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kenny weir

Who were the first westen swingers?

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I am re-reading, for the first time in more than 30 years, Charles Townsend's Bob Wills bio San Antonio Rose.

Like Cary Ginnell's bio of Milton Brown, it tends - perhaps inevitably - to posit Wills as the central big bang of western swing.

I suspect it was all a bit more complex than that.

Apart from the two fiddle tracks they recorded together in 1932 ...

Brown first recorded western swing proper with the Brownies in 1934.

Wills first recorded with the Texas Playboys in 1935.

As well ...

Leon Chappelear recorded string band stuff veering towards genuine western swing in 1933, and western swing proper in 1935.

The Blue Ridge Playboys with Floyd Tillman, Moon Mullican and Pappy Selph recorded pretty much pure WS in 1936.

Then there's the likes of Jimmie Davis, where the line between bluesy Jimmie Rodgers-style tunes and WS and honky tonk is blurred.

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A few more from the 1930s:

Light Crust Doughboys

Bill Boyd

Roy Newman

Adolph Hofner

Jimmy Revard

Tune Wranglers

Cliff Bruner

Bob Dunn

Ocie Stockard

Smokey Wood

Hank Penny

Edited by J.A.W.

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A few more from the 1930s:

Light Crust Doughboys

Bill Boyd

Roy Newman

Adolph Hofner

Jimmy Revard

Tune Wranglers

Cliff Bruner

Bob Dunn

Ocie Stockard

Smokey Wood

Hank Penny

Hi J.A.W. - I have cuts by all those artists. I'm just wondering where and when and by whom it all came together before the landmark recording sessions.

Maybe the unrecorded Doughboys with both Wills and Brown.

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Recently had a buddy hip me to the Swift Jewel Cowboys, who recorded this in 1939, past anybody's "start date", but who I think had a much clearer sense of what the "swing" part of Western Swing meant than most before, and maybe after.

Edited by JSngry

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A few more from the 1930s:

Light Crust Doughboys

Bill Boyd

Roy Newman

Adolph Hofner

Jimmy Revard

Tune Wranglers

Cliff Bruner

Bob Dunn

Ocie Stockard

Smokey Wood

Hank Penny

Hi J.A.W. - I have cuts by all those artists. I'm just wondering where and when and by whom it all came together before the landmark recording sessions.

Maybe the unrecorded Doughboys with both Wills and Brown.

I did some research about that many years ago, but I don't have my notes anymore, so I'm afraid I can't help you. Any idea if there's a (good) general history of Western Swing? Never could find one.

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I've always felt Buddy Jones was an unwitting early Western Swingster.

Ginnell's book is fine, but only he could do an entire volume on the subject and NEVER mention the influence of African American musicians, Correct me if I'm wrong, but I could find no such reference in his book, IIRC.

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Recently had a buddy hip me to the Swift Jewel Cowboys, who recorded in 1939, past anybody's "start date", but who I think had a much clearer sense of what the "swing" part of Western Swing meant than most beofre, and maybe after.

Yes, have their stuff, too. 1939 but unable to find out anything about history to that point. Very jazzy and swinging!

Edited by kenny weir

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Gee, the topic title had me thinking of couples. Thinking of buckskins and bodices. My bad.

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A few more from the 1930s:

Light Crust Doughboys

Bill Boyd

Roy Newman

Adolph Hofner

Jimmy Revard

Tune Wranglers

Cliff Bruner

Bob Dunn

Ocie Stockard

Smokey Wood

Hank Penny

Hi J.A.W. - I have cuts by all those artists. I'm just wondering where and when and by whom it all came together before the landmark recording sessions.

Maybe the unrecorded Doughboys with both Wills and Brown.

I did some research about that many years ago, but I don't have my notes anymore, so I'm afraid I can't help you. Any idea if there's a (good) general history of Western Swing? Never could find one.

Nope - no such thing, more's the pity.

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Recently had a buddy hip me to the Swift Jewel Cowboys, who recorded in 1939, past anybody's "start date", but who I think had a much clearer sense of what the "swing" part of Western Swing meant than most beofre, and maybe after.

Yes, have their stuff, too. 1939 but unable to find out anything about history to that point. Very jazzy and swinging!

