Sunday, August 1, 2010

Doughboys, Playboys and Cowboys The Golden Years of Western Swing Set

This is a great panorama of Western Swing from its origins with Bob Wills and Milton Brown working together inthe Original Light Crust Dough Boys in the early 1930s to Tex Williams' great electric swing band from just after WWII. I've had these sides since Columbia issue an earlier version on LP more than 20 years ago.

This music has little to do with what was considered Country music at the time or its emasculated mutant descendants in Nashville.

This was not marketed as Country music. In fact in 1945 when Bob Wills, the acme of Western SWing, was the biggest grossing public attraction in the entertainment business, he had his sole invitation to the Grand Ole Opry, and then he almost walked out of there before he played a song because the hayseeds wouldn't let him bring on his drums and horns (not allowed onthe Opry until the late 1950s!).

Western Swing comes from Jazz from the pop Jazz of the 20s and early 1930s, included people who went back and forth between bands like Wills and Spade Cooley to the white big bands (though Bob Wills once tried to hire a black alto player[against the law in Oklahoma] and of late Les Paul has taken to claiming he saw Charlie Christian sit in with the Playboys at Cains and there are pictures of the Playboys having drinks in Chicago with black Jazz greats like Ben Webster!!). Townsend Wills' biographer interviewed many Playboys and none of them felt they were part of Country, but part of Jazz.

Basically it begins with people trying to play Jazz and Blues influenced music with the instruments of the old Southwestern Barn dance bands: guitar, fiddle, piano, adding in drums, and in many bands all the instruments of the Jazz orchestras. Very quickly Bobby Dunne added in the electric Hawaii, pedaless steel guitar and Leon McAuliffe who replaced him in the Doughboys and went with Wills was so well known that Bob Wills' introduction to him "Take it Away Leon" became a catch phrase in the whole country and beyond in the 1940s!

At its most hyperbolic height (captured here in the Space Cooley Orchestra's Oklahoma Stomp, a recording anyone with a set of ears should treasure) you had 16 and 18 piece orchestras with full fiddle sections (in the early 1960s Wills even rounded his fiddles with a violist from the Lawrence Welch band!), complete reed sections, and more brass than they needed, and exotic additions like the Harpist who kicks off The Oklahoma Stomp.

Further on than these recordings go, you would have players like Tiny Moore and Johnny Gimble who incorporated Bebop styles in their solos.

Along the way, mostly during that war time period when recording bans and players going in and out of the army and different bands make following a little harder, the straight western swing style of combining a guitar, steel guitar, and sometimes electric mandolin trio alternating with fiddle choirs took hold as the paradigm for Western Swing. For some reason in most bands the horns seemed to disappear or roll down to just one after WWII.

One thing about this music is that a very high level of musical technique and education became more and more part of the Western Swing environment. We know that European Jazmen like Stephan Grappelli followed the recordings of Hugh Farr who played with the sons of the pioneers and later Spade Cooley, and that Down Beat magazine described Eldon Shamblin out of Bob Wills' band as the best rythm guitar player in the country (slighting Freedie Green who even Eldon probably acknowledge was better).

The other thing in contrast with much of what was being presented as country music contemporaneously is that this was not being presented as "old time music," craddling close to old conventions, but a new hot dangerous music, drawn as close as comfort would allow from Black sources, from the dangerous white swing bands, and from the part of down home music involved in drinking, dancing, cheating, and other things not permitted in the Baptist Southeast.

WSM Grand Old Opry Stars toured the deep South playing in school auditoriums, church houses, and public squares. From the beginning Western swing belonged in barrooms, in dance halls, and other places where "the wine and liquor flow." Even Hank Williams wasn't allowed to use the word "beer" when he sang "My Bucket's got a hole in it" on the Opry. Meanwhile Western Swingers like Wills and Brown were singing about Cocaine and Opium, whiskey and beer back in the early 1930s.

And Smokie Woods wasn't called smokie cause he liked Tobacco. LOL. In fact his tune here called "Everybody's Trukin," about what is done "up in Harlem" includes much use of a word that does sound like truckin', but does not contain an r or a T but does start with an F!!

No this is not Nashville Country or even old time country music. This is Western guys and gals trying to be jazzy, bluesy, wild, whiskey soaked, drug high, hip to the secrets of Negroid nights of "truckin," playing their hearts out fast hot and heavy!

Anyone with ears should own this collection!

ps another funky side note to this is on the great Hit\
"Smoke, Smoke, Smoke (That Cigarette)" both Tex Williams who sang it and Merle Travis who wrote it died of lung cancer!

DISC 1: THE EYES OF TEXAS (1932-1936)

1. Sunbonnet Sue - Fort Worth Doughboys
2. Nancy Jane - Fort Worth Doughboys
3. Oh You Pretty Woman - Milton Brown & His Brownies
4. Brownie's Stomp - Milton Brown & His Brownies
5. Osage Stomp - Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys
6. Who Walks in When I Walk Out - Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys
7. Boyd's Blue - Bill Boyd & His Cowboy Ramblers
8. I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart - Patsy Montana & the Prairie Ramblers
9. Sadie Greee (The Vamp of New Orleans) - Roy Newman & His Boys
10. Who's Sorry Now - Milton Brown & His Brownies
11. Down by the O-H-I-O - Milton Brown & His Brownies
12. Barn Dance Rag - Bill Boyd & His Cowboy Ramblers
13. Never No More Blues - Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys
14. Too Busy - Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys
15. Rambler's Stomp - Doug Bine & His Dixie Ramblers
16. Eyes of Texas - Milton Brown & His Brownies
17. Yellow Rose of Texas - Milton Brown & His Brownies
18. Red's Tight Like That - The Tune Wranglers
19. Buster's Crawdad Song - The Tune Wranglers
20. Big Daddy Blues - Jimmie Revard's Oklahoma Playboys
21. Feather Your Nest - Lem Fowler's Washboard Wonders
22. Dirty Dog - Jimmie Revard
23. My Galveston Gal - Milton Brown & His Brownies
24. El Rancho Grande - The Tune Wranglers
25. Texas Sand - The Tune Wranglers



ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ said...

Well. Since no one else will say anything about this wonderfull set. I will. Wonderfull set.

I already have it and play it all the time. Along with the Hillbilly fever box there would be enough to get anyone going into western swing.

Nice choice.;O

Unknown said...

The choice is really very nice. I have played all and liked it very much.

Crunk Beats

Cowboy Shirts said...

Very interesting blog story. Thanks for sharing this information with us. Really i like western and cowboy's collection. Our Seymour Brandz offers collection of shirts, cowboy hats and more.

DJA said...

Hi there -- any chance of a re-up of this? I realize it's an old post but all of the Sharebee links no longer work. The box set is out of print and goes for ridiculous prices online. Thanks in advance...from a long-time (appreciative) lurker!

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