Music Category

KVWO Welch benefit dance

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This Friday, August 25, 2017, there will be a western swing dance benefitting a small-town, non-profit radio station, KVWO 94.7, the Voice of Welch, Oklahoma.


KVWO's "Dance 'Til Your Stockings Are Hot and Unraveling" fundraiser will be held in the Welch Civic Auditorium, running from 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm. Dewayne Bowman & the Swingin' West Band and the A-Bar Bunkhouse Band will headline the event -- both bands are donating their performances for the cause. Advance online tickets are $10 for adults and teens, $7.50 for kids 12 and under; tickets at the door are $12 for adults and teens, $9 for kids 12 and under. Doors open at 7.


The goal is to raise $10,000 to build a transmitter tower for the station. Since going on the air last year, the station has shared a tower, using a digital wireless connection to send audio from the studios to the transmitter.

Our own tower means that we can maximize our licensed height and power allowances. Having our own tower should also allow us to become independednt of the internet to put our signal on the air. That means as little downtime as is possible, especially in times of severe weather.

Additionally, our own tower means we'll be able to triple our current power output. Combined with raising our antenna to the maximum allowed height, this power increase should help us penetrate as far as Vinita, Miami, and Chetopa, if not beyond. That means better over-the-air reception for more people who'll have local news and information, as well as severe weather coverage and emergency information and instructions, as close as their nearest radio and completely free of charge.

KVWO is the culmination of a long-time dream for Welch native Tyson Wynn, who wanted to provide a community-based media outlet for his hometown. Wynn got his broadcasting start as a high school student on Vinita station KITO, but these days that station is a repeater for a big-city station. In 2009, Wynn launched as the local online newspaper. In 2014, he successfully applied for an FCC license to operate a low-power FM station, but it wasn't until early this year that he was able to get the station on the air.

One of his early features was livestreaming audio on the website for Welch High School sporting events. Now those sporting events go out over the airwaves, reaching anyone in northern Craig County with an FM radio. (If you're outside the Welch metropolitan area, the station is streamed live on

Off-air, Wynn also serves as the pastor of Living Hope Baptist Church in Welch. He also works with his wife, Jeane Wynn, through their firm Wynn-Wynn Media, providing publicity services for numerous well-known Christian authors and publishers. The couple co-hosts a daily talk show on the station.

In addition to local news, the station plays a blend of musical genres that Wynn calls "countrypolitan," saying of the local population, "We're country music, western swing, red dirt, classic rock, cowboy music, Americana, folk, rockabilly, standards-loving people." Back in March, I had the pleasure of being on the air with the Wynns to talk about the musical heritage of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.

If you like western swing music, community-supported media, or both, make the 80-minute drive from Tulsa to Welch this Friday night. Welch is about 20 miles north of the Vinita exit on the Will Rogers Turnpike on US 59.

KVWO is owned by a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and if you can't be at the dance but would like to support the station, your contribution would be gratefully received and tax-deductible.

David Marshall Rollo, a leader in Tulsa choral music for over a half-century, a friend and mentor to many, passed away on April 25, 2017, at the age of 74, of complications from pneumonia. I was blessed to know David for 40 years as his student at Holland Hall, as a singer under his direction at Coventry Chorale, and as a friend.


David will be remembered by family and friends this Saturday, June 24, 2017, at 11:00 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati, in downtown Tulsa. David's former students at Holland Hall will perform de Victoria's O Magnum Mysterium during the prelude to the service, at approximately 10:45 am. During the service, the Trinity Choir will perform "The Lord Is My Shepherd," the setting of Psalm 23 by the late Trinity choirmaster and organist Thomas Matthews. (Holland Hall alumni wishing to sing O Magnum Mysterium during the prelude are requested to arrive at the Trinity choir room (in the basement) by 10:15 to rehearse. The Trinity choir will rehearse at 10.)

David_Rollo-HH_Early.jpgA Cleveland native, David came to the University of Tulsa for college, earning a bachelor's and master's degrees in vocal performance, under the direction of the legendary Arthur Hestwood. David toured for a year with Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians. In 1967, he joined the faculty of Holland Hall, serving as vocal music instructor, chairman of the fine arts department, and director of student activities, retiring in 1996. He also served for a time as director of the Tulsa Community Chorus at Tulsa Junior College. In 1982, David founded Coventry Chorale, a mixed-voice chorus performing classical and sacred music, serving as its artistic director and conductor until the Chorale's final concert in 2005. In the 1970s, David was choir director at Christ United Methodist Church; he joined the choir of Trinity Episcopal Church in 1980 and remained a Trinity parishoner from that point onward. David recorded two albums with his choirs: Holland Hall Concert Chorus, Standing Ovation, 1977; Coventry Chorale, The Lord Is My Shepherd: A Tribute to Thomas Matthews, 2002.

I first encountered Mr. Rollo as a freshman, a mediocre alto saxophonist in Holland Hall's then-tiny instrumental music ensemble, and then as a sophomore in his music theory class. His office, right next to the Commons, was a favorite hangout for many students, particularly those involved in music. Sometime during my sophomore year, I went to see his office to see him about tickets for the school musical. He complimented my speaking voice and asked if I'd ever thought about trying out for Concert Chorus. I hadn't, but at his encouragement, I did, and I made the cut. The following year I made it into the school's twelve-voice Madrigal Singers.

David Rollo believed that high school students were capable of singing great music beautifully, and under his tutelage we sang Mozart's "Sparrow Mass," settings of Te Deum by Mozart and Haydn, Mendelssohn's "O for the Wings of a Dove," Bach's Cantata BWV 159, Benjamin Britten's setting of Hodie Christus Natus Est, Randall Thompson's "Last Words of David" and "Frostiana," English and French and Italian madrigals, and, of course, the anthems of Trinity organist and choirmaster Thomas Matthews. We did popular and modern music, too. We sang a fall concert (popular) and a spring concert (classical), at Lessons and Carols, and out in the community -- for example, at St. Aidan's for the ordination of the school's chaplain, Father Ibn Masud Syedullah, which gave us an introduction to Anglican chant. Is there any Tulsa high school today, public or private, singing the challenging repertoire that David Rollo taught his students?

There may have been a few students in the chorus that had personal vocal training, but for most of us what we learned about singing, David Rollo taught us during our hour-long rehearsal every other day. He taught us to enunciate, to use our diaphragms, to produce head tones and sing without vibrato.

David opened nearly every Holland Hall Concert Chorus rehearsal with O Magnum Mysterium, a polyphonic setting of a Christmas responsorial chant by 16th century Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria. The song was always a part of Holland Hall's annual service of Lessons and Carols at Trinity, but during rehearsals David used O Magnum to teach us to tune our notes, to listen to one another, to blend our voices, and to taper every phrase. He would often have us mix ourselves, so that no one was standing next to anyone singing the same part. Here is a recording of the piece by the 1977 edition of the Holland Hall Concert Chorus, conducted by David Rollo:

After high school graduation, I sang for Mr. Rollo in the Tulsa Junior College Community Chorus. I remember a Fourth of July concert on the west bank of the river, performing Peter J. Wilhousky's arrangement of "Battle Hymn of the Republic." I found a news article from 1993 saying that David had served as an adjunct instructor at TJC for 48 semesters.

After college, my wife and I joined Coventry Chorale. David stretched the abilities of this amateur group with Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil (a cappella and in Russian), requiem masses by Mozart, Fauré, Duruflé, and Saint-Saëns; Puccini's Messa di Gloria; and works by modern Oklahoma composers such as TU Professor Joseph Rivers ("Tempests Round Us Gather"), Louis Ballard ("The Gods Will Hear"), and Thomas Matthews. Although Trinity was home, Coventry performed at Episcopal churches in Ponca City, Ada, Pryor, and Okmulgee, at OK Mozart, a concert of Gilded Age music connected with an exhibition at Philbrook, for the centennial celebrations of Holy Family Cathedral, and newly-composed Shabbat service music at Temple Israel.

One of my favorite concerts to sing involved a series of a cappella Anglican anthems that David had selected from renaissance composers like Thomas Tallis and William Byrd and settings of old songs by 20th century composers ("Jesus Christ the Apple Tree" by Elizabeth Poston, "Faire Is the Heaven" by William Henry Harris).

On September 11, 2002, David organized and led Tulsa's participation in the Rolling Requiem, a worldwide memorial for the victims of the 9/11 attacks, beginning in each time zone around the world at 9:46 am local time, circling the globe with Mozart's "Requiem." Over a thousand people crowded into Trinity for the service. The following year Faure's Requiem was performed, and the tradition continued for some years after for Trinity's annual 9/11 remembrance.

It was through David that my wife and I became acquainted with Tulsa Boy Singers, and years later our sons would get their start in musical education and performance with TBS, providing a solid foundation for their involvement in instrumental music.

David was deeply involved in the life of Trinity Episcopal Church. He was a longtime choir member, served as vestryman and headed the liturgy and worship committee, and in later years served at the church's reception desk during the week. For a few years, I had the joy of singing alongside David, at his invitation, as one of the Wise Men at Trinity's Epiphany procession, singing the Willcocks/Rutter Matin Responsory ("I Look from Afar").

But it's not enough to talk about David's musical accomplishments. David's genuine warmth and good humor, particularly his love of groan-worthy puns, are an essential part of what made him unforgettable to those who sang for him and caused him to become not merely a teacher and conductor but a genuine friend. If no one else remembered your birthday, you could count on getting a card from David.

David was a prolific communicator, emailing the latest terrible pun or shaggy-dog story to his long list of friends. He was vocal about his political opinions as well, forwarding articles to his friends, and a frequent writer of letters to the editor. From time to time, David would send me a story idea or a comment on my latest article. His political opinions might be classified as common-sense conservative: Supporting the troops and expressions of patriotism, opposing public funding for dams in the Arkansas River, supporting the idea of moving election day to the weekend. Our last email exchange was in mid-April: He wrote, with disdain, about the news that MIT Press was publishing a book called Communism for Kids.

Last fall David wrote some topical limericks that were published in the Tulsa World:

We've gone through election muck,
For 160 days we are stuck
With a mayor whose term
Ends in December, that's firm.
We wish G.T. Bynum good luck!

The Donald (with last name of Trump)
Deserves a good kick in the rump.
For he was recorded
Making comments so sordid.
Now Trump really looks like a chump.

David's friends knew of his health challenges stretching back for over 20 years, the effect, one suspected, of decades of smoking, overeating, living alone, and generally not taking care of his health. He amazed everyone by battling through some ferocious illnesses and was with us longer than we dared hope -- but still gone too soon.

Requiescat in pace, Señor Notas.

ONE MORE THING: Here's a memory of David's ability to think on his feet from that November 1989 concert of American music and Coventry Chorale's performance of Louis Ballard's "The Gods Will Hear." This was a complex piece of music, with multiple rhythms, unusual instrumentation, and many tempo and key changes. The concert was being recorded for later broadcast on KWGS. At one point, David, while conducting, had to play a bullroarer -- a carved piece of wood at the end of a string that makes a load roaring noise when you whirl the rope rapidly in a circle. During a particularly rapid passage, David made a quick page turn and pulled the middle pages right off the staples and off the stand. The chorale tried to continue but soon got lost, sounding like a phonograph winding down when the power is suddenly cut. David cut us off, retrieved the prodigal pages from the floor, told us to go back to a clean starting point a few pages earlier, and counted us in. When I listened to the broadcast several months later, I braced myself in anticipation of the crash, but the edit was seamless.



This Friday, May 26, 2017, at 7:30 pm, the Tulsa Boy SIngers will perform their farewell concert at Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th & Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa.

The program includes many classical and popular favorites from over the years: Haydn's Missa Brevis, "Skylark" by Johnny Mercer, Palestrina's Sicut cervus, Franck's "Panis Angelicus," "The Father's Love" by Lole, a medley from the musical Oliver!, and many more selections.

Tulsa Boy Singers was founded in 1948 by George Bowen and was led for decades by Gene Roads. Stephen Tappe succeeded Roads as director, and for the last 12 years or so, Casey Cantwell, choirmaster and organist at Trinity Episcopal Church, has directed TBS. Jackie Boyd Saylor has served as assistant director under Roads, Tappe, and Cantwell, commuting for many years from her home in Ponca City.

I'm very sad that, because of prior commitments I can't change, I won't be able to attend the final performance of an organization that has meant so much to our family. My oldest son joined at the age of nine, starting as a treble and finishing as a low bass. (That's him on the far left of a photo from around 2007). His tenure included TBS's singing tour of Britain in 2007. My youngest began at the age of five in TBS's junior choir but couldn't participate this year because of conflicts with another musical training program. My oldest son's first performance, at Philbrook's Festival of Trees, providentially opened the door to my dad becoming Philbrook's official Santa Claus for many years.

TBS introduced my sons to a high level of rehearsal and ensemble performance and the beauties of classical music and instilled both a solid foundation for musicianship and confidence in public performance. My biggest gripe against TBS is that there hasn't been an choral program for girls as devoted to high standards of repertoire and performance.

Many thanks to Casey and Jackie and the alumni and parents who have sustained TBS for so many years. I hope that many alumni and friends of TBS show up this Friday night to salute their efforts, to enjoy beautiful music in the beautiful Gothic surroundings of Trinity Episcopal Church, and to celebrate what TBS has meant to our community.

These seem to vanish as soon as they're posted, but here's a series of clips from a 1981 Austin City Limits episode featuring three virtuoso mandolinists, playing blues and swing:

The line up, from left to right, front to back:

Johnny Gimble - mandolin and fiddle
Tiny Moore - mandolin and fiddle
Jethro Burns - mandolin
Eldon Shamblin - guitar
Tom Prisk - drums
Rob Wasserman - bass

Track list:

Blues in G / Fat Boy Rag
How High the Moon
Tiny's Rag
Jethro's Tune
Fiddle medley:
Swing 39
Groovin' High

Thanks to YouTube channel "Rare Tracks" for posting these.

Note that Jethro has a traditional eight-string mandolin -- each string doubled -- while Johnny plays a four-string electric, and Tiny has his Bigsby five-string solid body mandolin, a.k.a. "the biggest little instrument in the world," which adds a low C to the range.

That link is to an essay by Deke Dickerson on Tiny Moore's career and his unique approach to the mandolin, and also features a photo of Eldon, Tiny, and Johnny with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, probably from 1949, 32 years before the above videos, in which they're still going strong.


Front row: Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore, Johnny Gimble, Bob Wills, Alex Brashear, Herb Remington. Back row: Luther J. "Luke" Wills, Billy Jack Wills, Jack Loyd, Doc Lewis. This was the lineup for the Texas Playboys' second session for MGM, in May 1949, and their first session without Tommy Duncan.


A page and photos about Tiny Moore on

Here's some info from western swing historian Buddy McPeters about the earlier Gibson mandolins played by Moore and Gimble and how they were modified for amplification.

Tommy Allsup, RIP

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UPDATE: The funeral for Tommy Allsup will be held Wednesday, January 18, 2017, at 11 a.m., at First Baptist Church, Owasso. Flowers may be sent to Mowery Funeral Home 9110 N. Garnett Rd. Owasso, OK 74055.


Legendary guitarist Tommy Allsup died yesterday, January 11, 2017, at the age of 85.

Allsup was raised on a farm west of Owasso and graduated from Claremore High School in 1949. Allsup was a member of Johnnie Lee Wills' western swing band in 1952, had his own band in Lawton and Odessa, played guitar in recordings and on tour with Buddy Holly, became an A&R man and producer for Liberty Records in Los Angeles, and became one of Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, working with Wills from 1959 until 1973's For the Last Time, which Allsup produced and on which he played bass.

Allsup is best known as Buddy Holly's lead guitarist for the fateful 1959 Winter Dance Party tour. He and bassist Waylon Jennings had been slated to fly with Holly from Clear Lake, Iowa, to the next stop on the tour, but Jennings gave up his seat to J. P. Richardson ("The Big Bopper"), who was ill, and Allsup lost a coin toss to Richie Valens for the last seat on the plane.

Allsup met Holly at the Norman Petty Studio in Clovis, New Mexico. That's Allsup's licks you hear on "Heartbeat" and "It's So Easy." Here's Allsup, in an interview with Darryl Hicks in 2008, explaining how he came to play for Holly in May of 1958, and how he wound up on the Winter Dance Party Tour:

During a lot of the Fifties I had a band named the Southernaires based out of Lawton, Oklahoma. We were working at a place called the Southern Club. We played there seven nights a week. It was there that I got a call from a friend of mine, a piano player, to come out to Clovis and record with a trio he was working with. I took off a couple of days from the club and went over to Clovis to help out. We recorded the trio one night. Norman Petty, the studio owner, had a bass player, a drummer and a background vocal group on staff there. He didn't have a guitar player right then, so he asked me if I wanted to stay around a few days and play on some more records. I said, "Sure." It was during that time that I first met Buddy Holly....

...Buddy came in from England. He and the Crickets already had a few hits by then. He asked me to play on some of his records. The first night we cut "It's So Easy (to Fall in Love)."...

The summer of `58 both Buddy and Jerry Allison got married. That fall they had a tour coming up called "The Show of Stars" out of New York. There were probably twenty acts on it. Buddy asked me to go on tour with them. That was also the time that he decided that he wanted to move to New York, but the Crickets didn't want to live there. He was also having some trouble with Norm Petty at the time, so in the end he went ahead and moved and the other guys all stayed in Clovis....

I went back to the band from Lawton, and we moved to Odessa. That area was starting
to boom with the oil business and all, so we went there to open up a new dance hall named the Silver Saddle. I played there with a guy named Moon Mullican (the hillbilly boogie piano picker out of Nashville who ended up being so influential over guys like Hank Williams, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Bill Haley). We were there in Odessa on New Years' Eve. Buddy was in Lubbock for the holidays, and he drove down to see us play. He told me that about this tour called the Winter Dance Party Tour that was coming up, and that Jerry Allison and Joe B. Mauldin weren't going to go. He asked me tour with him and mentioned that he was going to hire a West Texas kid named Waylon Jennings to play bass. He wanted me to find a drummer. I mentioned that there was a good drummer from that area named Charles Bunch. Charles, or Carl, as everyone calls him, was in that first trio I played in the session at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis.

You'll need to click that link to read Allsup's account of the fateful coin flip with Richie Valens and what happened to that coin.

Later that year, Allsup headed to Los Angeles. He became Liberty Records' A&R director for Country & Western music and a record producer and session musician for both country and pop artists. That's his guitar (and Leon Russell's keyboards) on Gary Lewis and the Playboys' hit "This Diamond Ring." Allsup produced all of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys' recordings on Liberty, including the 1960 and 1961 sessions that reunited Bob Wills and vocalist Tommy Duncan. Tex Williams was another artist whose work was produced by Allsup for Liberty.

Allsup built his own studio in Odessa in the mid-1960s, from which emerged one of the more unusual rock hits of the 1960s, "In the Year 2525," by Zager and Evans.

In 1968, Allsup went on to Nashville to work as a studio musician, backing many of the legends of country music, including George Jones, Marty Robbins, Reba McIntire, Ferlin Husky, Faron Young, Wanda Jackson, Lynn Anderson, Charlie Rich, and Kenny Rogers. (See Praguefrank's Country Discography for details.) In 1973, he produced and played bass on Bob Wills's final album, For the Last Time. After Wills's death, Allsup produced and sometimes performed with the Original Texas Playboys, led by Leon McAuliffe.

For the last 20 years or so, Allsup joined Leon Rausch to front Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, the band officially authorized by the Bob Wills estate to carry on his musical legacy. With the Playboys, Allsup made appearances at Cain's Ballroom every March for the annual Bob Wills Birthday Bash and every April at Bob Wills Day in Turkey, Texas, along with gigs from coast to coast. While the lineup of the Texas Playboys has varied depending on the sidemen available to travel to a gig, Allsup and Rausch have been constants, with Allsup on lead guitar and Rausch on lead vocals. At every performance I witnessed, Allsup would also sing on several Bob Wills tunes, Buddy Holly's "Raining in My Heart," and the blues tune "Big Boss Man."

Tommy Allsup and Leon Rausch, Cain's Ballroom, March 4, 2012

Allsup was one of the last surviving musicians to have toured and recorded with Bob Wills. Leon Rausch, Bobby Koefer, Herb Remington, Ramona Reed, and Jody Nix are among the few who are still with us. Tommy Allsup's absence will be keenly felt at this year's Bob Wills Birthday Bash.


In 2011, John Erling interviewed Tommy Allsup for his Voices of Oklahoma series.

Radio station WFMU's "Beware of the Blog" has the entirety of Twistin' the Country Classics (Liberty, 1963) available for your listening pleasure. Tommy Allsup headed a band of studio musicians called the Raiders.

Buddy Holly historian Randy Steele spoke to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal about Tommy Allsup's visit last fall.

"Tommy's body may have been 85, but his hands were as young as ever, and so was his mind," said Steele, adding he's a longtime friend of the Holly family and an avid fan and researcher of Holly and the Crickets. "He played unbelievable. It was almost effortless, or seamless."

NOTE: Photos are from the 2012 Bob Wills Birthday Bash at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa. Copyright 2012 by Michael D. Bates. All rights reserved.

The Time Jumpers at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013, with Dawn Sears and Vince Gill

Every year about this time, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco hosts a weekend of free performances from dozens of bands. It all started with bluegrass, but it expanded to include country, folk, Americana, zydeco, blues, western swing and who knows what all, and now it's known as Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.

If you can't be in Golden Gate Park in person, you can watch the live stream from some of the stages. You'll find the 2016 schedule here; don't forget that it's two hours later in Tulsa. Saturday's lineup includes the Time Jumpers, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Steve Earle & the Dukes, Kris Kristofferson, Chris Isaak, and Cyndi Lauper (Cyndi Lauper?), plus a bunch of acts that I'm insufficiently hip to have heard of.

You can also peruse the webcast archives from earlier years, going back to 2012. The 2015 HSB webcast included performances by Los Lobos, Punch Brothers, Time Jumpers, Asleep at the Wheel, Blind Boys of Alabama, and Doobie Decimal System. The 2014 HSB archive includes Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Bruce Cockburn, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Buckwheat Zydeco, and the Time Jumpers.

Ranger Doug sings with the Time Jumpers at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013

The Time Jumpers began simply as a weekly gathering of Nashville session musicians who wanted an outlet to play their favorite kinds of music -- including western swing. Fiddler Kenny Sears and his vocalist wife Dawn Sears were among the founders. Ranger Doug Green from Riders in the Sky was an early member. Eventually country superstar Vince Gill joined in, but just as one more guy in the band. The informal gathering gelled into a band, and they began touring and recording together.

I had the happy providence of being in SF for the Time Jumpers 2013 performance -- so far the only time I've seen them perform. It turned out to be a special occasion: Dawn Sears had been diagnosed early in 2012 with late-stage lung cancer. She had been through treatment and was feeling well enough to join the band for this trip. In this performance, she sang "Someone Had to Teach You" (about 4 minutes in) and "So Far Apart" (starting about 35:30).

Here's the Time Jumpers' 2013 performance at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass:

Dawn passed away on December 11, 2014, age 53, and the Time Jumpers' new album, Kid Sister, is dedicated to her memory.

Here's the Time Jumpers' 2014 performance:

And here they are in 2015:


As a bonus, here's Asleep at the Wheel at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2015:

Last Wednesday, on a rainy Dallas afternoon, my wife and I had gotten our son loaded into his dorm room, he'd finished his music theory and musicianship placement exam and was feeling good about it (we later learned that he tested out of first semester), and the three of us were enjoying a delicious lunch of falafel, gyros, stuffed grape leaves, and lentil soup at a little Mediterranean cafe off campus (Food from Galilee) when we heard this coming out of the speakers -- an Arabic adaptation of the famous opening to Mozart's Symphony No. 40. It's a good fit.

The singer is a famous Lebanese chanteuse called Fairuz, and the song is called "Ya Ana, Ya Ana." Here are the lyrics in Arabic, transliterated into Roman letters, and translated into English.

While looking for what we heard in the cafe, I found this, a solo guitar adaptation of that famous Mozart melody. You could imagine Dick Dale, the King of the Surf Guitar, whose distinctive style was shaped by his Lebanese heritage, playing it like this.

(Fairuz video found in this collection of Mozart Symphony No. 40 cover versions.)

MORE: David Rollo recommends the Swingle Singers version -- a very faithful adaptation featuring eight a capella voices:

On_Stage-13737490_1172871436087328_1603740039612172868_o.jpgThe National Youth Orchestra of the USA will perform its second and final stateside concert tonight, July 14, 2016, at Carnegie Hall before leaving for a two-week tour of European concert halls in Prague, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Montpellier. Two young Oklahoma musicians are a part of the orchestra: cellist Ben Lanners of Stillwater and violinist Joseph Bates of Tulsa.

At tonight's concert NYO-USA will perform Mozart's Piano Concerto and Anton Bruckner 6th Symphony, under the baton of Christoph Eschenbach. Emanuel Ax is the featured soloist on the Mozart, accompanied by a reduced chamber orchestra. Valery Gergiev will conduct the European concerts.

NYO-USA was revived in 2013 following a long hiatus. The orchestra has a three-week residency at Purchase College, a campus of the State University of New York, followed by a two-week tour overseas. The orchestra, clad in blue blazers, white shirts, red trousers, and Converse sneakers, serve as musical ambassadors for the USA. The orchestra's travel and expenses are entirely funded by donors.

The Carnegie Hall concert won't be streamed, but you will be able to watch the NYO-USA concert in Amsterdam live on on July 21, 2016, at 1:00 pm, Central Daylight Time.

The concert opens with Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (Prélude à « L'Après-midi d'un faune ») by Debussy, a work inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé's poem L'Après-midi d'un faune about a half-man, half-goat creature from an ancient Greek legend. Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto n°3 follows. "I wrote this piece for elephants," Rachmaninov once said. It certainly takes someone with gigantic technical prowess to get through the piece, which features some of the most spectacular virtuoso writing in the piano concerto literature. The concert ends with two masterpieces by Prokofiev. First, his Symphony n°4, which has the odd distinction of being both one of the his favorite symphonies and one of the least performed. "I have always liked it," Prokofiev once said. Second are selections from Romeo and Juliet that illustrate the myriad moods of the piece: lyrical, brash, and witty, with plenty of passion.

It may also be available for later viewing. requires registration but is free.


NYO-USA rehearses Bruckner 6th symphony with maestro Christopher Eschenbach


James Hodges of the New York Classical Review reports on NYO-USA's Carnegie Hall concert:

It is hard to imagine a group of young players tackling Bruckner, but in Eschenbach's patient hands, they consistently found the sweet spot in the composer's Sixth Symphony. In the first movement, with the orchestra galloping along toward majestic peaks, luminosity combined with bloom and resonance for results that would rival many professional ensembles. (It would be interesting to know how many in the group had ever played any Bruckner before.) Eschenbach encouraged clean articulation, with timpani as the magnetic heartbeat and brass barely peeking through the clouds, until the glorious conclusion.

As the second movement began, thoughts drifted to a question an acquaintance answered years ago, "What is the most beautiful thing in classical music?" His reply was "Suspensions"--the slight dissonance produced when a note is held over before a chord change resolves.

The Adagio of the Sixth, marked "sehr feierlich" ("very solemn"), is filled with such moments. Eschenbach let the expansive lines flow, sometimes almost to the breaking point, but always ensuring that the main melodic material was in slight relief against the sometimes massive canvas. An alluring wind section didn't hurt, either. To be fair, one could sense that the conductor's leisurely tempos were testing the patience of some in the audience, but then, Bruckner's pace seems to divide listeners anyway. In any case, Eschenbach admirably captured that Brucknerian ache--that sense of fingertips gently touching the sublime--and the orchestra responded with both commitment and restraint.

In the Scherzo, marked by gutsy, urgent work, it was again heartening to see young performers giving the material maturity well beyond their years. The gentle Trio section made a serene idyll.

The finale opens with hushed scurrying, soon interrupted by brass sprays that eventually explode in splendor. Whispers are chased by roars. In particular, the orchestra's horn section did heroic work in Bruckner's treacherously written parts, which can flummox players of any age. The strings, cohesive all evening, sounded even more unified here. As he did throughout the symphony, Eschenbach made the most of the composer's contrasts, reaching the final page with impressive intensity.

When the curtain call began, with most in the audience standing and cheering, Eschenbach motioned first to the horns, and then to the trumpets, trombones, and tuba. Bruckner can be a big bite for some audiences: as Janet E. Bedell wrote in the program notes, "listeners must adjust their 21st-century clocks." But as each component of the ensemble basked in its portion of the warm ovations, it was hard not to think that the future of classical music is in exemplary shape.

Legendary country singer and songwriter Merle Haggard died Wednesday on his 79th birthday.

It might be going too far to say he saved western swing from oblivion, but Merle Haggard's efforts to honor Bob Wills went a long way toward introducing a new generation to the sound.

In 1946 or 1947, when Merle Haggard was nine or 10, he would ride his bike down to Beardsley's Ballroom in Bakersfield and listen at an open window to Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.

Western swing and Bob Wills were both in rough shape at the end of the 1960s. After two heart attacks, Wills gave up the stress of leading a band in 1964. Leon Rausch took over the Texas Playboys, while Bob played solo dates, sometimes traveling with a vocalist, backed by local bands, and continuing to record for Kapp Records with studio musicians. In 1969, Wills was honored by the Country Music Hall of Fame and by the Governor of Texas, but on May 31 he suffered a major stroke, followed by numerous complications and the paralysis of his right side. His bow hand was useless and his fiddling days were at an end.

Around the same time, Haggard took advantage of the creative freedom his early superstardom had earned him to record tribute albums to musicians who had influenced him. He began in 1969 with a tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman, with a double-album called Same Train, A Different Time. Haggard brought the liner notes into the vinyl, interspersing Rodgers' blue yodels with short narrations about Rodgers and the life along the rails that inspired his songs.

a-tribute-to-the-best-damn-fiddle-player-in-the-world.jpgThe following year, Haggard taught himself fiddle in preparation for recording a tribute to Bob Wills. This time, instead of relying solely on his own band, The Strangers, he went to Wills and asked his advice on which of his sidemen he should bring gathered six veteran Bob Wills sidemen -- Johnnie Lee Wills on tenor banjo (the instrument he played with the Texas Playboys before launching his own band), Johnny Gimble and Joe Holley on fiddles, Tiny Moore on mandolin, Eldon Shamblin on guitar, and Alex Brashear on trumpet -- to join with his band at the Capitol studios in Hollywood in April 1970 to record A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World, or My Salute to Bob Wills. Except for Johnnie Lee Wills, the musicians to participate were part of the Texas Playboys band of Haggard would have heard growing up near Bakersfield in the late '40s. Except for Johnnie Lee Wills and Johnny Gimble (who joined the Texas Playboys in 1949), these were musicians who recorded the Tiffany Transcriptions, the recorded-for-radio discs that captured this versatile ensemble as they sounded on the bandstand night-after-night, unconstrained by the limits of 78 RPM discs.

By the fall of 1971, Wills's health had recovered sufficiently to allow him to travel, and Haggard arranged for a larger group of Texas Playboys -- Alex Brashear, trumpet; William E. "Smokey" Dacus, drums; Glynn Duncan, vocal; Johnny Gimble, fiddle; Joe Holley, fiddle; Leon McAuliffe, steel guitar; Tiny Moore, electric mandolin; Eldon Shamblin, electric guitar; Al Stricklin, piano; Johnnie Lee Wills, banjo; Luke Wills, bass -- to fly out to Bakersfield for his housewarming party on September 27, 1971. It was a reunion for Bob and several members of his 1930s Tulsa band (with Glynn Duncan subbing for his late brother Tommy). Their session was recorded for Capitol, but for some reason it was never released. The songs only became available as part of Bear Records' massive and comprehensive box set.

Although it didn't directly result in an album, the reunion in Bakersfield opened the door for an even bigger reunion in March 1972 in Fort Worth, and ultimately a recording session with a new label, United Artists. When the Bob Wills planned a session for December 1973, Merle Haggard was determined to be there and begged Wills for the chance to play with the band. After a gig in Chicago, Haggard's bus drove through the night to get him there for the second day of the session. In the meantime, Wills had been at the first day of recording, but that night Wills had had the stroke that would put him in a coma for the rest of his life. The Playboys carried on despite their sadness. Haggard sang three tunes as a Texas Playboy: "The Texas Playboy Theme," "Yearning," and "I Wonder If You Feel the Way I Do."

After Wills's death, Haggard continued to use his platform to bring old Texas Playboys together and to bring their music to a wider audience. Here's a segment of a nationally broadcast show, introduced by Dolly Parton, featuring Merle Haggard with Eldon Shamblin on electric guitar, Joe Holley on fiddle, Tiny Moore and Johnny Gimble on fiddle and mandolin, Skeeter Elkin on piano, Herb Remington on steel guitar, Alex Brashear on trumpet, Wayne Johnson on saxophone, playing the "Texas Playboys Theme," "Ida Red," an instrumental verse of "Faded Love," "Roly Poly," and "San Antonio Rose." (Not sure who the bass player and drummer are.)

Haggard invited two of the Texas Playboys, Tiny Moore and Eldon Shamblin, to join and tour with his band, which they did from 1973 to 1976, rejoining the band in 1981. They played with the Strangers throughout the period when they appeared in Reno and around Lake Tahoe, close to Moore's home base of Sacramento.

In 1977, Haggard was the guest of a very hirsute Ralph Emery on "Pop Goes the Country," and he played a medley of fiddle tunes with Tiny Moore, Johnny Gimble, and fiddle prodigy Tigar Bell.

From the same show, here's "Haggard with The Strangers, Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore, and Johnny Gimble performing Cherokee Maiden," which reached number 1 in the country charts in November 1976.

In 1978, Haggard, Moore, Shamblin, and the Strangers performed Columbus Stockade Blues and a fiddle medley on TV (but, alas, those videos have been deleted).

Haggard continued to record and perform Bob Wills tune throughout his career. He graced Asleep at the Wheel's Bob Wills tribute albums, singing "I Wonder If You Feel the Way I Do" on A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (1993), "St. Louis Blues" on Ride with Bob (1999), and "Keeper of My Heart" on Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (2015).

SOURCES: San Antonio Rose, the Life and Music of Bob Wills by Charles Townsend and Tom Diamant's 1981 interview with Tiny and Dean Moore and Eldon Shamblin.


