Jardonn's Erotic Tales.com


His half-assed advice and old-time music blog


I rarely post the entire song. Unless I have rights to distribute, I cut to around two minutes.


June 2010


06-2-10... This month I'll be featuring the Bob Wills and The Texas Playboy bands before World War II. Started in Ft. Worth, but his break through hits, best-known ensembles, and development of the Western Swing sound came together when he was based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Had a radio show on KVOO, and his dances at Cain's Ballroom attracted huge crowds week after week. As mentioned last month, lead singer Tommy Duncan was a mainstay before and after the war. This recording from 1936 features Tommy and Bob singing tight harmonies to emulate the sound of a steam locomotive whistle. Away Out There


06-4-10... In 1933 Alton Meeks Stricklin was staff pianist at KFJZ in Fort Worth, Texas. One day, three rough-looking characters came into the front office seeking an audition. In those days, radio stations would allow musicians to audition for radio programs, as most stations broadcasted live segments because they had no disc jockeys or turntables. Since the program manager was on vacation, Al Stricklin set the three up to play, despite their appearance. They all needed a shave. Herman Arnspiger held a guitar in a ratty case, Milton Brown limbered up his vocal chords, and Bob Wills carried a fiddle in a flour sack. Seems he'd hocked it for five dollars, but managed to "borrow" his fiddle for the audition.

Al Stricklin asked what kind of music they'd be playing, and Bob Wills said, "Different. The Wills Fiddle Band plays different." And so they did. Sounds the jazz-trained Stricklin and employees of KFJZ had never heard before. A lively, foot-stomping reel with a heavy dose of swing and highly-charged enthusiasm. After they'd finished their three songs, Al and the group who'd gathered to listen, having been thoroughly entertained, asked if the three would like to be put on again next day, and of course they did.

Turned out to be a smart decision, because fan mail coming to the station for the Wills Fiddle Band outnumbered all the other entertainers on KFJZ combined. Bob Wills and his two mates, happy to get $15 a week ($5 for each) in the depths of the Great Depression, were on their way.

Cut to chase. Two years later Al Stricklin again ran into Bob Wills, or the other way around. Stricklin was playing a club in Fort Worth two nights a week at $8 per week, when Bob Wills approached him during a break. Sporting a fancy cowboy suit and shiny boots, he informed Stricklin that he'd hit it pretty good at a radio station up in Tulsa, and that he and his band were getting $2000 a week. Called themselves the Texas Playboys, and Bob Wills would be needing a piano player in September. "How much?" Stricklin asks. "Thirty bucks," answers Wills. "A month?" wonders Al. "A week," replies Bob.

And so, September of 1935, Al Stricklin, "Brother Al", as Bob would call him, became a vital part of the Texas Playboys. In 1936 they were signed with Columbia Records - Brunswick Division, who brought them to Chicago for a recording session. This song from that session became well-known because of Bob's introduction for his steel guitar player, Leon McAuliffe, to "Now, friends, here's Leon. Take it Away, boy!" Saxophone break is done by Zeb McNally, and you will hear Bob cue Al Stricklin to take the first solo. Steel Guitar Rag

Back in the pre-Amazon days, I tracked down and purchased by mail the very-hard-to-find-at-the-time book written by Al Stricklin about his years with Bob Wills. I see some publisher has re-issued it as a paperback on Amazon. If you want to check it out, here's the link: Al Stricklin's 1980 Autobiography


06-7-10... The universe is infinite perfection. Our limited ideas about space and time and matter have no effect on its perfection. It does not progress or improve. We do. It is our understanding that changes, and with each progression of our understanding comes our own, personal improvement of thoughts and conditions.

Today's selection applies. It comes from the same Chicago session as the previous sample, has a fine steel break by Leon and a truthful message sung by Tommy. Time Changes Everything


06-9-10... So, imagine you're in a band during the Great Depression, traveling along Route 66 to play small towns in Oklahoma... dance halls, weddings, funerals, whatever Bob Wills could get booked. Summers were hot and dry in the Dust Bowl years (a gross understatement... more like ungodly), and during those long, pre-ac auto or Wills-owned bus rides the drenched-in-sweat men would make up songs to pass the time and take their minds off the miserable heat and their exhaustion. One little catch-phrase and melody they came up with had to do with their desire to get back to their home base. Back to Tulsa, where familiar beds and (for some) wives waited for their return. Many times they'd said it, and finally in 1936, Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan constructed lyrics to make a complete song. Recorded in the Chicago session that same year, this became one of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys' earliest chart hits. Take Me Back to Tulsa.