I was really struck by how flowing a lot of their stuff was time-wise. Seemed a bit unusual for the genre at that time, which has me wondering if they should be considered real "western swing", or maybe "country jazz" instead...

But in the end, who cares, right?

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I've always felt Buddy Jones was an unwitting early Western Swingster.

Ginnell's book is fine, but only he could do an entire volume on the subject and NEVER mention the influence of African American musicians, Correct me if I'm wrong, but I could find no such reference in his book, IIRC.

Yes, agree. But Jones AFAIK is unrepresnted at present on CD.

Allen what you say about the Brown book is utterly true, as it is pretty much all books on such figures. The Wills bio has a great 1944 photo of some of the Playboys sitting in a NY club with Red Allen, JC Higginbotham, Ben Webster and others. But it's been so long since I read it I can't recall if it goes further than the author's early words on Bob picking up the black spirit while picking cotton. Gagging material a bit, that, even if true.

Recently had a buddy hip me to the Swift Jewel Cowboys, who recorded in 1939, past anybody's "start date", but who I think had a much clearer sense of what the "swing" part of Western Swing meant than most beofre, and maybe after.

Yes, have their stuff, too. 1939 but unable to find out anything about history to that point. Very jazzy and swinging!

I was really struck by how flowing a lot of their stuff was time-wise. Seemed a bit unusual for the genre at that time, which has me wondering if they should be considered real "western swing", or maybe "country jazz" instead...

But in the end, who cares, right?

Yes, there's debate about that - same with Smoky Wood. As you say it doesn't matter, but still interesting.

But western swing is such a brilliant invention, like Allen and J.A.W. I am forever left wondering about dynamics and culture that produced it - not just musical, but also social, cultural and - yes - racial.

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But western swing is such a brilliant invention, like Allen and J.A.W. I am forever left wondering about dynamics and culture that produced it - not just musical, but also social, cultural and - yes - racial.

"Western" and "Southern" and "Southwestern" are three things that too easily get lumped together by those who don't/won't know any better. It's...complicated, to put it mildly.

I'll refer to you to this quote from Vernon Dalhart, as found in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernon_Dalhart

To some, Dalhart's Southern accent seemed artificial. In a 1918 interview Dalhart said, "When you are born and brought up in the South your only trouble is to talk any other way...the sure 'nough Southerner talks almost like a Negro, even when he's white. I've broken myself of the habit, more or less, in ordinary conversation, but it still comes pretty easy."

Lots to think about there...lots.

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Western Swing-influenced Cajun music:

Leo Soileau & His Three Aces, Bluebird, January 1935

Hackberry Ramblers, Bluebird, August 1935

Happy Fats & His Rayne-Bo Ramblers, Bluebird, August 1935

Miller's Merrymakers (J.B. Fuselier), Bluebird, October 1936

Louisiana Rounders (Joe Werner), Decca, December 1937

Sons of the Acadians, Decca, December 1939

Chuck Guillory and His Rhythm Boys must have recorded after WWII

Harry Choates started out in bands led by Happy Fats and Leo Soileau.

In the 50s the swing influence morphed into something else in Louisiana with the dancehall, honky tonk sound of artists like Lawrence Walker, Iry LeJeune, Austin Pitre, Nathan Abshire, Aldus Roger, Lionel Cormier, Sidney Brown, Maurice Barzas, etc.

Cliff Bruner toured southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas in the 1930s and was very popular, I understand.

Sons of the Pioneers recorded in 1934 and should be considered swing for their instrumental recordings with the Farr Brothers.

There is a museum for the Light Crust Doughboys in a hardware store in Mesquite Texas. I know my wife and I surprised the staff when we walked in and asked for it. Guess they mistook us for handy fixer uppers.

Edited by Neal Pomea

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But western swing is such a brilliant invention, like Allen and J.A.W. I am forever left wondering about dynamics and culture that produced it - not just musical, but also social, cultural and - yes - racial.

"Western" and "Southern" and "Southwestern" are three things that too easily get lumped together by those who don't/won't know any better. It's...complicated, to put it mildly.