At The Federalist, Peter Johnson writes about Merle "Haggard's everyday man's brand of conservatism." He writes:

I credit classic country, and Haggard especially, for helping me to avoid the progressivism nonsense that permeates our culture nowadays. I'm a Jewish guy with an English degree from New York University who served in the Peace Corps, so it might seem natural to predict that I might have turned out a flaming progressive. I think my deep appreciation for classic country music is one of the reasons I never really bought into leftist ideologies.

In the April 10, 2016, edition of Panhandle Country on KPFA, Tom Diamant paid tribute to Merle Haggard; the main part of the tribute begins at 48:42. At 1:37:00, Diamant discusses Haggard's Bob Wills tribute. It will only be online until April 24, so listen while you can.

Bobby Ross Jr. writes at Get Religion about Merle Haggard's Christian faith. In the comments, he mentions that Haggard was a member of Gene Scott's church and a friend of the idiosyncratic preacher, linking to the LA Times obit of Gene Scott:

Country singer Merle Haggard, a church member and close friend, on Tuesday called Scott an exceptional scholar.

"He was the mind that all other brilliant minds looked to for guidance on problems that were insoluble," Haggard said.

Raisin' Cain recalls Haggard's live recreation of a Texas Playboys noon broadcast from Cain's Ballroom on KVOO in 1984.

The Bakersfield Californian reports on the roots of Merle Haggard's musical raising.

The Texas-born "King of Western Swing" began recording with his band in the mid-1930s. He found major success with hits such as "New San Antonio Rose" in 1940 and, following a short stint in the Army, relocated to the Los Angeles area in 1943 where he began reorganizing the Texas Playboys. Laborers from all over the country were migrating to industrial jobs on the West Coast during the war years, and many Southern and Southwestern transplants flocked to the dance halls to hear Wills and his band. They became at least as popular -- if not more so -- than big bands fronted by Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman.

Wills and his band moved to Fresno in 1945, and toured relentlessly up and down the coast. For more than a year, they played a weekly gig at Bakersfield's Beardsley Ballroom. At least once per month the show was broadcast live on the radio. One of the most dedicated young listeners was Merle Haggard. "Bob Wills' band," Merle claimed in his second autobiography My House of Memories, "was the best in the history of live radio."

But it was more than the stellar musicianship that Merle came to appreciate. "Our people were often looked down on by the natives as being dumb and ignorant Okies," Haggard noted. "We needed a hero, and Bob was certainly that and more."

In 1968 Wills was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A stroke the following year left him partially paralyzed. Reflecting on his hero's contributions to the music he loved, Haggard mastered the fiddle in a few short months and started work on recording the awkwardly titled "A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (Or, My Salute to Bob Wills)." Released in 1970, the songs were near note-perfect imitations of Wills' records. In addition to his regular band, the Strangers, Merle recruited several of Wills' Texas Playboys for the session, including Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore, Johnny Gimble, Johnnie Lee Wills, Joe Holley, and Alex Brashear.

"You know what I learned from Bob Wills?" Haggard asked during a 2010 interview. "Everything!"

While Bob Wills taught Haggard about being an effective band leader, it was the Texas Playboys vocalist, Tommy Duncan, who was one of Merle's greatest influences as a frontman. "I think the first to impress me with his good singing voice was Tommy Duncan," Haggard revealed in his 1981 autobiography, "Sing Me Back Home."

Duncan and Wills began working together in 1932 after Tommy auditioned with dozens of other singers for a spot in Wills' Light Crust Doughboys. The pair formed the Texas Playboys the following year. Tommy sang lead on most of the Playboys' hits until his boss's drinking created tension between the bandleader and singer. Duncan was fired in 1948, though he and Wills would work together again in the future.

In his early days as a Bakersfield picker, Haggard was called to play guitar in a one-off band that was assembled to back Duncan at a show in Hanford. "There wasn't nobody in the band that I recognized and it was an awful band," Merle recalled in 2009. "Tommy got onstage and did 'Deep Water,' and when he got through with it he walked over to me. . . . He said, 'Would you mind helping me keep these songs going?' And I just turned red all over, you know. But it took him one song to identify that out of the thirteen people, there was one guy onstage that might be able to play. Boy, that was the thrill of my life to get to play with Tommy."

Haggard's childhood home in Oildale, converted from a boxcar by his father, has been moved to the Kern County Museum in Bakersfield.

On Friday, September 6, 1935, Al Stricklin arrived in Tulsa with his wife to take a job as piano player for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. After joining Bob and the band for the noon broadcast at the Barrel Food Palace and then rehearsing that afternoon at the home of Bob's parents, Al went along on his first dance gig at a little place called Glenoak, Oklahoma. This account of that dance is excerpted from Chapter 4 of Stricklin's memoir, My Years with Bob Wills, Austin: Eakin Press, 1980. It's a highly entertaining book, with lots of vivid detail. You really get a sense of the times, the people, and most of all, the larger-than-life, magnetic personality of Bob Wills.

Al_Stricklin-My_Years_with_Bob_Wills.jpgIt didn't take long for me to learn about the musical magic of Bob Wills. I learned that first night after that first rehearsal. It was at a place called Glen Oak, a frame building dance hall about fifteen miles east of Bartlesville, Oklahoma....

It was Bob Wills who was leading us in the bus that day as I made my first trip with the band to Glen Oak. It was the beginning of seven years of experiences that many men with money would have given a powerful part of their personal coffers to share....

The guys told me that the women in Oklahoma were wild over the band. So wild that they would gang up on you and take you out and attack you.

They weren't that bad. But I will say that there did seem to be plenty of them who were most agreeable to being most friendly if a man was interested.

"something else you have to watch for, Al. The men in these dance halls like the one we are going to do some powerful drinking. They get crazy drunk, and their eyes get red and watery like an old dog that's been chasing his tail in the sun all day long. And they get to wanting to beat up on us musicians because their women will smile at us and those crazy drunks don't take to that very nice at all," said one of the men.

"So what do I do?" I asked.

"Just keep yourself in the bus if you are afraid to fight. Just sit in here and listen to us," said one of them.

That brought another wild round of laughter.

Our old bus finally clanged into Glen Oak. When I said Glen Oak was out in the coutry, I mean it was out in the country. There were maybe two families living there. One of them owned the dance hall.

The sun was just dipping down into a hall of black when we arrived. There wasn't a car in sight. I thought: "How in the world is this guy Bob Wills going to pay guys like me $30 a week without any customers?"

Then I began worrying that maybe I wasn't going to get paid, just like it used to always happen. I remembered a time when a bunch of us in Waco rented a hall about ten miles out in the sticks. We paid $10 for it. We started playing about 9:00 p.m. There wasn't anybody there. By 10:00, still nobody had shown up. Then we saw the lights of a car turn in and the sax man said, "Let's hit 'Dinah,' men. A car just drove up."

That's how I was feeling. Until about 9:00 p.m. That's when they began coming to the dance at Glen Oak. Cars were pilling up outside. Some people were coming on foot. Some were riding horses. By 9:00, they were having to turn them away.

We started playing. Bob hadn't arrived yet. And nobody paid us much mind. About thirty minutes later, while we were playing, I heard the wildest racket I had ever heard. There was applause, yelling, and whistling. People were just going wild. Bob Wills had finally arrived.

He got up there wil us and drug his fiddle out of its case. The crowd had gotten as close as they could to the bandstand. They were packed like three dozen eggs put into a one-dozen egg container. When Bob started, the applause drowned out the music.

Bob was grinning and playing, and every so often he would point that fiddle bow of his at one of the boys and tell him to get with it. We would. And again would come that wave of applause. Maddening. Deafening. I had never heard or seen anything like it. It wasn't a dance. It was a show. A "happening."

The boys had impressed on me during the trip up there that one of the most important things was to watch Bob at all times. You never knew when he would call on you to take it. And if he called on you and you weren't looking at him, that was the unpardonable sin.

They had also told me to smile like crazy when Bob gave me the cue and then to smile again when I had finished my break. And there wasn't any taking a break. By that, I mean you didn't shut down the music any time. That began to hurt me. We had drunk a bunch of coffee right before the dance had started and about 11:00 p.m. I was crossing my legs so many times that if somebody out in the audience was watching me, the probably would have thought that I was doing the Charleston.

Finally, I leaned over to Sleepy and asked, "Sleepy, when are we going to have an intermission?"

"We don't take intermissions. If you've got to go to the bathroom, just forget it," he said.

He was right in a way. We didn't take intermissions. But, every once in awhile, one of us could get down and go back and get some relief. When that time finally came for me, I know I overstayed my allotted time in front of the trough. But man, it sure did feel good. As I was leaving, the first man in the long line behind stopped me and said, "Fellow, I want to shake your hand. You skin them keys on that piano like you were peeling a stalkful of bananas." He laughed and then added, "What I am trying to say is that you are a piano player. One of the best I've ever heard!"

I don't know how I got through that night. But I did. After it was all over, the people crowded around and kept yelling for more, and when they realized there wasn't going to be any more, they started asking for autographs. It was a long ways for a country boy from Grandview to come. I thought later as we were sopping up some chicken fried steak and cream gravy in a cafe before we headed back for Tulsa, "Man, I came awfully close to not coming up here. If every night is like this one, then I think I'll go kick myself for ever even thinking slightly that way."

I went to sleep happy that night. That old moon was outside our bedroom window, still pretty high in the sky considering how late it was. It looked like it was winking happiness at me.

Old county maps pinpoint Glenoak on US 60, just east of the Washington-Nowata County line, with a cluster of homes and a commercial building (probably the dance hall) on the southside of the road.

MORE: Jerry Stevens writes with a story of Glenoak, where his grandfather had been a bouncer for Bob Wills.

My Grandpa used to say that there would be model "T"'s parked all the way around the east curve along the highway. There was also chicken wire across the front of the stage to protect the band from thrown bottles. It was a wild place alright. My Grandma told of a time that she drove down to the dance (my dad and Uncle were with her) to pick up my Grandpa after the dance and when he came out the front 5 men jumped him and beat him up for kicking them out of the dance. They knocked him out and went over and were standing there talking in the parking lot. He woke up and went over to them and knocked out the one that hit him last and they beat him up again. Grand Dad had a permanent knot on his head from a whiskey bottle he was hit with in the fight. Dad said he (Grand Pa) later caught up with each one of them and paid them back. I guess a lot of people from all around used to go there.

The east curve is over two miles east of where Glenoak is marked on the map. Imagine having to walk for over half-an-hour to get to the dance and half-an-hour back to your car when it was all over.

boyd_jazz_southwest_western_swing.jpgI've been reading a very interesting book, The Jazz of the Southwest: An Oral History of Western Swing by Jean A. Boyd (1998, University of Texas Press). Boyd is professor of musicology at Baylor University. The book begins by tracing the overall history of the genre, as it began in Texas in the 1930s, the musical streams from which it drew, and the men who shaped the music in its infancy.

Each of the remaining chapters of the book is devoted to a particular instrument. Boyd provides a historical overview of the instrument's involvement in western swing and the early musicians who helped to define its role. She then tells the story of several players, drawn from her interviews with them. For example, the chapter on fiddlers spotlights Cliff Bruner, Carroll Hubbard, Buddy Ray, Jimmy Thomason, Johnny Gimble, Bobby Bruce, Curly Lewis, Clyde Brewer, and Bobby Boatright. While Bob Wills and his many Texas Playboys sidemen are prominently featured, Boyd's book has introduced me to bands and musicians that are new to me and whose music I hope to find at some point.

The Baylor University Institute for Oral History has made complete transcripts of many of the interviews available online. While there is a Western Swing collection, that tag doesn't include some interviews with western swing musicians, so the best way to find all of them is to search for interviews conducted by Boyd or by historian David Stricklin (son of original Texas Playboys pianist Al Stricklin).

Interviews by Jean Boyd
Interviews by David Stricklin

Here are direct links to a few among many interesting transcripts:

Betty Anderson Wills, wife of Bob Wills
Original Texas Playboys: Smoky Dacus, Al Stricklin, Eldon Shamblin, Joe Frank Ferguson, Leon McAuliffe (1985)
Eldon Shamblin, guitarist, arranger, band manager (1992)
Herb Remington, steel guitar
Curly Lewis, fiddler and vocalist
Cindy Walker, songwriter
Dean Moore, vocalist and widow of mandolinist Tiny Moore; Truitt Cunningham, vocalist; Burl Taylor

Some entries (e.g. Dean Moore, Curly Lewis) have the recordings available on the right sidebar for online streaming.

MORE: The Baylor University Institute for Oral History has helpful resources for anyone wanting to learn to conduct, transcribe, and preserve oral history interviews.

Jean Boyd has written two more books of western swing history: We're the Light Crust Doughboys from Burrus Mill, and Dance All Night: Those Other Southwestern Swing Bands, Past and Present.

Tulsans will have two chances this month to sample the movie-going experience as it was almost a century ago, thanks to the Sooner State Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society.

This coming Saturday, January 9, 2016, at 11 a.m., Circle Cinema will screen the 1927 film It, starring Clara Bow, who became known as "The 'It' Girl," and the first episode of the serial The Master Mystery, starring legendary magician Harry Houdini. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for 16 and under. This is part of the "Second Saturday Silents at the Circle Cinema" series. Circle Cinema is at 10 S. Lewis in Whittier Square.

A week from this Friday, January 15, 2016, at 7:00 p.m., the Sooner State Chapter will present Robin Hood, the 1922 version starring Douglas Fairbanks, at the Broken Arrow campus of Tulsa Technology Center, 111th St & 129th East Ave. The movie was the most expensive production of its day. Bill Rowland will accompany the film on the Robert-Morton pipe organ, an instrument originally installed in the Capital Theatre in Steubenville, Ohio, in 1927. Admission, popcorn, and lemonade are free, but donations are gratefully accepted.

MORE MUSIC: A couple of musical events worthy of note:

Tonight, Wednesday, January 6, 2016, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Shelby Eicher is hosting a gypsy jazz concert (in the tradition of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli) at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame (in the old Tulsa Union Depot, 1st & Boston downtown). Admission is $10.

Tomorrow night, Thursday, January 7, 2016, at 7:30 p.m., the Memorial High School Choir will present Mozart's Coronation Mass and Regina Coeli for their 33rd annual Vocal Music Masterworks Concert at Holy Family Cathedral, 8th & Boulder downtown.


The Tulsa Boy Singers will perform their annual holiday concert tonight, Thursday, December 17, 2015, at 7:30 pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th & Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. (Park and enter from the south side of the church.) Admission is $10 for adults; no charge for children.

The boys will perform Christmas songs and other seasonal favorites, including:

  • Ave Maria
  • Winter Wonderland
  • Pat-a-pan
  • White Christmas
  • In the Bleak Mid-Winter
  • The very best time of year

Also included will be an organ solo version of the French carol "Bring a torch, Jeanette Isabella" and the American folk carol, "I wonder as I wander" as a piano solo.

I had a sneak preview of some of their music this past Sunday night, when they traveled to Norman to sing in a service of Advent Lessons and Carols at St. Thomas More Parish. Though few in number, the seven trebles did a beautiful job on Bach's "Zion hört die Wächter singen," which they will perform at Thursday's concert, accompanied by Casey Cantwell, TBS director and Trinity choirmaster, on the organ.

These young men are well-trained musicians -- the ribbons they wear indicate levels of achievement in the Royal Society for Church Music's "Voice for Life" training program -- and they produce a clear and straight tone, which resounds throughout Trinity Episcopal Church's beautiful Gothic Revival sanctuary.

A reception with savory and sweet snacks will follow the concert.

As always, boys that might be interested in joining TBS can be auditioned immediately after the concert. Auditions are brief, and no need to prepare -- just a quick test of your ability to match pitch. Both of my sons have benefited greatly from their participation in TBS: Fundamental skills of musicianship, poise and confidence in front of a crowd, following direction and blending your efforts as part of a team, and developing an appreciation for great music.

Ol' Blue Eyes came into the world on December 12th, 1915. In honor of his centenary, here are a couple of links for your enjoyment:

This year, columnist and vocalist Mark Steyn has expanded his "Song of the Week" feature to twice a week, so that he could cover 100 of Sinatra's best songs. Each entry discusses the lyricist and composer, how the song came to be, who performed it before Sinatra, how Sinatra came to record it, who helped him (producers, arrangers, musicians), and how it was received. Often Steyn provides a personal anecdote from his conversations over the years with the people involved. It's a tremendous intro to the Great American Songbook and its foremost male expositor. (Ella Fitzgerald would be its foremost expositor, period.) Entry No. 100, "One for My Baby, and One for the Road," includes a list of and links to each song in the series, which began with "It Was a Very Good Year."

Also on Steyn's site, as part of a Sinatra centenary weekend, Mark considers Sinatra's movie career and talks with Vincent Falcone, Sinatra's pianist and conductor, in a two-part interview (Vincent Falcone part 1, Vincent Falcone part 2). As supplementary listening, Steyn offers a two-part collection of his interviews with composers and lyricists of some of the songs Sinatra sang: Part 1 (Mitchell Parish, Phil Springer and Betty Comden and Adolph Green), Part 2 (Irving Caesar, Ann Ronell and Alan Jay Lerner).

(Mark Steyn's latest vocal outing is an album of cat-related songs, Feline Groovy: Songs for Swingin' Cats.)

The Daily Telegraph has a collection of 28 photos covering the course of his career, including this one of Sinatra in 1947, wearing the uniform of his softball team, The Swooners.

In the Weekly Standard, William H. Pritchard reviews a new book about Sinatra and his music, Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World by David Lehman. Pritchard confesses his preference for Sinatra's early oeuvre:

I was pleased to note that some listeners still prefer the timbre of Sinatra's youthful voice, including his granddaughter, Nancy Sinatra's daughter. And with those listeners, I align myself--feeling that, for all the fine tunes he would record and re-record, the early 84 sides on which he sang with Tommy Dorsey's orchestra are unsurpassed. It may be that, growing up in the 1940s myself and playing in a dance band, I detect greater force and life in those songs, partly because I have projected my own satisfactions and disappointments from long ago onto the songs that seemed to embody them.

The recordings with Dorsey begin with a lovely, completely forgotten song of 1940, "The Sky Fell Down," and end in 1942 with "Be Careful, It's My Heart" (Irving Berlin's song in Holiday Inn) and "There Are Such Things" ("So have a little faith, and trust in what tomorrow brings, / You'll reach a star, because there are such things"). Along the way we get a rollicking jitterbuggy "Let's Get Away From It All," and "Snootie Little Cutie," in which the Pied Pipers (Jo Stafford singing) and cute little Connie Haines supplement Frank's performance.

Earlier this year, Michael T. Nelson reviewed a book that discussed Sinatra's role in creating the Great American Songbook:

Early discs could only play one cut per side, so these writers learned to compose to an AABA form (two choruses, the bridge, then another chorus, each eight bars long), benefiting from that discipline of form as surely as sonnet writers have from theirs. Then, in the 1920s, along came radio to provide a mass audience for these records, which were often performed by big bands. Microphones, another innovation, meant that a band's singer didn't have to belt to be heard. Record makers, radio programmers, jukebox owners (they bought half of all records in the late thirties), and the big bands all placed a premium on new songs, the assumption being that no one wanted to hear (much less buy) numbers they'd heard before. Popular songs, even from movie musicals or the stage, generally were dismissed as ephemera: all the rage today, tossed in a drawer tomorrow.

Frank Sinatra was the young band singer in the early 1940s who figured out that modern audiences would appreciate hearing forgotten gems from old Broadway shows by writers like Porter and Kern. Recklessly, or so it was thought at the time, he left the popular Tommy Dorsey Orchestra to strike out on his own. Tenderness, not fervor, was what a wartime nation was looking for, Sinatra calculated. And so the typical songs in his early repertory as a soloist--sung conversationally, even intimately, into a microphone and played on a record or over the radio--were old Broadway compositions originally written for heartsick female characters: "Someone to Watch Over Me" (the Gershwins), for example, or "My Funny Valentine" (Rodgers and Hart) or "All the Things You Are" (Kern).

It's not too much to say that, in resurrecting them, Sinatra was inventing the whole idea of standards and, thereby, creating the Great American Songbook.


Here is a link to a online real estate listing (no longer active) for a 640-acre spread between the Red River and Little Red River in Hall County, Texas:

640 Acres Bordering BOTH the Red River and Little Red River. This is the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.

This is the original home place of Bob Wills. The old homestead is still there and would be inhabitable with a considerable amount of work. The home is being given no value. Electricity and County water available at home site.

This is an incredible hunting property, boasting numerous Large mule deer, white tail deer, turkeys, wild hogs, and dove as well. There is even some duck hunting when the Little red is holding water.

Also great for running cattle and growing crops in some areas.

If you're interested in raising deer or exotics, the neighboring tract is high fenced. This means about an entire 1/3 of this property is already high fenced!

Don't miss out on this pristine Panhandle Property!

The location is northeast of Turkey, Texas, which is home to the Bob Wills Museum and the annual Bob Wills Festival in April. It's not far from the Caprock Canyons -- pretty country where walls of red rock line the river valley.


Bob's family moved here in 1913, when he was about 8 years old. In a few years, he and his dad were playing house dances around the area. To finish this off, here's a song he might have played for one of those dances: Wednesday Night Waltz.

Soundies from 1946, featuring Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. This is the same lineup as the early Tiffany Transcriptions sessions: Tommy Duncan and the McKinney Sisters (Dean and Evelyn) on vocals, Bob Wills, Joe Holley, and Louis Tierney on fiddle, Noel Boggs on steel guitar, Millard Kelso on piano, Junior Barnard on guitar, Alex Brashear on trumpet, Johnny Cuviello on drums, Luke Wills on bass. The songs are "Texas Playboy Rag," "I Betcha My Heart I Love Ya," "San Antonio Rose," and "Goodbye Liza Jane."

That's quite a guitar solo on that last number. Here's a nice tribute to the man responsible, innovative guitarist Junior Barnard.

And here's a bonus, a collection of unreleased Bob Wills Big Band sides from 1941 -- "La Paloma," "The Girl I Left Behind Me," "Liebestraum," "When It's Honeysuckle Time in the Valley," and "Maiden's Prayer."

Okie Boogie remix

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A reader sends along this interesting remix of "Oakie Boogie" by a Bristol-based DJ called Howla. (That's Bristol, England -- another indication of the international audience for western swing and related genres of American music.)

The song "Oakie Boogie" (spelled "Okie Boogie" after the "a" was dropped from the toponym), written by western swing vocalist Johnny Tyler in 1947:

It was a #3 hit for Jack Guthrie the same year. Here he is singing "Oakie Boogie" in his only film appearance

Five years later Ella Mae Morse, accompanied by legendary steel guitarist and sometime Tulsan Speedy West, recorded a version, arranged by Nelson Riddle, that reached #23 on the charts, and that's the version sampled by Howla.

A word about the songwriter, Johnny Tyler: The same year he recorded "Oakie Boogie" with his own band, he did a couple of recording sessions with Luke Wills and His Rhythm Busters for RCA. Luke Wills, the third-eldest of the four Wills brothers, helped meet the demand for Bob Wills music with his own touring band covering California and the west. Many of the Texas Playboys performed and recorded with Luke's band, moving between the two bands as needed -- the Luke Wills discography includes Texas Playboys greats like guitarists Eldon Shamblin and Junior Barnard (sometimes together!), pianist Millard Kelso, fiddlers Joe Holley and Cotton Thompson, drummer Johnny Cuviello, and Tommy Duncan's little brother Glynn Duncan. When Bob Wills hired Herb Remington in 1946 to play steel guitar, he sent the incumbent steel player, Roy Honeycutt, to Luke's band.

When RCA signed Luke to a recording contract, they paired him with vocalist Tommy Doss for several sessions. While Doss later found fame as a cowboy balladeer, taking Bob Nolan's place when he retired from Sons of the Pioneers, his nasal, tremulous voice wasn't a good fit for western swing:

(This page claims that Bob Wills discovered Doss in 1948 and hired him to tour with the Texas Playboys to replace the recently fired Tommy Duncan. But Doss had recorded "At the End of the Lane" and "Moonlight on the Prairie" with the Texas Playboys on the May 30-31, 1947, Tiffany Transcriptions session in San Francisco, and he recorded with Luke Wills in July, October, and November 1947, so he would have already been well known to the extended Wills musical family.)

After the July 1947 session with Tommy Doss on vocals, Luke Wills moved Doss to guitar and Johnny Tyler from guitar to vocals for the October and November sessions. For a direct contrast, Here's Tommy Doss with Luke Wills and His Rhythm Busters on "High Voltage Gal," preceded by "Cain's Stomp" -- a new version of "Osage Stomp," the first song the Texas Playboys ever recorded.

Now here's the same song and same band, with Johnny Tyler on vocals. (Embedding is disabled so you'll have to go to the link.)


Legendary fiddler Johnny Gimble died today at the age of 88.

Gimble was hired by Bob Wills for the Texas Playboys in 1949. After a few years on the road, he retired to barbering and playing music on the weekends. But in 1968 he moved to Nashville and made his mark as a well-regarded session musician. Bob Wills recommended Gimble to Merle Haggard for Haggard's tribute album to Wills, and Gimble was on Wills' final album, For the Last Time in 1973. His frequent guest spots on A Prairie Home Companion brought Western Swing fiddle to the awareness of a broader audience. His brilliance at improvisation outshone his contemporaries and stayed bright for well over a half-century. He was also accomplished on mandolin, and he can be heard playing the instrument on many of the Texas Playboys' late '40s, early '50s sides for MGM.

The best tribute I can manage is for you to hear Johnny Gimble playing. Here he is from 1977, with Merle Haggard, Tiny Moore, and Eldon Shamblin:

From 1981, a music-heavy documentary called Gimble's Swing, featuring Eldon Shamblin. (I'm pretty sure there's a glimpse of Tulsa trumpeter Mike Bennett in this show.)

Here's Johnny Gimble fiddling around with Mark O'Connor:

Johnny Gimble plays Bob Wills' part (as he did in the Clint Eastwood movie Honkytonk Man) on San Antonio Rose, with Asleep at the Wheel, and Texas Playboys bandmate Herb Remington on steel guitar:

Here's a 40-minute profile featuring Johnny Gimble telling his own life story:

Can't embed this one, but here's Johnny Gimble playing "Take Me Back to Tulsa" with George Jones and his band.

And finally, from his Texas Fiddle Collection, "Goodnight Waltz":

(Sadly missing from the Internet: The 1981 Austin City Limits episode featuring Johnny Gimble, Jethro Burns, and Tiny Moore, playing swing mandolin, backed by Eldon Shamblin and David Grisman. KLRU sends a takedown notice every time it's posted online.)

Bob Wills' passing in 1975 happened just as the music he made famous was enjoying a resurgence of interest, a comeback that might be traceable to Merle Haggard's decision to share his superstar spotlight with the music that shaped him. In 1970, Haggard invited six members of the Texas Playboys -- Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore, Johnnie Lee Wills, Alex Brashear, Joe Holley, and Johnny Gimble -- to record with his band on A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World: My Salute to Bob Wills. Haggard gathered Bob and even more Texas Playboys to record at his housewarming party in 1971. Although that album was never released (although it was included many years later in the Bear Family box set), it set the stage for For the Last Time, the final time the Texas Playboys would record with Bob Wills.

With audiences rediscovering the joy of the music of the Texas Playboys, and with the veteran musicians having rediscovered the joy of playing music together, it was natural for them to want to continue on, and, with the blessing of Bob's widow, Betty, they did, as the Original Texas Playboys, under the leadership of Leon McAuliffe. The band appeared on one of the first episodes of Austin City Limits, and they continued to perform together under the Original Texas Playboys name until piano-pounder Al Stricklin passed away in 1986.

They recorded a few albums, but none of them have been issued on CD. Someone has digitized the first two -- Bob Wills' Original Texas Playboys Today (1977) and Live and Kickin' (1978). Singer Leon Rausch's discography covers most of the post-Bob Wills recording of the Original Texas Playboys and other collections of Bob's sidemen.

Someone has also digitized another vinyl disc featuring a Texas Playboys legend: Eldon Shamblin: Guitar Genius (1982). Western Swing historian Buddy McPeters has called Eldon Shamblin the "greatest Texas Playboy" -- he was not only a guitarist, with a unique style, but an arranger who made the Texas Playboys swing. For many years he also served as the band's business manager. Eldon's playing is usually in the background; this album gives it the spotlight it deserves. The album begins with Eldon saying a few words about his career and the development of his style. Praguefrank's discography of Eldon Shamblin reports that he was joined on the album by John Cummins and Bob Kiser on bass, Jay Hearn on drums, and Gary Hutton and Curly Lewis on fiddle.

On May 23, 1978, Michael Mendelson interviewed Texas Playboys mandolinist Tiny Moore, who talked about his growing up, split between the farmland of central Texas and the oil refinery town of Port Arthur, early music efforts, his stint in the Army Air Corps, his impromptu audition for Bob Wills at a pig stand, marrying Dean McKinney and settling down in Sacramento, the Billy Jack Wills band, and his "civilian" life as a TV kiddie show host, music teacher, and music store owner. Mendelson boiled the interview down into this profile of Tiny Moore for Frets magazine. (Found via the discussion forum.) There's an intriguing teaser at the end of that article -- elsewhere in the issue, David Grisman takes an "in-depth look" at Tiny Moore's style of playing mandolin.

Christmas is approaching along with the end of the school semester, which means that groups of talented young (and not-so-young) Tulsa musicians are presenting concerts.

Thursday, December 18, 2014, at 6 p.m., the Barthelmes Conservatory will hold its winter open concert at All Souls Unitarian Church, 30th Street & Peoria, just north of Tulsa's Brookside district. A select number of students in instrumental and vocal music will perform the pieces they've been perfecting all semester. Admission is free, and a reception will follow.

Friday, December 19, 2014, at 8:00 p.m., the Tulsa Boy Singers will present their Holiday Concert at Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. The evening will include traditional Christmas carols and anthems and a special addition: John Rutter's choral setting of Kenneth Grahame's classic story, "The Reluctant Dragon." Admission is $10 for adults, free for students, and a reception will follow.


A favorite college Christmastime memory was hearing the MIT Brass Ensemble playing Christmas carols in the vast, acoustically live space of Lobby 7. If you can't get to Cambridge, there's something close to home that should be even better: Sunday, December 21, 2014, at 5:00 p.m., the Tulsa Symphony Brass and organist Casey Cantwell will perform a brass and organ concert of Christmas favorites at Trinity Episcopal Church, presented by Music at 501. Tickets are available at the door and online: $20 for adults, $10 for students and seniors.


Jimmy Young, RIP

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Fiddler Jimmy Young, bassist Mac Macrae, fiddler Dale Morris, Jr., with the Texas Playboys at Bob Wills Birthday Bash, Cain's Ballroom, March 6, 2010. Photo by Joseph Bates

Western Swing Hall of Fame fiddler Jimmy Young passed away Friday, October 3, 2014, in Amarillo, Texas, at the age of 85. Young played in western swing bands all over Texas and Oklahoma, performing with Bob Wills, Hank Thompson, Ray Price, Lefty Frizzell, and other western music legends.

Young was born in Dunbar, Oklahoma, grew up in Tuskahoma, and moved to Oklahoma City, where he began performing professionally with bands and on KBYE radio. Around 1950, after service in World War II, Young moved to Amarillo. In 1964, Bob Wills sold the Texas Playboys, shedding the responsibility of running a band, and he toured solo, performing with local musicians. When Wills came to Amarillo, Young would be in his band.

Beginning in 1993, Young performed regularly with Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, headed by Leon Rausch and Tommy Allsup, and for 30 years or so, he played with the Amarillo-based Sugartimers Classic Country Dance Band. In 2005, Young was inducted into the Western Swing Society of the Southwest Hall of Fame. In 2009, Young performed with the Texas Playboys at the Texas State Society's Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C.

It was a highlight of the annual Bob Wills Birthday celebration at Cain's Ballroom to see Jimmy do his Bob Wills impersonation when the band played "Faded Love" and "San Antonio Rose." Jimmy, very close in stature to Bob Wills, would stick a Roi-Tan cigar in his mouth (unlit) and mimic Bob, conducting with his bow, nodding his head in time to the music, doing a little jig-step, and making his characteristic commentary, for example: "Now, friends, here's the song that took us off hamburgers and put us on to steaks -- the San Antonio Rose!"

His grandson Dustin Young wrote a touching tribute to his granddad in the Amarillo Globe:

Growing up, I was always fascinated by the sound of his fiddle as he would warm up before a show.

With rosin dust hovering in the air, and the hum of his amplifier, he would go back and forth between playing and turning knobs in order to find his desired sound, by which he would enchant yet another audience. During every show I went to, the sense of pride that consumed me when he stepped on stage was both exhilarating and heartwarming. After every good lick he would always shoot me a wide grin as if to say, "Listen to this. I'm fixing to burn the hair off of this bow!" In my opinion I always had the best seat in the house at those shows.

Every musician I've met that knew my grandpa ends up telling me how much they enjoyed his playing and above all his demeanor among his fellow bandsmen. In a business where many can be very snobbish, Jimmy Young had always maintained a genuine sense of humility. Some folks can get a little bit arrogant once they have been inducted into the hall of fame more than a few times. Such accolades might boost one's ego and fill their heart with self-importance, but not in his case. He had always been the same man from my viewpoint. Never was he the fiddle-playing extraordinaire, or the Bob Wills impressionist, to me he was and always will be Opa.


Jimmy Young feature story on the Bob Wills Day website.
2005 story about Jimmy Young, Chet Calcote, and other Texas Panhandle musicians being inducted into the Western Swing Hall of Fame
Jimmy Young obituary in the Amarillo Globe

Jimmy Young playing Faded Love and San Antonio Rose as Bob Wills, October 4, 2008, in Odessa, Texas:

This coming weekend, September 6 and 7, 2014, is the opening weekend of the Helmerich Center for American Research, a unit of the City of Tulsa's Gilcrease Museum. The new facility is adjacent to the museum on Gilcrease Museum Road.

A weekend full of free events is planned, including Native American and Latin American dancers, the Cherokee National Youth Choir, red dirt/Americana band The 66. There will be lectures on art and history, art-making, kite-flying, and map-reading activities for children. Food trucks will be on hand and the museum restaurant will be open. It would be easy to spend the entire weekend out there.

Legendary guitarist, singer, picker and grinner Roy Clark, fiddler Jana Jae, and the Tulsa Playboys will perform together on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on the main stage. The event is free and unticketed; seating is first come, first served.

