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Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Bob Wills born 6 March 1905


James Robert Wills (March 6, 1905 – May 13, 1975), better known as Bob Wills, was an American Western swing musician, songwriter, and bandleader, considered by many music authorities one of the fathers of Western swing and called the King of Western Swing by his fans. 
 
Bob Wills was the driving force behind Western Swing, a form of country & western that was broader in scope than the parent genre. A master at synthesizing styles, Wills brought jazz, hillbilly, boogie, blues, big-band swing, rhumba, mariachi, jitterbug music and more under his ecumenical umbrella. He has been called “the King of Western Swing” and “the first great amalgamator of American music.”  

Wills grew up in a part of Texas where diverse cultures and forms of music overlapped. His enthusiasm and mastery were such that he assimilated disparate genres into what might best be termed American music. (Wills called it “Texas fiddle music.") “We’re the most versatile band in America,” Wills forthrightly asserted in 1944. He might’ve added that they were most innovative band as well. Certainly, they forced country music to open up in its acceptance of electric instruments. Even rock and roll’s freewheeling spirit of stylistic recombination has antecedents in the work of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. 
 
Wills was born into a family of fiddlers that included his father, John Wills, who regularly won Texas fiddling competitions. Bob Wills learned how to play fiddle and mandolin from his father. As a young man, Wills performed at house dances, medicine shows and on the radio.  With commercial sponsorship, Wills’ bands performed on radio in the early Thirties as the Aladdin Laddies (for the Aladdin Lamp Co.) and the Light Crust Doughboys (for Light Crust Flour). Following a salary dispute, Wills renamed his band the Texas Playboys and relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he had a live radio show. This exposure led to a contract with American Recording Corp. (later absorbed into Columbia Records). 


   
In 1935, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys laid down 24 tunes during their historic first session at a makeshift recording studio in Dallas.  The group recorded prolifically in the late Thirties and early Forties, laying down such classics as “Steel Guitar Rag” (written by Leon McAuliffe, the Texas Playboys’ long-time steel guitar player), “Take Me Back to Tulsa” and Wills’ signature song, “New San Antonio Rose.” 
 
 
                             
 
Their biggest hit, “New Spanish Two Step,” topped the country charts for 16 weeks in 1946. Wills’ mix of horns, fiddles and steel guitar made for a uniquely swinging sound that grabbed the public’s ear at mid-century. The Texas Playboys always had fine singers like Tommy Duncan and Leon McAuliffe, and Wills punctuated the tunes with jive talking, falsetto asides and cries of “ah-ha!” He’d call out soloists by name and instrument, good-naturedly goading them on to rollicking performances.
 
In terms of personnel, the Texas Playboys expanded and contracted like an accordion over the years, according to Wills’ desires and the whims of the market. At one point the Texas Playboys were 22 pieces strong, although the band more typically numbered between 9 and 18 members. There were personnel changes and musical shifts as Wills struggled to adapt to the changing face of America in the post-war era. Nonetheless, there was always a solid core of loyal regulars in the Texas Playboys. After leaving Columbia in 1947, Wills continued to record prolifically for such labels as MGM, Decca, Longhorn and Kapp. The group also toured the country and often performed at a Wills-owned dancehall in Sacramento, California. 
 
In 1968, Wills was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A year later, he suffered a debilitating stroke. There were reunions and recording sessions with many of the old Texas Playboys in 1971 and 1973. Wills’ final stroke came in his sleep following the first day of recording for a December 1973 session that resulted in the double album For the Last Time. Confined to a wheelchair, he’d reprised his role as bandleader that day with a group of musicians that included former Texas Playboys. He never regained consciousness and died 18 months later. 
 
Wills has been revered by such country-music legends as Merle Haggard (whose band, the Strangers, was configured in the style of the Texas Playboys) and Willie Nelson (who covered Wills’ “Stay a Little Longer"). The contemporary Western Swing group Asleep at the Wheel cut a pair of tribute albums that have kept Wills’ name before the public: the star-studded Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys (1994) and Ride With Bob (1999). Every year, Bob Wills Day is celebrated on the last Saturday in April in Turkey, Texas. (Info mainly RockHall)


6 comments:

boppinbob said...