One interesting bit of history: years later Bob and his bands would record many different versions that changed a phrase. Although commonly used in the 1930's, it was deemed inappropriate after World War II, and so "darky raise the cotton; white man gets the money" became poor man picks / rich man gets.


06-11-10... By 1940, Bob Wills had accumulated a 17-piece orchestra -- bigger than Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, or any others. He had sax players and brass to go with his guitars, piano, drums and fiddles. Not only did he have the numbers, but also the talent. His bands could not only play swing in two-beat or four-beat style with the best of them, they could also play dixieland or the traditional folk / country / fiddle tunes. This made his Playboy bands a cut above the big name swing bands (a subject I'll get into more next week). Despite this unique quality, Bob Wills would probably have been remembered fondly as a regional band leader with strong following in the Southwest (Oklahoma and Texas, mostly), and a goodly number of chart hit recordings, and nothing more -- if not for the song I've selected for today.

Originally recorded in Dallas, 1938, as an instrumental fiddle tune, San Antonio Rose caught the ears of Irving Berlin, Incorporated in early 1940. Once they found out the song had never been published, they sent a rep to Tulsa for a meeting with Bob and to secure a contract. One problem, though -- he'd never written lyrics for it. So, the company paid him a $300 advance, he and some of the band members wrote lyrics and sent them to the company. The end, almost. April of that same year, they were scheduled for another Columbia recording session in Dallas, and Bob made the decision to toss two songs at the end -- both swing; all horns, no strings other than rhythm guitar and bass -- Big Beaver, and the updated aforementioned song. Now called New San Antonio Rose, Tommy sang the lyrics, the band played the tune and that was that... it ended up becoming his first gold record, and the only other gold record for Columbia that year was Frank Sinatra's "All or Nothing at All."

Guess you can see how things happen for a reason. What happened is that, because he recorded it as a swing song without the strings, with the popular big band instruments of the time, Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys's first national hit was swing, or at that time pop music. Before long, people were learning that his band also played country music, race music, hillbilly music, and western music, dressed in western attire, thus western swing.

Now, even though the record was a hit for Bob Wills, Irving Berlin, Inc., struggled a bit in getting others to perform or record the song. They even suggested a change of lyrics, trying to make it more attractive to the mundane by dumbing it down, but after some eloquent letters from Bob Wills's attorney, they left the song as he'd recorded it. Columbia gave it to some of their artists to record -- Les Brown, Dick Jurgens -- and eventually, others recognized the song's potential. Chief among them, Bing Crosby. Released January of 1941, it sold 84,000 before month's end, and eventually one and a half million copies. Bing Crosby changed little from the Bob Wills 1940 recording. Same arrangements, same use of same instruments, proving once and for all that the provincial band from Texas / Oklahoma truly was hip. New San Antonio Rose


06-14-10... It is natural law that any problem which can come to you at any time, will be exactly what you need at the moment so you can take your next step forward by overcoming the problem.

Did I mention sometime in the past weeks that Joe Holley was one of the finest jazz fiddle players you will ever care to hear? This recording took place in Hollywood, 1942, as calls to duty for WWII changed personnel in the band weekly. Leon McAuliffe was still in on this one, taking lead vocals and a steel guitar break. Miss Molly


06-16-10... By 1940, many top-notch jazz musicians had heard the 1938 recordings of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys that included New San Antonio Rose and Big Beaver, plus an article in Metronome magazine had told of the western band that could play swing of a caliber to match any of the big-name big bands on the scene. Trumpeter Benny Strickler turned down a job with Artie Shaw so he could approach Bob Wills for an audition. Caught him in Hollywood when Bob and the band were there for a movie and recording session, and Bob Wills hired him on the spot, no audtion necessary. Upon hearing Strickler had joined, many more started investigating the what's and why's.