The Red Dirt Rangers will close out the weekend Sunday evening at 4 p.m.

Because of limited parking at Gilcrease, visitors are encouraged to park in designated lots downtown and take a five-minute shuttle ride to the museum.

MORE: Here's an earlier -- much earlier -- performance of Orange Blossom Special with Roy Clark and Tulsa Playboys bandleader Shelby Eicher. Eicher shows up about 7:40 into the video.


Our family was among those huddled under a tent as the cold drizzle continued into mid-afternoon. We were delighted to listen to the Cherokee National Choir sing songs like "Take the Name of Jesus with You," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and "I'll Fly Away" in the language of Sequoyah. Around 2:05, a few minutes after the choir left the stage, the Tulsa Playboys began to set up. They were in place, but there was some inexplicable delay. A sound check began after the show was scheduled to start, and it was quickly apparent that the sound man had no earthly idea what he was doing.

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."

bbcmquartet.jpgThe BBCM Quartet, an award-winning young string quartet from Tulsa, will perform as part of the Summerstage Festival tomorrow night, Friday, July 18, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. in the Charles Norman Theater of the Tulsa PAC. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, $8 for 12 and under.

The quartet -- Joseph Bates and Nicholas Bashforth on violin, Anthony Conroy on cello, Quinn Maher on viola -- will present a variety of genres, including classical chamber music and movie themes.

The program includes:

  • "Hedwig's Theme" (Harry Potter), John Williams (arr. Cameron Patrick)
  • What Wondrous Love is This?, traditional (arr. Dana Fitzgerald Maher)
  • Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525, Mozart
  • String Quartet No. 1, Andante cantabile, Tchaikovsky
  • The Magnificent Seven, Elmer Bernstein (arr. Cameron Patrick)
  • Canon in D, Pachelbel
  • Raiders March, John Williams (arr. Cameron Patrick)
  • Wexford Carol, traditional (arr. Dana Fitzgerald Maher)
  • Blarney Pilgrim, traditional (arr. Dana Fitzgerald Maher)
  • String Quartet "Lobkowitz", Op. 77, No. 1, Haydn

The four study music at Barthelmes Conservatory under instructors John Rush, Sheri Neubauer, and Krassimira Figg.

The BBCM Quartet won first place in the 2014 Tulsa Young Chamber Artist Competition (sponsored by Tulsa Camerata and Chamber Music Tulsa) and finished second in the Buttram String Quartet competition sponsored by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. All four members of the group are in the Tulsa Youth Symphony and were at Quartz Mountain last month as part of the 2014 Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute orchestra.

Here's their appearance on Fox 23's Tulsa Live this morning. The sound is a little unbalanced because of the use of lapel mics rather than standard instrument pickups.

MORE: The BBCM Quartet is available for weddings, banquets, and other functions. Contact them through their Facebook page.

The Tulsa Boy Singers will present a spring concert of sacred and secular choral music at Trinity Episcopal Church, 500 S. Cincinnati Ave. in downtown Tulsa, this Friday, May 30, 2014, at 7:30 p.m.

Repertoire from the concert includes:

  • Sound of Music medley by Rogers and Hammerstein
  • "O Lord, Increase My Faith," a 17th c. a capella anthem
  • by Henry Loosemore
  • "The Lord Is My Shepherd," the theme from TV's "The Vicar of Dibley," by Howard Goodall
  • "Magnificat" and "Nunc Dimittis," by Herbert Sumsion
  • "Songs of a Prospector," poems by British Columbia pioneer and miner George Winkler, set to music by Stephen Chatman
  • "Winds," a poem by the students of Faywood School in Toronto, set to music by Larysa Kuzmenko
  • "At the River," Aaron Copland's adaptation of the traditional gospel hymn

As an added bonus, violinist Joseph Bates, a veteran TBS singer, will present the first movement of Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor.

There will be a reception with savory and sweet treats after the concert. Boys interested in joining TBS for next year may audition immediately after the concert -- just a quick test of ability to hear and follow a melody.


This is a performance of the tenth movement of Sergei Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil. It is a musical elaboration on an ancient chant, "Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ."

Having beheld the resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus, the only sinless one.

We venerate thy cross, O Christ, and we hymn and glorify thy holy resurrection, for thou art our God and we know none other than Thee. We call on thy name.

Come, all you faithful, let us venerate Christ's holy resurrection. For behold, through the cross joy has come into all the world.

Ever blessing the Lord, let us praise his resurrection, for by enduring the cross for us he has destroyed death by death.

Here is the chant on which Rachmaninoff's setting is based -- Воскресение Христово видевше:

(Transliteration and English translation here.)

I've been told that Leon Russell's voice is being used to greet travelers at the Tulsa International Airport, and that, in his greeting, he mentions seeing world-renowned violinist Jascha Heifetz at the Tulsa Municipal Theater, now known as the Brady Theater.

Heifetz appeared in Tulsa, at what was then known as the Convention Hall, many years earlier, on March 16, 1922, as part of a blockbuster concert series that included ballerina Anna Pavlova and pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.

The performers for the rest of the series are not well-remembered today, but they were famous at the time: Frances Alda (operatic soprano), Royal Dadmun (baritone), John McCormack (Irish tenor), Flonzaley Quartet (string quartet).

At the time, $10 got you season tickets for the best seat in the house. In inflation-adjusted terms, that's $15 per show. Individual tickets ran from $1 to $3, plus 10% war tax.

A newspaper advertisement for the series appeared on page 12 of the September 25, 1921, edition of the Tulsa Daily World:

Ad for 1922 concert series including Jascha Heifetz, Anna Pavlova, and Sergei Rachmaninoff

Don't know for sure, but I suspect that the Carson Concert Series was the forerunner for Carson Attractions, which handled tickets and booking for the Tulsa Assembly Center for many years.

1922 was not Heifetz's first visit to Tulsa. He also appeared at the Convention Hall on March 4, 1919. Ticket prices were 50 cents cheaper than they would be in 1922.

Randy Brown has been posting Top 30 hit lists from his days at Tulsa's legendary rock station KAKC (he called himself Bob Scott on the air) on Tulsa Memories from the 60's and 70's Facebook group. The lists were based on surveys of sales at local record stores. He posted the KAKC Top 30 from September 8, 1971, and wrote:

I always sort of made it my mission in life to take over the design and publication of the weekly Big 30 list at every radio station I worked at. In 1971, I gave our Big 30 sheet a pretty dramatic redesign. And lookie!! There I am on the cover, handing over a check for cash to a lucky KAKC contest winner who knew the phrase that pays in our Pay Phone contest. Survey dated September 8, 1971.

Well, that date rang a bell. In September 1971, right after Labor Day, I started at Holland Hall as a 3rd grader, back when the lower and middle schools were at 2660 S. Birmingham Place.

That's also the week when I first heard KAKC. At our house we listened to KRMG-AM and -FM (now KWEN 95.5) -- middle-of-the-road and easy listening, respectively.

Mom taught in Catoosa and Dad worked downtown, and we lived in Rolling Hills, then unincorporated territory east of Tulsa and about 12 miles from school. So I was in a carpool. Dad would meet the carpool at the 11th & Garnett DX (SE corner, now Mazzio's).

Mr. Ivers, the elementary PE teacher, was the driver, and he was a KAKC listener.

He had a Volkswagen station wagon, and somehow he managed to squeeze five or six students in the car with him. There were a couple of sisters and a veterinarian's daughter who lived near the KVOO towers. On the way to school we picked up a Monte Cassino student (a girls' high school back then) who lived in the Rosewood neighborhood NW of 11th and Mingo. (The neighborhood was demolished after the 1984 Memorial Day flood.) Then we drove south on Memorial, stopping to pick up a girl who lived on the west side of the street, just south of a creek, about where 13th Street would have been if it had gone through. On south to 21st, then west to Lewis, south on Lewis to drop off the Monte Cassino student, then left on 27th Place and the south entrance to Holland Hall's Eight Acres campus.

Since we rode in a VW, we played a game like "Slug Bug" -- counting VWs along the way. The big prize went to the first one to call the big VW repair shop on the SW corner of 21st and Yale -- dozens of beetles, wagons, and microbuses.

KAKC was the soundtrack of my daily ride to school, new music en route to a new school in an unfamiliar part of town. My life the two previous years had centered around Admiral and 193rd East Ave. -- church, school, the Red Bud grocery store, Raley's Pharmacy, TG&Y, Lon's Laundry, In'n'Out convenience store. There was the occasional visit to a doctor's office or big shopping center in "Tulsa proper," but that involved crossing four or five miles of farmland. I was leaving behind the school where Mom taught and where my neighbors and Sunday School classmates went.

The music made an impression, and a song from that week's top 30 list has strong associations with those first rides to school: The banjo-infused "Sweet City Woman" by The Stampeders. Maybe I identified with the lyrics. "So long, Ma, so long, Pa, so long, neighbors and friends" -- if only for seven hours.

Here's a playlist I put together of all 30 songs, starting with #30 ("Imagine" -- sorry about that, but it is what it is) and ending with #1 ("The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down").


bob_wills_family-bbb_ranch-fresno.jpgEarlier this year it was learned that a new subdivision threatened the site of Bob Wills's Triple BBB Ranch in Fresno. The famous western swing bandleader and his family lived on the 80-acre ranch in the mid-1940s.

Local preservationists were too late to get the ranch on the historic register before the developer had obtained a demolition permit. But they were able to work out an agreement with the developer, who offered the house for $1 to anyone willing to move it to another location.

Lance Tullis, president of the Central California Music Association, bought Bob Wills's Triple BBB Ranch house and is moving it. Later this month, he's holding a dance to raise funds for renovating the building into a museum. "Raise the Roof for the King of Western Swing" will be held on Saturday, October 26, 2013, from 6 to 10 pm at the Appellation California (ApCal) winery tasting room, 32749 Avenue 7 (@ SH 99), Madera, CA. Bob's daughter Carolyn Wills, who was born on the ranch and is president of the Bob Wills Heritage Foundation, will be at the event to talk about her memories of the place.

If you can't attend, you can donate through the Fresno Arts Council and designate your gift for the Bob Wills ranch house.

MORE: Western swing historian Buddy McPeters says Fresno needs to get the ball rolling to save the Big Fresno Barn, a popular dance hall where all the great Central Valley western swing and country performers played in the '40s, '50s, and '60s. An auction site has some pictures of the Big Fresno Barn and its contents, which were auctioned off in 2012.

On July 6, 2013, Tulsa violinist Joseph Bates won first place in the youth division of the Texas Cowboy Reunion Old Time Fiddlers' Contest. This was Bates's third time to compete at the Stamford, Texas, contest, winning third place in 2007 and second place in 2008. Bill Burns, who later won the senior division fiddle contest, is playing rhythm guitar. Candi Davidson, a student at Hardin-Simmons College and also a classical violinist, won the adult division and was overall grand champion. Because of the large number of contestants, the judges had them play two tunes each rather than the traditional three. Here's Bates's prize-winning performance of "Jesse Polka" and "Faded Love."

After the results, several of the fiddlers stuck around to jam. Here are Jerry Don Shane, Bill Burns, Candi Davidson, and Joseph Bates taking turns with the "Westphalia Waltz."

Bates studies classical violin at The bART Center (formerly known as the Barthelmes Conservatory). Here he is with Nicholas Bashforth, Anthony Conroy, and Quinn Maher, performing three movements of the Mozart String Quartet in G Major (K. 80/73f).

J. J. Cale RIP

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Legendary guitarist and songwriter J. J. Cale died Friday, July 26, 2013, of a heart attack. He was 74. Cale wrote a number of hit songs, including "After Midnight" and "Cocaine."

Cale was born in Oklahoma City, but grew up in Tulsa, graduating from Tulsa's Central High School in 1956. Cale was a leader of a wave of talented Tulsa musicians that brought a distinctive bluesy sound to rock music in the '60s and '70s. The Tulsa Sound has been described as a "mix of Rockabilly, Country, Rock 'n' Roll, and Blues sounds of the late 1950s and early 1960s," and it influenced Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler among others.

Here's a documentary about J. J. Cale, "To Tulsa and Back," filmed in 2004 and released in 2006, in which he revisits and reminisces about places from his childhood and young adulthood. The film is full of historic photos and film of Tulsa in the 1950s. Eric Clapton talks at length about Cale and the group of Tulsa musicians that shaped his solo sound. Rocky Frisco, Bill Raffensperger, and Jim Karstein are among the Tulsa musicians who worked with Cale as early as 1957 who share their memories.

Championship fiddler Emma Jane Pendleton will hold a CD release party this Sunday, July 28, 2013, at 3 p.m., at Tulsa's Spotlight Theater (Riverside and Houston Ave.), featuring a performance followed by a reception. There's no cover charge, but RSVPs are requested to, or you can text or call 918-261-6184.


Woody Paul of Riders in the Sky helpfully points out Emma Jane Pendleton at the 2012 National Fiddler Hall of Fame induction gala

Emma Jane has a long list of musical accomplishments to her name. She is currently a student at the University of Tulsa on a four-year scholarship, where she is studying mechanical engineering and violin performance. She has numerous state and national championships as a solo fiddler, for twin fiddles with her sister Marina, for string band with the Pendleton Family Fiddlers, and for yodeling.

Tulsa_Playboys-Cains_Ballroom-Logo.jpgThe Tulsa Playboys are back at Cain's Ballroom tonight, Thursday, July 25, 2013, from 7 pm to 10 pm. Guests on the bandstand include vocalists Janet Rutland, Devon Dawson, and Kristyn Harris, Evan Alexander on fiddle, and Isaac Eicher on electric mandolin.

The Tulsa Playboys are a very talented western swing band, and it's wonderful to have the music that Bob Wills made famous (and vice versa) back in the place where it became famous almost 80 years ago.

If you love big band music and swing dancing, you should come out to Cain's tonight for a great time. You'll recognize it as your kind of music, even if there are more fiddles than trumpets in the band.

If you're a western swing fan, this is a chance to hear the music you love played by musicians who know how to swing. It's also a chance to show your support for the music you love and give the musicians and venue owners a reason to hold these dances more often. In other parts of the country -- the Texas Hill Country and the San Francisco Bay Area, for example -- you can hear live western swing every weekend. Shouldn't the same be true of Tulsa?

Tickets are $10 at the door.

We've lost two more western swing greats in the last couple of weeks.

Tulsa fiddler and vocalist Julian "Curly" Lewis died Sunday at the age of 88. Lewis spent much of his career with Johnnie Lee Wills's band in the late '40s and '50s, but he also toured and performed with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Hank Thompson and His Brazos Valley Boys, and Leon McAuliffe's Cimarron Boys.

A memorial service for Curly Lewis will be held at Cain's Ballroom on Saturday, August 3, 2013.

(Read western swing historian John Wooley's July 2011 profile of Curly Lewis in Oklahoma Magazine.)

Lewis performed at the first gala of the National Fiddlers Hall of Fame in 2007 and was inducted as a member last year. In addition to his work as a fiddler, he had a fine singing voice and contributed lead vocals on many songs for Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys. Here's Curly Lewis singing one of my grandmother's favorite tunes, "Thingamajig":

Click through for a video of Curly Lewis performing the classic fiddle tune "Don't Let the Deal Go Down" at the 1998 Bob Wills Day celebrations in Turkey, Texas.

As far as I know, Maurice "Reece" Anderson was the only pedal steel guitar player that Bob Wills ever hired. (Leon McAuliffe, Herb Remington, et al. played lap or console steel with no pedals.) Anderson died on July 4.

In the early '60s, Bob Wills had two steel guitar players -- Gene Crownover on console steel, Reece Anderson on pedal steel. Both get a chorus on this version of Billy Jack Wills's "Rockabye Baby Blues":

And more recently, here's Reece Anderson playing the steel classic "Sleepwalk":

About four years ago, Lee Roy Chapman set out on a quest to find Bob Wills's 1948 Flxible Clipper tour bus. He found Bob's bus, and a companion -- the bus of Wills's good friend, western swing bandleader Hoyle Nix -- rusting in a field near Big Spring, Texas, Nix's home base. Chapman reached a deal with the owner to hold the option on the bus until he could raise the money to pay the asking price and bring the bus back to Tulsa. The hope was to exhibit it here, near Cain's Ballroom, the house that Bob built, and take it on tour as well.

It seemed like an impossible dream at the time.

On Tuesday, June 11, 2013, Bob's bus came home, thanks to the help of Loren Frederick. Here's a photo from his Facebook page of the bus entering Tulsa County at the Turner Turnpike terminus.


I hope to have more of the story soon, but in the meantime western swing fans can look forward to the day when we can once again "Ride with Bob."

MORE: Lee Roy Chapman also put forward the idea that the arts district north of the Frisco tracks in downtown Tulsa should be marketed as the Bob Wills District, rather than the Brady Arts District, named (indirectly, by way of Brady Street and the Brady Theater) for Tulsa founder, segregationist, Democratic National Committeeman, and Klansman (but I repeat myself) Tate Brady. Read his This Land Press investigative report on Tate Brady's role in vigilantism, the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, and its aftermath.

Swan LK 243

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A little break from politics:

Sunday after church, we had a special treat waiting in the Fellowship Hall. The Edison High School chamber orchestra, preparing to leave for a tour of England the next day, performed their program for us, as a final dress rehearsal on this side of the pond. The program included a mix of old and new songs, many adapted from British folk tunes. One number, featuring Vintage Wildflowers harpist Dana Maher, caught my attention. (Dana is also music director at Christ Presbyterian Church, and mom to one of the Edison musicians.)

It's called "Swan LK 243," and it's by Scottish harpist Catriona McKay. It was inspired by and named for a sailboat, but on Sunday afternoon it was the perfect soundtrack, warm and wistful, for looking out the window to the church's playground, as children chased and climbed and swung and as their parents chatted and smiled and enjoyed the sunshine and a respite from the threat of storms.

Here is "Swan LK 243," performed by Catriona McKay on harp, Aly Bain on fiddle, Jerry Douglas on dobro, Donald Shaw on piano, and Russ Barenberg on guitar.

MORE: Here's the same fiddler, Aly Bain, and a couple more, doing an instrumental version of "Lily Dale," a song written by Billy Jack Wills, Bob's youngest brother.

Jazz_Giving_Moore.jpgTonight, Thursday, June 6, 2013, at 7 p.m., trumpeter and vocalist Jeff Shadley and the Disaster Relief Orchestra will take the stage at Tulsa's Jazz Depot to benefit Oklahoma tornado relief.

Admission is free, but donations are encouraged and will go directly to support the Tulsa Chapter of the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. From the press release:

"I'll have a lot of the usual guys who work with me, including Victor Anderson on saxophone and Dave Johnson on trumpet," says Shadley. "Mike Bennett is also coming in to play trumpet, Steve Ham to play trombone, Mike Cameron on tenor sax, and I'll have a couple of [NSU Jazz Studies director] Tommy Poole's students in there, too, who're both really good.

"I've got two great pianists, Chuck Gardner and Scott McQuade, who'll be trading off throughout the show. And there's a tremendous lead trombone player named Zac Lee who's coming in from Oklahoma City to play with us. I offered to at least give him gas money, and he wouldn't even take that."

All of the musicians are donating their services, as are Tulsa media figures Julie Chin and Michele Lowry, the emcees for the evening, and vocalists Cindy Cain, Pam Van Dyke Crosby, Sarah Maud, Rebecca Ungerman, Ruby Shadley, and Shadley himself, the featured singers at Thursday's event.

Also on the bill: The Tulsa Rock Quartet, a string quartet "bridging the gap between the classical and rock performance worlds."


On Friday, May 31, 2013, at 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th and Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa, the Tulsa Boy Singers will present a spring concert. Tickets are available at the door: $10 for adults; student admission is free.

The program includes two pieces by Benjamin Britten ("Jubilate Deo" and "Rejoice in the Lamb"), the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in G by Herbert Sumsion, Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria," Cesar Franck's "Panis Angelicus," Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," "O nata lux" by Thomas Tallis, "Skylark" by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael, and selections from the musical "Oliver!"

The singers are ages 8 and up, covering all four vocal parts, and there's a training choir for younger boys, led by Mrs. Jackie Saylor. We've found TBS to be an excellent training ground for musical knowledge, confidence in front of an audience, following direction, and teamwork. As at all TBS concerts, there will be an opportunity following the concert for those interested in joining to have a short audition at the piano.

Following the concert there will be a reception with sweet and savory foods. There will also be a "wine pull" fundraiser.


ABOVE: Bob Wills and his wife Betty hang out the washing to dry at the Triple B Ranch in Fresno, California

The Triple B Ranch in Fresno, California, Bob Wills's home in the last half of the 1940s, is to be demolished and replaced with a housing subdivision, despite a unanimous vote by the city's Preservation Commission to place the home on the city's historic register:

Granville wants to raze the house and remove nearby olive trees as part of a proposed housing project in the area. Roberts told the city's Historic Preservation Commission on Monday that the house is falling apart. He said the place is full of bees, asbestos and lead paint. He said Granville would sell the house for $1 if the buyer moves it at no expense to the builder.

The commission voted 4-0 to place the house on the city's Register of Historic Resources. This almost certainly would have made it impossible for Granville to tear down the house.

(Aren't most houses over a certain age full of asbestos and lead paint? And doesn't demolition make them much more hazardous then leaving them intact?)

Because the register placement is not official until the city council votes, it appears that the developer was able to obtain a demolition permit without the extra process required for a designated historic resource.

There is a slim possibility for a reprieve, if someone is willing to raise the money to buy the lots on which the house stands or to move the house to another location within 30 days.

The view from the street (the side of the house) isn't that impressive, but the video below shows the front, with a broad, high porch spanning the east face of the home.

An April 27, 2013, article in the Fresno Bee explains the house's connection with Bob Wills:

Bob Wills bought the one-story wood-frame house at 6410 E. Clinton Ave. and the surrounding 80 acres near Armstrong Avenue in 1945. The name Triple B stands for Bob, his wife Betty and their son Little Bob, according to daughter Carolyn Wills of Texas.

In a June 1945 letter to an aunt, Betty Wills wrote, "We're living in Fresno now. It's almost the size of Tulsa. It's in the San Joaquin Valley. That's where they raise all California fruit and vegetables. ... I like it real well. A lot more than I ever did Los Angeles."

Carolyn Wills said she was "accidentally" born at the ranch house in 1946 because her parents couldn't get to a hospital in time.

Wills built barns and fences for the seven stallions and 40 brood mares he bought for the ranch, his daughter said. "My father was always the happiest he'd ever been" on the ranch, she said.

EXTRA: Here's Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys from 1963, performing "Ida Red." Joe Andrews on vocals, Gene Crownover on steel guitar, Gene Gasaway on fiddle, Benny Johnson on piano. Not sure about the second fiddler -- maybe George Clayborn. Note the sponsor: Mathis Brothers.

And thanks for making your home in Tulsa for nearly half that time.

If you only think of Roy Clark cracking jokes on Hee Haw, here's a bit of his guitar wizardry -- "Caravan" -- to broaden your perspective. I love how you can see his finger work on this -- brushing the strings to get that ringing tone.

Two years ago John Erling interviewed Roy Clark for Voices of Oklahoma. His agent, Jim Halsey, talked him into relocating from Maryland to the Midwest as a way of saving travel time and working more gigs into his schedule.

In 1979, Roy Clark teamed up with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown for an album called "Makin' Music," produced by Steve Ripley. For the album cover, they posed atop the marquee of the Will Rogers Theater at 11th Street and Toledo Ave on old US 66 (later demolished by the Sandusky Ave. Christian Church to create a surface parking lot).


Here's their version of "Take the 'A' Train" from that album:

Johnny_Gimble-Texas_Fiddle_Collection.jpgI thought I read some sad news about legendary western swing fiddler Johnny Gimble tonight, and I'm hoping I imagined seeing it. I'll hold off on publishing what I thought I read until I can confirm it, but in the meantime please remember Johnny and his family in your prayers, and please enjoy the following tribute to this great musician.

Johnny Gimble's big break came in 1949 when he was hired to play for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. After a few years playing professionally, he became a barber, playing as a sideline until 1968, when he moved to Nashville to become a studio musician. Gimble appeared on several of Bob Wills's recordings for Kapp Records. Some of the best cuts from that period were collected by MCA on The Best of Bob Wills, which includes a version of "Milk Cow Blues" with no vocal except Johnny Gimble scat-singing along with his fiddle solo.

Gimble was one of the six Texas Playboys who performed on Merle Haggard's tribute to Bob Wills, and Bob Wills picked Gimble and Keith Coleman to play fiddle on the 1973 album that would become known as "For the Last Time."

Even if you're not a western swing fan, you may have heard Johnny Gimble as a guest on "A Prairie Home Companion." Gimble is also a virtuoso on the mandolin, and there are some wonderful videos circulating of an "Austin City Limits" episode featuring Johnny Gimble, Tiny Moore, and Jethro Burns on mandolin, David Grisman on drums, and Eldon Shamblin on rhythm guitar.

Here is a biographical documentary from 1981, with a lot of great music, including several songs filmed at the Caravan Ballroom in Tulsa, where the house band included Eldon Shamblin, Billy Dozier, Glen "Blub" Rhees, and a trumpeter who looks like a very young Mike Bennett. (And I'm kicking my 17 year old self, wondering why I didn't make it down to the Caravan.) You'll also get to hear Johnny play mandolin and sing, backed by steel guitarist (and Texas Playboy) Maurice Anderson, and singing with Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel. The film includes some cuts that you'll find on his 1981 album, "The Texas Fiddle Collection," which every fan of fiddle music and western swing should own.


Johnny Gimble 2007 interview with British western swing aficionado Graham Lees

Johnny Gimble newspaper interview from 2010

Bob Wills Radio, an amazing collection of interviews with western swing musicians, has a two part interview of Johnny Gimble by Stacy Phillips. Here's a transcript of an excerpt and direct links to the audio:

Johnny Gimble on Bob Wills Radio, part 1
Johnny Gimble on Bob Wills Radio, part 2

Happy Pi Day! This evening at 6:28 Eastern time, applicants to MIT will learn whether or not they've been admitted. For those hopefuls and anyone else in need of worthwhiling away a little time, some links of interest:

Tyson Wynn, who runs local news site, has been bombarded with complaints from Canadian animal rights activists and their allies about a nearby event that he knew nothing about and has nothing to do with. Among other things, these people have threatened never to vacation in Welch (pop. 619). Tyson offers some advice on how not to advocate for your cause.

Aerogramme Writers' Studio: Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling: From some of the most compelling storytellers of our time. Rule 9 begins, "When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next."

Somewhat related: Ace ponders the Mystification/Revelation Model of Teaching. First you puzzle and frustrate your student, then you relieve his frustration with a solution. You're going to be much more interested in information if it answers a question that's bothering or intriguing you. Ace sees this technique used in good movie storytelling. Seems to me that Jesus' parables fit the same pattern.

My Tulsa friend Erin Patrick gets a mention in a Wall Street Journal article about grown kids who stay on their parents' family plans for phone and digital entertainment. Erin's daughter is on the family phone plan; her 16-year-old son is paying for some of his own subscriptions out of the money he earns. "Ole Buttermilk Sky": A song-by-song description of a British CD collection of mid-1940s recordings by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, mainly songs from the Tiffany Transcriptions that were not included in Kaleidoscope's LPs. The article by Tom Diamant includes some interesting info on the Crosley Transcriptions (aka Presto Transcriptions) and how to tell a sloppy re-issue from a careful dubbing.

Did you know that Southern Hills Country Club is in a low-income "food desert"? The U. S. Department of Agriculture has an interactive food desert map. That SHCC is in a low-income food desert is an example of the hazards of aggregation. I guess the number of households in the apartments on the east side of Lewis north of 71st outnumber the households in the massive homes backing up to the golf course, but they're all in the same census tract.

StateImpact has a Google Map of municipal water rates in Oklahoma. It's not close to complete, but interesting nevertheless.

Rex Brown says in-home filters may be the cause of your slow DSL internet and offers a solution -- an outdoor splitter where your phone service comes into the house.

Warren Buffett praises John Maynard Keynes, but his father Howard Buffett was a friend of libertarian economist Murray Rothbard, who sent a copy of his Panic of 1819 to Howard for Warren. Thinking that Warren must have lost that copy, economist Mark Thornton sent him another.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal documents the rising popularity of home-brewing among Christians. One of the churches mentioned appears to be part of the conservative Presbyterian Church in America (although they take pains to hide their affiliation on their website; I deduced it from where their pastoral staff went to college and seminary); there's an elder at our local PCA congregation who makes some very nice beers. (An unanswered question: Why do home brewers and craft brewers feel obligated to go overboard with hops?)

Tomorrow (Saturday) night, March 2, 2013, the historic Cain's Ballroom at 423 N. Main St. in downtown Tulsa's Bob Wills District will ring with the music that made it famous. Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, led by vocalist Leon Rausch and guitarist Tommy Allsup, will headline the annual Bob Wills Birthday Celebration. The Tulsa-based western swing band the Round-Up Boys will open the dance. It's an all-ages, family-friendly event. Doors open at 6, show starts at 6:30.

Bob Wills, Tommy Duncan, and a horse read a newspaper

Rausch and Allsup have over a century between them as western swing musicians. Both were with Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys in the 1950s. Rausch joined the Texas Playboys in 1957 and took over as band leader when Bob retired in 1964. Allsup produced the Liberty Records albums that brought Bob Wills and vocalist Tommy Duncan back together after a decade apart, produced the final album (For the Last Time) and played guitar and bass with the band. Allsup was also a sideman for Buddy Holly, backing Holly on hits like "Heartbeat" and "It's So Easy" (that's Allsup with the famous guitar lick) and touring with him through the January 1959 Winter Dance Party tour. (Allsup lost a coin toss with Richie Valens for a seat on the plane.)

The resurgence and on-going popularity of western swing owes much to the advocacy of Merle Haggard. In the first flush of mega-stardom, Haggard took the opportunity to promote the music and musicians that had shaped his music. Haggard produced albums of Jimmie Rodgers (Same Train, Different Time), gospel music (Land of Many Churches), and, in 1970, he gathered six Texas Playboys (Johnnie Lee Wills, Eldon Shamblin, Johnny Gimble, Tiny Moore, Alex Brashear, and Joe Holley) to join his band for A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (or My Salute to Bob Wills). That led to a reunion and recording for Capitol (unreleased) at Haggard's Bakersfield home in 1971, this time with Bob himself on hand and many of his sidemen from Tulsa in the 1930s and 1940s. That in turn led to the final 1973 album for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, which included Haggard as vocalist on several tunes, putting the music back in record bins and on the radio.

Shamblin and Moore joined Haggard's band, playing with the band off and on through the '70s and '80s. Here they are, along with Johnny Gimble, on Pop Goes the Country with a strikingly hirsute Ralph Emery, singing "Cherokee Maiden":

Thirty years ago today pop singer Karen Carpenter died at the age of 32, her warm, mellow alto voice stilled too soon. An NPR tribute quotes Paul McCartney as saying that she had "the best female voice in the world: melodic, tuneful and distinctive."

Karen Carpenter's voice was part of the soundtrack of my childhood. KRMG was our family's radio station when I was growing up, and in the early '70s KRMG was a mix of local news and "middle-of-the-road" pop music, featuring groups like The Carpenters. Now and Then and The Singles albums were among Mom's picks in the Columbia Record Club 12-for-a-penny deal. (I picked Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits, Switched On Bach, and Everything You Always Wanted to Hear on the Moog.) The first time I heard "Ticket to Ride," "Jambalaya," "This Masquerade," "Dead Man's Curve," and "Fun, Fun, Fun," Karen Carpenter was singing them. And no early-'70s wedding was complete without "We've Only Just Begun" as the recessional.

The Carpenters were on TV, too. Their series, called "Make Your Own Kind of Music," aired for only eight weeks as a "summer replacement series" on Tuesday nights in 1971, but it stuck in my memory. I can recall being put out that we had to turn off the show to go hear live music -- the Starlight Concert at Skelly Stadium, which turned out to be as good as Dad said it would be.

David Kenny, commenting on the NPR piece, opined that The Carpenters' choice of material, "which -- at least in the songs that got radio play -- tended to wallow in the slough between saccharine, maudlin, and treacly," was the limiting factor in the group's popularity. "Her voice deserved better songs," he concludes.

That assessment owed as much to the lush strings and vocal wahhhhhhs that typified The Carpenters' biggest hits. So it's interesting to listen to Pedro Andrade's remixes featuring only Karen's voice backed by bass and drums. Here's his version of "Goodbye to Love":

And here's his remix of "Ticket to Ride":

Finally, here's some video of Karen singing and drumming "Top of the World," part of a White House performance in 1973 for West German chancellor Willy Brandt.

The Tulsa Youth Opera is marking its 15th season with two free performances of Brundibar, an opera by Czech composer Hans Krasa.

The first performance will be Sunday, January 13, 2013, at 2:00 pm at the University of Tulsa's Performing Arts Center (TUPAC), on the west side of Harvard Ave. at about 6th Street. The performance will be accompanied by orchestra, including students from the Barthlemes Conservatory.

The second performance will be Sunday, January 20, 2013, at 2:00 pm at the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art, on 71st Street between Utica and Lewis.

Brundibar, a fable about children rising up against an evil oppressor, was written in 1938, but was not performed until 1943, after its composer had been imprisoned at Terezin (Theresienstadt) concentration camp. A performance of the opera by Terezin prisoners was filmed for a Nazi propaganda film, after which the cast and author were taken to Auschwitz, where most were exterminated.

REVIEW UPDATE: Notwithstanding the tragic circumstances of its first performances, on its own terms, the opera has a happy ending, as the children and animals of the village drive away the organ grinder Brundibar, who had tried to prevent a brother and sister from performing in the village square to get money to buy milk to help their sick mother. The little opera is preceded by some poetry and folk songs read and sung by Tulsa Youth Opera singers. The entire program lasts about an hour.

Patti Page, RIP

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Born Clara Ann Fowler in Claremore, Oklahoma, a graduate of Tulsa's Daniel Webster High School, she took her stage name from the Page Dairy in Tulsa, the sponsor of the radio show on which she was featured. In a 2010 interview with the Claremore Daily Progress, Patti Page explained how she came by the singing job and the name:

"We were living in west Tulsa," she recalled, "and about the time I completed the ninth grade, Mother called us girls together and told us we each needed to find jobs. The family needed the money. I decided I would go to Page Milk Company to get an application for what any job was available. They had a daily 15-minute program on Radio Station KTUL, but I wasn't even thinking about that.

