Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dallas Bound


The roots of western swing run deep in the music of the American Southwest. As settlers moved westward their cultures intertwined, including music. The fiddle music that had its roots in the Southeast and Appalachian regions had picked up a decidedly African influence as settlers reached the Ozarks. That African influence was already in the mix as people moved west into Texas where they encountered German, Czech, and Polish immigrants who had settled central Texas. The music, like the people, intermingled and some elements of polka, including the accordion, entered the evolving string band music of the Southwest.

Along the southern route the sounds of jazz carried across the bayous from New Orleans to the east Texas cities of Houston and Beaumont and blended into the mix. Clarinets and saxophones helped add just the right sound.

Although the era of the American cowboy was a relatively short period, cowboy culture was firmly implanted in the arid lands of the Southwest. The music of the hardworking and solitary cowboy naturally entered the repertoire of the string bands at Saturday night dances from the ranch house to the stockyards of Dallas.

Of course no discussion of western swing would be complete without mention of the steel guitar. The steel guitar was introduced to America with the nationwide popularity of Hawaiian music that first came ashore in the late 1890s and enjoyed several resurgent waves in the pop culture of the 1920s. Although several other genres of American music had dabbled with the steel guitar, western swing took it to heart.

During the war years swing music performed by the great Big Bands was becoming popular and the little string bands of Texas and Oklahoma, having already grown to include drums, accordion, woodwinds, brass, and steel guitars, were starting to equal the energy and volume of the Big Bands.

Oscar & Doc Harper - Beaumont Rag.mp3

Idaho Cal & His Sun Valley Cowboys - I've Loved, Lived and Learned.mp3

Jimmie Widener - Come a Little Bit Closer.mp3

Adolph Hofner & His Texans - Am I Happy.mp3

4 Comments:

Anonymous dan said...

The more I listen to these posts, the more I like them. And the more I like them, the tougher it becomes to decide if they're country swing or straight-ahead boogie-woogie. (Remember that whole debate over the "perfect" country song?)Anyway, this is beautiful music, and pathetically few artists are attempting it today. That's sad and wrong.

January 24, 2008 7:08 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Dan,
The lines do become blurred. I chose these songs because each one teeters on crossing a line, and each a different line. Western swing wouldn’t have become what it is without the influences that created it. In turn, western swing added its own contribution to rockabilly and to honky tonk music. Music is a living, always evolving art.
It is a shame that western swing has just about dropped from the modern music scene, but that is nothing new to the genre. It fell from popularity during the 1950s and ‘60s, only to be revived in the ‘70s.

January 24, 2008 8:56 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Still swingin' with ya, Ed! Nice to see my hometown mentioned. Not to mention the great tunes. I wish Adolph Hofner was better known and you're doing a great job pushing him out there!

January 25, 2008 9:28 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Greg, Hofner was one o fthe greats that is often forgotten.

January 27, 2008 7:19 PM  

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