"Take it away, Leon"
Pour yourself a congratulatory drink; you’ve made it through another work week.
Here in the U.S. we’re looking forward to a three day holiday weekend. Labor Day officially closes the summer vacation season. It also marks the beginning of the second festival season here in the South. I’m already getting geared up for the National Folk Festival which will be spending its third, and final, year in Richmond.
On the Bus we usually like to close out the work week, or more appropriately start the weekend, with some up beat music. Let’s get those feet moving with some western swing from steel guitar great Leon McAuliffe. This is another treasure from Wes’ incredible collection of 78s.
Our good friend and frequent Bus rider, Greg, is our resident western swing aficionado and has kindled in me a fuller appreciation of the genre. Anyone with the slightest interest in western swing knows the name Bob Wills, and anyone who is familiar with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys probably knows Steel Guitar Rag. The talented and inventive steel guitar on those Bob Wills recordings was the work of Leon McAuliffe.
Leon McAuliffe was born in Houston, Texas in 1917. He started to play the guitar and steel guitar at the age of 14. In 1931 he joined a group of performers for a local radio show, billing themselves as the Waikiki Strummers. In 1933 he joined up with the Light Crust Dough Boys and with them recorded his first record in Chicago at the age of sixteen. Two years later he was invited to join Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys.
During WWII McAuliffe served as a flight instructor. After the war he returned to music. He started his own band in Tulsa. This new band leaned more toward the big band sound, but did have a song, Panhandle Rag, go to the number 6 spot on the Country/Western charts in 1949. The band went by the name of the Cimarron Boys for most of their duration, but on just a few of their earliest recordings they were simply listed as “Leon McAuliffe and his Western Swing Band”.
That’s what it said on the label as I was looking through a stack of 78s from Wes. Leon McAuliffe and his band had only recorded a few sides for Columbia under that name and I had to hear this one. I’ve included both sides from the Columbia 78 for today’s post as well as Leon McAuliffe’s signature song from when he was with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.
Turn it up! Guaranteed to get your feet moving.
Y’all have a good weekend!