Another trumpeter, Danny Alguire, caught the Playboys at the Trianon Ballroom in Oklahoma City in 1941. Had to fight his way through a crowd of 2500 (on a Tuesday night, no less) just to get to the stage so he could ask to sit in with the band. He joined that night, as did clarinetist Woody Wood and trumpeter Alex Brashear. The news was out. This was a western band that could do it all, and theirs was a sound unique, red hot, and so very danceable.

This tune features Danny Alquire in a rare lead vocal role, along with another superb solo by Joe Holley and other names you might recognize from my ramblings. Home in San Antone


06-18-10... With an uncharacteristic show of mercy, I will allow the music, Tommy Duncan's vocals, and Bob Wills's interjections speak for themselves. Roly Poly


06-21-10... Between October 1943 and January 1945, Bob Wills's bands were featured on the Armed Forces Radio Network transcriptions. Some were done at radio stations; some taken from previously-recorded studio sessions. Personnel of his bands varied greatly from 1942-45, as men joining the armed services were replaced. This recording of Ida Red took place in a Los Angeles radio studio. Millard Kelso is now Bob's pianist, Tommy Duncan sings it, and Alex Brashear takes a trumpet solo.


06-23-10... I amaze myself sometimes. With all these posts of Bob Wills's bands, I have failed to mention Eldon Shamblin. He joined in 1937. Was the lead guitarist pre-war, and joined again several years after the war's end. He also helped with song arrangements and did a bit of singing, but his forte was electric guitar. Eldon Shamblin is referenced in the aforementioned Metronome article from 1941. The quote: ... and there's a guitarist who comes closer than any other white plectrist to getting the solidity and swing and steady flow of ideas of Charlie Christian.

I'll let you look up Charlie Christian yourself if you don't know who he is. Meanwhile, Eldon joins up with steel guitarist Herb Remington in this AFRN transcription recording called Twin Guitar Special


06-25-10... You are going to live forever, somewhere.

Have I Bob Wills'd you to death yet? Tough! Three to go and the month will be over. Today's is difficult to pin down. It could be from a 1947 recording session in Hollywood, but because it has brass, I think it's another AFRN transcription from, possibly, the same radio session as the Ida Red recording. Whichever the case, there's no use getting bogged down with too much history... or the quality of what remains of the recordings... it's all about the music, man. Tiny Moore sings and the band laments that they've got the Blues for Dixie.


06-28-10... Thought for the final week of Bob Wills I'd start off with one of the very early recordings, mainly to showcase the man who, to me, played a most-integral role in helping Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys rise to national attention -- lead singer, Tommy Duncan. From the 1936 Chicago recording session, he energizes the melody while his band-mates drive the music like a chugging-along locomotive in Right or Wrong.


06-30-10... Here's a fine song to showcase the guitar talents of Eldon Shamblin and steel of Herb Remington. It also, to me, represents the beat and feel of rock and roll before there was such a thing. From a 1947 Chicago recording session, Cowboy Stomp


07-02-10... As I prepare to put Jasper's Corn Pone on vacation for the umpteenth time, for a duration yet to be determined, I want to leave it with emphasis on what I've mentioned frequently throughout - things happen for good reason. I believe in premonitions, because I believe in reincarnation. I believe artists, scientists, manufacturers and persons of all professions have received training in past lives for the skills they possess and execute today. I believe the troubles and challenges of today are preparing mankind for greater challenges to come, and as an example I'll go back into recent history. I believe hardships suffered in the Great Depression of the 1930's toughened up the people who would face and defeat the evil that instigated World War II.

This brings me back to Bob Wills. I believe he and the many musicians who played with him came together for one purpose: to bring a bit of happiness to people struggling through the misery so prevalent in the dust bowl. Bob Wills and his music, beamed throughout the region on powerful radio station KVOO-AM in Tulsa, granted folks a respite from their hardships. Today's song, written by Cindy Walker, speaks of cowboys on a forced cattle drive, and it very well describes what it was like when it seemed to most that the entire creation was being swept away. From a 1941 Hollywood, CA recording session, Tommy Duncan sings us out of here with Dusty Skies.




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