and ride. While doing rodeo, she toured under the name of "Texas." She also met John Moynahan and married him. .
Marriage wasn't her thing, however. After divorce she left home to head for New York to better pursue her performing career. By 1906, though she had become a Broadway singer, she had already married and divorced twice. A few years later, she was scouted by an agent, amazed at her ability to "handle a hoss and lariat," and persuaded to move to the West Coast to appear in silent movies. There she starred in her first movie The Wildcat (1917). She instantly became America's first movie cowgirl, and became known as "Queen of the West." She recorded over 200 "two reelers" and a few full length feature films. Some other films during the twenties include Stampede (1921), I am the Woman (1921), and The White Squaw (1920). During World War I, Texas entertained troops in France. In 1921, Texas Guinan Productions was formed; however, by 1922 she became tired of Hollywood. Wanting to be heard, she left for New York to try out the Broadway again. .
While in New York, originally intending for a Broadway show, she discovered the night clubs and instantly fell in love with them. It was here that a young sometimes entrepreneur, sometimes gambler, and sometimes racketeer named Larry Fay took notice of her and her wisecracks and lung power. He soon had her working at the El Fay Club as a partner.