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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 51-75 of 185 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Columbia C1481 10-in. 9/29/1936 Trouble in mind Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader  
Columbia C1482 10-in. 9/29/1936 What's the matter with the mill? Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solos leader, instrumentalist, violin, vocalist  
Columbia C1483 10-in. 9/29/1936 Sugar blues Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo vocalist, leader  
Columbia C1484 10-in. 9/29/1936 Basin Street blues Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader  
Columbia C1485 10-in. 9/29/1936 Red hot gal of mine Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader  
Columbia C1487 10-in. 9/29/1936 Too busy! Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys Jazz/dance band leader  
Columbia C1493 10-in. 9/30/1936 Fan it Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader  
Columbia C1495 10-in. 9/30/1936 Mean mama blues Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, instrumentalist, violin  
Columbia C1500 10-in. 9/30/1936 Bring it on down to my house Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solos vocalist, leader, instrumentalist, violin  
Columbia C1503 10-in. 9/30/1936 Right or wrong Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, instrumentalist, violin  
Columbia C1504 10-in. 9/30/1936 Swing blues no.1 Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, vocalist  
Columbia H1551 10-in. 10/3/1945 Empty chair at the Christmas table Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, songwriter  
Columbia H1552 10-in. 10/3/1945 I'm feelin' bad Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, songwriter  
Columbia H1553 10-in. 10/3/1945 White cross on Okinawa Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, songwriter, instrumentalist, violin  
Columbia H1554 10-in. 10/3/1945 This is southland Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band composer, leader  
Columbia HCO2004 10-in. 9/4/1946 Cotton eyed Joe Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys Male vocal solo, with string band instrumentalist, violin, leader, arranger  
Columbia HCO2005 10-in. 9/4/1946 Staccato waltz Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys Mixed vocal trio, with string band leader  
Columbia HCO2006 10-in. 9/4/1946 Punkin' stomp Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band composer, leader  
Columbia HCO2007 10-in. 9/5/1946 Sugar moon Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, songwriter, instrumentalist, violin  
Columbia HCO2008 10-in. 9/5/1946 Rose of old Pawnee Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with female vocal duet leader  
Columbia HCO2009 10-in. 9/4/1946 How can it be wrong Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo songwriter, leader  
Columbia HCO2010 10-in. 9/5/1946 Brain cloudy blues Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band, with male vocal solo leader, songwriter  
Columbia HCO2011 10-in. 9/5/1946 Bob Wills boogie Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys String band composer, leader  
Columbia HCO2012 10-in. 9/6/1946 There's a big rock in the road Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys Male vocal solo, with string band leader  
Columbia HCO2016 10-in. 9/6/1946 I'm gonna be boss from now on Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys Male vocal solo, with string band leader, songwriter  
(Results 51-75 of 185 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Wills, Bob," accessed April 22, 2024, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/103732.

Wills, Bob. (2024). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved April 22, 2024, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/103732.

"Wills, Bob." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2024. Web. 22 April 2024.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

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

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