Sunday, March 06, 2005

Bob Wills Is Still The King

Today is the centenary of the birth of Bob Wills, the fiddler from rural Texas who popularized Western Swing. First with the Light Crust Dough Boys, and later with his own wildly popular band, the Texas Playboys, he fused traditional western music with swing, jazz, and blues and created a style of music that was uniquely American. Seventy years after he started his career, and thirty years after his death, his songs are still recorded by artists such as George Strait, Merle Haggard, and Asleep At The Wheel.

When my parents were growing up in southern Oklahoma, Elvis was still in knee pants, and Bob Wills was King. My dad loved Western Swing and fiddle music, especially the "twin fiddle" sound heard in the Texas Playboys. Any band that played Bob Wills songs was okay by him. My brother and I grew up hearing Bob Wills music. I knew the harmonies of "Faded Love" and San Antonio Rose" before I even knew what harmony was. It never occurred to me that the whole world didn't know "Take Me Back To Tulsa."

A few years ago, when daddy was in the hospital and clearly not going to be coming out, my brother grabbed a boom box and a cd of Bob Wills' Greatest Hits, and took them to the hospital. The songs played for hours. When the minister came to visit, he asked, "Do you like that music?" Dad smiled and said, "Bob Wills." I don't know for certain that those were his last words, but they were the last ones anyone thought important enough to note.

Happy birthday, Bob, and thanks for all the music.

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