A review of Radio Days

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I just received a CD called Radio Days by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. The CD was issued in 2005 by Tomato Records. I was excited when I first spotted this online because this appeared to be a radio broadcast of the Texas Playboys, complete with the opening and closing themes. While the CD is not exactly what I expected, it's still well worth having for any fan of the Texas Playboys. Here's the review I just posted to amazon.com:

Like the Tiffany Transcriptions series, these tracks, recorded for or from radio, capture Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys at their loosest and swingingest, the way you might have heard them at a dance hall.

While this disc is set up to flow as if it were a single broadcast, in fact it's a combination of a transcription done around 1945 (tracks 1-15, 28-29) and a broadcast from 1953 (tracks 16-27). It's almost seamless, but Wills scholars will notice differences in the names that Bob calls out for solos.

The 1945 section features Tommy Duncan on vocals, Bob Wills, Louis Tierney, and Joe Holley on fiddle, Alex Brashear on trumpet, Millard Kelso on piano, and Junior Barnard on standard guitar, with announcer Ross Franklin. You'll get to hear Tommy Duncan sing the opening Playboys theme, as well as "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," "Empty Chair at the Table," "Take Me Back to Tulsa," and a duet with Bob on the blues call-and-response "I'm Talkin' about You." Les Anderson provides vocals on "Stardust." Nearly everyone takes a solo on instrumentals "Lone Star Rag" and "Liberty," including a couple of Junior Barnard's proto-rock'n'roll guitar solos. Junior is also featured on "I'm Talkin' about You" and "Take Me Back to Tulsa."

The 1953 tracks seem to have the same tracklist as an LP called "Rare 1953 California Radio Broadcasts Volume 2." Jack Lloyd and Bill Choate take the vocal duties, and you'll hear Skeeter Elkin on piano, Keith Coleman on fiddle, Billy Bowman on steel guitar, and Eldon Shamblin on standard guitar, with announcer Lou Stevens. There's mention between songs of the band playing dances at Harmony Park Ballroom in Anaheim and Bob doing a transcription for Armed Forces Radio with Carolina Cotton. "Tuxedo Junction" features some fine solos from Skeeter Elkin and Billy Bowman. Louise Rowe and Keith Coleman sing a duet on "Got You on My Mind."

Beyond the great music, the between-songs banter makes this a disc worth having just to get the sense of what it was like to tune in to the daily broadcasts.

It's that banter that sets this recording apart from the Tiffany Transcriptions. (Presumably, the original Tiffany Transcription discs included introductions and banter, but that hasn't been included on the compilations that Rhino issued.)

I still dream of hearing a radio broadcast from the band's heyday at KVOO in Tulsa, but I suspect those shows are only extant in the Celestial Archive.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 3, 2006 12:37 AM.

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