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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 26-50 of 185 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Columbia H838 10-in. 7/14/1942 Liberty Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band instrumentalist, violin, composer, leader  
Columbia H839 10-in. 7/14/1942 Miss Molly Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Columbia H841 10-in. 7/15/1942 Honeymoon trail Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal trio vocalist, instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Columbia H843 10-in. 7/15/1942 You're from Texas Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Columbia H844 10-in. 7/15/1942 Goodbye, Liza Jane Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal trio instrumentalist, violin, leader  
Columbia H845 10-in. 7/16/1942 My confession Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist, composer, lyricist, leader  
Columbia H846 10-in. 7/16/1942 Ten years Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band leader  
Columbia H849 10-in. 7/16/1942 Let's ride with Bob (Theme song) Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys Jazz/dance band composer  
Columbia H851 10-in. 7/16/1942 Whose heart are you breaking now? Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band leader  
Columbia DAL975 10-in. 4/15/1940 Let me call you sweetheart (I'm in love with you) Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo vocalist, leader, instrumentalist, violin  
Columbia H1241 10-in. 1/26/1945 Hang your head in shame Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, instrumentalist, violin  
Columbia H1242 10-in. 1/24/1945 Smoke on the water Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, instrumentalist, violin  
Columbia H1243 10-in. 1/26/1945 Texas playboy rag Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band instrumentalist, violin, leader, composer  
Columbia H1245 10-in. 1/26/1945 Roly poly Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader  
Columbia H1246 10-in. 1/26/1945 You don't care what happens to me Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader  
Columbia H1247 10-in. 1/26/1945 Stay a little longer Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, instrumentalist, violin, songwriter, vocalist, harmony vocal  
Columbia H1250 10-in. 1/28/1945 You should have thought of that before Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader  
Columbia H1251 10-in. 1/28/1945 I can't go on this way Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader  
Columbia H1366 10-in. 4/20/1945 Stars and stripes on Iwo Jima Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, songwriter  
Columbia H1367 10-in. 4/20/1945 Silver dew on the blue grass tonight Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader  
Columbia H1369 10-in. 4/20/1945 New Spanish two step Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, songwriter, instrumentalist, violin  
Columbia C1475 10-in. 9/29/1936 She's killing me Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, instrumentalist, violin  
Columbia C1477 10-in. 9/29/1936 No matter how she done it (she's just a dirty dame) Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, instrumentalist, violin  
Columbia C1479 10-in. 9/29/1936 Steel guitar rag Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band leader  
Columbia C1480 10-in. 9/29/1936 Get along home Cindy Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, instrumentalist, violin  
(Results 26-50 of 185 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Wills, Bob," accessed April 15, 2024, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/103732.

Wills, Bob. (2024). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/103732.

"Wills, Bob." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2024. Web. 15 April 2024.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

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

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