New Leon McAuliffe CD: Tulsa, Straight Ahead

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I learned today that later this month Bear Family Records is about to issue a new CD compilation of music by Leon McAuliffe and His Cimarron Boys, titled Tulsa, Straight Ahead. McAuliffe was the first steel guitarist for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys; after a stint as a flight instructor during WW II, he returned to Tulsa and formed his own band

Bear is a German reissue label beloved by "completists." They've put all of Bob Wills' commercial recordings, plus studio outtakes and alternate takes, in two massive $300+ box sets. Two years ago, Bear released McAuliffe's work in four sessions for Dot in 1956-1958 (26 tracks) on Take Off & More.

Tulsa, Straight Ahead: Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight contains 31 tracks recorded for Columbia between 1949 and 1955. That link has the full track listing. You can pre-order the disc on Amazon for about $24.

Bear Family has here collected the cream of McAuliffe's six year tenure with Columbia, including a never-issued alternate take of 'Panhandle Rag', and several other unissued tracks. Highlights include the unissued first -- and considerably hotter -- version of the hard-swinging blues 'Hard-Hearted Girl'. There are steel guitar classics like 'Mr. Steel Guitar' and 'Cimarron Rag'. A fantastic take on the early rock 'n' roll classic 'Sh-Boom', as well as what was arguably the best among the twenty-odd versions of the 1950 smash 'Rag Mop'.

Some of these tracks are on a Jasmine Records compilation, Take It Away, the Leon Way, but Bear is bound to improve on the sound quality and to provide a well-documented sessionography in the liner notes.

One song that wasn't on that Jasmine release but will be on Tulsa, Straight Ahead is "The Three Bears," written by Bobby Troup. It'll be nice to hear a cleaned-up version -- the YouTube clip below is the only way I've heard the song.

(According to YouTube commenters, that's Keith Coleman as Papa Bear, and Chet Calcote as Mama Bear. Calcote still plays bass in and around Amarillo, in a western swing band called the Magic City Cowboys and in a jazz combo called Pizzazz.)

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 9, 2009 5:23 PM.

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