"While I was waiting in the office the radio show's program director saw me. He had heard me sing at a school program and thought I was there for a tryout. After explaining I was only getting an application, he said to go ahead and fill out the application and wait until he returned. He was going to round up a couple of musicians and arrange a quick taping.

"The song I sang was 'Frankie and Johnnie'. A few days later the director called my mother and asked her if I could come to work as the singer on the radio show.

"You realize I wasn't the first 'Patti Page'. In fact, there were two before I arrived. The Page Company used the name for their program. The girl on the show at the time was getting ready to leave. That allowed me to step in. I did it the next three years while I attended high school at Daniel Webster and then one more year.

"When I left my sister Peggy replaced me and the name was changed to Peggy Page. The company officials said it was all right with them if I continued as Patti Page. Later in New York I went to court and made it my legal name."

Page's active singing career spanned seven decades. In April 2010, she performed a concert at the Robson Performing Arts Center in Claremore. A September 2012 message to fans mentioned the medical challenges that forced her to take a break from performing.

Throughout my life I never really gave much thought to my senior years. I was always able to hop on a plane, go out on stage and make music with the band. At this point I am no longer able to do that. My travels now are quite limited to North San Diego County, CA where I have called home for the past four decades. Although I feel I still have the voice God gave me, physical impairments are preventing me from using that voice as I had for so many years. It is only He who knows what the future holds.

Page died New Year's Day at the age of 85.

Here she is in 1950, singing one of her biggest hits, "The Tennessee Waltz."

Here's my favorite Patti Page tune, "Old Cape Cod." It brings back memories of a vacation in Yarmouth and leisurely drives along the gentle turns and hills of Old Highway 6. It was one of her favorites too:

"I believe 'Old Cape Cod' may be my most favorite," she replied, "The words are so beautiful and they describe the location perfectly. Of course 'Tennessee Waltz' is also at the top of the list. My father loved it and cried each time he heard me sing the song. Because of him it is my sentimental favorite. Then, I also like all the old standards."

LINKS: Patti Page's official website.

The Round-Up Boys will be playing a western swing dance tonight at the Broken Arrow Senior Center, 1800 S. Main St. in Broken Arrow (just north of 91st St / New Orleans). Dinner catered by Knotty Pine Barbecue at 6:30 and dancing from 8:00-Midnight. Admission is only $15.00.

The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate will swing in the new year with a swing dance at Southminster Presbyterian Church's Activity Center, west of Peoria on 35th Place. There will be a live band, and the event is smoke-free, booze-free, family friendly, and only $5 per person. Beginner lesson at 8 pm, dance from 8:30 pm to 12:30 am. Bring a snack to share for a chance to win a door prize.

Welch, in northern Craig County, is having a town-wide New Year's Eve party from 9 pm to 12:30 am with a family-friendly night of fun, games, and dancing at the Welch Civic Center.

If you're way down Texas way, Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition are swinging in the new year at Anhalt Halle, north of San Antonio, halfway between New Braunfels and Boerne. Jody Nix and the Texas Cowboys will be at their homebase, the Stampede in Big Spring. Alvin Crow will be playing the Broken Spoke in Austin. And way out west, the Lonestar Retrobates wlll be playing at the Presidio Yacht Club in Sausalito, California, and the Saddle Cats will be at the Speisekammer in Alameda. (See and for listings of western swing dances in Texas and the San Francisco Bay Area respectively; both areas have a very active western swing scene.)


Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th and Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa, will host two concerts this weekend featuring beautiful Christmas music in its Gothic Revival sanctuary.

On Friday night, December 21, 2012, at 7:30 pm, the Tulsa Boy Singers will perform a concert of Christmas and winter music Tickets are $10, and available at the door. Student admission is free. TBS's junior choristers as young as six will be joining the singers on a couple of songs. A reception will follow.

The TBS program includes familiar carols like Good King Wenceslas and In the Bleak Midwinter, ancient carols like Coventry Carol and Personent Hodie, and more modern seasonal songs like White Christmas, Jingle Bells, and It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

The Tulsa Boy Singers, now in their 65th year of existence, is made up of boys from 8 to 18 who rehearse twice weekly and are trained in vocal performance and music theory. If you know a boy age 6 or older with an interest in singing, there will be an opportunity for a brief audition after the concert. TBS was my oldest son's first musical activity, and what he's learned from director Casey Cantwell and assistant director Jackie Boyd has laid a strong foundation for everything he has done with music since, teaching him to read music, to follow direction, to blend with others, to feel confident performing in public, and to appreciate great music. I'm thrilled that my youngest son has the same opportunity and only wish as strong a program existed for Tulsa's girls.

On Sunday night, December 23, 2012, at 7:30, the Tulsa Symphony Brass and organist Casey Cantwell will present a concert of Christmas music, part of the Saint Cecilia Concert Series. Tickets are $20 ($10 for students and seniors), may be purchased in advance online, and will be available at the door.

One of my favorite memories of this time of year at MIT was walking out of the December chill and into Lobby 7 on my way to class in the morning and being greeted with a brass quintet playing Christmas carols, which filled that vast space. I imagine Sunday's concert will bring those memories back to life.

Tonight, December 14, 2012, at 6 p.m., the Barthelmes Conservatory will hold its semi-annual open concert at The Church at Midtown at 38th and Lewis. The conservatory's talented and hardworking students, mainly high school and middle school students, will perform short solo and ensemble pieces from the classical repertoire for violin, viola, cello, piano, and flute.


The conservatory's flagship program is its Music School. Children ages 7 - 13 are selected for musical aptitude, regardless of prior musical training, and enter into a rigorous program of private lessons, ensemble instruction, and classes in music theory, history, and literature, laying a foundation for a lifetime in music. You'll have the chance to hear the results of their efforts this evening.

thephoenix-logo-flag.pngAfter the concert, drive a few miles north to 6th and Peoria for a drink and a bite to eat at The Phoenix, Blake Ewing's newest venture.
It's a library-themed coffee house offering fresh baked bagels, coffee drinks, and a full bar, now open to the public. In keeping with the theme, a selection of books from Gardner's, lining the walls of the library room, are available for sale. The Phoenix offers an assortment of seating options, and the west window has a spectacular view of the downtown Tulsa skyline. The cafe's hours are 6:30 am to 2:00 am Monday through Saturday, and 6:30 am to midnight Sunday.

I'm really not trying to encroach on Tasha Does Tulsa's territory -- she has the definitive guide to Tulsa area pumpkin patches, by the way -- but there are so many interesting things to do in and around Tulsa this week that I decided to put a bunch of events into one big entry.

artur_davis_ocpa.jpgOn Wednesday, October 10, 2012, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs will hold its annual Liberty Gala at the Downtown Doubletree Hotel. Featured speakers are former Congressman Artur Davis and political analyst and author John Fund.

Also on Wednesday, from 6:15 to 8:00 pm at the Schusterman-Benson Library, 3333 E. 32nd Place, the League of Women Voters will conduct a Senate District 39 forum between the incumbent, Senator Brian Crain, and the challenger, neighborhood leader Julie Hall.

Also on Wednesday, and only on Wednesday, October 10, 2012, Cinemark Tulsa, 10802 E 71st St, will show Gone with the Wind, at 2 pm and 7 pm. It's part of a series of landmark films -- next Wednesday they'll show Mary Poppins.

Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati Ave. in downtown Tulsa, is hosting Gloriae Dei Cantores (Singers to the Glory of God). Tonight, Tuesday, October 9, 2012, they will present a workshop on Gregorian chant at 7:30 pm, followed by a sung service of Compline (prayers at the close of day) at 9:00 pm in Trinity's beautiful Gothic Revival sanctuary. Both events are free and open to the public.

Then on Thursday, October 11, 2012, at 7:30 pm at Trinity, the Gloriae Dei Cantores will present the annual Thomas Matthews Memorial Concert. Matthews was the long-time organist and choirmaster of Trinity and a renowned composer of choral anthems. The concert will be followed by a gala reception. The event is free and childcare will be available.

The Tulsa Hackathon begins Friday night, October 12, 2012, at 6 pm and runs all night long and all day Saturday until 9 pm, at the Tulsa Fab Lab, 710 S. Lewis Ave. App developers will gather for a 24-hour marathon design and coding session, fueled by pizza and beer, to develop new apps for Tulsa's benefit.

Thumbnail image for Johnnie-Lee-Wills-Rompin'-FrontUG.jpgSaturday night, October 13, 2012, 7 pm to 9 pm, music historian John Wooley will present his weekly western swing broadcast on Public Radio 89.5 KWGS, "Swing on This," live from Cain's Ballroom, with a dance in honor of bandleader Johnnie Lee Wills' 100th birthday. The Tulsa Playboys will be joined by Cowbop, a California western swing band. It's a benefit for KWGS, and reserved table seats are $40, available at Cain's box office, Ida Red, Reasor's, and Starship, or by calling 866-977-6849.

In the last year or two we've lost several Texas Playboys from the 1940s: guitarist Jimmy Wyble, singing sisters Dean McKinney Moore and Evelyn McKinney Wills, and now Johnny Cuviello.

Johnny Cuviello, drummer for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys in 1946 and 1947 and one of the last surviving band members from that era, passed away last week at the age of 97.

Cuviello, a Fresno native and the son of Italian immigrants, connected with the band in 1946 when Billy Jack Wills, Bob's younger brother, asked his help in tuning his drums before a recording session at station KMJ. Cuviello sat in on drums that day while Billy Jack moved to bass fiddle (which he preferred to drums), and at the end of the day Bob offered Johnny a job. Cuviello was with the band only for about two years, but at a pivotal time -- he's on all but one of the Tiffany Transcriptions sessions and played on Bob Wills's final sessions with Columbia and first sessions for MGM.

Cuviello had been playing drums professionally since high school, and his career included a gig at a burlesque theater and in a band with Buck Owens at The Blackboard in Bakersfield.

In a profile published in 2008 in the Journal of Texas Music History, Cuviello told the story of how he came to be a Texas Playboy and the unceremonious way he was dropped from the band. It says something about the limits of Bob Wills's fame that, as well known as he was among the Texans and Oklahomans who had moved to California to farm in the Central Valley and work in the defense industry, the son of an earlier wave of California immigrants had never heard of him. And perhaps because he was one of the few band members without roots in Texas or Oklahoma, he never quite fit in. He was older than most of them, too -- 31 when he joined the band.

But Cuviello got along well with frequent road roommate Herb Remington (an Indiana native) and together they worked up a tune that Cuviello wrote into the song that Bob Wills would dub "Texas Drummer Boy." Although drums were always important to the Texas Playboys sound, "Texas Drummer Boy" was the only Texas Playboys song to feature prominent extended drum solos, alternating with Remington's steel guitar riffs and Tiny Moore's mandolin solo.

Here's the original version of "Texas Drummer Boy," recorded November 12, 1947.

Here's Johnny five years ago, at his 92nd birthday jam in 2007, performing "Texas Drummer Boy" once again with steel guitarist Herb Remington -- sixty years after it was first recorded:


From the Baylor Institute for Oral History, here's the transcript of western swing historian Jean Boyd's lengthy 1993 interview with Johnny Cuviello and Steve Hathaway. (Excerpts from the interview were included in the Journal of Texas Music History profile.)

Cuviello shows up in a few pictures in this article about the Bakersfield Sound.

Tom Diamant's excellent Tiffany Transcriptions website has a great picture of Johnny Cuviello with Junior Barnard, Herb Remington, Jimmy (Widener?), and Norm (?).

Tom points out that the Journal of Texas Music History story about Johnny Cuviello has "the best photo of the Zoom Radio Show" -- the weekly Texas Playboys show on radio station KGO, sponsored by Zoom breakfast cereal. And here's Johnny Cuviello with the Texas Playboys on a break during the September 7, 1947, Tiffany session.

The video page has a couple of "soundies" where Cuviello can be heard (and sometimes seen) in the background. He's most visible during Alex Brashear's trumpet solo on "Goodbye, Liza Jane."

AND STILL MORE: A couple of more great photos of Johnny Cuviello, including one with Buck Owens, in an article about the unique music scene of Bakersfield.

The Union Pacific Railroad is celebrating its sesquicentennial this year, and as part of the celebration, the UP is asking people to try their hand at remaking the "Great Big Rollin' Railroad" jingle used in early '70s UP TV ads. The grand prize is $15,000, and there's a monthly prize of $1,000 for the video that has the most "likes" at the end of the month. A Tulsa couple is in a close race for the June prize with a sunshiny, pop remake that will keep you smiling for the rest of the week.

The lyrics are by Bill Fries, the music by Bob Jenkins and Dick Proulx. Fries, an ad copywriter, went on a few years later, under the stage name C. W. McCall, to team up with Chip Davis on a hit song called "Convoy."

Here's the original version, from 1970, filmed in North Platte, Nebraska, using UP employees (some with very big hair indeed) singing a line of lyrics each.

Tulsa musicians Jarrod and Jaime Gollihare are either in 1st or a close 2nd for the June contest. Jarrod is the drummer with the power-pop band Admiral Twin; you may also remember him as a writer for Urban Tulsa Weekly. Their version of the song features the two of them in their mid-century modern apartment playing glasses, suitcases, bottles, a squeaky door, blinds, a pie plate, slide guitar, ukulele, and a xylophone. It's a catchy arrangement with clever visuals (including, briefly, the animal masks you see below). I'd love to see and hear more videos like this one from Jarrod and Jaime. (Maybe a remake of "Tulsa Straight Ahead"?)

jarrod and jaime union pacific snapshot.jpg

As I write this, Jarrod and Jamie have 196 likes, just two behind the leader. I hope you'll take a minute to click through, listen, and show your support by registering and liking their video.

In honor of their first anniversary, the Tulsa Playboys are throwing a dance this Thursday, June 14, 2012, at the legendary Cain's Ballroom at 423 N. Main St. in Tulsa's Bob Wills District. They usually have one dance a month, but this month is special -- free admission! Legendary country music DJ and singer Billy Parker will be their special guest. Doors open at 6:15 pm.

As listed on their Facebook page, the Tulsa Playboys are:

Shelby Eicher - fiddle and electric mandolin, Rick Morton - fiddle, Steve Bagsby - steel guitar, Spencer Sutton - piano, Mike Bennett - trumpet, Steve Ham - trombone, Rodney Lay - bass, Ryan Shepard - drums and Danny McBride - standard guitar.

You are welcome to sit or stand and tap your feet to the music, but you are going to want to dance. Two-step is the usual type of dancing (and there will be lessons at 6:30 before the band takes the stage and again during intermission), but there are waltzes and polkas, too. If you're part of the swing dancing resurgence, you can use those steps on Cain's spring-loaded curly maple dance floor, too -- West Coast, East Coast, Lindy Hop, they'll all work with Western Swing.

Here are the Tulsa Playboys with Byron Berline performing "Right or Wrong":

No excuses -- the price is right, there's no school the next day, all ages are welcome, and it's a chance to enjoy Tulsa's music in Tulsa's historic dance hall.

  • Who: Tulsa Boy Singers 2012 Spring Concert
  • When: Tonight, 7:30 pm, Friday, June 1, 2012
  • How much: Adults $10, students free. Tickets available at the door
  • What: Music by Gershwin, Mozart, Bach, Gardner, Durufle, Franck and others, followed by a reception
  • Where: Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th and Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa


The Tulsa Boy Singers have been Tulsa's Musical Ambassadors for more than 60 years, and twice a year they present a formal concert of both sacred and secular music in the beautiful Gothic Revival sanctuary of Trinity Episcopal Church. The boys range in age from 5 to 18, covering the full vocal range from treble to bass. Their twice-weekly rehearsals provide an education in musicianship. They work hard, have fun, and learn to blend together to produce a beautiful sound. If you've got a boy as young as five or older who loves to sing, the directors will be glad to talk to you after the program about an opportunity to audition. TBS parents always put on a nice reception following the show.

Please treat yourself to some beautiful music, and show your support for these hard-working young musicians by attending tonight's Tulsa Boy Singers performance.


MORE: A great article about Tulsa Boy Singers by G. K. Hizer in the current Urban Tulsa Weekly:

When meeting with Janet Drye, from the Tulsa Boy Singers' board of directors, we discussed a bit of the group's history and how it has developed over the years as well as a few of the challenges the group faces. Originally founded to consist of young males from ages 8-18, membership is constantly changing as voices change and singers graduate from the group and move on, so recruiting has always been crucial. With that natural transition of members, the troupe's size has fluctuated and currently consists of roughly 15 boys, it's smallest iteration for a number of years. Just recently, the organization changed its guidelines and is accepting singers as young as five years old in order to develop young voices and fill some of its gaps in the trebles of the choir.

Recruiting singers has always been a challenge. "We used to contact elementary school music teachers and they got word out," Drye shared. In recent years, however, the group's connection with those teachers has been reduced as budget cuts have limited the music programs in many schools.

Another challenge has come as so many children are involved in multiple activities at an early age, from music lessons to sporting events, limiting their time to become involved or even interested in the choral group. "We're hoping that with the new age changes, we'll be able to get kids interested and involved before they become so committed to other activities," Drye said....

When asked how material is chosen for the group, [director Casey] Cantwell responded: "In choosing repertoire for TBS I try to do a variety of music and styles. However, I always include repertoire from the English Cathedral tradition since those choirs are, for the most part, choirs of men and boys."

"I also take into account the abilities of the boys at hand," he continued. "I try to do music that they will enjoy and which will be successful for them. I think it's good to stretch them to do music that's harder than they think they can do, while making sure that they succeed in doing it."

Cantwell also addressed the evolving nature of the group. "During my tenure," Cantwell said, "we have had ups and downs in numbers and talent. At the current time we have a smaller number of boys than we have in the past, but they have worked hard and are ready to perform. To help them out, I have three alumni of TBS who will be joining us for this concert -- all of whom are currently, or soon will be, in music degree programs in college. The constant changing of TBS members is at the same time exciting and scary, but it's never boring and is always rewarding."

Here's Merle Haggard, singing lead and doing his best imitation of Bob Wills' hollers, with three Texas Playboys: Johnny Gimble playing fiddle, Tiny Moore (next to Merle, holding a fiddle) and Eldon Shamblin (playing his Stratocaster) singing harmony.

Let's send this one out to Elizabeth "Fauxcahontas" Warren in Massachusetts.

Tiny Moore was best known as a virtuoso mandolin picker, but he was also a terrific vocalist. Tiny was only given the chance to sing lead on a few Texas Playboys recordings, but he shared lead vocal duties with Bob's youngest brother Billy Jack Wills in Billy Jack's Sacramento based western swing band (1952-1954). Eldon Shamblin, a brilliant and creative rhythm guitarist, also served as arranger and band manager for the Texas Playboys, and sang on trios and quartets from time to time. Tiny and Eldon, teamed up with steel guitarist Herb Remington on the triple guitar arrangements of big band tunes on the Tiffany Transcriptions recordings. Tiny, Eldon, and Johnny had all performed, along with Joe Holley, Alex Brashear, and Johnnie Lee Wills on Merle Haggard's 1970 album A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (Or, My Salute to Bob Wills), and Tiny and Eldon toured with Merle Haggard for a few years.

Many thanks to See-Dubya for the tip.

Nancy_C_Newman.jpgWilliam_Basil_Newman.jpgI am exactly as Cherokee as Ms. Warren: Family lore says that my great-great-grandmother Nancy Catherine Boyd was a half-blood Cherokee. (Note the high cheekbones.) She was born in Ohio, but the story is that there was a community of Cherokee in Ohio who had moved there to get out of the way of white expansion into Cherokee lands in the South; many then, it is said, moved to Indian Territory to rejoin their relocated people in their "permanent" home. Nancy married William Basil Newman, who refused to let Nancy enroll with the Dawes Commission, because he didn't want his wife owning land (an allotment) in her own name; and thus old Basil deprived all his descendants of the benefits of Cherokee citizenship, or so the story goes.

In addition to Mayfest and the Blue Dome Festival, there's a new event this weekend in downtown Tulsa, starting tonight, Thursday, May 17, 2012. Here's the press release for the first-ever Greenwood Swingout.


Tulsa, OK, May. 14--The Vintage Swing Movement, a nonprofit organization started by a inter-racial couple to create a bridge to reconciliation among America's diverse people groups through the positive spirit of the Swing culture, music and dance, will host their first event on May 17-21 in conjunction with Mayfest. The Greenwood Swingout dance festival was birthed out of the hope to promote racial reconciliation from the long standing tension after the Tulsa Race Riots.

One highlight of the festival will be Saturday at the second annual Chalkfest from 1-5pm at 5th and Boston. Guests are encouraged to take part in the free Swing dance lessons starting at 1pm, dress vintage, and join in the dance from 2-5pm. Other events include:

  • Three Nights of Dancing with: Steve Ham's Jambalaya Jazz Band, The Rebecca Ungerman Combo, and the Jordan Hehl band with Branjae at Tulsa's American Legion Post 1.
  • Daily vintage activities including tours of downtown's art deco building, Cain's Ballroom with historian and radio host John Wooley, the grand opening of Tulsa's Art Deco Museum and more

While some events are free to the public, other events like the guided tour with Tulsa's own Rosie the Riveter, Marina Metevelis, and the evening dances will require a ticket. Some activities can be purchased ala carte, but for a full weekend pass and schedule information go to

In addition to the Greenwood festival, the Vintage Swing Movement (VSM) is excited to roll out its new outreach program this fall. The program will teach students about the music, culture, and dance of the swing era and the rich cultural diversity that existed even during segregation. In the mid 1930s, people from all ethnic backgrounds gathered in Harlem's Savoy Ballroom to listen and dance to the music of Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, smashing racial barriers in the height of segregation. It is in that same spirit VSM seeks to unite the Tulsa community communities around the United States.


If you weren't at Cain's Ballroom on Saturday, April 14, 2012, you missed an evening of family-friendly fun and great music, starting with the induction of Woody Paul, Herman Johnson, Keith Coleman, and Kenny Baker (the latter two, posthumously) into the National Fiddler Hall of Fame, and ending with a performance by Riders in the Sky. Each inductee was introduced with a brief video; two are up on YouTube, and you'll find them on the jump page of this entry.

Woody Paul inducted into the National Fiddler Hall of Fame, with NFHOF board member Bob Fjeldsted, MDB21765 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

Herman Johnson inducted into the National Fiddler Hall of Fame, with NFHOF board member Bob Fjeldsted, MDB21758 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

Our whole family was there. Between the tickets and the money we spent at Too Slim's Mercantile, it was not a cheap evening, but we had a great time, and it was especially worth it to give our younger two the chance to see Riders in the Sky in person. They were as entertaining as ever. I could imagine Bob Wills was there in spirit, with a big grin and an approving holler for every swinging fiddle lick.

Riders in the Sky on the stage at Cain's Ballroom, MDB21776 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

The Riders played many great cowboy classics and their original tunes (now classics in their own right): "Texas Plains," "My Oklahoma," "Cool Water," "That's How the Yodel Was Born." Woody Paul played and sang one of his original compositions, a beautiful waltz called "The Arms of My Love."


Joey the Cowpolka King took the lead on "Drifting Texas Sand" and made the most of the echo part on "Cool Water."

Joey the Cowpolka King's big moment in Cool Water, MDB21787 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

Ramona Reed, a vocalist with the Texas Playboys in the '50s and '60s, came up on stage to add her famous yodel to the mix with "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart." Here she is with Ranger Doug:

Ramona Reed with Ranger Doug, singing I Want to Be a Cowboys Sweetheart, MDB21806 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

Sidekick and geezer Sidemeat came out to recite "Reincarnation" and sing "I've Cooked Everything" (a parody of "I've Been Everywhere").

Sidemeat, the old sidekick of Riders in the Sky, MDB21789 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

In response to an audience request they played "Take Me Back to Tulsa." "Ghost Riders in the Sky" included a shout-out (of sorts) to music historian Guy Logsdon, who was in the audience -- right after the line, "As the riders loped on by him, he heard one call his name...." We got to see the Pixar short "For the Birds" as the Riders played the soundtrack live.

Too Slim plays his face, MDB21779 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

I was blown away by an old tune that was new to me -- "Trail Dust." Recorded by Sons of the Pioneers in 1963, its lush minor-key harmonies brought to mind Tex Williams and His Western Caravan's "Artistry in Western Swing" (1948) and the exotica genre popular in the late '50s and early '60s.

An act devoted to the music of Hollywood's singing cowboys could easily stray into pure nostalgia, utter corn, or hip ironic detachment, but the Riders manage to poke fun at the conventions of the genre in a genuinely affectionate way, while demonstrating their respect for the tradition with their impeccable musicianship. In Woody Paul's Hall of Fame induction video, bassist and face-ist Too Slim mentioned the wit in Woody's playing, and you can hear it from all four Riders -- a constant flow of creativity whether taking the lead or backing their bandmates.

Riders in the Sky at Cain's Ballroom, MDB21816 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

Riders in the Sky are renowned for being fan-friendly, sticking around to shake hands, sign autographs, and take pictures. My six-year-old, who was bouncing off the walls at the thought of meeting them, was rather more shy when the moment came to shake hands, but he told Ranger Doug that he listened to their version of "Don't Fence Me In" every night, and the Idol of American Youth sang a few bars for him. When we posed for photos, Joey the Cow Polka King swapped his cowboy hat with my oldest son's fedora, and Too Slim set his hat on my daughter's head.

BatesLine family photo with Riders in the Sky, April 14, 2012, MDB21829 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

We first came across Riders in the Sky on their weekly radio show, Riders Radio Theater, more than twenty years ago and first heard them in person in '92 in Springfield and again in Ponca City, as part of the Cherokee Strip Land Run centennial, in 1993. When our oldest came along, we took him to see the Riders at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville.

Our younger two go to sleep each night to a CD of western lullabies, a mix of songs by the Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys, Sons of the Pioneers, and, of course, Riders in the Sky.

As far as I know, this was the first time Riders in the Sky have played Tulsa, although they've performed in many smaller cities and towns in the region. I hope it's not too long before they come back.

MORE: Listener-supported WMKV-FM in Cincinnati plays an episode of Riders Radio Theater each Tuesday at 11 a.m. Cincinnati time (10 a.m. Tulsa time), followed by an episode of the Jack Benny Show, on "Theater of the Mind," a daily hour of old time radio -- on other days you can hear The Life of Riley, The Great Gildersleeve, Burns and Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Basil Rathbone, and Bold Venture, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The station runs a 24/7 schedule, including Big Band music all night long. You can listen to WMKV-FM online (click the link on the home page); here's a direct link to the stream.

In case you missed it: In the coming weeks, Osage Casinos are bringing in three legendary singers for free, all-ages concerts.

OMDE-1351-April-Web-Updates_Free-Concert-Series_100x100_Ray-Price.jpgThis Friday, May 4, 2012, Ray Price will be performing at the Osage Casino west of Bartlesville. Ray Price was a pioneer of the honky-tonk sound in the 1950s; in the '70s he traded in his Nudie suit for a tuxedo, scoring big countrypolitan hits with "For the Good Times" and "Night Life." At 86, he's still going strong, as you can see from his April 2011 appearance on Huckabee, singing two of his big '50s hits "Heartaches by the Number" and "Crazy Arms."

OMDE-1351-April-Web-Updates_Free-Concert-Series_100x100_BJ-Thomas.jpgOn Saturday, May 12, 2012, B. J. Thomas will be performing at the Osage Casino in Pawhuska. B. J. Thomas had big pop hits in the '70s with the Oscar-winning "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," "Hooked on a Feeling" (with its distinctive sitar solo), and "Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song." In more recent years, Thomas's recordings have focused on country and gospel music.

Here he is on BBC's Top of the Pops from 1970:

OMDE-1351-April-Web-Updates_Free-Concert-Series_100x100_Ray-Stevens.jpgOn Saturday, May 19, 2012, Ray Stevens will be performing at the Osage Casino west of Sand Springs, north of U. S. 412 / U. S. 64 at the 129th West Ave. exit. Ray Stevens has had hits with a wide range of material over the years from message songs like "Everything Is Beautiful," "Mr. Businessman," and "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex on His Television Show," to novelty tunes like "The Streak" and "Mississippi Squirrel Revival," to creative covers like his banjo-fired take on "Misty" and his doo-wop version of "Indian Love Call," and, lately, musical political commentary on everything from Obamacare to illegal immigration.

I think of "Everything Is Beautiful" as the theme song for the summer of '71. (I have a specific memory of hearing it over breakfast in a diner in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, on our way to visit my grandparents in Fairfield Bay, Arkansas. It was one of those diners with the neon-trimmed clock with flipping ad cards.)

Here's Stevens' satirical take on post-mortem voter fraud -- "Grandpa Voted Democrat":

MORE: Pop music historian Dawn Eden's tribute to Ray Stevens' 1968 album Even Stevens and The Night Ray Stevens Cleared the Dance Floor.

A bit busy tonight, so here's Tulsa music legend Rocky Frisco performing an original song, "The Blues for You," at the Church Studio. It's an excerpt from the movie Red Dirt on 66.

And here's Rocky under his original stage name, Rocky Curtiss, from 1955, with his band the Harmony Flames, performing "Teenager in Love."

An instrumental from the same album, "Big Teddy":

Let's call it Wills Park


Bob Wills with his brothers and father

The Wills boys, from left to right, youngest to oldest: Brothers Billy Jack Wills, Luther J. "Luke" Wills, Johnnie Lee Wills, and Bob Wills, and their father John Tompkins "Uncle John" Wills. From

The George Kaiser Family Foundation is looking for public input on the name of the park GKFF is building on Brady Street in downtown Tulsa:

As Downtown Tulsa continues to blossom into a center of creativity and an economic hub benefiting the greater community, it soon will be a destination for those wanting to spend time in an outdoor setting at the park located on Brady and Cincinnati.

We are looking for input regarding the name of this new park in the Brady District. The name should commemorate a person with Tulsa roots, who has an enduring legacy through their contributions to the community in the areas of arts, music, culture or education; or, in the alternative, should simply reflect Tulsa's history in these areas.

Learn more about the park in the Brady District on our website -- and submit your ideas for names to

My idea, which I've already passed along to the folks at GKFF, is to name the park in honor of Bob Wills and Johnnie Lee Wills, two brothers who together ruled the Tulsa music scene for a quarter-century and built a musical legacy that has spread their fame around the world. They amply fulfill GKFF's criteria.

Name it Wills Park, then name individual park features and facilities to honor Bob Wills, Johnnie Lee Wills, and key Wills sidemen like guitar pioneer and arranger Eldon Shamblin and steel guitar legend and Tulsa bandleader Leon McAuliffe. (Maybe we could even find a spot to acknowledge Junior Barnard, the proto-rock guitarist from Coweta who played for Johnnie Lee, Bob, and Luke Wills.)

Bob Wills brought together ragtime, blues, swing, and traditional frontier fiddle music and turned it into something new, something that would eventually be known as western swing. Bob Wills was also a pioneer with regard to amplified stringed instruments -- Leo Fender was a western swing fan -- and using them to carry the melody, in place of horns an important evolutionary step on the path to rock 'n' roll. It's why Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 as an Early Influencer.

Chased out of Texas by a vengeful ex-boss who pulled advertising from any radio station that dared to put him on the air, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys found a home at KVOO in Tulsa when station manager Bill Way refused to knuckle under to Pappy O'Daniel's threats. Wills settled in at Cain's Ballroom, home base for daily broadcasts and twice-weekly dances.

Tulsa became Bob Wills's hometown. He bought a ranch in Osage County north of town -- near the present-day Million Dollar Elm Casino on 36th Street North -- and brought his extended family from Texas to Tulsa to live there with him. He held fiddle contests and founded a rodeo. The band played dances six nights a week all over Oklahoma and surrounding states and often spent Sunday playing for the funeral of a Texas Playboys fan somewhere within driving distance of Tulsa.

GKFF has already honored Woody Guthrie by acquiring his library and establishing a center about his career. It would be even more fitting for GKFF to acknowledge these musicians with a much stronger and longer connection to Tulsa. While Guthrie was in New York singing and raising awareness of the common man's burden, Bob Wills was here in Tulsa playing music to lift the common man's burden for a little while each day.

Bob married a Tulsa girl -- well, a few Tulsa girls, but the last and longest marriage was to a Tulsa girl named Betty Anderson. Bob dreamed of making Tulsa his home for the rest of his life, surrounded by his family and his Texas Playboys, but World War II changed all that. California, then Texas, became home base for a while, but he came back to Tulsa often to see family and to perform at Cain's. He came back in the late '50s to reunite with brother Johnnie Lee in Tulsa for a few years. After his death, he was remembered in a service at Tulsa's Eastwood Baptist Church and laid to rest at Memorial Park Cemetery.

Johnnie Lee Wills, next oldest of "Uncle John" Wills's four sons, launched his own band to help cover the high demand for western swing music in the Tulsa area. When brother Bob left for a brief stint in the Army, Johnnie Lee Wills kept things going at Cain's and on KVOO. After his service ended, rather than take the spotlight back from his brother, Bob headed out to California. Johnnie Lee Wills and All His Boys continued the daily radio program, the weekly dances at Cain's, and the dance hall circuit through the end of the 1950s, rejoined by Bob for the last few years.

But Johnnie Lee did more than carry on. He was an innovator and a great bandleader in his own right, and he had hit songs of his own, two of which -- Milk Cow Blues (1941) and Rag Mop (1949) -- have been suggested as candidates for the first rock 'n' roll song.

Johnnie Lee Wills carried on with the annual rodeo -- the Johnnie Lee Wills Stampede -- and opened a western wear store on the south side of 21st Street just east of Memorial. Tulsa remained his home for the rest of his life.

The musicians who defined the "Tulsa Sound" in the '60s and '70s grew up listening to Bob and Johnnie Lee, and I know of at least one -- Rocky Frisco -- who actually performed a few times with Johnnie Lee at Cain's Ballroom.

(I don't want to leave the rest of the Wills boys unacknowledged. Luke Wills and Billy Jack Wills each had great bands based in California. Billy Jack returned to Oklahoma; he's buried beside Bob at Memorial Park. Luke settled in Las Vegas, but many of us remember him performing at Texas Playboys reunion concerts in the '80s and '90s. Their father, Uncle John Wills, played his fiddle at ranch dances all over Hall County, Texas, and had his own band for a time after the family moved to Tulsa.)

