Eldon Shamblin and Smokey Dacus tell tales of the Texas Playboys

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As the rhythm section of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, rhythm guitarist Eldon Shamblin and drummer Smokey Dacus, along with Al Stricklin on piano, defined the beat that drove dancers across the southwestern U. S. in the 1930s from the band's home base at Tulsa's Cain's Ballroom. Dacus was on the Texas Playboys' first 1935 recording session and stayed with the band until World War II; Shamblin joined the band in 1937 and continued to work with Bob Wills off and on through the '40s and '50s. The two reunited with the rest of the early-day Playboys for a 1970 session at Merle Haggard's housewarming and Bob Wills's final recording session in December 1973, and then as the Original Texas Playboys until Stricklin's passing in 1986.

Here are Eldon and Smokey at Cain's Ballroom sometime in the early '90s, telling stories of those early days -- playing pranks, dealing with Bob Wills, Leon McAuliffe as a gawky teenager who could "fall over a broomstraw in a 60-acre field," the vast repertoire that they could play on demand as Bob read the mood of the crowd, the massive crowds they drew to Cain's (3,000 a night), playing the funerals of fans on Sunday, their only day off, and babies sleeping on the bandstand while their parents danced. Medicine Park, Crystal City, and Elwood Park (six miles south of Oklahoma City) get a mention.

Early in the conversation, Eldon said, "When you played here on Saturday night, for example, you'd look out in the crowd and there'd be people from Arkansas City, Oklahoma City... we never had a concentration of customers from Tulsa.... We always had full houses, but they weren't all from Tulsa. They were from surrounding territories."

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 4, 2014 11:07 PM.

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