For “Bob Wills - He's A Ding Dong Daddy” go here:

http://www103.zippyshare.com/v/1P5CdAI2/file.html

1. KEEP KNOCKIN' (BUT YOU CAN'T COME IN)
2. OKIE BOOGIE
3. MY GAL SAL
4. SUGAR BLUES
5. LONE STAR RAG
6. STRAIGHTEN UP AND FLY RIGHT
7. LITTLE BETTY BROWN
8. TEXAS PLAINS
9. MY BROWN EYED TEXAS ROSE
10. NEW SPANISH TWO-STEP
11. OKLAHOMA HILLS
12. OKLAHOMA RAG
13. GET ALONG HOME, CINDY
14. TEN YEARS
15. CRAZY RHYTHM
16. FOUR OR FIVE TIMES
17. I'M A DING DONG DADDY
18. COTTON-EYED JOE
19. THAT'S YOUR RED WAGON
20. TAKE THE 'A' TRAIN
21. CHEROKEE MAIDEN
22. STEEL GUITAR RAG
23. SAN ANTONIO ROSE
24. I'M GONNA BE BOSS FROM NOW ON
25. DINAH

A big thank you to Mijas @ ACM2 blog for original post.

This compilation, studio recordings from the later 1940s, reflects the romping, stomping sound of Bob Wills at his best, and the range of his material. Tommy Duncan handles the vocal chores with consummate ease, with and without the assistance of Wills himself. Included are versions of his best known songs, "New Spanish Two-Step" and of course "San Antonio Rose". "Steel Guitar Rag" gets an airing, with Roy Honeycutt substituting on steel for Leon McAuliffe. Traditional fare is served up with the likes of "Little Betty Brown", "Get Along Home, Cindy" and "Cotton-Eyed Joe", and given the time Wills spent in Oklahoma, no surprise with Jack & Woody Guthrie’s "Oklahoma Hills", Wills’ own tribute "Oklahoma Rag", and "Okie Boogie". Texas isn’t forgotten with two of Stuart Hamblen’s Western songs, plus "Lone Star Rag". Johnny Bond’s "Ten Years" had been a minor Wills hit in 1942, Cindy Walker wrote "Cherokee Maiden" for Wills in 1942, and Wills himself had a hand in the bluesy "I’m Gonna Be Boss From Now On".From the big band sound of Duke Ellington, no less, comes an interesting version of Billy Strayhorn’s "Take The ‘A’ Train", whilst Count Basie with singer Jimmy Rushing may have been the inspiration of "That’s Your Red Wagon", although Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup had recorded it two years earlier in 1945. No doubting that "Straighten Up And Fly Right" was a cover of Nat "King" Cole’s 1944 hit when Cole was loosely in a Rhythm & Blues phase. "I’m A Ding Dong Daddy" had been around awhile, performed by the likes of Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman, later revived by Phil Harris, "My Gal Sal" was as old as Wills himself (he was born in 1905), and Louis Armstrong would have been no stranger to those much-recorded stand-bys, "Dinah", "Four Or Five Times" and "Sugar Blues". Echoes of Django Reinhardt in "Crazy Rhythm", who played guitar on the classic recording of this 1928 show tune, made with Coleman Hawkins in Paris during 1937. Who knows, perhaps the young "Little" Richard Penniman heard Wills’ version of "Keep Knockin’" on the radio and put it to good use in 1957 with his own hit "Keep A Knockin’". (Jasmine notes)

RiCK SAUNDERS said...

I'm thinking I may have most everything brother Bob recorded...or close to it...but it's always good to see more and see him remembered. Thanks!

Pudge said...

I've always considered Bob Wills to be one of the greatest. In my humble opinion I think it was sad when he fired Tommy Duncan who was also one of the best vocalists of that genre.
Thank you for this excellent post Bob.

slr in tx said...

Thanks, Bob! I always remember the other Bob's birthday comes 4 days after Texas Independence Day. I'll second Pudge on the matter of Tommy Duncan.

Mike Anderson said...

Still the King. Great post Bob, and now that I know Bob Wills's birthday (can't think why I never looked i tup before) I'll mark it on my calendar and have a toast in his memory. No need to make it special by playing his music, I already do that every day of the year. :)

carlos said...

Grande Bob Wills, siempre me ha gustado. Saludos y gracias desde España.