There is already an effort underway, spearheaded by artist Lee Roy Chapman, to rename the district north of the Frisco tracks as the Bob Wills District. Its current name, Brady Arts District, is taken (indirectly, via Brady Street) from Tulsa founder Tate Brady, who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and a supporter of vigilante violence. Brady's history notwithstanding, it makes more sense to name an arts district to honor an internationally famous man whose music put Tulsa on the map.

Whether the name Bob Wills District ever catches on, there still ought to be some public space named in his and his brother Johnnie's honor. This new park, just a couple of blocks from Cain's Ballroom, would do nicely.

Western swing music has an international fan base, and every country in Europe seems to have a few western swing bands who play the music of Bob and Johnnie Lee Wills. (See previous entries in the western swing category for a few examples.) Tulsa should have a public place where visiting fans can connect with their musical legacy. To some extent Cain's Ballroom fulfills that role, but Cain's is a working music venue and can't be a full-time tourist attraction. Having a public, always-open space nearby to honor the Wills boys would complement Cain's irreplaceable spot in the heart of western swing fans from around the world. In that regard, it's crucial to have a name that will turn up in web searches.

Bob Wills Stage at Wills Park would be a great venue, along with Cain's, for the International Festival of Western Swing that Tulsa should have every year.

If you agree with me that Wills Park is the perfect name for the new park in downtown Tulsa's arts district (or even if you don't), sit right down and drop a line to the folks at GKFF -- -- and let them know what you think.

First Love, a local band featuring the singing and songwriting talents of Camille and Haley Harris, wrote a fight song for the Rick Santorum campaign. The song "Game On!" came together in the wee hours of this past Sunday night / Monday morning, after they heard Rick Santorum speak and met him at Grace Church in Broken Arrow on Sunday evening. It's a catchy song, and the girls have great pop voices with a bit of a folk edge.

The song has received some national attention, earning a thanks from Rick Santorum on his campaign blog:

What a great anthem for our campaign -- I haven't been able to get the song out of my head! I feel so blessed to have such ardent supporters of our vision for America's future, and am grateful to the entire Harris family for their continued faith in our campaign.

The song has been mentioned by bloggers for Time, The Hill, the Houston Chronicle, Buzzfeed.

I met the Harris girls and their parents Tuesday night at the Santorum watch party. They were being interviewed on an online radio talk show as I sat nearby uploading the latest results by congressional district to the Santorum national campaign team. I thought I remembered seeing another video by First Love, a western swing song.

Sure enough, Haley and Camille sang "Blue Bonnet Lane" (one of my favorite Bob Wills tunes) with the Tulsa Playboys back in January:


Tonight, March 3, 2012, Bob Wills' Texas Playboys will perform at Tulsa's historic Cain's Ballroom in celebration of the 107th anniversary of the birth of the band's founder. Tulsa's Round-Up Boys will lead off the celebration. Doors open at 6:30 and the show begins at 7. Tickets are available online or at the door.

Heading up the Texas Playboys are vocalist Leon Rausch and guitarist Tommy Allsup. Leon started performing with Bob Wills back in the late 1950s. Tommy Allsup played with Waylon Jennings in Buddy Holly's band, then went to California, and as an A&R man for Liberty Records he reunited Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan, the original Texas Playboys vocalist in the 1960s. I don't know the specific lineup for tonight, but past lineups have included trombonist Steve Ham and trumpeter Mike Bennett, steel guitarist Steve Bagsby, and Amarillo fiddler Jimmy Young, who does his Bob Wills impression when they perform Faded Love & San Antonio Rose. Many of these folks also play with the Tulsa Playboys, who play a dance once a month at Cain's. (UPDATE: Not sure why, but none of the Tulsa folks were on stage tonight.)

To my friends (and my son and his peers) who are swing dancing enthusiasts: This music is called Western Swing for a reason. It's meant for dancing, and there's no finer place for dancing than the curly maple floor of Cain's Ballroom. Maybe just for tonight, break away from the usual swing dancing venue, and bring your dancing shoes and your smooth swing moves on down to Cain's.

To give you a sense of what I'm talking about, here's a look at the Cain's dance floor last July when the Tulsa Playboys played "Miss Molly."

Grab your partner and truck on down.

MORE: Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys appeared in several westerns with Russell Hayden and other stars in the 1940s. Finders Keepers Classics, on the web at, is offering a four-DVD set of Russell Hayden movies, including several featuring the Texas Playboys, and a separate DVD with Saddles and Sagebrush, another movie that featured Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. On the homepage, click New Arrivals and scroll down.

The Augustine Christian Academy Show Choir will be delivering singing valentines next Tuesday, February 14, 2012.


Are you looking for something unique and extra special for the ones you love this Valentine's Day? Let them be serenaded by a group of very talented singers from Augustine Christian Academy's Show Choir. Prices range from $25 - $40. We'll deliver a song, a personalized card, chocolates, and a special dedication to a location of your choice within the Tulsa area. Deliveries will be offered from 9:00 AM - 8:00 PM on February 14th. Order early to get your preferred delivery time! All orders must be received by February 13th! Get your Singing Valentine order form by CLICKING HERE, or pick one up in the school office. Please call Mrs. Gale Post at 918-852-2040 for more information.

Here's the group singing "Unforgettable" this morning on Fox 23 Daybreak:

The more you pay, the more precise you can be with the delivery time. Proceeds support the ACA performing arts program, which is producing Hello, Dolly, April 19 through 22, 2012.

riders_in_the_sky-2009.jpgThe world's premier cowboy band, Riders in the Sky, will perform at this year's National Fiddler Hall of Fame gala on April 14, 2012, at Tulsa's historic Cain's Ballroom. The Riders' fiddler, Woody Paul, the King of the Cowboy Fiddlers, is one of this year's inductees into the hall of fame, along with championship fiddler Herman Johnson, from Shawnee; the late Keith Coleman, who performed with Leon McAuliffe and His Cimarron Boys and Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys; and the late Kenny Baker, of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys. Tickets for the gala are on sale.

Riders in the Sky is one of our family's favorite musical groups: Beautiful harmonies on authentic songs of the west, classics from western movies, and original songs in the same genre, seasoned with comedy. I wish their weekly show, Riders Radio Theater, with its weekly western serial, were still on the air here. Riders Go Commercial has been played often at our house lately. (The thought of attending geezer training school seems more and more appealing every day.)

Here's Riders in the Sky, with Woody Paul playing and singing his original tune, "The Arms of My Love" (not a great recording here, but a beautiful song):

Here's Keith Coleman with a smoking solo on "Leon's Boogie," from an Ozark Jubliee appearance with Leon McAuliffe:

Here's a YouTube audio and still photo mix of Herman Johnson playing "I Don't Love Nobody."

And here's Kenny Baker with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys from 1971:

MORE: The National Fiddler Hall of Fame offers a "Lick of the Week," a weekly video demonstration of a fiddle lick you can add to your bag of tricks. Elsewhere on the site, you can find sheet music and audio for a few dozen traditional tunes.

Number 3 in our review of international western swing bands, building an invite list for that dreamed-of Tulsa International Festival of Western Swing. From Malmö, Sweden, it's the Swinging Hayriders with the "Texas Playboy Rag":

From the "Band" page on their official website:

Swinging Hayriders is a band from Malmö in southern Sweden, specialized in Western Swing. They cherish the old records from the 30´s and 40´s of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, Spade Cooley, Milton Brown, Tex Williams, Patsy Montana and others. The attentive listener may also hear influences like Benny Goodman, Django Reinhard, Nisse Lind and Bill Haley. This great music will never grow old!

Swinging Hayriders are ready to fullfill their sacred mission, to spread the blessings of Western Swing!


Here they are in a club setting, with vocalist Maria Stille this time, performing "You Can't Break My Heart":

You'll notice the crowd is mostly young people. They obviously love the music and are trying to dance to it, but they don't know how. I foresee a sacred mission to Sweden to spread the blessings of the Texas Two-Step.

The five-piece combo consists of steel guitar, standard guitar, piano (or accordion), bass, and drums.

You'll find several of their tunes, including "That's What I Like About the South" and "It's All Your Fault" on the Swinging Hayriders MySpace page. The most recent info about the band, and lots of photos (like the one above, from a recording session in Berlin) can be found at the Swinging Hayriders Facebook page.

MORE: Here's a scholarly article (PDF format) from the Journal of Texas Music History: "Texas Music In Europe" by Gary A. Hartman of Texas State University - San Marcos. The author visited France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Lithuania, talking to musicians who play western swing, bluegrass, honky tonk, zydeco, rockabilly, and other forms of American music found in Texas:

After discussing the mythology and folklore of Texas with the Bayer family, we all decided to attend a music festival in downtown Friedburg. Much to my surprise, there among the medieval walls of the "Altstadt," or "Old Town," we heard a local band of young Germans singing the Texas dance hall favorite, "Corrine, Corrina," in a strong Bavarian dialect. Although it is unclear exactly where this song originated, it was popularized among white country audiences by Bob Wills in the 1940s and now is a standard tune for western swing, country, and even many cajun bands throughout Texas. In any case, it was an extraordinary experience to witness how this song had found its way into the repertoire of a youthful folk-rock group singing in a Bavarian dialect that is rarely heard outside of southern Germany.

Second in our series documenting the international reach of western swing music and compiling an invite list for Tulsa's (purely hypothetical at this point) International Festival of Western Swing.

From the Bananapeel Jazzclub in Ruiselede, Belgium, here's Little Kim and the Alley Apple 3, performing the Johnnie Lee Wills song, "The Thingamajig," written by Cindy Walker. I enjoyed hearing her introduce the song in Flemish before singing it in unaccented English.

I don't believe her rig needs fixing at all.


From the band's website:

The story of "Little Kim & the Alley Apple 3" begins with an ad in the music section of "Den Artiest". By the end of 2005 Kimberly (vocals) was looking for a new musical project ... in the tradition of the great female performers of the hot jazz era, like: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Blossom Dearie, Kay Starr, The Boswell Sisters, Bessie Smith, Mildred Bailey, ...

By the time Tom (Guitar) answered her ad ... he had already gathered around two fine musicians: the boy wonder of the lap steel guitar Pat Cattoir & the man with a plan Slappin' Slim (Bull Fiddle). Their intention was to go on the road with self written material ... in a traditional honky tonk style ... the kind Hank Williams would have liked .

When Kimberly and the gang finally met on a cold and windy winter evening, you could tell ... there was an immediate spark of inspiration between the four ... a spark that hasn't dimmed since ...


Photo from the band's Facebook page: "CC Cité Culture Brussel (photo: Freddy/ Rootsville)"

From an interview at Rockabilly Online:

Starting out as a singer, I was heavily influenced by Patsy Cline, Wanda Jackson, Peggy Lee, and too many to mention ...

Although "the Alley Apple 3" had a kind of honky tonk style in mind ... for everyone, it was very clear from the start that we needed to go ahead in this western swing genre. Mainly because my voice fits swing more than it fits honky tonk....

Sometimes we show up at a venue and people start coming in, dressed in cowboy boots and Indian costumes. No kidding They must think we play some cowboy- shooting-Indian-kind-of-music. But of course that's not really us. We just like to mix different genres ... and in the end, that's how western swing got started anyway. Mixing all kinds of music: polka, swing, jazz, honky tonk, ... It keeps it interesting for us.

Their gear, according to the description of a video of the band performing "Whoa Babe" and an original tune, "Before the Storm":

Little Kim & the Alley Apple 3 use:

a 1949 Fender Custom Double 8 lapsteel guitar
a 1848 French Double Bass 'Charotte Millot-Mirrecourt'
a 1947 Gibson L7 archtop
2 Gibson BR 6 amps (both 1951)
a fifties Floating Dearmond Pickup (Mod 1000 Rhythm Chief)
a fifties Floating Dearmond Pickup (Mod FCH-C)
a vintage Ampeg Portaflex bass amp
a Gibson 1955 L49 archtop
a Fender silverface Vibrolux amp


Little Kim and the Alley Apple 3 on YouTube
Little Kim and the Alley Apple 3 on Facebook

Things are busy with a couple of projects, but I feel compelled to update this blog from time to time, so I thought I'd begin to document, one music video at a time, the international reach of western swing. Consider this series the beginnings of an invite list for Tulsa's International Festival of Western Swing.


Here's a trio from Prague, Czech Republic, called Jiří Králík & Rowdy Rascals. (Jiří is the Czech version of the name George.) Králík is an alumnus of Mark O'Connor's fiddle school in Nashville, and he's finishing his studies at a jazz conservatory in Prague. Here they are, performing "Roly Poly," at the 2008 Country Rendez-vous Festival in Craponne-sur-Arzon, France.

And here they are with a high-speed version of Ida Red, with guitarist Jiří Bok taking the lead vocals:

Turnabout is fair play. You've had a Czech band playing American songs, so here's an American band playing a Czech song: Cracker, performing "The Shiner Song."

Tulsa_Playboys-20120112.jpgLocal western swing band, the Tulsa Playboys, play their monthly dance tonight (Thursday, January 12, 2012) at Cain's Ballroom tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12.50 and can be purchased at the door or by phone at (866) 977-6849. Student tickets ($5) are available only at the door.

According to Shelby Eicher, posting on the discussion board, they'll have triple fiddles tonight with Jake Duncan added to their usual lineup: Shelby Eicher and Rick Morton, fiddles; Steve Ham, trombone; Mike Bennett, trumpet; Steve Bagsby, steel; Spencer Sutton, piano; Rodney Lay, bass; Ryan Shephard, drummer and Danny McBride, guitar.

Distinctly Oklahoma magazine has a great story in their January 2012 issue about the Tulsa Playboys and the Tulsa western swing tradition they've inherited from Bob Wills and Cain's Ballroom.

The article is headed by a great quote from Bob Wills that gets to the heart of western swing: "I need no applause. The only clapping I want to hear comes from the sound of dancing feet...."

(No mention, though, of two former Texas Playboys who kept western swing going in Tulsa long after World War II, when Bob left for California: Johnnie Lee Wills, who carried on for another 14 years or so at Cain's and on KVOO, and Leon McAuliffe, whose Cimarron Boys played at the Playmor and Cimarron Ballrooms and on KRMG.)

MORE: has a story this week about the western swing scene in Fort Worth and the rest of Texas, mentioning Hot Club of Cowtown, Asleep at the Wheel (both based in Austin), Shoot Low Sheriff (from Dallas), Great Recession Orchestra (from Fort Worth), the Quebe Sisters Band, and the long-running Light Crust Doughboys, founded by Bob Wills and Milton Brown in 1931 for a radio show advertising a flour mill, before they launched their own bands. That article has several embedded videos of the aforementioned bands.

The story also links to the website of Western Swing Monthly, which has a calendar of all the big western swing festivals around the country.

Tommy_Duncan-20120114.jpgComing up this Saturday, January 14, 2012, in Hillsboro, Texas, (where I-35 W meets I-35 E south of DFW) is the 2nd Annual Tommy Duncan Celebration, remembering the talented Texas Playboys vocalist on his 101st birthday. Jody Nix and the Texas Cowboys will perform from 1:30 to 4:30, a catered dinner from 4:30 to 6:30, and then Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition performs from 7 to 10, with Floyd Domino and Dave Alexander. Billy's voice has an uncanny resemblance to Tommy's, and he is in the midst of issuing a trilogy of albums tracing Tommy Duncan's career. Call Pam Hulme-Townley in advance for tickets and guaranteed seating -- 817-456-4601. You'll find all the details about the Tommy Duncan Celebration at this link. The story in the Hillsboro Reporter notes that they're still working on a documentary about Duncan:

A documentary on Tommy Duncan, entitled "In The Shadow of the King," by director Curtis Callaway and his crew from Baylor University continues in its production. It will include interviews with many of the former Texas Playboys, other prominent members of the Western Swing community, plus the official Cowboy Poet of Texas, Red Stegall.

The documentary also will feature interviews with Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson.
The documentary is in need of funding. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, visit

The Reporter story also mentions that Scottish playwright Duncan MacLean will be at the Tommy Duncan Celebration. MacLean is also a guitarist in the Orkney Islands-based Lone Star Swing Band, and the band is in the US to perform MacLean's play Long Gone Lonesome about the life of Shetland Islands musician and fisherman Thomas Fraser.

When you consider the worldwide reach that western swing music has, with fans and bands from Tulsa to the Orkneys to Japan to Australia, don't you think there ought to be an international western swing festival to bring those bands and fans together, and don't you think it ought to be right here in Tulsa?


Here are the Tulsa Playboys with "Miss Molly," from last July:

Here are the Quebe Sisters, putting the swing in western swing playing triple fiddles on "Take the 'A' Train":

But you really have to hear them sing -- here they are on "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie," from their 2010 UK tour:

Here's my eldest son's performance from Saturday's Oklahoma State Fiddling Championship at the Tulsa State Fair. He finished fourth in the junior category (ages 13-16), performing "Liberty," "Ashokan Farewell," and "Faded Love."

He decided to enter about a week before the contest. He hadn't been sure whether he'd have to time to perfect fiddle tunes in the midst of regular schoolwork and the amount of time he spends practicing classical violin. (The generous prize money helped to persuade him -- he won $50, and every contestant in his category went away with at least $20.) I'm very proud of him. It's amazing to see how his showmanship and musicianship has grown since starting to learn violin over five years ago and entering his first fiddle contest four years ago.

The Oklahoma fiddling championship keeps growing and improving. This year, the contest was inside, on the lower level of the IPE Building (aka QuikTrip Center) on the Muscogee Creek stage (where in years past the Chinese acrobats used to perform).

MORE: Scott Pendleton, dad and rhythm guitarist for the Pendleton Family Fiddlers, has written a comprehensive cover story in the October 2011 issue of Tulsa People about Tulsa's fiddle scene, including local acts, venues, and jam sessions. That's Scott on the left in the video playing rhythm guitar, as he did throughout the contest.

I'm working on analyzing the C-1 forms submitted by candidates for Tulsa City Council. In the process of locating real residential addresses for donors who insist on listing their business addresses, I needed to look at Osage County land records, and while I was there, on a whim I searched for "WILLS JAMES" as in James Robert aka Jim Rob aka Bob Wills. Wills owned a ranch described as "north of Tulsa" where he and his extended family lived. I'd always wondered exactly where it was.


His dream was to retire there with his whole band, but World War II intervened, the band went their separate ways, and he went to California, returning to Tulsa for a few years in the late '50s before heading to Texas for the rest of his career. His final resting place is in Memorial Park Cemetery here in Tulsa.

Lo and behold, I found this: A journal entry dated 2010/08/17, the result of a quiet title lawsuit in Osage County, CV-2001-403. The Grantor list has 32 names and appears to include Bob Wills, his parents, all of his brothers and sisters, one of his ex-wives (the former Mary Lou Parker of Pawhuska), and a number of nieces and nephews.


Grantee is Presley Ford, Jr. An obituary reports that he died on January 15, 2002, at the age of 86.

On the court docket, the list of summonses appears to include all of Bob's living relatives as of 2001 and is followed by a long list of "entry of appearance and disclaimer of interest" notations in 2002. Then eight years intervene until the plaintiff moves to substitute the Osage Nation as plaintiff, and in two months, the title is quieted.

Here are the specifics from the county clerk record.

Legal description:

S15 T20N R12E NE NE
S14 T20N R12E NW NW L1
S14 T20N R12E SW NW L2
S14 T20N R12E NW SW L3 Partial
S15 T20N R12E SE Partial

Instrument number: I-2010-005504
Book 001428
Pages 0181 to 0187

Mapping the location seems simple, but it appears that the township/range/section system for Osage County is skewed with respect to the rest of the state. The property appears to be north of the Osage Million Dollar Elm Tulsa casino and northeast of the old Downtown Airpark, but you'd need to see the full legal description in the lawsuit and an official plat map to know for sure. I don't have time to translate legalese, but there may be some relationship to the casino parcel, which was finally taken into trust in July 2011. (It had been thought that any land within the former Osage Reservation could be used for a tribal casino, but federal courts ruled that it's not a federally recognized reservation, so the land would have to be placed into trust.)

There's more research to be done. I imagine that the parcel settled by the quiet title suit may have only been a portion of Bob Wills's ranch. I'm curious to know what legal mishap left title to the land in question. I may need to mosey up to Pawhuska some day soon.

Thumbnail image for Johnnie-Lee-Wills-Rompin'-FrontUG.jpgThe Tulsa Playboys western swing band will be back at Cain's Ballroom, Saturday night, September 10, 2011, for a special performance to kick off the centennial of Johnnie Lee Wills, with featured guests John T. Wills (Johnnie Lee's son), guitarist Roy Ferguson and vocalist Candy Noe, and Billy Parker, legendary KVOO DJ (and a country performer in his own right).

Details from the Cain's Ballroom website:

"Swing On This" Live Broadcast
Saturday September 10th

DETAILS :: Celebrating Johnnie Lee Wills 99th Birthday! Brought to you by KWGS at The University of Tulsa! There will be a reception for reserved ticket holders from 5pm - 6:15pm. The reserved seats will be 4 to a table. For more info email p-casey-morgan @ - All Ages! By phone - 866.977.6849!

TICKETS :: Reserved :: $47 // GA :: $30

DOORS :: 6:30pm

SHOW :: 7:00pm

The performance will be broadcast live for John Wooley's weekly KWGS program "Swing on This," heard every Saturday night from 7 pm to 8 pm on 89.5 FM.

When Bob Wills left for California in the early '40s, his next younger brother Johnnie Lee took over the daily radio show on KVOO and the Thursday and Saturday dances at Cain's Ballroom, which continued until the late '50s. Later generations of Tulsans may remember the annual Johnnie Lee Wills Stampede at the Fairgrounds or his western wear store on Memorial east of 21st.

The Tulsa Playboys are a group of top local swing musicians who play a monthly dance at Cain's. Here's the lineup listed on the Tulsa Playboys Facebook page:

Shelby Eicher - fiddle and electric mandolin, Rick Morton - fiddle, Steve Bagsby - steel guitar, Spencer Sutton - piano, Mike Bennett - trumpet, Steve Ham - trombone, Rodney Lay - bass, Ryan Shepard - drums and Danny McBride - standard guitar.

Bagsby, Bennett, Ham, and Sutton all played with Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, led by Leon Rausch and Tommy Allsup, at this year's Bob Wills birthday celebration.

Here they are from their July dance, with guest fiddler Byron Berline, performing "Miss Molly":

I've marked my calendar and plan to be there; hope you can be there, too. It would be wonderful if western swing dancing once again became popular enough around Tulsa to support weekly dances at multiple venues, like they have down around San Antonio.


Read John T. Wills's tribute to Johnnie Lee Wills at the 1996 dedication of Johnnie Lee Wills Street, the main approach to the Pavilion from the west.

Johnnie Lee Wills entry from the Oklahoma Encyclopedia of History and Culture.

High Falutin' Newton of Western Swing on 78 has Johnnie Lee Wills radio transcriptions from 1950-1 available for download.

Johnnie-Lee-Wills-Rompin'-FrontUG.jpgThis Thursday night, July 21, 2011, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame will host a Tulsa western swing reunion to pay tribute to fiddler and vocalist Julian "Curly" Lewis, who performed for many years with Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys, Leon McAuliffe's Cimarron Boys, and Hank Thompson's Brazos Valley Boys. Up until recently, Lewis regularly played fiddle with the Texas Playboys for the annual Bob Wills Birthday bash at Cain's Ballroom.

(That's Curly on the right on the cover of Rompin' Stompin' Singin' Swingin', a Bear Family LP collecting Johnnie Lee Wills' 1952 and 1953 recordings for RCA.)

Western swing historian John Wooley interviewed Lewis recently for the July 2011 issue of Oklahoma Magazine about his long career, beginning with his victory in a Bob Wills fiddle contest at the Coliseum (which was on the east side of Elgin between 5th and 6th) in 1936, when Lewis was 11 years old.

Not only a fine fiddler, Lewis's smooth voice was featured on many of Johnnie Lee Wills' singles in the 1950s. Here's one of my favorites, the 1952 novelty tune "The Thingamajig."

And here's one more Curly Lewis vocal, Blackberry Boogie:

Tickets are $15, available online at

MORE: The Schmitt Transcriptions were 15-minute radio programs recorded by Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys (including Curly Lewis) in 1950 and 1951. You can download many of the programs from the Western Swing on 78 blog:

Johnnie Lee Wills radio programs part 1
Johnnie Lee Wills radio programs part 2
Johnnie Lee Wills radio programs part 3
Johnnie Lee Wills radio programs part 4
Johnnie Lee Wills radio programs part 5

Two trios, once classical, one Celtic, will be performing this Thursday and Friday evening, respectively, June 23 and 24, 2011, at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center in the Charles E. Norman Theater, as part of the SummerStage Festival.

Trio Spiritoso -- Carol Hilborn on flute, Amy Pickard on oboe, and Gordon Robson on cello -- will perform Thursday (tonight), June 23, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $10.

Trio Spiritoso returns to the SummerStage Festival to perform a variety of delightful chamber music works for trios by Beethoven, Handel, Vivaldi and contemporary composer Tomas Svoboda.

Comprising flute, oboe and cello, Trio Spiritoso provides a unique blend of instrumental timbres that enables listeners of all experience levels to enjoy the intertwining of sounds and musical ideas. Audiences can appreciate both the simplicity of a melody over harmony and bass line, as well as follow the more complex lines of contrapuntal writing.

This performance promises beautiful music in an intimate setting that will stimulate your senses, challenge your intellect and refresh your soul.

Vintage Wildflowers, back from their appearance at the Kennedy Center, will perform tomorrow (Friday) night, June 23, 2011, at 7:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $10, reserved table seating is available for $12.

Since January 2009, Tulsa-based Vintage Wildflowers has developed an enthusiastic legion of fans with their vibrant blend of three-part harmonies, backed by Celtic harp, Irish flute and fiddle. Mix in bits of mandolin, whistle, guitar, banjo, and bodhran and you have an idea of what it's like to spend an evening with these women.

Acclaimed for their instrumental prowess, onstage charm and soulful vocals, 2011 marks the trio's national debut in a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC as well as the release of their second album "Lovely Madness".

(MORE: Here's a preview story about Vintage Wildflowers in the Washington Examiner.)

There's much more to come for this year's SummerStage Festival: Rockin' Acoustic Circus on July 29, Becky Hobbs' musical "Nanyehi: Beloved Woman of the Cherokee" on July 10, and Encore! Theatre Arts presentation of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" July 15-17.

If you buy tickets at the PAC box office for three or more performances, you can get a SummerStage Festival Pass, with a discount on those events and any others in the series.

And if you'd like to hear more from four of the six musicians who comprise Trio Spiritoso and Vintage Wildflowers, you'll find them most Sunday mornings at 10:45 playing or singing as part of the worship team at Christ Presbyterian Church, 2706 E. 51st St, Tulsa (between Lewis and Harvard). Admission is free; tithes and offerings gratefully accepted.

I mentioned getting to hear Tulsa-based Celtic music trio Vintage Wildflowers -- Melissa Schiavone (lead vocals, flute, penny whistle, banjo), Dana Maher (harp and vocals), and Abby Bozarth (five-string fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and vocals) -- on June 12, 2011, at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage. The archived hour-long video has been posted on the Kennedy Center website for your viewing pleasure and convenience.

The program included traditional Irish songs of love, heartbreak, and murder, punctuated by dry wit. There were non-traditional songs, too; for example, The Police's "Wrapped around Your Finger" and Woody Guthrie's "Pastures of Plenty." It was a fun program to see live, and it's lovely to be able to see and hear it all again.

The obvious next stop for these three is "A Prairie Home Companion."

Greetings from the self-proclaimed "Cutest Café in Georgetown" (Snap, 1062 Thomas Jefferson St, open 11 to 11 most nights, til 10 on Sundays, crepes, bubble tea, free wifi), where I'm grabbing a quick bite of dinner to complete a wonderful weekend in the Washington area.

Planning to meet up with friends when visiting a city is always a tricky business. Just because I'm free doesn't mean they will be. And planning several different meetings is even trickier -- you can't firm up plans with Friend B until things are set with Friend A

This weekend everything fell into place --

  • a spur-of-the-moment visit with a former colleague and his family in Annapolis, en route from Delaware to DC;
  • breakfast, lunch, and a full Saturday morning of talking urban planning and touring new developments and redevelopments (The Kentlands, Bethesda Row, downtown Silver Spring) with a college classmate who works for Montgomery County's planning agency;
  • a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian and a serendipitous opportunity to hear Bartlesville native singer/songwriter Becky Hobbs;
  • breakfast and traditional Anglican worship with a blogpal at the historic Falls Church;
  • lunch with a fraternity brother and his kids at a conveyor-belt sushi place in Tyson's Corner (warning: website is flash app with automatic music), followed by dessert at a fancy coffee and sweets shop;
  • a free concert at the Kennedy Center by Tulsa Celtic trio Vintage Wildflowers (archived broadcast should be available here in a couple of days);
  • and, in between all that, strolls around downtown Annapolis, Capitol Hill, Eastern Market, the National Mall, Foggy Bottom, the Watergate, the Potomac, Falls Church, the C&O Canal, and Georgetown.


Add to that the time I spent last weekend at my MIT class of '86 reunion / ZBT Xi centennial, and dinner several times this week with my uncle and aunt, and it's been a time of renewing and deepening ties with friends and extended family.

The weekend also marks the end of an intense nine months of travel related to a project at work. Since last August 23rd, I've been away from my family 190 days, with no more than three weeks' break between trips, and all but 11 of those days have been devoted to the day job.

My trips were focused on three cities: San Antonio, Texas (101 days), Fairfield, California (44 days), and Dover, Delaware (34 days). Earlier in the year, I spent 78 days in Wichita on a different project, spread out over five months. These few cities join a handful of other places where I have been for a month or more over a short span of time:

Lawrence, Ks.
Bartlesville, Okla.
Brookline, Mass.
Ocean City, New Jersey
Quezon City, Philippines
Altus, Okla.
London, England


I thought I might get more accomplished during my travels, but it didn't work out that way. I read a few books, did a bit of blogging, but it was hard to resist the urge to explore the area and spend time with old friends. The extended time away was a hardship for the whole family, but it was interesting to spend enough time in these cities to begin to get to know them well.


I've never traveled so much in such a short span -- 30 days away over the course of a year is closer to typical -- and I don't expect to repeat the situation.

Don't expect my blogging pace to pick up anytime soon. Now it's time to renew my ties with my immediate family. Eventually it'll be time to renew my acquaintance with the city that has been my hometown for 42 years.

On March 10, 1981, Tom Diamant recorded an hour-long interview with three veteran members of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Eldon Shamblin (guitarist, arranger, and sometime band manager), Tiny Moore (mandolin, fiddle, and occasional vocals), and Tiny's wife Dean McKinney Moore, one half of the McKinney Sisters.

Diamant, whose Kaleidoscope Records brought the Texas Playboys' Tiffany Transcriptions recordings from 1946-1947 to the public in the 1980s, has posted the interview on his website.

Eldon and Tiny were in Reno, Nevada, to perform with Merle Haggard and His Strangers. The two had toured as part of Haggard's band from 1973 to 1976 and rejoined in 1981.

For a western swing fan, it's a joy to listen to. There's a lot of good-natured ribbing and laughter. There's also a lot of detail on their careers and lives before and after their time with Bob Wills.

Some interview highlights:

  • The group enthuses over the brand new Sony Walkman.
  • Tiny Moore remembers his years with the Jubileers (aka Jimmy Hart and the Merrymakers) in Port Arthur, Texas, and with a Cajun band in Louisiana called Happy Fats and the Rainbow Ramblers, Leo Raley and "It Makes No Difference Now," the electric mandolin player who inspired Tiny to take up the instrument; and Houston-area western swing musicians like pioneering swing steel guitarist Bob Dunn.
  • Eldon recalls his early years: as an acoustic guitarist at a Tulsa CBS radio station "swinging the classics," getting hired by Bob Wills in November 1937, how he started playing electric guitar.
  • Eldon's influences: Didn't listen to country music, grew up listening to big band swing music; when he first heard Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian.
  • Eldon's time with the Alabama Boys in '35, '36, and the many other Texas Playboys who came from that band.
  • Commonwealth bands and when and why Bob Wills' band stopped being one.
  • The McKinney Sisters' start in amateur shows and how they were hired by Bob Wills
  • Tiny Moore's providential encounter with Bob Wills at a Beaumont pig stand in August 1946
  • Eldon's reunion with Bob in November '46 and his first job back with the band: A battle dance with Spade Cooley at Santa Monica Pier
  • Why Bob had them play the same song twice back-to-back at dances
  • What Bob told Eldon about why Bob hollered
  • Recording sessions from the late '40s, and the only time Tiny played a Stradivarius
  • Tiny Moore's vocals on "Ida Red Likes the Boogie" and "Jolie Blon' Likes the Boogie"
  • Tiny's Bigsby five-string mandolin
  • Tiny's years at Wills Point and with the Billy Jack Wills band
  • Bob Wills' movie career and why it didn't work out
  • Merle Haggard's Bob Wills tribute album
  • The McKinneys' music after Bob Wills
  • Tiny Moore's book of Texas fiddle tunes
  • Tiny Moore and Jethro Burns' 1978 "Back to Back" album with Eldon on rhythm guitar
  • Eldon Shambin Day in Oklahoma and his weekly gigs at the Caravan Ballroom
  • The enduring appreciation for Bob Wills' music
  • Remembering guitarist Junior Barnard
  • Why Eldon and Tiny keep playing
  • Tiny talks about his then-new album "Tiny Moore Music"

Great listening. Many thanks to Tom Diamant for posting it.

San Antonio Roses

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It was the song that took Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys "from hamburgers to steaks." In 1938, they took a fiddle tune called "Spanish Two Step" and ran the melody backwards; the result was a popular instrumental. ("Jazz violinist Joe Venuti, for example, told Wills and members of the band that he had many requests for it and and that Wills needed to do more with it." -- Charles Townsend, San Antonio Rose, p. 190.)

A year and a half later, Irving Berlin's publishing company expressed interest in the song, but wanted lyrics for the tune. The band quickly put together some lyrics and the resulting "New San Antonio Rose" was recorded in 1940, with the 18-piece Texas Playboys big band -- and not a single fiddle on the recording. The song was a gold record for Bob Wills. Bing Crosby's cover sold even more records.

Someone somewhere wrote that the enduring popularity of the song owes something to San Antonio's role in World War II. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of servicemen passed through the city for initial training before being shipped to the battlefields of Europe and the islands of the Pacific Theater. For many a soldier or airman, the song was no doubt a reminder of his own Rose of San Antone.