I'll refer to you to this quote from Vernon Dalhart, as found in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernon_Dalhart

To some, Dalhart's Southern accent seemed artificial. In a 1918 interview Dalhart said, "When you are born and brought up in the South your only trouble is to talk any other way...the sure 'nough Southerner talks almost like a Negro, even when he's white. I've broken myself of the habit, more or less, in ordinary conversation, but it still comes pretty easy."

Lots to think about there...lots.

Yes, lots. I love doing so!

My impression has always been that despite his southern ancestry, Dalhart was a straight pop singer who became a country singer by happy opportunism.

Western Swing-influenced Cajun music:

Leo Soileau & His Three Aces, Bluebird, January 1935

Hackberry Ramblers, Bluebird, August 1935

Happy Fats & His Rayne-Bo Ramblers, Bluebird, August 1935

Miller's Merrymakers (J.B. Fuselier), Bluebird, October 1936

Louisiana Rounders (Joe Werner), Decca, December 1937

Sons of the Acadians, Decca, December 1939

Harry Choates started out in bands led by Happy Fats and Leo Soileau

Cliff Bruner toured southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas in the 1930s and was very popular, I understand.

Sons of the Pioneers recorded in 1934 and should be considered swing for its recordings with the Farr Brothers.

Thanks, Neal. Have most of those folks in tha racks, too, as you know.

What about the 1939 stuff by the Alley Boys of Abbeville? Hard-swinging stuff, that!

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My impression has always been that despite his southern ancestry, Dalhart was a straight pop singer who became a country singer by happy opportunism.

Be that as it may, he lived in Jefferson, Tx until he became an adolescent.

I know where Jefferson, Tx is. It's a little less than three hours away from where I live now, a short hop. I have family who live there, and have had breakfast there in the morning and d then lunch at home.

One does not now, nor probably ever did, live in Jefferson, Tx for that long, especially as a child/pre-adolescent and not have it make an "impression" that doesn't go away., no matter what.

Trust me on this one.

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Did the obvious thing and looked up the western swing entry at wikipedia. It mentions this 1929 recording:

Pretty damn cool! He worked with Dalhart, too!

You know you're getting arcane when the youtube clip you call up has ... 70 views! :)

Edited by kenny weir

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What about the 1939 stuff by the Alley Boys of Abbeville? Hard-swinging stuff, that!

It's funny I forget about them! I was even born in Abbeville. They are sort of obscure.

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What about the 1939 stuff by the Alley Boys of Abbeville? Hard-swinging stuff, that!

It's funny I forget about them! I was even born in Abbeville. They are sort of obscure.

That is kinda funny, hey! My first go round with cajun, the Broven book and various trips to Louisiana, they were definitely under my radar.

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John Morthland, in The Best of Country Music, cites an unknown source as having the leader of the Hi-Flyers, Andy Scarborough, as claiming his group "was the first to play 'takeoff' solos ... he claims the group was doing so in the 20s, though there is no recorded evidence backing him up".

Another group on my to-do list!

And comparing Milton Brown and Bob Wills, Morthland says: "Brown's music was nonetheless hipper, more urbane."

Such comparisons will always be moot, of course, in light of Brown's early death.

However, having just finished reading the Wills bio and playing most of my San Antonia Rose Bear Family box in the process, I can't say I agree.

Wills' achievement is staggering.

Am playing at the moment an Arhoolie CD by Beto Villa - the horns sound like they could be straight from classic Wills! Though given the 48-54 recording span, I'd say it's murky who influenced who!

Edited by kenny weir

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Ginnell's book is fine, but only he could do an entire volume on the subject and NEVER mention the influence of African American musicians, Correct me if I'm wrong, but I could find no such reference in his book, IIRC.

After reading the Wills bio, I then reread the Brown book.

Allen, it may not be what you specifically mean, but ...

There's a story about the band not being able to make a gig and handing it on to a local black outfit, earning them $100 a head and a happy management, too.

There's also reasonably detailed reference to them learning from various contemporary records as they are released.

Finally, there's the story of their Chicago recording trip under the Kapps during which the band went to various clubs, including seeing Carroll Dickerson and hanging out with Duke Ellington.

The frustrating thing about BOTH books is that while they deal with such things as booze and divorces and so on, they are tantamount to hagiography to the extent attribute to their subjects the title of Sole Creator Of Western Swing.

Given these two books and the oral history book are all there is - AFAIK - it's disappointing.

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