Bob Wills (6 March 1905 – 13 may 1975) was a musician, composer, and American bandleader, considered by many as one of the fathers of the style Western swing and summoned by the King of Swing Western admirers.
New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma
His real name was James Robert Wills, and he was born near Kosse, Texas. His parents were Emma Lee Foley and John Tompkins Wills. His father was a State Champion in interpretation with fiddle, and the Wills family was always devoted to music when not working in cotton cultivation. Apart from the fiddle was taught to play the mandolin. A sister and a brother played guitar, and another sister piano and family often celebrated dances in her house.
Wills not only learned traditional music with his family, but also black songs directly from African Americans. Their playmates were black, and his father enjoyed watching dancing with them.
Young, “Jim Rob”, as it was then known, was traveling several years adrift trying to earn a living. In his twenties he attended a school of hairdressing, married and moved to Roy, New Mexico then Turkey, Texas (now considered his hometown) in order to work as a hairdresser. Alternated this occupation with the interpretation of the fiddle, even when moved to Fort Worth, Texas, in 1929. There he played at minstrel shows and medicine shows, and continued to gain life as a hairdresser. Acted in comic numbers using makeup blackface (face painted black), common at the time, and played together with two guitars and a banjo. As there was already a “Jim” on his show, his manager began to call him “Bob.”
Finding in Forth Worth, Wills added the “scandalous city blues” repertoire of Bessie Smith and Emmett Miller a portfolio primarily consisting of waltzes and other learned from his father, with a debtor Miller and other performers such as at the Bernard vocal style dances. Wills recognized that Miller was his idol.
In Fort Worth, Wills met Herman Arnspinger, and both formed The Wills Fiddle Band. In 1930 Milton Brown joined the group as the first vocalist, giving a new sense innovative and experimental band, now called the Light Crust Doughboys, given its radio sponsored by Light Crust Flour brand. Brown left the group in 1932 to form the Musical Brownies, the first real training from Western swing.
Wills continued with the Doughboys and replaced with a new singer, Tommy Duncan Brown in 1932. On the other hand, he was unable to understand the future Governor of Texas W. Lee O’Daniel, authoritarian Light Crust Doughboy show presenter. Wills and Duncan left the Doughboys in 1933 to failed Wills in one of the shows because of problems with drinking.
After forming a new group, “The Playboys”, and moved to Waco (Texas), Wills secured enough fame to decide to embark on a larger market. Left Waco in January 1934, and went to Oklahoma City. Wills soon settled the now called “Texas Playboys” in Tulsa, Oklahoma, starting work on radio shows that ended up being an institution in the area.
Wills had added section wind, Reed and drummer to the Playboys instrumentalists in 1935. The sum of the ACE of the steel guitar Leon McAuliffe in March 1935 was also have a second vocalist.
With the sophistication of jazz, pop and blues influences more improvised scats and humorous comments from Wills, the band eventually became a star of the genre. In 1936 the untimely and tragic death of Milton Brown cleared the way for the Playboys.
In 1938 Wills recorded “Ida network”, theme that served as a model for the version that decades later conducted Chuck Berry, “Maybellene.” In 1940 the theme “New San Antonio Rose” sold a million copies and became the flagship of The song Texas Playboys. The title of the song made reference to Wills had recorded it in 1938 as an instrumental with the title of “San Antonio Rose”. Then the Texas Playboys were virtually two bands: a group of fiddle, guitar, steel guitar with a rhythm section, and the second an able to interpret the successes of swing and pop of the time as well as Dixieland big band.
Along with the Texas Playboys, Wills worked in 1940 with Tex Ritter in the film “Take Me Back to Oklahoma”. This was followed by other films. In late 1942, after leaving the group members, and the Second World War at its peak, Wills decided to enlist in the army, although he was given leave for medical reasons in 1943.
Other films in which Wills played were The Lone Prairie (1942), Riders of the Northwest Mounted (1943), Saddles and Sagebrush (1943), The Rangers Ride (1943), The Last Horseman (1944), Rhythm Round-Up (1945), Blazing the Trail Western (1945), and Lawless Empire (1945). According to one source, he worked in a total of 19 films.
After leaving the army in 1943, Wills he moved to Hollywood and started to reorganise the Texas Playboys. He became an attraction in Los Angeles, where he had many followers, including people of Texas and Oklahoma displaced in search of work after the Great depression and war. To act on the radio station KMTR-AM Los Angeles, played at Mission Beach Ballroom San Diego (California).
In 1945 the dances of Wills outnumbered Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman and moved to Fresno (California). Later, in 1947, opened the club Wills Point in Sacramento, California, and continued touring the South West and the Pacific Northwest, from Texas to Washington State.
They had public record at Jantzen Beach in Portland, Oregon, in Santa Monica (California), and in the Auditorium of Oakland, California, which was attended by 19,000 people over two nights. Wills also broke the record audience at the Armory in Klamath Falls, Oregon, with 2,514 people.
Alcohol problems, Wills became unreliable in the late 1940s, reaching the break with Tommy Duncan, who fired in the fall of 1948.
After a sumptuous life in California, in 1949 Wills returned to Oklahoma City, where he had to go out to the road in order to keep the template and Wills Point. A more disastrous decision in relation to his business was the opening of a second club, Bob Wills Ranch House in Dallas, Texas. Club directors had a dishonest behavior, and left to Wills in financial desperate with large debts, which forced him to sell many personal property including the rights of “New San Antonio Rose.”
In 1950 Wills got two successes that entered the Top Ten, “Ida Red Flobots the Boogie” and “Faded Love”. From 1950 radio stations began to specialize in one or another form of popular music. However, Wills not fit well within of stations devoted to country music and western Nashville, and not just be accepted into pop music stations.
Therefore, continued touring and recording during the 1950s and 1960s, in spite of the fact that the popularity of Western Swing, even in the Southwest, had decreased. In 1950 and 1952 was still able to congregate thousand people in a show, something that already not could repeat for the year, because entertainment habits had changed.
Even in 1958 its return to KVOO, where his brother minor, Johnnie Lee Wills, had kept the family presence, not had the expected success. He appeared twice in on the ABC television show Jubilee USA, and remained his band on the road until well into the 1960s. After suffering two strokes, the Texas Playboys (briefly continued independently) dissolved in 1965 to act only on small local musical groups. While in Las Vegas, among other places, made recordings for Kapp label, although it was an almost forgotten figure. Still, in 1968 entered the Museum and Hall of Fame of country. In 1969 he suffered a stroke that paralyzed you the right side and forced him to end his career.
However, in 1971 Wills recovered sufficiently to travel occasionally and to act in concert tribute. In 1973 participated in last session with members of some of the formations of the Texas Playboys between the 1930s and the 1960s. Merle Haggard was invited to play at that meeting. The meeting took place in December, and recorded an album titled For the Last Time. Wills appeared in a couple of songs on the first day of work, but at night he suffered a new ictus, repeated more severe so a few days later. Musicians completed disk without your intervention. Wills this time was in a coma. Survived the situation until his death in 1975, in Fort Worth, because of pneumonia. He was buried in the Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa.
Besides the Museum and Hall of Fame of country joining, Bob Wills was also accepted in Nashville Songwriters Fame Hall in 1970, in the Hall of Fame of Rock alongside the Texas Playboys in 1999, and also received a Grammy Award in 2007 for his artistic career.