Tommy Allsup is awesome....

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And so are Leon Rausch and J. D. Walters and Mike Bennett and Curly Lewis and the rest of the Playboys that performed last night at Cain's Ballroom for the Bob Wills birthday bash.

I was there with my wife, our first night out since the baby. The Round-Up Boys, a good fiddle band, led off. Eddie McAlvain and the Mavericks were up next, adding some real swing to the western -- some great saxophone and fiddle solos. The Round-Up Boys and the Mavericks each played Corinne, Corinna, and the tune showcased the difference in their styles. Along with Bob Wills tunes, the Mavericks mixed in Spade Cooley's big hit, Shame on You, Wasted Days and Wasted Nights (a wasted choice of song, in my book), and Please Release Me.

District 2 Republican candidate Rick Westcott was in attendance tonight, too. Tulsa ought to have at least one city councilor with a genuine love for Western Swing music, don't you think?

Unfortunately, my wife wasn't up to making it through the whole show, -- the smoke and the volume were getting to her, I think -- so I drove her home and came back for Allsup and Rausch and the Playboys.

Tommy Allsup played some brilliant guitar solos tonight. He played lead guitar for Buddy Holly back in 1958-59 (until that night he lost the coin toss with Ritchie Valens). Tonight he played and sang Raining in My Heart.

This ensemble reminded me of Bob Wills' Playboys at their jazziest and most untamed -- the quality you hear on the Tiffany Transcriptions. If you wondered how it is that Bob is in both the Country Music and Rock'n'Roll Halls of Fame, tonight would have explained it all.

You can tell the difference between competent players who reproduce great improvisations from the past, and those who really are creating in the moment. Their playing tonight was inspired, drawing energy from the music, from the audience, and from each other. Every member of the band took some terrific solos, but Mike Bennett's trumpet work was particularly fantastic.

The other thing that made this band stand out was the fiddle section -- not just a lone fiddle, but a trio. You should've heard them on In the Mood and Maiden's Prayer.

Leon Rausch was in fine voice -- that smoky barroom voice of his.

I enjoyed hearing some favorite lesser-known tunes like Trouble in Mind and Tater Pie.

It was a thrill to get to hear the Playboys. If you ever have the chance to hear Tommy and Leon and the boys, walk, don't run.


Paul Tay said:

Eeeew. The smoke always kills me at Cains. I will be glad to patronize Cain's again when they go smoke-free. Use foam earplugs for your next club outing. Saves on about 29 dB.

W. Author Profile Page said:

Those who love Western swing are strongly advised to attend the Merle Haggard show at the Brady Theatre in a few days. I've seen Merle; he loves Western swing and won't hesitate to do a few such numbers (and more) if the crowd is receptive. Given that this is Tulsa, I don't think that will be a problem. Download his versions of "Cherokee Maiden" and "Rainbow Stew" to get a taste.

Of course, he'll have a few of his own hits to play, too. ;-)

Merle deserves a lot of credit for the renewal of interest in Western swing with his 1970 album A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (Or My Salute to Bob Wills). And of course that's his voice on For the Last Time, singing the Playboy Theme and the second track, Yearning.

W. Author Profile Page said:

Good point, Michael. I have that Merle album on my iTunes jukebox, and it's a lot of fun.

I think George Strait also deserves a lot of credit starting in the 1980s with helping preserve Western swing. I've heard a lot of old-timers say that "Right or Wrong" sounded a lot like Tommy Duncan. That's not faint praise.

Do you own any of the Tiffany Transcription discs, Michael? Any you recommend? There's so many of them.

I'm just starting to collect them, and I don't think you'll be disappointed with any of them.

#2 is the "Best of the Tiffanies" -- all of his big hits -- including Faded Love as an instrumental, a few years before Billy Jack Wills wrote the lyrics for the tune. It's a good intro to the difference between the way they played for formal recording sessions and the looser, more energetic sound of the Tiffanies.

#5 has one of my latest favorites, Fat Boy Rag, featuring Junior Barnard tearing it up on the guitar. (There's another, more subdued version of the song that they cut for Columbia. This version starts with Bob hollering, "All you good friends stand by!") It also has Three Guitar Special -- a rearrangement of Eldon Shamblin and Leon McAuliffe's steel and standard guitar duet. This version has Eldon, Herb Remington on steel, and Tiny Moore on mandolin.

It's a lot of fun to hear them cover big band and pop tunes, too.

Rick Westcott Author Profile Page said:

Michael's right. The bands leading up to the Playboys were good, but there just isn't anything or anyone like the Texas Playboys at the Cain's Ballroom and Dancing Academy. Asleep at the Wheel comes close. And, they're scheduled to be here on May 13th.

I taught my girlfriend to two-step last night. She's from Colorado and has only begun to love Western Swing, but she's coming right along!

It occured to me last night that I don't remember when I learned the words to "Faded Love", "San Antonio Rose" and "Take Me Back To Tulsa." I think, when you grow up in Tulsa, you just grow up knowing certain things.

I have Merle Haggard's "Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player." I recommend it to you. Especially "Maiden's Prayer."

See you at the Cain's on May 13th!


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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 4, 2006 1:20 AM.

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