Western Swing

On this date in 1975, Bob Wills, one of the most influential musicians in the history of country-western music, died at age 70.

In 1933, Bob Wills formed the band that would make him famous: Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. With the Playboys, Wills perfected his hard-driving country-western sound, which drew heavily on the rhythms of the popular jazz-swing bands of the era. Wills’ fiddle playing sounded nothing like the traditional folk music he had heard as a child. His music was made for western swing dancing.

Wills eventually added drums, brass, and woodwinds to the Texas Playboys, making himself into a country-western bandleader. Among their many hits were highly danceable tunes like, “Take Me Back to Tulsa,” “Bubbles in My Beer,” and the ever popular “San Antonio Rose.” To date, Wills has sold more than 20 million records.

Many critics have argued Wills and the Texas Playboys had a greater influence on the sounds of country-western music than any other performer or group. In recognition of his achievements, Wills was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1968. He believed his chances of winning were so slim he was backstage chatting with friends when the award was announced. When he was finally tracked down and brought on stage, he said, “I don’t usually take my hat off to nobody. But I sure do to you folks.”

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