Shortly after World War II, the Texas Playboys recorded a special version of San Antonio Rose dedicated to Abner (of the hit radio show Lum & Abner). During the song intro, vocalist Tommy Duncan said that when they worked together on a special Armed Forces Radio program, "[Abner] told me that he wore out 21 records of 'San Antonio Rose'."

Paula Allen, local history columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, devoted a recent column to three World War II airplanes -- a P-51 Mustang and two B-17 Flying Fortresses -- named for the hit song:

Through at least the first half of 1941, Wills' original and Bing Crosby's version were almost inescapable. Fights broke out in honky-tonks between "Rose" lovers and others who couldn't stand to hear it one more time on the jukebox. A man in Big Spring who lived near a fire station called the police on the firefighters for playing the record over and over and over again.

The three aircraft had distinguished war records. For example:

The other "San Antonio Rose" Fortress was piloted by Capt. Larry L. Kerr of this city, and it served him well. Shortly after the bomber "dropped a cargo of high explosives over Nazi installations at Solingen (an industrial city in Germany), a burst of flak hit the plane's No. 2 engine and knocked it out," says the Express, Jan. 27, 1944. "The control mechanism was partially disabled (and the propeller) windmilled violently, causing a leak in the oxygen lines." Fighters escorted the Fortress, still under fire, as its crew jettisoned all loose equipment to maintain altitude. With Kerr at the controls, the plane made it back to home base in England, where more than 300 flak holes were discovered. The pilot, who had flown 25 bombing missions over Europe, received the Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters.

A follow-up column by Allen turned up more San Antonio Roses, including a P-39N-5 Airacobra fighter, piloted by retired USAF Col. Charles W. Borders.

"It was found abandoned years later in a New Guinea jungle junkyard," he says, "and has been repainted and refurbished from pictures I sent in 1962 and now proudly adorns a pedestal at the front gate of the J.K. McCarthy Museum in Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea."

Tulsa's Signature Symphony, led by conductor Barry Epperley, will perform a program of music by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys this coming Saturday night, April 2, 2011, at Cain's Ballroom. The event is a fundraiser for Signature Symphony and the orchestra's outreach to schools, and tickets are $45 for bleacher seats, and $75 for cocktail table seating and admission to a pre-event reception. (Will there be dancing? I hope so.)

The Signature Symphony will be joined by some exciting guest musicians: fiddler Jason Roberts of Asleep at the Wheel, who bears a striking resemblance to Bob Wills as a young man and who played him in the biographical musical A Ride with Bob; vocalist Leon Rausch, who started with the Texas Playboys in the late '50s and leads the band today; pianist and cultural historian David Stricklin, son of Al Stricklin, who was one of the original Texas Playboys in their heyday at Cain's; and drummer Casey Dickens, who was a Texas Playboy in the early '60s.

I hope the event is a success, and that it helps to introduce orchestra fans to western swing and vice versa. Bob Wills, musical syncretizer that he was, would appreciate bringing the two together. (I don't know what's on the program, but it would be cool if the Signature Symphony played Franz Liszt's "Liebestraum" Texas Playboys style. The Texas Playboys recorded it in 1941.) It's also great that those accustomed to hearing the symphony at TCC's PACE at 81st and 169 will get to experience Cain's Ballroom and the Bob Wills District downtown.

I have to say, however, that some of the publicity surrounding the event puzzles me.

To commemorate the 100th birthday of the King of Western Swing, Bob Wills, The Signature Symphony at TCC is honored to present a very special Bob Wills Take Me Back to Tulsa concert Saturday, April 2, 2011 at the historic Cain's Ballroom....

We are excited to bring Bob Will's music back to the Cain's and to offer Tulsans a truly unique downtown entertainment experience in tribute of this Western Swing Icon.

Bob Wills' 100th birthday was six years ago. (This year is, however, the centenary of longtime Texas Playboys vocalist Tommy Duncan.) And Bob Wills' music comes back to the Cain's at least once a year at his birthday celebration the first weekend in March, which always features the Texas Playboys led by Leon Rausch and Tommy Allsup. Asleep at the Wheel has played Cain's numerous times, and Hot Club of Cowtown performed there several times in recent years. Tulsa's own Round-Up Boys are there several times a year, in addition to the regular dances they play around town. It's certainly a novel combination -- western swing played by "note-reading" symphony musicians -- but live Bob Wills music in Tulsa is not that rare a thing (although it is rarer here than in, say, the Texas Hill Country).

A little stream-of-consciousness before bedtime:

I always feel like I've won the rent-a-car lottery if the vehicle has Sirius/XM satellite radio. I love the "decade" stations ('40s on 4, '50s on 5, etc.), the Laugh channel (clean comedy), and the classic country on Willie's Place.

By the way, there's a real Willie's Place, a truck stop on I-35E in the municipality of Carl's Corner, Texas, just a bit north of Hillsboro. It's a truck stop, a cafe, a honky-tonk, and a studio for the XM station of the same name. I stopped there one night on one of my "commutes" to San Antonio. I had a great chicken fried steak. The waitress was exactly what you'd hope for in a truck stop waitress -- called me "hon" and kept the coffee cup filled (and sent me off with a big to-go cup). They've got free wifi, and the big booths on the wall have outlets conveniently located above the table. It was an unusually foggy night, and I appreciated being able to check the weather ahead, and send a few emails while I took a break from the road.

Back to Willie's Place the satellite radio station: I was listening to the Bill Mack show tonight, and he was interviewing Mel Tillis by phone with George Hamilton IV in studio. Mel announced that he's the new spokesman for Goo-Goo Clusters, the official candy of the Grand Ole Opry. (Note the initials.) Mel and George (no relation to the very tan actor) reminisced about old times in Nashville. George mentioned that shortly after he came to town, Webb Pierce called up to invite him and his wife to Woodmont Baptist Church, which they soon joined. Mel said he had been a member there, too. (George did a dead-on Webb Pierce imitation, too.) Funny to think that a member of a Baptist church had a hit song about compulsive drinking.

I remember when you could only get a Goo-Goo in and around Nashville. Remember when you could only get Krispy Kreme donuts in the South? I'd always make a point to pick some up when I was that part of the country, but now that they're everywhere it's not as special.

(I told you this was stream of consciousness.)

Back to Bill Mack: I like his show, but he really needs to stop playing songs that get me all weepy and sentimental. Back to back he played Tammy Wynette singing "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and Roger Miller, Ray Price, and Willie Nelson singing "Old Friends."

I don't think I'd ever heard "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" all the way through before. I only knew it through the K-TEL-type ads for a collection of country music hit singles -- you hear Tammy spell the word and see it on the list of songs crawling up the screen. It tells quite a story in just a few words. Here's bright, four-year-old J-O-E, just a bit younger than my youngest, blissfully unaware that his happy childhood is about to come crashing down:

Watch him smile, he thinks it Christmas
Or his 5th birthday
And he thinks C.U.S.T.O.D.Y spells fun or play
I spell out all the hurtin' words
And turn my head when I speak
'Cause I can't spell a way this hurt
That's drippin' down my cheek.

As a kid I mocked country music because of twangy voices like Tammy Wynette's, but the twang takes simple but powerful lyrics and gives them an extra emotional punch.

And then to follow that with "Old Friends" -- that was just too much, Bill:

Old friends, looking up to watch a bird Holding arms to climb a curb, old friends. Old friends. Lord, when all my work is done Bless my life and grant me one old friend At least one old friend.

As hard as it's been to spend so much time on the road, one of the blessings has been the opportunity to reconnect with old friends. A week ago I had lunch and spent a lovely afternoon with a fraternity brother and his family. I don't think I'd seen him since his wedding, 25 years ago. Last fall, I spent a terrific day seeing Austin with another fraternity classmate -- hadn't seen him and his crew since his youngest and my oldest were in diapers. On another short visit to Austin there I had lunch with my old Urban Tulsa colleague G. W. Schulz, now writing on homeland security for the Center for Investigative Reporting. I joined blogpal Anna Broadway and a group of folks from her church for lunch after worship -- hadn't seen her since the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

I was delighted to find out that an old, dear friend of mine from college days lives in the next town over from where I've been working in California. He and I were on a two-month long Campus Crusade summer project in Manila, way back in 1983. We'd met at the Atlanta Christmas Conference the previous winter, via a mutual friend from his college who had been with me on a summer project the previous summer in Ocean City, New Jersey.

We had very different personalities. He, much more outgoing and a class clown type, already had a nickname -- Beach, so he gave me one -- Fish, because my sense of humor and demeanor reminded him of Abe Vigoda's character on Barney Miller.

You really get to know someone through the stresses of navigating a new culture and experiencing so many memorable adventures side-by-side. We spent our days working with students at different campuses, then would often head to a nearby food stand at the corner, away from the crowded dorm room and a project staffer intense enough to be immortalized in cartoon form. We'd sit in front of the Burger Machine, drink Cokes and eat what he called "gray matter burgers" and hash over the day.

After that summer we wrote regularly for a while, kept in touch sporadically over the years, and we'd been able to meet up a few times when business brought me to his neck of the woods, but the last time was over a decade ago. On these recent trips, we've been able to get together a dozen times or more. It's been wonderful to have had the time to go beyond just catching up and remembering old times and to get back into the rhythm of a friendship -- joking around, hashing over the events of the week, talking through the challenges and decisions we face.

Praise God for the blessing of old friends.

Andrew Brown of Houston has a blog called Wired for Sound, devoted primarily to the music of the Texas Gulf Coast in the '30s and '40s and the musicians who made it -- some, like bandleader Moon Mullican, rhythm guitarist Cameron Hill, and pioneer steel guitar player Bob Dunn, barely remembered; most long ago forgotten. On many of the entries, the music from an old 78 is accompanied by the story of the song, the session, and the players, along with a photo of the band if one can be found.

One of his first entries is a compilation of two extended interviews with a saxophonist named George Ogg who began his musical career as a 16 year old in the late 1930s, continuing in the business until the '50s. He seems to have played with most everyone in the constantly circulating Houston music circuit.

Ogg's memories cover more than music. There's marijuana, murder, arson, and much more about the time when the hottest music around could be heard at a dance hall at a motel next to the Houston Ship Channel. It is fascinating reading.

It was touching, too, to see comments from relatives of some of the musicians mentioned by Ogg. The commenters had heard bits and pieces from relatives about their granddad or uncle's years as a musician; now they had some concrete information, some context for their family lore.

This Sunday, March 6, 2011, 2:30 pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa, the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus will perform Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vespers. Tickets are $20 and are available online (and, presumably, at the door).

Also known as All-Night Vigil, the work is an a capella setting of 15 Russian Orthodox chants.

As I wrote back in 2004:

It is beautiful a cappella music for mixed chorus. Rachmaninoff's harmonies and embellishments are built around ancient Russian chants. The lyrics are from the Psalms and the Orthodox liturgy. Years ago, the Coventry Chorale performed several selections from the work, in Russian. As we worked on pronunciation, we had opportunity to read through the lyrics in English. The texts are filled with the glory of Christ, the Victor over Death.

Here is one of my favorite movements, No. 10, "Having Beheld the Resurrection of Christ," as performed by the USSR Ministry of Culture Chamber Choir. (I know, I know, but it's lovely, and they show the sheet music in the video in sync with the voices.)

10. Having Seen the Resurrection of the Lord

Having beheld the resurrection of Christ,
let us worship the holy Lord Jesus,
the only Sinless One.
We venerate Thy Cross, O Christ,
and we hymn and glorify Thy holy resurrection,
For Thou art our God, and we know no other than Thee;
we call on Thy name.
Come, all you faithful,
let us venerate Christ's holy resurrection.
For, behold, through the cross
joy has come into all the world.
Ever blessing the Lord,
let us praise His resurrection,
for by enduring the cross for us,
He has destroyed death by death.

Here's a soundie from the 1940s with Count Basie and his orchestra playing "Air Mail Special." There's a subplot with the song: A dance contest with the trophy going to the couple that can stay on their feet through this fast-paced tune. Stick with it to the end for a chuckle.

(In the western swing world, "Air Mail Special" was covered by Billy Jack Wills and his band and later by mandolinist Tiny Moore on his solo album, Tiny Moore Music.)

This Friday, March 4, 2011, the Pendleton Family Fiddlers will celebrate the release of their new album on iTunes with a Branson-style revue at the historic Spotlight Theatre, 1381 Riverside Drive.

2011-03-04 Pendleton show-500.jpg

The show stars the Pendleton girls, Emma Jane and Marina, both champion fiddlers and yodelers, backed by mom Virginia on fiddle and mandolin and dad Scott on rhythm guitar, with guest musicians Jack Boydstun, Judge Porter, and Kenny Dunagan.

The program also features western musician "Cowboy Jim" Garling, "banjo-wielding singer-comedian" John Hansen, "Ragtime Bill" Rowland on the piano, comedian Travis Gregg, and saw player Jeff Stauffer.

The show begins at 7:30. Audience members will receive an autographed CD of the Pendletons' newly released song, "Wild Rivers Flow." Tickets are $15; for reservations call 918-587-5030.

It ought to be a fun night for the whole family. The Pendletons put on a great show of western swing and traditional cowboy tunes. Here they are with the "12th Street Rag":

UPDATE: Magician Roger Cornelison had been slated to appear but will be unable due to a family emergency.

My wish was granted, at least partly.

In 1976, the second-ever episode of Austin City Limits featured Asleep at the Wheel and Bob Wills' Original Texas Playboys. Here's the first 30 minutes of the Texas Playboys' hour-long segment. The video and audio are out of sync in places, but that may just be my browser

Personnel, in order of being hired by Bob Wills: Sleepy Johnson, fiddle ; Jesse Ashlock, fiddle; Smokey Dacus, drums; Leon McAuliffe, steel guitar; Al Stricklin, piano; Keith Coleman, fiddle; Leon Rausch, vocals; Tommy Allsup, guitar; Bob Kiser, guitar. (Kiser is the guitarist whom you might mistake for Eldon Shamblin.)

San Antonio Rose
Steel Guitar Rag
Stay All Night, Stay a Little Longer
Please Don't Leave Me (Jesse Ashlock vocals)
Milk Cow Blues
Fiddle breakdown: Durang's Hornpipe, Little Betty Brown, Liberty

There's one more episode, from season 3 in 1978, when the Texas Playboys share the stage with Ernest Tubb and His Texas Troubadours.

James Shamblin, nephew of legendary guitarist Eldon Shamblin, has digitized and uploaded the final concert of Bob Wills' Original Texas Playboys, November 16, 1986, at the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. I've organized all 13 parts into a YouTube playlist, so you can watch the entire 90 minute program straight through by clicking the video player above.

The Original Texas Playboys were organized after Bob Wills's death in 1975. The band was made up of a core of Texas Playboys from the glory days in Tulsa -- Leon McAuliffe, Smokey Dacus, Al Stricklin, Joe Frank Ferguson -- and included Playboys from later eras -- Keith Coleman, Leon Rausch, Johnny Gimble, Gene Gasaway. A few years later, Eldon Shamblin would rejoin the group. The agreement was that when one of the originals died, the band would fulfill their remaining engagements and then disband. Pianist Al Stricklin passed on in October 1986, leading to this final concert.

The lineup (in order of joining the Texas Playboys, links are to news stories with biographical info):

Smokey Dacus - drums
Leon McAuliffe - steel guitar
Joe Frank Ferguson - bass
Eldon Shamblin - standard guitar
Clarence Cagle - piano
Leon Rausch - vocals
Gene Gasaway - fiddle
Bob Boatright - fiddle

The performance is funny in places, touching in many others. Bob's last and longest wife, Betty Wills, makes a few remarks. Eldon steps up to the microphone to sing "There'll Be Some Changes Made." June Whalen, one of the original six Playboys in Waco (before Bob came to Oklahoma and added Texas to the name), came on stage to sing.

Here's the set list. Leon Rausch is the vocalist unless otherwise noted.

Texas Playboy Theme
Big Ball's in Cowtown
Boot Heel Drag (instrumental)
Dusty Skies
Marie (Joe Frank Ferguson vocal)
San Antonio Rose
Fiddle breakdown: Little Betty Brown / Liberty
Milk Cow Blues
There'll Be Some Changes Made (Eldon Shamblin vocal)
Take Me Back to Tulsa
Right or Wrong
Blues When It Rains (June Whalen vocal)
Ida Red (Leon McAuliffe vocal; check out Clarence Cagle's solo)
Faded Love
Steel Guitar Rag
Lily Dale
Bubbles in My Beer
Blue Prelude (Joe Frank Ferguson vocal)
Home in San Antone
Maiden's Prayer
Cherokee Maiden
Keepin' Bob Wills Music Alive (written by Bobby Lee)
Texas Playboy Theme - Closing

Many thanks to James Shamblin for making this available. (Next on my wish list -- the 1984 Tulsa reunion concert or their Austin City Limits.appearance.)

The Tiffany Transcriptions, discs recorded in 1946 and 1947 for radio use, contain some of the best material ever recorded by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. Tom Diamant, whose Kaleidoscope Records made that material available to the general public on a series of LPs in the 1980s, has a website devoted to the Tiffany Transcriptions. The site has been recently reorganized, with improved navigation and new content, using WordPress blog software to provide the site's infrastructure.

The discography allows you to see the complete list of recordings or to browse pages for individual sessions, where you'll find the list of session personnel, the session's location, and related documents like the musician's union contract and the studio contract. A new page tells the story of the never-released Tiffany Transcriptions Vol. 10 and a planned CD of Bob Wills fiddle tunes from the transcriptions.

Another interesting new feature: scans of the 52 labels for the discs issued to radio stations. The labels provide the name, time, licensing organization (ASCAP or BMI), and vocalist (or main instrumentalist) for each song.

Just skimming the labels and the discography, I see a bunch of songs I'd love to hear that aren't yet available to the public -- Tiffany versions of "Don't Be Ashamed of Your Age," "Goodnight Little Sweetheart," "No Disappointment in Heaven," "Wang Wang Blues," and "Yearning," several waltzes, pop tunes like "Love Letters in the Sand" and "Don't Fence Me In."

Now that it's possible to release music without the expense of producing physical media, I wonder what hoops one would have to jump through to release, through, say, Amazon or iTunes, a series of albums with the Tiffany material that didn't make it into one of the Kaleidoscope releases. As a start, I imagine you'd need to obtain the masters or the best available copies of the songs and get the appropriate licenses to use the recordings and the compositions. I'd love to know more about the process; maybe even try to make it happen myself.

MORE: Johnny Cuviello, who provided the beat for most of the Tiffany Transcriptions sessions, is the subject of a 2008 article in the Journal of Texas Music History. The article explains how this Fresno-born son of Italian immigrants became known as the Texas Drummer Boy.

On pages 7 and 8 of the story, there's a photo of the Texas Playboys doing their Tuesday night KGO radio show from the stage of the Oakland Auditorium Theater. The band is uplit, a very neat effect. On stage: Tommy Duncan and the McKinney Sisters, Johnny Cuviello on drums flanked by Billy Jack Wills and Luke Wills, both playing bass fiddles, Louis Tierney, Bob Wills, and Joe Holley on fiddle, Alex Brashear with his muted trumpet, MC Cactus Jack (Cliff Johnson), Millard Kelso at the piano, and Junior Barnard on standard guitar next to his monogrammed amplifier. (Announcer Jack Webb is not on stage.)

I was able to arrange my travel schedule to spend an hour or so in Whitney, Texas, for the 100th birthday celebration of native son Tommy Duncan, who won fame as the vocalist for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.

The plan was to have a parade just before noon, followed by a classic car show in the afternoon, and a gala banquet and dance featuring Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition. But weather more appropriate to Wales than Whitney -- a cold, steady drizzle -- put a damper on the parade. Instead, the crowd gathered in Texas Mint and Mercantile, the headquarters of the celebration and home to the nascent Tommy Duncan Museum. There I had the opportunity to meet and visit with Tommy's brother Glynn Duncan, Glynn's wife Hazel, and several other members of the Duncan family; Pam Townley, who organized the event, the museum, and the fan club; Nashville musician Carolyn Martin, actor Guich Koock (who bought and restored Luckenbach, Texas, with Hondo Crouch in 1970); Billy Mata and Texas Tradition drummer Rocco Fortunato.


I also spoke with filmmaker and Baylor professor Curtis Callaway, who is working on a documentary on the life of Tommy Duncan. Curtis and some of his Baylor students were there snapping photos and taking video for the documentary, which is about a year from completion. Here's the trailer:

"In the Shadow of a King - The Tommy Duncan Story" from Curtis Callaway on Vimeo.

Glynn Duncan is a western swing artist in his own right, a bassist with Luke Wills and His Rhythm Busters and brother Tommy's Western All-Stars, and a vocalist for Bob Wills. Glynn supplied the vocals for the unreleased 1971 Texas Playboys reunion session at Merle Haggard's house. Here's a photo of the Western All-Stars from 1949, the band Tommy formed after Bob Wills fired him in 1948. The group featured the heart of the mid-1940s Texas Playboys -- Noel Boggs on steel, Jimmy Wyble and Cameron Hill on guitar, Joe Holley and Ocie Stockard on fiddle, Millard Kelso on piano, plus Dave Coleman on drums and Glynn Duncan on bass.


I had a few minutes to browse through scrapbooks that Glynn and Hazel Duncan had provided to the museum. There were a couple of photos from Tommy's childhood, the 1930s and 1940s with the Texas Playboys, publicity photos from the '50s and '60s. The photos and other materials are being digitally archived at Baylor University. I snapped a few rather grainy pictures of the pictures.

This is an interesting artifact: A poster for a 1964 performance featuring Tommy Duncan with the Texas Playboys with Leon Rausch; Bob Wills had sold the Playboys earlier in the year, continuing to perform and record thereafter as a solo artist.


Here's Bob Wills, Tommy Duncan, and horses, probably from the early '40s:


I wasn't able to stick around until that evening's dance, but I'm glad I had the chance to be part of the celebration.


A few more photos of the Tommy Duncan 100 celebration on Flickr.

1993 interview with Casey Dickens and Glynn Duncan.

Mandy and Erica's Western Swing Journey: A blog by a couple of the Baylor students working on the documentary

Rich Kienzle's Southwest Shuffle has a chapter devoted to Tommy Duncan.

Tommy Duncan Fan Club on Facebook

Whitney, Texas, has its own indie coffee house, just down the block from the Tommy Duncan Museum -- Neutral Grounds.


Here's Tommy Duncan's discography, post 1948. (It's got one mistake -- Tommy wasn't involved in Bob Wills's May 1963 Liberty session.)

Whitney's local paper, the Lakelander covered the Tommy Duncan 100 event in its news pages and has posted a bunch of photos of the Tommy Duncan 100 celebration. I wish I could have stayed around to hear Glynn sing.

MORE PHOTOS (update 2013/08/08):

This Picasa album, belonging to Nancy Carroll, contains scans of photos collected by Tommy Duncan's niece Jerri Duncan, including publicity photos going back to 1933 in Waco, pictures of Tommy's ranch in the late '60s, and a 20-page "song and picture folio" from 1952.

Another Nancy Carroll album features present-day photos of Tommy Duncan's Singing D ranch near Mariposa, California, now known as Butterfly Creek Winery.

Born 100 years ago in Whitney, Texas, on January 11, 1911, Tommy Duncan was the voice of the Texas Playboys from 1934 to 1949, reuniting with Bob Wills for three albums in the early '60s, and in between times heading up his own Western All-Stars, which featured several Texas Playboys alums from the '40s.

In honor of his centenary, here are links to a couple of previous BatesLine entries and other web articles, followed by some videos featuring Tommy Duncan:

1960 radio interview with Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan

Tommy Duncan's 100th birthday gala, January 15, 2011, Whitney, Texas

Tommy's song "Relax and Take It Easy" featured on

Biography of Tommy Duncan in the Handbook of Texas

"Home in San Antone," from Lawless Empire

San Antonio Rose, with Bob Wills in 1944:

Here's a clip from his post-Playboy career, "Saturday Night in San Antone," with brother Glynn Duncan on bass, Joe Holley on fiddle, Noel Boggs on steel guitar, and Jimmy Wyble on standard guitar, from the Durango Kid movie, South of Death Valley. That's sidekick extraordinaire Smiley Burnette swinging the rope.

From 1959, Tommy Duncan sings "Hello, Mr Worry."

KWTU 88.7, the University of Tulsa's classical music station, is giving listeners the gift of traditional sacred Christmas music. (Thanks to David Rollo for calling this to my attention.) Some highlights:

Thursday, 12/23/2010, 9 - 11 pm: St Olaf Christmas Special:

A service in song and word that has become one of the nation's most cherished holiday celebrations. Tickets to the event, which takes place at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, are always gone months in advance. The festival includes hymns, carols, choral works, and orchestral selections celebrating the Nativity and featuring more than 500 student musicians who are members of five choirs and the St. Olaf Orchestra.

Friday, 12/24/2010, 9 - 11 am: Kings College Lessons and Carol live from Cambridge, England:

Hosted by Michael Barone, a live music and spoken-word broadcast from the chapel of King's College in Cambridge, England. The 30-voice King's College Choir performs the legendary Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service of Biblical readings and music.

Friday,12/24/2010, 12 - 1 pm: A Chanticleer Christmas:

A Chanticleer Christmas is a one-hour celebration of the season as told through the glorious voices of Chanticleer, the 12-voice San Francisco-based men's choir. The program spans the globe and the centuries -- from England in the 1300s to new arrangements of classic contemporary carols.

Friday, 12/24/2010, 5-6 pm: Lessons and carols from the Washington National Cathedral:

Our annual special broadcast from the National Cathedral with the Cathedral choirs and Cathedral Choral Society, the Bishop of Washington, Dean and canons of the cathedral.

On Christmas Day, KWTU 88.7 will be broadcasting classical Christmas music all day long.

UPDATE: More info on the Tommy Duncan gala and the special guests on Billy Mata's schedule page -- scroll down to January 15 for all the details.

The life and music of legendary western swing vocalist Tommy Duncan will be celebrated in his hometown of Whitney, Texas, with an all-day festival on the centennial of his birth this coming January 15. Whitney is southwest of Fort Worth, about 10 miles west of the southern junction of I-35 W and I-35 E at Hillsboro. It's a bit over 300 miles from Tulsa.

Events will begin with a parade at 11:30 a.m. in downtown Whitney, to be followed by a classic car show.

At 4:30 p.m., the doors will open for the Cowboy Formal Dinner-Dance at The Forum, where Tommy Duncan used to play. The dance will feature Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition with "very special guests," according to the flyer.

There will be a raffle for a custom pair of commemorative boots, and you can "visit the Texas Mint to see the future location of the Tommy Duncan and Western Swing Museum, Tommy Duncan Mural, and Tribute Walk." You can also sponsor a brick in the Tribute Walk.

Seating at The Forum is limited. Some overnight accommodation is available.

For tickets, more information, or to sponsor the event, contact:

Pam Townley, Project Director
254-694-0888 or 817-456-4601

I spoke to Billy Mata during a break in the Texas Tradition's performance at the newly restored Sisterdale Dance Hall. He had sung "Misery" in the previous set; I was struck by how much he sounded like Tommy Duncan on that tune and told him so. (In particular, his smooth baritone reminds me of Duncan's voice at its mellow peak in the late '40s.)

Mata told me about his efforts to give Tommy Duncan his due; people know Bob Wills's music, but often they don't know anything about the man singing the song. Duncan was with Wills from their days together as Light Crust Doughboys in the early '30s until they parted ways in the late '40s, and neither Wills nor Duncan did as well without the other. Although they reunited in 1959, it was too late -- rock-and-roll was ascendant and western swing was in decline. Duncan died in 1967, too young and too soon to enjoy the western swing resurgence of the 1970s, led by the Original Texas Playboys and Asleep at the Wheel.

I mentioned that I'm from Tulsa; Billy and his band have played Cain's Ballroom as part of the annual Bob Wills Birthday celebration. I told him that was the second dance hall I'd visited during my sojourn in San Antonio (I'd heard Jody Nix at Anhalt Halle a few weeks earlier) and had found out about this dance from a Texas dance hall calendar on the web. There are an impressive number of dance halls, particularly in the Hill Country, that hold at least monthly events, and a large number of bands that travel the circuit, but I'm not aware of anything like that in Oklahoma.

Mata said there's a strong dance hall preservation movement in Texas. Texas takes a lot of pride in its history and traditions, and he mentioned San Antonio's successful preservation of historic buildings as an example. He'd like to see the dance hall movement spread north into Oklahoma. Those country dance halls used to exist in Oklahoma -- my grandpa danced to the Texas Playboys at Glenoak, Oklahoma, back in the 1930s -- but I don't know how many are still up and running or even standing.

At the dance, I picked up the first disc in a planned three-volume tribute by Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition: This is Tommy Duncan: Volume 1, covering his early years with Bob Wills. It's a great album, and, in addition to Billy singing 16 Tommy Duncan tunes, the album features playing and reminiscences from Tommy's former bandmates Johnny Gimble and Herb Remington. When Herb joined the Texas Playboys in 1946, he was assigned to room with Tommy on the road, and he has some funny stories to tell.

Here's Tommy Duncan singing "Home in San Antone," from the western film Lawless Empire.

MORE about Sisterdale Dance Hall, recently restored and reopened to the public by attorney Wayne Wright and his family:

Boerne Star, March 3, 2010:

"All of us owe a commitment to future generations to preserve our Texas culture and heritage. Our historical buildings are an integral part of that culture and heritage," he said. "Our family feels fortunate that we can play our small part in this instance to further the Texas Dance Hall Preservation movement. Our family are only caretakers for the Sisterdale Dance Hall. The real owners are the future generations who live the Sisterdale area."

The dance hall was built by the German settlers of Sisterdale in the late 1880s as an Opry House and Dance Hall. Vereins of that period were often used for community meeting places, post offices and places for socializing and most certainly music and dance. The Wrights want to revive that tradition for future generations.

Also, on the property is a stone, fort-like structure with gun ports thought to have been used to protect its occupants from Comanche Indian attacks. The original ranch house and some of its furnishing are in very good condition and had been in use by the previous owner. There are several other buildings on the site that will be researched and considered for use.

Houston Chronicle, May 8, 2010

"If we lose our dance halls, we've lost a major treasure -- like losing our missions," Wright said...

His commitment to preservation goes back to his upbringing on a North Dakota farm. Sisterdale's beauty also has taken a hold on Wright since he's purchased ranches in the area over the years.

"I think it's the prettiest part of the Hill Country," Wright said. "The trees are a little greener. The water is a little fresher. There's nothing like it."

His interest in the state's dance hall preservation movement has intensified his determination to make an impact.

"We'll set up a preservation trust to maintain it in perpetuity. That's the goal," Wright said. "Maybe we can establish a precedent with this."

He believes the Sisterdale Dancehall was constructed between 1884 and 1890 and may have been used as an opera house by German intellectuals who immigrated to the Hill Country several decades earlier.

Mark your calendars! This coming Friday night, December 17, 2010, offers two opportunities to hear talented young musicians in downtown Tulsa:

At 6 p.m., Barthelmes Conservatory will present their Winter Open Concert, a series of short pieces presented by the conservatory's students, in the Great Hall on the 4th floor of the Bernsen Community Life Center, 700 S. Boston Ave. The program of classical music will include music for solo piano, violin, and cello, and small ensembles. Admission is free.

At 8 p.m., the Tulsa Boy Singers will be presenting their annual Christmas concert this coming Friday night, December 17, 2010, at 8:00 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. Tickets are $10 for adults; children are free. It's a beautiful setting for beautiful music.

During a recent business trip to San Antonio I had to stay over the weekend. Making the best of it, I looked around for some good live music. Texas, particularly the part settled by central European immigrants (Germans, Czechs, Poles, Alsatians, etc.), has an impressive number of dance halls, some in town and some in the middle of nowhere. You may have heard of Austin's Broken Spoke or the dance hall at Luckenbach, but there are dozens more that hold dances every month or so.

I found out that Jody Nix and His Texas Cowboys would be performing at Anhalt Hall, north of San Antonio and in between Boerne and New Braunfels. The dance hall at Anhalt has been around over 100 years, and it belongs to what may be the oldest farmers' co-op in Texas, the Germania Farmer Verein.

Jody Nix is a singer and a southpaw fiddler. He sang several numbers and played drums on Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys: For the Last Time, the Playboys' final 1973 recording session under Bob Wills's leadership. (Jody's dad, bandleader Hoyle Nix, played fiddle and was substitute hollerer on that session.) Over the four-hour dance, Jody took a lot of requests, and it seemed that every second or third song was a Bob Wills tune, ranging from traditional fiddle tunes like "Ida Red" to New Orleans jazz tunes like "Four or Five Times."

Next to the big dance floor there were long picnic tables where the regulars set up camp, bringing in snacks and hard liquor (the bar had beer and setups). Smoking was restricted to outside. Another concession stand offered sausage wraps (smoked sausage in a tortilla), chips, candy bars, and soft drinks. Signs warned "POSITIVELY NO DRINKING IN HALL" and "NOTICE: INDECENT-UNCOMMONLY DANCING IN THIS HALL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED -- THE VEREIN." Another sign banned blue jeans, which nearly everyone was wearing.

It was a fun evening. The only downside: I didn't dance. I seemed to be the only person there on my own. That meant I had no dance partner, and I thought it'd be rude to try to horn in on a group or a family. In hindsight, I might have mentioned to the ticket taker or the bartender that I was from out of town, and that might have gotten me introduced around to some folks.

If you're way down Texas way on a Saturday night, find yourself a dance hall and treat yourself to some traditional country, western swing, rockabilly, tejano, red dirt, polka music or some combination of the aforementioned. Here are some helpful Texas dance hall websites:

Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc.: Includes a calendar of upcoming dances with links to dance hall and performer websites.

A long list of dance halls with photos and historical information at

An article about dance halls on the Texas Hill Country Trail website, featuring dance halls at Anhalt, Kendalia, Gruene, and Luckenbach.

And here's the song by Asleep at the Wheel that inspired this entry's title:

Here's a 10-minute profile of legendary Texas Playboys steel guitarist Herb Remington, who tells about his audition for Bob Wills, his opening night flub at the Santa Monica Pier, Bob Wills's generosity, life on the road, how he covered his mistake on a record, and his big hit, "Boot Heel Drag."

And here's Herb talking about the Tiffany Transcriptions and demonstrating the components of Boot Heel Drag before playing it straight through.

