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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 co-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).

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. 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", "New 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, frequently moving. In 1950, he 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, but continued to perform frequently despite the decline in popularity of his earlier music as rock and roll took over. Wills had a heart attack in 1962 and a second one the next year, which forced him to disband the Playboys, although 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 was recording an album with fan Merle Haggard in 1973 when a stroke left him comatose until his death in 1975. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Wills and the Texas Playboys in 1999.

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

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1932 - 1957

Roles Represented in DAHR: violin, leader, composer, vocalist, lyricist

Recordings

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 instrumentalist, violin, vocalist  
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  
Decca 88703 9/29/1955 Roll your own Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys instrumentalist, violin  
Decca 88704 9/29/1955 My shoes keep walking back to you Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys instrumentalist, violin  
Decca 88705 9/29/1955 I wonder if you feel the way Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys instrumentalist, violin  
Decca L 8132 1/24/1955 New Osage stomp Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8133 1/24/1955 Carnations for the memory Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8134 1/24/1955 Too much mambo Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8135 1/24/1955 Echo yodel Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8136 1/24/1955 New dreamy eyed waltz Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8137 1/24/1955 Black and blue rag Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8138 1/24/1955 Sincerely Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8139 1/24/1955 Cornball rag Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8140 1/25/1955 Beaumont rag Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8141 1/25/1955 Don't let the deal go down Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8142 1/25/1955 I'll follow wherever you go Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8143 1/25/1955 Four or five times Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8144 1/25/1955 San Antonio Rose Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8145 1/25/1955 Spanish two step Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8146 1/25/1955 Lone star rag Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8147 1/25/1955 The Boston fancy Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8148 1/25/1955 Hoopaw rag Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8149 1/25/1955 Don't keep it a secret Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8939 1/23/1956 Sugar baby Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8940 1/23/1956 So let's rock Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8941 1/23/1956 The bunny with the powder puff Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 8942 1/23/1956 Texas fiddler Texas Playboys ; Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Decca L 9881 2/27/1957 Betty's waltz Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin  
Decca L 9882 2/27/1957 Wills' breakdown Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin  
Decca L 9883 2/27/1957 La Golondrina Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin  
Decca L 9884 2/27/1957 Texas two-step Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin  
Decca L 9889 2/28/1957 Wait'll you see Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin  
Decca L 9890 2/28/1957 An old flame Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin  
Decca L 9891 2/28/1957 Oh! Monah Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin  
Decca L 9892 2/28/1957 I'll always be in love with you Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin  
Decca L 9893 2/28/1957 With tears in my eyes Bob Wills instrumentalist, violin  
Decca NA 9556 11/13/1956 Orange blossom special Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys instrumentalist, violin  
Decca NA 9557 11/13/1956 Little star of heaven Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys instrumentalist, violin  
Decca NA 9558 11/13/1956 It's the bottle talking Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys instrumentalist, violin  
Decca NA 9559 11/13/1956 Gotta walk alone Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys instrumentalist, violin  
Decca NA 9560 11/13/1956 Lilly Dale Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys instrumentalist, violin  
Decca NA 9561 11/13/1956 New faded love Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys instrumentalist, violin  
Decca NA 9562 11/13/1956 Toodleumbo Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys instrumentalist, violin  
Decca NA 9563 11/13/1956 Bob's breakdown Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys instrumentalist, violin  
Decca NA 9565 11/13/1956 What's the matter with the mill-1 Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys instrumentalist, violin  

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Wills, Bob," accessed February 27, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/103732.

Wills, Bob. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved February 27, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/103732.

"Wills, Bob." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 27 February 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

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

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