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Bob Wills

James Robert Wills (March 6, 1905 – May 13, 1975) was an American Western swing musician, songwriter, and bandleader. Considered by music authorities as the founder of Western swing, he was known widely as the King of Western Swing (although Spade Cooley self-promoted the moniker "King of Western Swing" from 1942 to 1969). He was also noted for punctuating his music with his trademark "ah-haa" calls.

Wills formed several bands and played radio stations around the South and West until he formed the Texas Playboys in 1934 with Wills on fiddle, Tommy Duncan on piano and vocals, rhythm guitarist June Whalin, tenor banjoist Johnnie Lee Wills, and Kermit Whalin who played steel guitar and bass. Oklahoma guitar player Eldon Shamblin joined the band in 1937 bringing jazzy influence and arrangements. The band played regularly on Tulsa, Oklahoma, radio station KVOO and added Leon McAuliffe on steel guitar, pianist Al Stricklin, drummer Smokey Dacus, and a horn section that expanded the band's sound. Wills favored jazz-like arrangements and the band found national popularity into the 1940s with such hits as "Steel Guitar Rag", "San Antonio Rose", "Smoke on the Water", "Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima", and "New Spanish Two Step".

Wills and the Texas Playboys recorded with several publishers and companies, including Vocalion, Okeh, Columbia, and MGM. In 1950, Wills had two top 10 hits, "Ida Red likes the Boogie" and "Faded Love", which were his last hits for a decade. Throughout the 1950s, he struggled with poor health and tenuous finances. He continued to perform frequently despite a decline in the popularity of his earlier hit songs, and the growing popularity of rock and roll. Wills had a heart attack in 1962, and a second one the next year, which forced him to disband the Texas Playboys. Wills continued to perform solo.

The Country Music Hall of Fame inducted Wills in 1968 and the Texas State Legislature honored him for his contribution to American music.

In 1972, Wills accepted a citation from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in Nashville. He recorded an album with fan Merle Haggard in 1973. Wills suffered two strokes that left him partially paralyzed, and unable to communicate. He was comatose the last two months of his life, and died in a Fort Worth nursing home in 1975. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Wills and the Texas Playboys in 1999.

Birth and Death Data: Born March 6, 1905 (Limestone County), Died May 13, 1975 (Fort Worth)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1932 - 1957

Roles Represented in DAHR: leader, violin, composer, songwriter, vocalist, lyricist, harmony vocal, arranger, speaker

Notes: Bob Wills is known for his "hollers" - spoken interjections during most of his records.

= Recordings are available for online listening.
= Recordings were issued from this master. No recordings issued from other masters.

Recordings (Results 1-25 of 184 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor BVE-70670 10-in. 2/9/1932 Sunbonnet Sue Light Crust Doughboys Male vocal solo, with fiddle (violin) and 2 guitars instrumentalist, violin  
Victor BVE-70671 10-in. 2/9/1932 Nancy Jane Light Crust Doughboys Male vocal ensemble, with fiddle (violin) and 2 guitars vocalist, instrumentalist, violin  
Victor BS-058257 10-in. 12/12/1940 San Antonio Rose Gray Gordon ; Art Perry ; Tic-Toc Rhythm Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo composer  
Victor BS-063739 10-in. 4/10/1941 San Antonio Rose Tito Guizar Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band composer, lyricist  
Victor BS-065061 10-in. 4/28/1941 Recuerdos de San Antonio Tito Guizar Male vocal solo, with instrumental ensemble composer  
Victor D5VB-1112 10-in. 8/8/1945 The Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima Bob Nolan ; Sons of the Pioneers Male vocal ensemble, with string band songwriter  
Victor D7VB-0454 10-in. 1/31/1947 Texas playboy rag Spade Cooley ; Spade Cooley Band Instrumental ensemble, with soloists composer  
Victor D7VB-1312 10-in. 7/23/1947 Bob Will two-step Rhythm Busters (Luke Wills) ; Luther Jay "Luke" Wills String band composer  
Victor D7VB-1314 10-in. 7/23/1947 Cain's stomp Rhythm Busters (Luke Wills) ; Luther Jay "Luke" Wills String band composer  
Victor D7VB-1315 10-in. 7/23/1947 Louisiana blues Rhythm Busters (Luke Wills) ; Luther Jay "Luke" Wills String band composer  
Victor D7VB-1857 10-in. 11/7/1947 Closed for repairs Bill Boyd ; Cowboy Ramblers Male vocal solo, with string band songwriter  
Victor D7VB-2102 10-in. 11/17/1947 Spanish fandango Spade Cooley Male vocal solo, with string band songwriter  
Columbia DAL981 10-in. 4/16/1940 New San Antonio rose Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band composer, lyricist  
Columbia H372 10-in. 7/23/1941 Blue Bonnet Lane Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, instrumentalist, violin  
Columbia H373 10-in. 7/23/1941 Bob Wills stomp Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band leader, instrumentalist, violin, composer  
Columbia H374 10-in. 7/23/1941 Lil Liza Jane Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Columbia H375 10-in. 7/23/1941 Please don't leave me Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader  
Columbia H377 10-in. 7/23/1941 Cherokee maiden Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader  
Columbia H378 10-in. 7/24/1941 Ride on! (my prairie pinto) Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Columbia H380 10-in. 7/24/1941 It's all your fault Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader  
Columbia H381 10-in. 7/24/1941 Goodnight little sweetheart Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo vocalist, leader  
Columbia H382 10-in. 7/24/1941 Dusty skies Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader  
Columbia H383 10-in. 7/24/1941 My life's been a pleasure Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader  
Columbia H834 10-in. 7/14/1942 We might as well forget it Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Columbia H837 10-in. 7/14/1942 That hot lick fiddlin' man Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, violin, songwriter, leader  
(Results 1-25 of 184 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Wills, Bob," accessed February 26, 2024, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/103732.

Wills, Bob. (2024). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved February 26, 2024, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/103732.

"Wills, Bob." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2024. Web. 26 February 2024.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/103732

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