Les plays, Mary sings Alabamy Bound (via Ace of Spades HQ):

Here's a version of the same song from another legendary steel guitarist (mentioned by Remington in his Santa Monica story), Noel Boggs:

In case you missed it, there's a new documentary out about the musical legacy of western swing legend Bob Wills. The film, Bob Wills Ain't Dead was featured in a story by Joshua Blevins Peck in the September 22, 2010, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. Filmmaker Drew Wilson went around the country talking to musicians who worked with Wills and musicians who were influenced by him.

That kind of loose-limbed, off-the-cuff, made-by-one-guy aesthetic runs throughout Bob Wills Ain't Dead. It's a collection of performances of Wills' music and conversations with youngsters, oldsters, regular people, unknown and famous musicians such as Haggard, Dwight Yoakam, Ray Benson and various Texas Playboys. There's flashier and more produced material on Wills but Wilson's sincere love for his subject is evident throughout the documentary.

Just what made Wills the legendary figure he's become? Known as the "King of Western Swing," Wills was the originator of what would evolve into western swing. Wills' western swing was a new musical innovation, a mash-up of styles such as country, swing and blues while giving it a good beat to make it "swing."

"Nobody put all that music together before Bob did. He was like a musical Da Vinci," Wilson said. "Merle Haggard says in the documentary that he didn't know what celebrity was as he was growing up -- there was Joe Louis, Franklin Roosevelt and Bob Wills."

Here's the trailer for the film. Tulsans (particularly those in the fiddling community) will see a lot of familiar faces: Bob Fjeldsted, Larry Schaefer, Rick Morton, Shelby Eicher, Roy Clark, Jana Jae, Regina Scott, to name a few.

The UTW story mentions that Bob left Tulsa for California in the 1940s. Although Tulsa was where he first made it big, he spent most of his career elsewhere -- California in the '40s and into the '50s, Texas and Las Vegas in the late '50s and '60s. But there was a return, around 1957, when, for a couple of years, Bob Wills reunited the Texas Playboys with brother Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys. Johnnie Lee had taken over the daily KVOO radio show and the weekly dances at Cain's after Bob's departure for the west.

According to this story, the Bob Wills family lived in Johansen Acres -- between Sheridan and Memorial south of 21st St, and during that time his daughter Carolyn graduated from Nathan Hale High School.

Carolyn Wills visited Tulsa recently to explore the idea of a swing school and museum here honoring her father. The concept behind the swing school is intriguing:

The swing school is not a fiddle camp; it's a music camp where young students learn Western swing music and the technique of playing in a band, with improvisation, she said.

Members of the Texas Playboys always told her of her father: "You just better be ready to play when he pointed that bow at you."

Carolyn Wills wrote a tribute to her dad in the July 2010 issue of Cowboys & Indians magazine, and it includes some insight into the band's costume evolution from preppy sweaters to business suits to Western wear.

....From 1934 through 1938, Bob Wills appeared in a tailored double-breasted suit and polished custom-made boots, and the Texas Playboys dressed in business suits, white shirts, and neckties. They were on their way to becoming the largest and most famous Western band in the history of America, and their increasingly familiar image announced the dawning of "Western chic."

In 1939, my father and Mr. O.W. Mayo started the annual Bob Wills Stampede (Rodeo) in Tulsa and it was then that the Texas Playboys began to dress Western: cowboy dress shirts and Western pants, bolo or standard ties or Western scarves, vests or Western-cut sports coats, and cowboy boots with pants tucked in or out. Nowhere were there sequins, appliqués, floppy lapels, or loud colors. As the bandleader, Bob Wills became known for his trademark cowboy hat, boots, and Roi-Tan cigar. He usually wore a light-colored Stetson with a medium crease and slightly folded edges. A hat pushed too far back or pulled down to hide a man's eyes was not acceptable....

For the magazine's online presence, Carolyn put together a playlist of her father's favorite songs and her own.

MORE: Drew Wilson spoke about his documentary on the September 23, 2010, edition of KWGS Studio Tulsa.

"Me, I just say look, it's a little minority of some small-minded religious wackos who think they can tell people what kind of T-shirts and what kind of music they can listen to, and the smart, rational, reasonable people of Oklahoma are never going to buy into that." -- Wayne Coyne, April 29, 2009

So yesterday, September 26, 2010, on Twitter, Wayne Coyne, evidently part of some small-minded, wacky, religious minority, told Mary Fallin, frontrunner in the race for Oklahoma governor, what kind of music she should listen to -- namely, his:

Elected official Congress woman @Maryfallin does not like The Flaming Lips or our song"Do you Realize??"
2:28 PM Sep 26th via Twitter for iPhone

Please tell @maryfallin she should listen again .. We come in peace.
2:47 PM Sep 26th via Twitter for iPhone

Note that Mr. Coyne did not link the story in which Fallin committed the allegedly outrageous dis of his song. He linked photos of himself.

Someone whom I follow retweeted Coyne's comments. I retweeted "Please tell @maryfallin she should listen again...." with the comment: "How needy is this?"

What terrible slam did Congresswoman Fallin inflict on the Oklahoma's "official" state "rock" song? It was in a Q&A, back in July just before the primary, for Oklahoma City satire blog The Lost Ogle:

11. What do you think of "Do You Realize??" being Oklahoma's official rock song?

I'm more of a country music gal. It wasn't my first choice.

A pretty mild expression of personal preferences, probably an opinion shared by most of Fallin's prospective constituents, and surely the sort of thing a tolerant, broad-minded artiste like Mr. Coyne should respect, n'est-ce pas?

Instead, he urged his Twitter followers to proselytize Fallin, to convert her to a fan of the Flaming Lips and his song. His followers rose (sunk, more truthfully) to the occasion:

hhhancock @Maryfallin what's wrong with you ?

renatayb Tasteless Bitch .. "@waynecoyne: Elected official Congress woman @Maryfallin does not like The Flaming Lips or our song"Do you Realize??"

chadosko Ef that. Ef her! RT @waynecoyne: Elected official Congress woman @Maryfallin doesn't like The Flaming Lips or our song"Do you Realize??" #fb

cumbriandrunk You have 15000 more friends than her! @waynecoyne: Elected official Congress woman @Maryfallin does not like The Flaming Lips.

shonuffsteve @waynecoyne @maryfallin hey Mary - free your mind and your a[--] will follow !!! Hey Wayne comin back to Belfast soon???

This may be the prize-winner:

ghostkga @waynecoyne how can @maryfallin not like you? she needs to expirence free love and peace! and maybe a joint.

The Flaming Lips seem to have quite the cult following. From concert videos and articles I've seen, it seems to be more about the spectacle of the event and a kind of cult of personality around Coyne rather than the music itself. Someone has described their musical style as psychedelic, which I take to mean "the kind of music that sounds interesting to those who have ingested psychedelic drugs" or perhaps to someone like the "Double Rainbow" guy.

A couple of years ago I was in the library returning books and saw their album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, on the return shelf, so I checked it out to see what all the fuss was about. "Do You Realize??" is one of the tracks on the album. I gave it a chance, listened to it twice all the way through, but just couldn't get into it. Here I thought that David Gates and Bread were the apotheosis of Oklahoma-based, wimpy, whiny, lethargic pop music, but Wayne Coyne makes David Gates sound like Jerry Lee Lewis by comparison. "Do You Realize??" makes a play for profundity, but it's just banal, condescending lyrics set against a vapid musical backdrop.

It's my belief that a rock 'n' roll song, particularly one worthy of designation as a state rock song, ought to have a beat -- as in "it's got a back beat, you can't lose it, any old time you choose it." If we have to have a state rock song, something by Wanda Jackson, a pioneer of rock 'n' roll, would have been a better choice. ("Let's Have a Party" would have been a great pick, but I also like Charles G. Hill's meteorologically-inspired suggestion of a recently-rediscovered Wanda Jackson track, "Funnel of Love.")

(One of the candidates for first-ever rock record -- "Rag Mop" -- was recorded at the KVOO studios in Tulsa in 1949.)

Whether you like the Flaming Lips or not, surely you'd agree that we should all have the right to like the Flaming Lips or not. No one should be browbeaten to conform to one notion of musical taste. (Unless -- was that Hammer and Sickle t-shirt more than a bit of hipster irony?)

OH, BY THE WAY: Do you realize Mary Fallin has a 26-point lead in the governor's race?

UPDATE 2010/09/27: I managed to offend a couple of folks after I tweeted a link to this piece. I was away from Twitter most of the day, but a friend gave me a heads-up via DM. Photographer Jeremy Charles complained that I failed to include the context of the Wayne Coyne quote at the top of this page:

jeremycharles @BatesLine you call yourself a journalist? You completely left out the context of @waynecoyne's first quote in your blog post.

I did link to the article from which the quote came -- an AP story about Coyne's complaint about Oklahoma legislators who voted against adopting his song as the official state rock song. I assumed readers would recall that, but perhaps it would have been well to spell that out.

The context actually makes Coyne look worse. The legislators who voted against making "Do You Realize??" the state song didn't tell anyone they couldn't or shouldn't listen to the song. The legislators simply said they didn't want to give the song or the band an official state endorsement. On the other hand, Coyne did tell someone -- Mary Fallin -- what kind of music she should listen to -- his.

Someone else (who has since deleted her tweets pertaining to the matter) helpfully pointed out that the song was selected by POPULAR VOTE (caps hers) and asked (paraphrasing) if I had a problem with that. I pointed out in reply that the daily paper's editorial page regularly skewers politicians elected by popular vote -- surely that's OK?

De gustibus non est disputandum: So said the ancient Romans. If you enjoy the music of the Flaming Lips, I would not seek to deprive you of that appreciation. I would simply ask that, in return, you allow folks like me and Mary Fallin at peace in our non-appreciation of the band.

On October 17, 1952, Hank Williams performed -- sort of -- at Cain's Ballroom. Former Cain's owner Larry Schaeffer tells the story in a 1999 article by Dave Hoekstra:

HankWilliams-Cains-1952.GIFShaeffer's office is a cornucopia of country music lore, ranging from original Ernest Tubb movie posters to love letters from Bob Wills' female fans he found stuck in a wall during a remodeling project. But a stunning highlight is a red vinyl couch - emblazoned with the Cain's logo - that Hank Williams slept on in October 1952 when he was too drunk to play his second show.

"He got someone to run beer to him all day," says Shaeffer, who was handed down the story from Mayo. "So he's toasted. Both shows were sold out. He got through the first show, although it took two people to hold him up. Hank laid down on the couch between shows, and they couldn't wake him up. He was mixing morphine (for a bad back) with liquor. This was 10 weeks before he died."

Mayo, who died in 1994 at age 93, told Shaeffer he didn't know what to do. He finally came clean and told the audience that Hank was too drunk to perform and that his backing band, the Drifting Cowboys, would play without him. Money would be refunded as fans left Cain's.

"Well, someone opened the door to the office and a line formed," Shaeffer says. "People filed past (a blank Hank) like a funeral viewing. The band played on, and not one person asked for their money back."

Mayo, by the way, is O. W. Mayo, the first band manager for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, and the owner of Cain's from the '30s to the early '70s.

HankerinForHank-Cains.jpgHank Williams is returning to Cain's Ballroom -- after a fashion -- on October 17, 2010. Muskogee musician Jim Paul Blair performs as Hank Williams in a tribute band called Hankerin' for Hank. It's a DVD/CD release party, and it also features Jim Paul's mother, Ramona Reed, who sang with the Texas Playboys in the 1950s. Admission is $10 -- or free if you buy a $20 DVD. The party starts at 6 p.m.

The band seeks to recreate the look and sound of Hank Williams and the Drifting Cowboys from 1951, down to the wardrobe by Manuel Cuevas, who worked on Hank's original Nudie suits.

Here's the real deal -- Hank Williams singing "Hey, Good Lookin'":

MORE: In 1950, Hank Williams recorded, as "Luke the Drifter," a political song by Fred Rose criticizing Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, titled "No, No, Joe."

'Cause the Kaiser tried it and Hitler tried it Mussolini tried it, too Now they're all sittin' around a fire and did you know something? They're saving a place for you

Now Joe you ought to get it clear
You can't push folks around with fear
'Cause we don't scare easy over here
No, no Joe

A little Friday evening entertainment: It's Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, featuring singing sisters Dean and Evelyn McKinney. On the bandstand: Noel Boggs on steel guitar, Louis Tierney, Bob Wills, and Joe Holley on fiddle, Alex Brashear on trumpet, Junior Barnard on standard guitar, Millard Kelso on piano. I can't tell from this video who is on drums and bass, although from another clip from the same film, I think it may be Johnny Cuviello on drums. Tommy Duncan doesn't sing on this one, but he's sitting down in the background.

This is probably from 1946; it's the same lineup as the early sessions of the Tiffany Transcriptions, probably from 1946. There's another video that has been circulating on the web for quite a while, with the same lineup and in the same surroundings performing "Goodbye, Liza Jane." YouTube user radiobob805 has posted a better version of that clip:

Speaking of the surroundings, notice the round up-lit ceiling and the round stone planters. There's a sort of Googie / California Coffeehouse / early Mid-Century Modern thing going on here.

This sing-along short of "San Antonio Rose" seems to come from the same session:

Here's a blog that aims to provide complete discographies for hundreds of western swing, country, and rockabilly musicians. Each entry has three sections: recording sessions (when, where, session musicians, and tracks recorded), albums, and singles. Each album listing includes the titles of each track, although it doesn't link back to the specific recording session.

Here are a few of the western swing discographies on the site:

The Billy Jack Wills and Leon McAuliffe discographies are in the process of being updated.

Although the Bob Wills discography does not include the Tiffany Transcriptions sessions, it does include albums of airshots, live concerts, and radio transcriptions. Beyond the two massive Bear Family box sets of the Texas Playboys' commercial recordings, there's plenty of other material, including songs that were never recorded for release.

MORE: This Facebook page devoted to a famous Nashville recording studio has all the sessions Bob Wills recorded at 804 16th Ave. S. One unreleased track that isn't listed in the other discographies: Webb Pierce singing "What's the Matter with the Mill" with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, November 13, 1956.

A while back I told you about an Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame exhibit about American jazz musicians touring the world as cultural ambassadors during the Cold War. The exhibit has since moved on, but you can see it online: Jam Session: America's Jazz Ambassadors. Here's Louis Armstrong (born on this day in 1901) and His All-Stars on one such goodwill tour, in Stuttgart, West Germany:

According to the description on YouTube, here's the lineup:

Louis Armstrong - trumpet
Trummy Young - trombone
Peanuts Hucko - clarinet
Billy Kyle - piano
Mort Herbert - bass
Danny Barcelona - drums

(Via Wilhelm Murg on Facebook)

Something you may not have known about Louis Armstrong: He played trumpet and his wife played piano on a 1930 Jimmie Rodgers recording - "Blue Yodel No. 9 (Standin' on the Corner)." Here's Armstrong talking about the song and then performing it with Johnny Cash in 1970.

Jazz ambassadors

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Benny Goodman in Red Square, 1962While waiting for my son, who was rehearsing with a small orchestral ensemble at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in Tulsa's old Union Depot, I had time to look over the exhibits, in particular a traveling collection of photos and posters called "Jam Session: America's Jazz Ambassadors Embrace the World". It's about an interesting bit of history where music met Cold War politics. From the 1950s to the 1970s, famed American jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, and Dave Brubeck traveled the world as cultural ambassadors for the USA.

Up until the mid-'50s, America had been sending out our own ballerinas and symphony orchestras to try to counter the classically-oriented cultural outreach of the USSR. According to the exhibit, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., suggested to President Eisenhower that America should capitalize on the distinctly American art form of jazz, a type of music that the Soviet Union condemned as decadent.

Eventually, under Khrushchev, American jazz musicians made it to Moscow, and one photo in the exhibit is accompanied by a charming anecdote about Benny Goodman:

For his part, Goodman surprised the Soviets with an impromptu solo clarinet performance in Red Square. The New York Times noted that he became a visiting "Pied Piper" for curious children who swarmed around him in the shadow of the Kremlin. When Benny saw a squad of soldiers marching stiffly by to relieve the guard at the Lenin Mausoleum, the temptation was too much for him and he broke into a rendition of Pop Goes the Weasel. He then "caught the rhythm of the passing boots and the King of Swing kept time with the Red Army."

"Jam Session" will be at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame through July 9, 2010. Admission is free; donations are accepted. Exhibit hours are Tuesdays through Fridays, 10am to 5pm; Saturdays, 11am to 4pm;
Sundays, 2pm to 5pm (before the Summer Concert series shows). It's an interesting and heartwarming exhibit, well worth your time to see, and particularly valuable for those born after the end of the Cold War.

MORE: The official website of Jam Session: America's Jazz Ambassadors.

There are some exciting events in Tulsa over the next few days, but because of a heavy and strange work schedule I won't be able to make any of them. But that doesn't mean you have to miss them:

Friday, April 23, 2010: National Fiddler Hall of Fame Gala, Tulsa PAC, 7 pm. Two of my favorite bands are performing, both with Tulsa ties. The main act is Hot Club of Cowtown: Brady Heights resident Whit Smith on guitar, Elana James on fiddle, and Jake Erwin on bass, a trio that brings together western swing and gypsy jazz, Bob Wills and Django Reinhardt. (Not that they were far apart: Curly Lewis, fiddler for Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys, said at the first NFHOF gala that all the western swing fiddlers wanted to play like Hot Club de France jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli.) The opening act is Rockin' Acoustic Circus, a group of talented young musicians that brings together bluegrass, jazz, blues, swing, classical, and rock-n-roll and which features (I say without fear of contradiction) the prettiest bluegrass cellist on the planet.

Saturday, April 24, 2010: QuikTrip Air and Rocket Racing Show: Fly-bys of military and civilian aircraft, including a B-2 Stealth Bomber! Rocket races! Aerobatics! Wing walking! Channel 2 Weather Show! World War II warbirds!

Already sold out, but worth a mention for future events:

Thursday, April 22, 2010: Blogger meetup at Siegi's Sausage Factory: Wish I could be there because the food's on my diet and the speaker is my good friend Erin Conrad. Watch to learn about future blogger meetups.

Friday, April 23, 2010, Saturday, April 24, 2010, Sunday, April 25, 2010: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at Augustine Christian Academy, 30th Street west of Sheridan. This little classical Christian school does a big musical every spring. Performances sold out, but they have a waiting list for tickets. Call 832-4600 to put your name on the list. (My wife and oldest son will be playing fiddle music at a pre-show buffet Saturday. )

The four-year-old:

Volunteered to help me clean the Little Tikes playhouse in the backyard. He wanted to play in it, but it was looking pretty grody, He did a good job and stayed working alongside me until the job was done.

Played catch with me and then hit the ball off a tee. He's got a good throw.

Stayed in the tree that big brother put him in, even though it was a little scary.

Counted the Zip Fizz tubes in the package (20), and pointed to the one he liked the best. They were all the same, he said, but that one was number 1.

Gave a play-by-play from the kitchen bathroom at his successful number two effort.

While big sister got ready for bed, played Mastermind with me. I gave him a few simplified puzzles with only two colors, and he solved them in two or three guesses.

The nine-year-old:

Came home from shopping wearing a sharp new fedora.

Played a couple of beautiful pieces on the piano, including Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty Waltz, and then played a pretty little improvisation of her own.

Asked to play Mastermind with me. She played the full six-color game and was able to solve the puzzle in five tries.

The 13-year-old:

Regaled me with tales of his excellent week of learning about state government at TeenPact. Best speaker of the week: Randy Brogdon, who spoke about his Obamacare Opt-Out bill. Worst speaker: Jari Askins, because she underestimated the interest and intelligence of these kids and dumbed down her talk. (First question from the kids to Askins: What do you think about the Obamacare Opt-Out bill?)

Climbed to the top of a hackberry tree and helped little brother get into one of the lower branches.

Played a double-stop arrangement of San Antonio Rose that he's been learning. It sounds just like Johnny Gimble and Keith Coleman's twin fiddles at the beginning of the version on For the Last Time. (He and his mom went to a western swing fiddle workshop at Tulsa Strings last weekend, led by Shelby Eicher and Rick Morton.)

I'm not normally a bubbly person, but I'm feeling pretty cheery at the moment. I'm on my way home after a long stretch of long workdays in Wichita. I got a later-than-planned start and left town without eating. I decided to stop in Winfield, Kansas, at a coffee house there. I figured I could get some dinner, check e-mail, and get caffeinated for the rest of the drive.

What I found when I arrived at the beautiful craftsman bungalow that houses College Hill Coffee was an amazingly good jazz quintet. The pianist sounds like Vince Guaraldi and the guitarist has a style reminiscent of Eldon Shamblin. When they broke into "April in Paris," I broke into a grin.

For the record, the quintet is Prof. Mike Jones, trumpet; Scott Williams, piano; Tom Hoeffgen, guitar; Lee Velasquez, bass; and Nick Hofmeister, drums. I assume "Prof." implies a connection to Southwestern College, just a block from here.

It's a bit off the fast (but deadly boring) route between Tulsa and Wichita, but College Hill Coffee will be getting future visits from me, I feel sure.

MORE COFFEE: I've added College Hill Coffee to the map at, a Google Maps-based, crowdsourced guide to independently-owned coffeehouses around the world. guided me to three great hangouts in Wichita -- more about them, and Wichita, in a future entry.

STILL MORE: Scott Williams, the quintet's pianist, posted a comment below. He has posted a number of YouTube videos of the Winfield music scene, including several from the evening at College Hill Coffee. Here's one -- "Spring Is Here."

(Originally published 2010/02/26, bumped to the top for the benefit of my fellow guitar students.)

In the fall of 1989, shortly after we were married, my wife, who had been playing violin since elementary school, decided she'd like to learn some fiddle techniques. She found a teacher in Inola named Darrel Magee. (As it happens, I'm taking a beginning guitar course from Darrel this semester.)

Darrel was also the head of the country music program at Rogers State College in Claremore. RSC also had (still has) its own UHF station and a degree program in broadcasting. The two threads came together in a weekly program called Oklahoma Swingin' Country, with students running the cameras and in the control room.

Darrel invited my wife to participate in one of the broadcasts, and she spent many hours learning arrangements for familiar tunes like "Silver Bells," "Time Changes Everything," and "Steel Guitar Rag," and songs that were new to us then: "Big Beaver," "My Window Faces the South," "Milk Cow Blues."

The show was taped in Claremore on a Friday evening for later broadcast. I sat and watched from behind the cameras. Because of various camera and control room errors -- this was student practice, after all -- it took six hours to put together a 30-minute show. The awkwardness in some of the between-songs talk is partly because you're seeing the third or fourth take of what was originally a spontaneous intro. For example, "I'm going to sing first because I sure don't want to have to follow these other great singers," turned into, "I'm going to sing first because I don't want these other singers singing before me," on the take when the camera was in the right place.

For a small college TV show there was a lot of musical talent packed in the room, starting with singer Debbie Campbell and legendary guitarist Eldon Shamblin. I knew back then that Eldon was a Texas Playboy, but I didn't realize (as I do now) what a big deal he was, and Eldon was not the sort to make a big deal about himself. The video has some nice closeups of his solos and backup work on that old Stratocaster. Debbie, Tulsa's favorite female vocalist for many years, displayed her range on "Crazy" and "Me and Bobby McGee." (I'm still waiting for someone to post video of her Tulsa Tribune jingle.)

The rest of the lineup: Darrel Magee, piano; J. D. Walters, steel guitar; Suzanne Wooley, Mikki Bates, Rod Smith, fiddles; Jeannie Cahill, rhythm guitar; Ernie McCoy, drums; Jim Bates, bass. (Jim's no relation, as far as I know.) J. D. and Ernie have both played with the Texas Playboys at the annual Bob Wills Birthday bash at Cain's. Jeannie, Darrel, and Eldon joined Leon McAuliffe on his 1985 gospel album. And I'm pretty sure that was the same Rod Smith I saw performing last week in a classic country music revue in San Antonio.

OklahomaSwinginCountry-1989 from Michael Bates on Vimeo.

The Rogers State TV guys sent us a copy of the tape after it aired, and I got it converted to DVD not long ago.

Unfortunately, my wife's work schedule at American Airlines (Sabre) changed, and she wasn't able to continue with fiddle lessons. Two decades later, as our oldest son took up fiddle, she did too, and the two of them have gone to Jana Jae's annual fiddle camp and played with the local fiddle circle.

It's March 6, 2010, Bob Wills's 105th birthday, and there's a celebration tonight at Cain's Ballroom, the legendary dance hall that was home to his daily radio show and twice-weekly dances. Headlining tonight's event are Bob's own Texas Playboys, led by Leon Rausch and Tommy Allsup, both of whom have been associated with the band for over 50 years. Tulsa's Round-Up Boys and Oklahoma Stomp, a group of talented young western swing musicians, are the opening acts. Doors open at 6:30, the show starts at 7:00 and tickets are $16 + fees.

This is always a great show. Any country band could play a Bob Wills tune, but it's another thing altogether to swing the music the way he did. In extending the tradition of the Texas Playboys into the 21st century, Leon Rausch brings together the best western swing musicians around, sidemen who can take a chorus and turn it into a showstopping improvisation. As I wrote in a salute from a few years ago:

Rausch says that "these boys are the very best western swing musicians in the business," and I'll vouch for that. 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 at last year's celebration was inspired, drawing energy from the music, from the audience, and from each other.

A bit of Saturday serendipity: If you know and love the music of The Platters, you'll love this send-up by country artist Roy Clark, who attempts, almost single-voicedly, to recreate the full sound of the doo-wop group's hit "The Great Pretender." It's fun to hear what Clark does with the distinctive vocal mannerisms of Platters' lead singer Tony Williams:

Because this is a long entry, you'll need to click the "Continue reading" link to see the whole thing. Clicking any of the photos will take you to a bigger version and my full set of San Antonio streetscape photos. If you're interested in hotels, restaurants, historic preservation, and entertainment in San Antonio, read on....

Aztec Theater, San Antonio, MDB10710

Once again last week, business took me to San Antonio. It was a productive trip. We worked second shift instead of third, which was much more pleasant. I was awake enough during the day to get out and enjoy the sunny 60-degree weather.

One of the things I love about San Antonio is the strong commitment to historic preservation, a commitment that dates back almost 90 years. The San Antonio Conservation Society was founded in 1924 "to preserve the 'antiquated foreignness' embodied in San Antonio's charm and character," and it has been successful in that regard, but as a happy side effect, the society's efforts have also succeeded in preserving the early 20th century commercial buildings that were brand new or not even built when the society was founded. The result is a bustling urban downtown as an attraction for tourists and conventioneers.

The story of the San Antonio Conservation Society is worth reading. Like a similar organization in Savannah, it was founded by prominent and wealthy women who were outraged at the threatened destruction of a historic market. And as in Savannah, San Antonio's preservationists lost their first battle but went on to create a culture where history is cherished.

The ladies of the Conservation Society came up with creative ways to make the case for preservation:

In September 1924, after sketching the Commissioners at their weekly meetings, the ladies presented a play called, "The Goose with the Golden Eggs." They performed their play after the commissioners' regular meeting with puppets crafted to look like the men themselves. The commissioners of the play were called upon to arbitrate an argument between Mr. and Mrs. San Antonio over whether San Antonio's character and charms should be killed to achieve prosperity more quickly. Of course, the Conservation Society members in the audience responded, "NO," and many cheered. Preservation of the city's character and charms would reap greater long-term benefits, including civic pride, than the mere accumulation of money.

Their response to the notion of filling in the Great Bend, which had been a recommendation in an engineering report, was to take the City Commissioners on a canoe ride on the bend just to show the men how beautiful it was. Many of them had never seen the river from that perspective before and were greeted along the way by children waving and pitching flowers to them from the bridges.

A surprising find in a surprising place on the web. The find is an interview with Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan around the time of their 1960 reunion. (Wills had fired Duncan in 1949.) The place is on the website of psychotherapist Alyce Faye Eichelberger Cleese. (As you may have guessed, she was married, from 1996 to 2008, to John Cleese. She is a native of Frederick, Okla., and a graduate of OSU.) Her webmaster, Bob Richards, is a record producer who met Alyce Faye when he wound up producing her interview show on Santa Barbara radio station KZSB.

Bob Richards has had a fascinating life and career, which he recounts on his bio page. As a 12 year old in 1947 (the Tiffany Transcription era), he met Bob Wills at a dance in San Jose. In 1960, working as a for a Long Beach country music radio show, he produced a show with host Texas Tiny interviewing Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan in between songs dating back to the earliest days of the Texas Playboys (and before -- the two songs Bob recorded with Milton Brown during their days as Light Crust Doughboys). Bob and Tommy tell a fascinating story of how they wrote and recorded "I Wonder If You Feel the Way I Do" and shipped it air express to the plant in New Jersey all in the wee hours of one morning. Here's what Bob Richards writes about how Bob and Tommy got back together:

My next venture into radio was 1959. There was a local DJ named Texas Tiny (400 lbs at least) who worked on KFOX in Long Beach. Joe Allison, who wrote "He'll Have To Go," the Jim Reeves hit, also worked there as a DJ. Joe later became an A&R man at Liberty Records and reunited Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan in 1960 by signing them to separate contracts and putting both names on the albums.

You can find that 1960 Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan interview linked from Richards' bio page. On the same page, you'll find a brief 1978 interview with Texas Playboys fiddler Joe Holley.

Richards also has a YouTube channel with a bunch of Bob Wills film clips.


A demo Bob Wills radio show for B. F. Goodrich dealers with music, between-song patter, and a pitch by Cactus Jack that Bob Wills music will move merchandise. Other rarities on the same site include a recording of a Bob Wills performance for Boeing Aircraft Company in Wichita in 1958, with a radio interview, in which Bob explains that Western Swing owes its start to the advent of the amplifier.

Slightly RELATED:

In an interview in The Times, John Cleese offers a sort of reason for the failure of his third marriage:

"It's very important for me that my friends have a sense of humour. To me it's the kind of touchstone of communication. Alyce Faye's sense of humour was not very European, because she was from Oklahoma and I used to joke that the Oklahoma Sense of Irony is one of the world's short books." How did he cope? "Well I just didn't make certain kinds of jokes around her."

From 1978, Merle Haggard and the Strangers perform "Columbus Stockade Blues." You'll hear Eldon Shamblin's distinctive style of rhythm guitar throughout (and you can see him to the left of the trumpeter at about a minute in). At 1:30, Tiny Moore takes a short solo on his Bigsby 5-string electric mandolin -- the proverbial "biggest little instrument in the world."

From the same show, Tiny Moore and Gordon Terry join Merle Haggard on some old breakdowns, finishing up with the fiddle standard, "Liberty":

(I'd love to find a copy of the Tiny Moore Mandolin Method, a long out-of-print instructional book, to buy or to borrow. If you know where I might find a copy, e-mail me at blog at batesline dot com.)

I received an e-mail today with a question about Billy Jack Wills, youngest brother of Bob Wills and a great western swing band leader in his own right. A search for the answer turned up the sad news that Billy Jack's sister-in-law, Dean McKinney Moore, had passed away on November 9, 2009, age 87.

Dean McKinney and her sister Evelyn sang with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys in the late '40s. Their duets were featured on the Tiffany Transcriptions and a number of the band's commercial releases on Columbia and MGM. A special Tiffany Transcriptions CD (intended to be the first in a "For Collectors Only" series) includes 22 cuts with Evelyn and Dean in duet or singing in trios and quartets with Joe Holley, Tiny Moore, and Eldon Shamblin.

While with the Playboys, Dean met and married mandolinist Tiny Moore. Wills Point dance hall in Sacramento became Bob Wills's home base in the late '40s. When Bob decided to take the band back on the road in about 1952, Billy Jack set up his own band to hold down the fort at Wills Point. Tiny and Dean decided to stay in Sacramento with Billy Jack, and the city was home for the rest of their lives. After leaving the band in 1954, Tiny hosted a local children's TV show, opened a music store, gave music lessons, and performed from time to time. In 1970, he joined five other former Texas Playboys (Johnnie Lee Wills, Alex Brashear, Eldon Shamblin, Joe Holley, and Johnny Gimble) on Merle Haggard's Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World, and went on to join Haggard on tour. Tiny died in 1987.

The family obituary provides some personal glimpses:

Dean and Tiny were among the founding members of the First Baptist Church of Carmichael. Dean and Evelyn frequently ministered to the congregation with songs of praise. Two LP's of sacred music were produced: "Softly and Tenderly" and "Heaven's Harmony." Dean was an unwavering presence in her children's lives and was active in the PTA throughout their early school years. She enthusiastically supported every activity that interested her children. She and Tiny entertained often with lavish dinners for friends and family. They performed as a duo joined with their daughter Kimberly and appeared at concerts and private gatherings. After Tiny's death in 1987 Dean became active in the Sacramento Western Swing Society, serving as their President for many years. Dean traveled extensively and continued to sing with Evelyn at musical festivals across the United States.

Oh, the musical question: "Will There Be Any Yodeling in Heaven?"

Will there be any yodeling in heaven?
That is what I'd like to know.
There can't be any wrong
In just singing a song
With a yo-delady-oh-mylady-dee.

In the heaven above
Will they sing the songs I love
With a yo-delady-oh-mylady-dee?

As I climb the golden stairway up yonder
And life's journey on this earth is o'er
As I cross the great divide
Will they welcome me inside
With a yo-delady-oh-mylady-dee?

My personal favorite McKinney Sisters' song is "Feudin' and Fightin'."

Finally, here are Dean and Evelyn joining in on the chorus of "Goodbye Liza Jane."

RELATED: Tiny Moore played a five-string electric mandolin (as opposed to the traditional acoustic mandolin with four pairs of strings). This article on building a five-string electric mandolin explains the advantages of the "biggest little instrument in the world":

The mandolin offers a wider interval of notes within one hand position compared to a guitar, and this can be incorporated into a playing style. (There are stories of electric guitarists frustrated in trying to learn Gimble or Moore solos.)

MORE: Dean Moore reminisces in a September 26, 1991, story in the Sacramento Bee:

The telegram from Fresno arrived in Feb ruary 1946. Come at once, it said. Am sure salary and job will make you both happy.

Little did the singing McKinney Sisters know when they left Alabama to tour with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys that they would forever have a foothold in the rich history of Western swing.

I just wish I had kept a journal, Dean McKinney Moore says now. So many things you forget as years pass.

