Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The King of Western Swing - Bob Wills

Few people have been as influential on nearly all styles of American music as Bob Wills.

James Robert Wills was born near Kosse, Texas on March 6, 1905. His father was a fiddle player who, along with his grandfather, taught the young "Jim Rob" to play the fiddle and the mandolin. In his 20's, he attended barber school, married, and moved to Turkey, Texas, to be a barber. In his spare time he was a regular at fiddle contests in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Turning to music full time, he moved to Fort Worth and joined a up with a medicine show. (Side note: How often have I mentioned just how influential the medicine show was to American music?) The owner of the show changed Jim Rob Wills nickname to "Bob".

While working the medicine show, Bob Wills met Herman Arnspinger and struck out on their own as The Wills Fiddle Band. Milton Brown joined the group as vocalist in 1930. It was Brown who brought innovation and experimentation to the group, combining elements of hillbilly, boogie, blues, big-band swing, jazz, and even mariachi to the band's arrangements. The band gained the sponsorship of Light Crust Flour and played a radio show as the Light Crust Doughboys until a falling out with their sponsors.

Wills moved the band to Tulsa, Oklahoma, renaming the outfit the Texas Playboys. Their radio show gained the attention of the American Recording Corp. and the band was off on their recording career. The Texas Playboys horns, fiddles, steel guitar and swinging sound took the country by storm in the mid 1940s.

By blending elements of nearly every style of American music into his own Western Swing, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys had a strong influence on nearly all American Music since. In 1968, Wills was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and in 1999 into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

In the 1970s, poor health started to catch up with him. He had had several strokes and heart attacks and was wheelchair bound at his last recording session. Another stroke during the session left him in a coma for a year and a half. Bob Wills died on May 13, 1975 at the age of 70.

His music lives on through his influence on nearly every style of American music.
Bob Wills - the first great amalgamator of American music.

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys - Bring It on Down to My House Honey.mp3

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys - Stay a Little Longer.mp3

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys - Corrine, Corrina.mp3
Corrine, Corrina is one of those songs, like Sitting On Top Of The World, that has been performed by many artists in many different styles.

Most of the recordings of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys can be bought at amazon.com


Blogger Greg said...

Ed: You have warmed my ol' Texas heart with this one. Thanks for helping spread the gospel of Bob & Western Swing!

June 08, 2006 8:18 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Thanks for the inspiration, Greg! I figured I'd hear from you on this one.

June 08, 2006 9:15 AM  

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