Bob Wills, an ace fiddler, had come to California to find a new base for the music he helped to popularize in Texas. He and his band, including Dean and Evelyn McKinney, made their way to Sacramento in 1947.

He bought the old Aragon Ballroom out on Auburn Boulevard and called it Wills Point (it burned in 1956). Wills Plunge was the swimming pool, filled with ice-cold well water. Band members lived in small apartments under the dance floor. The ballroom itself held 4,000 people, and the Playboys came close to filling it. They also did a live broadcast every day on KFBK radio.

Soon, Wills got itchy to get back on the road, so he left California and went home to Texas. But he left behind a legacy of Western swing that is still thriving in Sacramento. ...

Dean McKinney Moore didn't hear Western swing back home in Birmingham. She and her sister sang on a local radio station that broadcast as far away as Dallas and Fort Worth, from the time they were 14 and 12 years old, respectively. They also traveled with an evangelist. They sang on Ted Weems' show.

Then one day, Bob Wills came through town, and somebody at the radio station asked him to listen to Dean and Evelyn.

We didn't expect to hear from him, Moore says while having soup at a Sacramento coffee shop. We came to California, and that was the beginning of a whole new life. It was our first experience with Western swing. Where we came from, if you carried a guitar, you were just a hillbilly.

THE SWEET-VOICED McKinney Sisters traveled allover the country with Bob Wills. One night they played a gig in Port Arthur, Texas. Moore remembers that Wills and Tommy Duncan, the Playboys' vocalist, were riding in a car, and she and her sister were on the band bus.

There was no drinking on the bus, unless Bob got on the toot. (Wills' drinking was legendary.) And if he did, it was open for everybody, says Moore. When he was not drinking, he was such a great guy. He insisted that the guys not tell off-color stories around us.

Wills and Duncan stopped for a bite at a Pig Stand, an early Texas fast-food joint. Tiny Moore who was not tiny at all, but a stout 6-foot-3 and a musician friend were there, with their loaded-up car, headed to Oklahoma to find work.

Tiny asked Bob for a job, says Moore. Bob asked him what he played, and when Tiny said "mandolin,' Bob must have cringed. Mandolin is like Bill Monroe music. But he sent Tiny to the car to get it, and Tiny came back and set up on the counter. He got a job.

She and Tiny, whom she called brother for the first few months they knew each other, married in 1948. Evelyn, who still lives in Sacramento and is caring for her ill husband, had married Billy Jack Wills the year before.

Dean Moore continued to travel with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys until late '49, when Wills hired her and Tiny to run the ballroom in his absence. The first of the Moores' three children was born in 1950.

She continued to sing with her husband as their children grew. Tiny died four years ago while performing in Jackpot, Nev., and Dean Moore says she's only now beginning to live again. She sings occasionally and expects to perform at the Western Swing Society's hall of fame event.

I think singing is what Tiny would want me to do, she says, her blue eyes seemingly fixed on some distant memory. The hardest thing I ever did was to walk back on a stage without my husband.

As with Tulsa's struggle over applying new fire codes to older buildings, Dallas is experiencing a battle between historic preservation and downtown revitalization on the one hand and strict enforcement of building codes on the other.

The building in question is at 508 Park Avenue, a three-story Art Deco building from the late 1920s. Originally the Warner Brothers Film Exchange, in the 1930s it was used by Brunswick Records for storage and as a recording studio. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys recorded there, as did many other country, folk, and western swing acts of the day. Legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson made his last recording there in 1937.

The longtime owners filed a demolition permit back in January, a permit that has so far been denied by the city's Landmarks Commission. (Dallas, like Oklahoma City, but unlike Tulsa, has historic preservation ordinances with teeth.) The owners might have been content to continue their half-century ownership of the building, but city inspectors began fining them for code violations, part of an effort to clean up neglected buildings downtown. As Observer writer Robert Wilonsky put it, "So, as far as Glazer's Distributors is concerned, after 50 years of ownership better a parking lot near City Hall than a code-violations fine machine."

As of August, the owners had spent $50,000 to bring the building up to code and were being fined $1,000 per day per violation.

Preservation Dallas responded with a plea to spare the 508 Park Ave. building, not only for its own historic significance, but for the blight created by multiplying vacant lots where buildings once stood. Some choice quotes from their press release:

A demolition permit for 508 Park was sought following a recent code violation sweep in downtown in which 36 vacant and/or underutilized historic and non- historic properties were targeted for code citations and threatened with litigation. Despite the City's good intentions of furthering revitalizing efforts in downtown, the code violation sweep will likely lead to these ham-fisted remedies. We recognize that while some properties owners are at fault for letting their facilities fall into a state of disrepair, other owners are seeking to either sell their properties or are working diligently on a plan to rehabilitate them. But in these difficult economic times, the City's actions may force many property owners to consider demolition. Preservation Dallas contends this code violation campaign will result in the loss of many significant Dallas historic buildings.

Misguided property assessments can have the same effect, as we have already seen here in Tulsa. The Preservation Dallas statement pointed to another part of downtown, cleared many years earlier, of the urban connectivity problems created by demolition:

"The City seems to believe that vacant lots, particularly in central Dallas, would be an improvement over these existing and often historic buildings. Although they are treating this as a code enforcement issue, vacant lots aren't a quick fix," said Seale. One has only to look at the 'dead zone' at the west end of downtown between the Earle Cabell Federal Building and the County Courthouse complex for evidence. This area, the result of demolitions dating from the 1960s, is a major impediment to the Convention Center connecting to the core of downtown Dallas, and it isolates the County buildings. Those historic buildings that are no longer there would have been good candidates for redevelopment; they would have offered opportunities for residential and commercial uses in the western portion of downtown- a stated goal of the City's. As it turns out, the walkability of this sector of downtown Dallas is dismal at best, and not something the City should encourage or pursue in the rest of downtown....

Vacant lots are an impediment to further redevelopment efforts in downtown. Vacant lots do not make downtown more livable. Nor do vacant lots provide a context for downtown. They are eyesores. A building, however, has potential for re-development.

Apropos to my previous entry on downtown housing -- if we really want to repopulate downtown Tulsa and the inner neighborhoods, we need to reduce obstacles to renovating historic buildings, rather than focusing on new development projects out of the price range of most Tulsans.

Where do Dallas' downtown residents live? 5,000 people live in downtown Dallas and almost all of them live in historic buildings rehabilitated for residential use. In most cases these now successful buildings were in worse shape than the buildings now targeted by the city.

On that page, you can see before-and-after photos proving their point.

Finally, Preservation Dallas points out that an overlooked section of the city's landmark ordinance already provides a resolution of the tension between code enforcement and historic preservation:

To address the city's concern regarding neglectful property owners, the City should strengthen and proactively pursue the Demolition by Neglect section of the enabling Dallas Historic Landmark ordinance. Destroying historic buildings due to the City's code violation drive does damage to the original intent of the initiative as well as lasting damage to Downtown Dallas.

Today, the owners are asking the City Plan Commission to approve their demolition permit, despite the denial by the Landmarks Commission and despite the fact that the building is not an imminent danger to life or property.

MORE: A 2002 story in the Dallas Morning Newson the history of 508 Park.

UPDATE 2009/11/23: On November 19, the Dallas city plan commission denied the demolition permit for 508 Park on the grounds that the building did not pose an imminent danger to health and safety. There is still a possibility that the commission would grant a demolition permit on economic viability grounds.

jfjo_odib.jpgJacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is returning home to Tulsa for one night this Friday, September 25, on a coast-to-coast tour promoting their new EP, One Night in Brooklyn. The show starts at 9 pm at The Marquee on Main and Cameron in Tulsa's Bob Wills Arts District (look for Bob in an Indian headdress on the front door).

JFJO_UTW.jpgThe band's music draws on a wide range of influences, including classical music. (In fact, they're prepping to present a jazz adaptation of Beethoven's 3rd (Eroica) and 6th (Pastoral) Symphonies at the 2010 OK Mozart festival.) You can read all about the band and its history in this UTW cover story profile by Erin Fore.

I'd encourage you to head over to the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey website and listen to the sampler on the home page. I especially enjoyed "The Black and Crazy Blues," which prominently features lap steel guitar.

Speaking of which, I was amused by a quote from a Kansas City Star review:

On 'One Day in'll hear how creative and adventurous Tulsans, lap steel and all, are redirecting the future of jazz.

Imagine that: Playing jazz on a lap steel guitar, and on North Main Street in Tulsa no less. Who'd have thought?

Leon McAuliffe and his Fender Quad Stringmaster

I've only recently been introduced to the music of JFJO. I like it (especially the prominent and effective use of steel guitar) and I think you will too. Come out and hear for yourself this Friday night. Tickets are $10 in advance at Dwelling Spaces, Starship, and Shades of Brown; $15 at the door.

MORE: From a review of JFJO's Los Angeles performance with songstress Annie Ellicott:

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey originated in Oklahoma, which is not as improbable as it might seem given the state's paternity of Bob Wills, Jay McShann and Leon Russell -- genre mixers all....

Funny, I never thought of JFJO as a chops band till now, but that's because their records succeed in sounding casual while they pull together some quite amazing combinations. Live, Haas shows why he was originally regarded as a teen prodigy: Flinging hands and elbows high and wide, he attacks the keyboard with possessed inspiration and precision, his rhythms sloshing with Russian passion amid the relaxed framework of Raymer's pattering kitwork. Hayes is a more foundational bassist than his predecessor, Reed Mathis; he's also the author of "David," a flowing ballad that merges into some kind of tango. As the wild card, Combs indeed makes a winning hand out of just about anything as he slides his steel into all the right places, causing high-concept art to blossom into dimensions of color and smoke. Picking him up was a very, very smart choice....

A couple of years ago, on April 11, 2007, I sat down at the Village Inn with Tulsa rock and roll pioneer Rocky Frisco and recorded a leisurely conversation with him. I am a lousy interviewer, but Rocky is a great interview subject. It didn't take much prompting to get him to tell some fascinating stories about his upbringing, Tulsa schools in the '40s, Tulsa music in the '50s, his bicycle ride to Fort Hood, Texas, to interview Elvis and his views on matters political and spiritual.

For quite some time, I've intended either to transcribe the interview or to edit and upload the audio. At long last, I've started working on the audio, and I have the first 15 minute segment ready to go. In this segment, Rocky talks about how he got started with rock and roll, winning contests at the Sheri-Bob Dance Studios, Gene Crose and his band, Flash Terry, the Flamingo Lounge, and the Greenwood music scene of the late '50s, and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and the tribute they put together for Carl Radle. (Other topics and names dropped in this discussion: Liquor-by-the-wink in 1950s Oklahoma, the contrast between the music business then and now, Leo Feathers, Brooks and Dunn.)

Rocky has the beginnings of a website on the Tulsa Sound, where he mentions some of the same history and quotes JJ Cale:

According to John "JJ" Cale, "There isn't really any Tulsa Sound; we were just trying to play the blues and didn't know how, so that's what we came up with." We played what we knew, so it was a mixture of Western Swing, Country, Blues, Gospel and Popular Music, which ranged from ballads to marching bands.

(If you only see a 30 sec. excerpt, click the "Play full song here" link.)

A Conversation with Rocky Frisco, April 11, 2007 - Rocky Frisco with Michael Bates

July 25, 2009: Hustontown, Pa.

Our arrival was timed so that we could attend the monthly get-together at the Hustontown Volunteer Fire Department, an open stage night where locals gather to play music, to listen to music, and to visit with one another. Refreshments (including homemade pies) are sold to raise money for the fire department.


The house band is led by a longtime volunteer firefighter, and the group accompanies most of the other performers. Our two oldest kids each signed up to play (fiddle and piano, respectively).

I didn't know what kind of music to expect from amateur night in the middle of rural Pennsylvania. I would never have expected it to be the same sort of music you'd hear at such an amateur night in Kentucky or Arkansas or Oklahoma.

Earlier that day, as we drove through southwestern Pennsylvania, my wife and I were struck by the number of Ulster place names we saw. Two vacations (B.C. -- before children) took us to Counties Antrim and Tyrone and Donegal and the cities of Belfast and Derry, partly in search of traces of my Scotch-Irish ancestors. I knew from some of my genealogical reading that many Ulster Scots who came to America in the 1700s entered at Philadelphia and settled inland; first in Lancaster County, then further west into the Alleghenies, and then south into the Shenandoah Valley, the Cumberland Gap, the Holston Valley, and then, in the 1800s and 1900s, westward to places like Texas, Oklahoma, and California's Central Valley. It was easy to see how Scotch-Irish settlers from the glens of Antrim or the Blue Stack Mountains of Donegal would have felt right at home in western and central Pennsylvania.

A couple of weeks ago, Philadelphia-based blogger Skye made this observation on Twitter, as she drove west to Pittsburgh for the Right Online conference:

So, this is alabama in between

I'm not sure what she saw to lead her to that conclusion, but it makes sense. (I was surprised at the number of Confederate battle flags I saw flying around Fulton County. Not a huge number, but more than the number I expected -- zero.)

The culture of northern Alabama and the culture of south central Pennsylvania are bound together by this Ulster Scots heritage, a heritage that is so ubiquitous in America that it is as invisible as the air that we breathe.

I mentioned the music at the open stage night: There was western swing, there was classic country (e.g. Hank Williams), and there was traditional gospel (e.g., "I've Got a Mansion Just over the Hilltop"). The latter style had many in the crowd singing along. The house band included fiddles, a banjo, an accordion, a pedal steel guitar, and a bunch of electric basses and electric and acoustic guitars.


What clinched the connection for me was the opening tune: A couple of choruses of Bennie Moten's "South", recorded in 1928. Moten was a Kansas City native, and his band included the Kid from Red Bank (as Johnny Martin called him) -- Count Basie. The song entered the western swing repertoire via Bob Wills, who used it each night to lead off his dances. Is it just a coincidence that the Hustontown Fire Department house band opened with the same tune over 70 years later?

Here's my oldest son performing a traditional Irish tune called "Tam Lin" and the classic western swing number, "Faded Love." I love the way the band comes in behind him on Tam Lin. There was a bit of a hiccup on a key change in Faded Love, but everyone got on the same page eventually. I'm proud of him being willing to go up in front of a hundred or so strangers and play with a dozen musicians he'd never played with before.

I was proud of my little girl, too. She played her two recital pieces from Barthelmes -- "Snake" and "Relay Race" -- and remembered to take a bow at the end:

The three-year-old was wiped out from the long drive. Here's one of his few moments of alertness and a more typical moment a short while later:


But he was awake for ice cream. After the show, we headed to a local favorite spot -- the Twist and Shake -- which specializes in unusual flavors of soft serve ice cream. That night the special flavors were chocolate marshmallow and peanut butter. Another night they had grape nuts ice cream and teaberry ice cream. (Teaberry tastes just like Pepto-Bismol.)


Back at the house, we caught fireflies for a while before turning in for the next day's big adventure: A ride on a real steam train.

Tulsa Boy Singers, performing at York Minster, June 10, 2007

The Tulsa Boy Singers, a choral group of boys from ages 8 to 18, is holding a special concert Friday night, August 28, 2009, at 7 p.m. The concert has a dual purpose -- to recruit new members and to raise money. Brief auditions for boys interested in singing with TBS will be held immediately after the concert, and following the concert there will be a wine and cheese reception. There will also be a a silent auction -- bidding starts at 6:30, before the concert -- for products and services from great (and generous) local businesses.

Here's some basic info about TBS:

The Tulsa Boy Singers is a community-based, non-profit, nondenominational organization for musically talented boys from 3rd grade through high school. The choir has been serving Tulsa for over 60 years, presenting concerts each Christmas season and each spring, singing at civic events (such as Philbrook's Festival of Trees), weddings, and other occasions.

Hour-and-a-half rehearsals are held each Monday and Thursday at Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Tulsa. Boys come from all over the metro area and as far away as Wagoner and Ponca City.

As part of their training, the boys go through the Royal Society of Church Music's "Voice for Life" program, which teaches music theory and notation, vocal technique, and musicianship, as well as the personal discipline required to be rehearse and perform as part of a group.

After school is out each summer the choir goes on a brief tour. Recent tours have taken TBS to Texas and around Oklahoma, and in 2007 TBS spent a week performing in the United Kingdom. Each August before school begins, there's a week long camp where the boys learn music for the upcoming season and have time to swim and kayak and enjoy the outdoors.

New singers start out in the Boy Choir, TBS's training choir. When they've developed some basic choral and performance skills, boys can be promoted to the Concert Choir, which brings with it the chance to go on tour and participate in camp.

Funds raised from Friday's auction will go toward scholarships, tour trip costs, camp costs, and overall costs of maintaining the choir.

My oldest son is now in his fifth year with TBS. Although it's a challenge to weave rehearsals into a busy schedule, he enjoys it too much to think of giving it up. Through TBS, he has learned about music, about teamwork, and about poise in front of an audience, giving him skills that are useful far beyond the field of choral music.

I hope you'll attend Friday's concert and learn for yourself what the Tulsa Boy Singers are all about.

MORE: Here are the Tulsa Boy Singers, performing Palestrina's Sicut cervus (Psalm 42:1) at St. Paul's Covent Garden, during their 2007 UK tour.

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God., the official Bob Wills website, has launched a podcast called Bob Wills Radio, hosted by Jim Goff. Each episode features music and excerpts from interviews with members of the Texas Playboys. New episodes will go up each Monday at noon.

The inaugural edition features a 1983 interview with steel guitar legend Leon McAuliffe. Leon talks about how he came to play steel guitar, how he became a part of the Texas Playboys back in 1935, his friendship with Tex Beneke, and the beginnings of his band in Tulsa after World War II. His first band was a horn-dominated swing band, designed to set him apart from the western swing bands around. After touring the local dance circuit, Leon found that the audiences expected him to play western swing, so he canned the horns, hired some fiddle players, and switched back to western swing. (Harlequin Records has a disc of the big band version of Leon McAuliffe's band, from 1946-8.)

Toward the end of the podcast, there's a version of "T-U-L-S-A Straight Ahead," sung by Leon and backed by the Original Texas Playboys, the band made up of Bob Wills sidemen that performed from the mid-70s to the mid-80s. (For some reason, recordings of the Original Texas Playboys are really hard to find.)

Also on the website, you can purchase for download a 36-minute interview with Bob Wills recorded in 1949. Before you buy, you can hear a three-minute excerpt in which Bob Wills talks about their first dances at Cain's Ballroom, what kind of music you'd hear at Cain's before the Texas Playboys took up residence, and why they had to buy Cain's from Mr. & Mrs. Cain. (They started out at the Playmor, NW corner of 2nd and Madison, a second-floor dance hall -- retail below -- about half the size of Cain's.)

Just saw a promo on OETA: Documentary-maker Ken Burns is planning a series on the Dust Bowl, in the same vein as his works on the Civil War, jazz, and baseball, and he's looking for help from Oklahomans:


I'm asking Oklahomans to help me with a new public television series I'm now working on: The Dust Bowl.

Like our earlier films on World War II, Jazz, Baseball, and The Civil War, we think the Dust Bowl is an important event in all of American history.

We're in the early stages of our research, but we know that Oklahoma will be a major part of the Dust Bowl story we want to tell.

We're looking for first-person stories of Oklahomans who lived through those hard, hard times, especially out in the Panhandle, where the Dust Bowl was the worst.

We hope to find people who can share their experiences with us - or their photographs, diaries, or home movies from the 1930s, to help us tell this important story.

If you or someone you know can help in this research project, please contact OETA at 1-800-846-7665

Or Send a Note to:

OETA Dustbowl Stories
P.O. Box 14190
Oklahoma City, OK 73113

All we need at this stage is a short, written note explaining how you could serve as a resource. Or, please call OETA with a brief description of your Dust Bowl experience. We'll take it from there.

Thank you for helping in this important project.

Ken Burns
Florentine Films

I don' t have any Dust Bowl stories in my family, but I have a couple of suggestions:

Run ads in California's Central Valley, places like Bakersfield and Fresno, where many Okies wound up and where their descendants still live.

Include western swing and its precursors (old-time fiddle music, Texas blues) in the soundtrack. Woody Guthrie may have been writing folk songs to tell the story of the masses, but the masses were at the neighbor's house, rolling up the rug, pushing back the chairs and tables, and dancing to the kind of music that Bob Wills, Milton Brown, Hank Penny, and Spade Cooley would forge into western swing.

In particular, Cindy Walker wrote a song called "Dusty Skies," which the Texas Playboys recorded in 1941. I don't remember where I read this, but it's said that Tommy Duncan choked up the first time he sang it, recalling the dust storms that devastated his family's farm in Texas. In his Guardian obituary of Cindy Walker, Tony Russell wrote of "Dusty Skies":

As delivered by Wills' vocalist Tommy Duncan, it is among the most affecting of country epitaphs, as true a memorial of its time and place as the Dust Bowl Ballads of Woody Guthrie.

(A side note: If you want to find good biographical sketches of western swing musicians, check the archives of British newspapers like the Independent, the Telegraph, and the Guardian.)

Here are the lyrics:

Dusty skies
I can't see nothing in sight
Good old Dan you'll have to guide me right
If we lose our way the cattle will stray
And we'll lose them all tonight
Cause all of the grass and water's gone
We'll have to keep movin' on

Sand blowin' I just can't breathe in this air
Thought it would soon be clear and fair
But dust storms played hell
With land and folks as well
Got to be moving somewhere

Hate to leave the old ranch so bare
But I've got to be moving somewhere

So get along dogies
We're moving off of this range
Never thought as how I'd make a change
But the blue skies have failed
So we're on our last trail
Underneath these dusty skies
This ain't tears in my eyes
Just sand from these dusty skies

After the jump, a video of the song. (The video is a bit odd, but it's Tommy Duncan's 1941 version on the audio.)

Red dirt, rockabilly, and western swing with Oklahoma ties are on tap this summer at Cain's Ballroom:

Wanda Jackson at Cain's BallroomWanda Jackson, the Queen of Rockabilly, from Maud, Oklahoma, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in April. After playing dates in London, Glasgow, and Interlaken, Switzerland, the rest of this month, she'll be at Cain's on July 7 with Nancy Apple and Ronnie Elliott, presented by the Woody Guthrie Coalition. Tickets are $24 for general admission, $39 for Gold Circle (tables down front).

(Wanda will play a Summer Breeze concert in Norman on July 12, and the Poncan Theater in Ponca City on September 19.)

HotClubOfCowtown-WishfulThinking.jpgHot Club of Cowtown -- Elana James on fiddle, Jake Erwin on bass, and Tulsa resident Whit Smith on guitar -- bring their blend of Bob Wills and Django Reinhart to Cain's second stage on August 19. Tickets are $12. Hot Club's new album, Wishful Thinking, is due out this summer. The album will include the song, "Hey, Beautiful," whose lyrics are taken from a letter by Staff Sgt. Juan Campos, in Iraq, to his wife Jamie, back home in McAllen, Tex. Campos died in the line of duty in May 2007:

Campos' words were among those published in a New York Times article on March 25, 2008, under the headline "Six of the Fallen, in Words They Sent Home." One of the readers was Elana James, singer and violinist in the Austin band Hot Club of Cowtown; she was immediately struck by Campos' message.

"Here are people (who) have very modern ways of communicating, and yet they're so far away," James says. "I didn't think it was poetic, but I was bowled over by the writing and especially the one Campos letter. It was so beautiful; he said everything in that one brief letter. Also, none of it was about him -- it was about his caring for other people."

Stirred by the sentiments, James started thinking there was a song there. She worked out a melody, composed an arrangement, then recorded it with the band. It's a departure from Hot Club's usual Western swing and vintage jazz; James' voice floats breezily above a country-folkish melodic line, her violin underpinning it all. The tempo starts slowly, picks up in the middle, then winds down near the end. The song's mood exists in a zone between whimsical and mournful, ending up at matter-of-fact. It stays with you.

Hot Club is offering "Hey, Beautiful" as a free download on its Web site; James plans to include it on the band's upcoming album, to be released early in 2009, and is working out details for any royalties the song might generate to be given to Campos' family (she's been in touch with them via e-mail).

You can listen to "Hey, Beautiful" and clips from previous albums on the Hot Club of Cowtown website.

On August 28, the Red Dirt Rangers will celebrate their 20th anniversary with a free show at Cain's. Donations will be accepted with all proceeds going to charity. The band was recently the subject of an Urban Tulsa Weekly cover story by Mike Easterling.

All three shows begin at 8 pm; doors open at 7. All three shows are open to all ages.

You've got just six more days to respond to the PLANiTULSA "Which Way, Tulsa?" survey -- to express your opinion on the way Tulsa should grow over the next 25 years. Whether you prefer the Main Streets approach (Scenario B), "New Centers" (Scenario C), or "Centered City" (Scenario D), or whether, like the Owasso real estate agent quoted in a Sunday newspaper story, you'd like most of the region's growth to happen outside of Tulsa's city limits (Scenario A), take a few minutes to express your opinion.

In addition to the multiple choice questions, there are several questions at the end that allow free-form responses:

7. The scenario survey asks about a few major components of the comprehensive plan, such as housing and transportation strategies.
  • Are there any significant issues that you would like to see given more attention?
  • Is there anything about the specific growth scenarios, that doesn't fall under the previous questions that you would like to tell us?

8. If you could focus the comprehensive plan on just one part of the city, which area would it be?
(Be as general or as specific as you like)

9. What policies or strategies would you like to see the City of Tulsa pursue?

10. Please use the space below to provide any other comments that you would like the PLANiTULSA team to receive.

Another opportunity to express your opinion comes in the form of Urban Tulsa Weekly's Absolute Best of Tulsa runoff ballot. Deadline is June 25 at 5 pm. Multiple choice this time, in about 70 categories, mostly food and drink, but you can also vote for Best City Councilor (only three choices, though) and Biggest Ego.

UTW is also sponsoring an expanded music awards program this year -- the Absolute Best Music Awards. Voting is now open and will continue until July 17. You can listen to music samples for each nominated artist, so it's a great way to get to know the Tulsa music scene.

TiffanyTranscriptionsVol5.jpgjackwebb-patnovak.jpgJack Webb, of "Dragnet" fame, was the announcer for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys? Yes, indeed! For a few months, at any rate.

Back in 1946, Bob Wills had a weekly half-hour radio show on San Francisco's KGO, broadcast live from the Oakland Auditorium Theatre., a website devoted to the mid-'40s for-radio-only recordings that captured the Texas Playboys at their swinging best, has a section on the KGO Bob Wills broadcasts, with a couple of sound snippets of Jack Webb and the Playboys and a script for a Hollywood broadcast for which Webb served as both announcer and MC.

In 1946, Webb starred in two radio series for KGO: The Jack Webb Show, a comedy show, and Pat Novak for Hire, a detective series.

The sponsor of the broadcast was Fisher Mills, maker of Zoom instant hot cereal. One of the jingles (you can hear it on this page, which also has a KGO Bob Wills show script) went like this:

For a breakfast that's delicious
That will banish morning gloom
Joe and Jane and Aloysius
All eat instant cooking Zoom.

The jingle concludes with a trademark Junior Barnard guitar lick. I'd like to shake the hand of the songwriter who rhymed "delicious" and "Aloysius" -- brilliant! The singers are probably Evelyn McKinney, Dean McKinney, Eldon Shamblin, and Tiny Moore -- the four sing together on "It's a Good Day" (which you can find on the Tiffany Transcriptions: McKinney Sisters disc) and the sound is very similar.


Excerpt from Dirty Linen magazine interview with Tom Diamant on how he and Jeff Alexson, his partner at Kaleidoscope Records, brought the Tiffany Transcriptions back to life in the 1980s. (I've got a copy of the issue on order.)

Panhandle Country, Tom Diamant's weekly show on KPFA.

Diamant recommends the Collectors Choice reissue of the Tiffany Transcriptions but notes some history missing from the set:

I have two complaints which I have expressed to Collectors Choice. The Tiffany Transcriptions were rescued from a basement in Oakland California by Kaleidoscope Records owners the late Jeff Alexson and me, Tom Diamant. We dubbed them, chose the songs for those first 9 albums plus the McKinney sisters one, sequenced them, arranged for the notes by the original musicians, supervised the whole thing, and originally released them on Kaleidoscope Records yet we are not credited by name on the Collectors Choice issue, except for doing a couple of interviews. Also, the marvelous art work that appears on the original albums and the covers of the Collectors Choice CDs was done by Elizabeth Weil, who is also not credited. We receive no royalties for these later reissues, but it would have been nice to have a line of type acknowledging our efforts.

On Eric Banister's Tiffany Transcriptions box set review, Diamant explains what's not in the box set:

There were over 460 recorded items, by Bob Wills for the Tiffany Transcriptions including false starts, incomplete takes, intros and outros, mic checks, a Zoom Cereal jingle, etc.

There were over 360 or so complete takes recorded. Many are not so good but are interesting just the same. A chronologicaly ordered, complete box set would not be easy listening and for fanatics only. Those first 9 CDs were the cream of the crop (there is a volume 10, but it was never issued and that's another story. The McKinney Sisters was part of a different series and not considered Volume 10. Although everyone seems to call it that.)

Ted Gioia's on Bob Wills and the Tiffany Transcriptions

A.V. Club review of the Tiffany Transcriptions box set

The Wall Street Journal review of the Tiffany Transcriptions box set features steel guitarist Herb Remington on his guitar trios with Tiny Moore and Eldon Shamblin:

The new center of action, however, is an unprecedented three-part-harmony string section made up of Eldon Shamblin on electric guitar, Tiny Moore on electric mandolin, and Mr. Remington on steel. To Wills's country-breakdown dance numbers, such as "Stay a Little Longer," and the blues and pop tunes like "What Is This Thing Called Love?" that the band always had played, this lineup adds string-dominated turns on songs of Duke Ellington ("Take the 'A' Train"), Benny Goodman ("Mission to Moscow") and other leading lights of Swing.

"That wasn't an accident," Mr. Remington recalls. "We were all trying to do session work, and these tunes were in our minds and bodies from listening to the Big Bands. We had DC power and an amplifier in a little room in the back of Bob's new bus -- and the three of us would work out things like 'At the Woodchoppers' Ball,' but with strings only. By the time we got to the job we could play it, but then Bob might get drunk or something and never call the tune." Some of those "never called live" bus-born arrangements would become Tiffany session tracks -- and without the time limitations of recordings of 78 rpm singles, there's time for the solos as well as those instrumental harmonies.

Blurt Online review of the Tiffany Transcriptions box set: A few missed facts (the box set has the same tracks as the Kaleidoscope releases, and Oklahoma Hills is Jack Guthrie's song, not his cousin Woody's), but some good insights.

From Bob, what might have seemed corny, contrived and phony from someone else was, well, corny, sometimes contrived but hardly false. Bob Wills had loads of charm and a love of music making that transmitted easily to live audiences and are just as much in evidence on record, especially in this almost dauntingly comprehensive collection.

...There were better fiddle players and singers, more prolific songwriters and certainly there were more graceful dancers but somehow Bob Wills caught lightning in a bottle. He was that rarest of musical people; a great bandleader. They are generally good to great musicians but more than that they are strategists, spokesmen, focal points and sometimes even jesters and clowns.

Time's March 15, 1954, cover story on Jack Webb covers his KGO years

More about Pat Novak for Hire, Jack Webb's first crime series

Pat Novak for Hire -- 23 episodes at the Internet Archive. With Raymond Burr as the obnoxious cop!

Loads of great noir narration from Pat Novak for Hire:

"He was a tough, hard cop, with a heart big enough to hide behind a piece of birdseed."

"The street was deserted except for a couple of winos, near the corner, trying to buy back 1926 at a dollar a jug."

"So far it was working out like a crossword cut in half."

"She had nice hair, and the dress helped too. It was dark blue and had a V-neck, but the designer believed in big letters."

This coming Friday and Saturday evening, May 29 and 30, at 7:30 pm, the Tulsa Boy Singers will perform a spring concert of classical selections by Mozart, Holst, Mendelssohn, and others, and songs from the musical Camelot. Admission is $5 (or pay as you can). Donations above and beyond would be appreciated. Proceeds provide needed funds to keep Tulsa's oldest choral organization in operation.

The performance will be held in the beautiful Gothic Revival sanctuary of Trinity Episcopal Church, at 5th and Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. A reception with refreshments, provided by the TBS parents, will follow each performance.

On the program:

  • Mendelssohn, Hear My Prayer. You may know it by its plaintive final movement, "O, for the wings, for the wings of a dove."
  • Mozart, Missa in C (K. 259), the "Organ Solo mass"
  • Stephen Paulus, Sing Creations Music On, a setting of a poem by John Clare.
  • Andre J. Thomas, I Dream a World, a setting of a poem by Langston Hughes.
  • Gustav Holst, Homeland. The music is Jupiter's theme from The Planets. The lyrics of the first verse are from the British patriotic hymn, I Vow to Thee My Country, by Sir Cecil Spring-Rice. Arranger Z. Randall Stroope has written two additional verses.
  • Lerner and Loewe, Selections from Camelot, including the title song, "I Loved You Once in Silence," "How to Handle a Woman," and "If Ever I Should Leave You."

I've had the chance to hear TBS perform a couple of times this spring, and they're as good as I've ever heard them. Not only are these young men developing their musical gifts, they learn teamwork and self-discipline through the TBS program.

If you have a son or know a boy, somewhere between the ages of 8 and 18, who is interested in music and singing, bring him along Friday or Saturday night. Director Casey Cantwell will hold brief auditions following each performance.

2009 Barthelmes Anniversary Concert

Barthelmes Conservatory will celebrate its fifth anniversary with a special concert this coming Tuesday night, May 19, 2009, at 6 p.m., in the Bernsen Center, 708 S. Boston in downtown Tulsa, in the Grand Hall on the 4th floor. Admission is free. About two dozen students will perform short pieces.

For a story in the latest Urban Tulsa Weekly, Holly Wall spoke with Aida Aydinyan, executive director of the conservatory about the school's history and mission:

"All (of Barthelmes') 63 scholarship students are unique and have fascinating personal stories," said Aydinyan. "However, two of them ... are the first two students to be graduating from the Conservatory Music School program but also that these very first graduating students have been accepted to higher education institutions because of the Conservatory. These amazing and significant happenings deserve to be recorded and achieved.

"It is an incredible feeling to realize that we have invested in the future of these scholarship students and the pride derived from the fact that we indeed prepared them for success in college and performing arts field," she said.

I'm proud to say that my daughter (shown above) was selected to perform a short solo piano piece and my son will perform as part of an ensemble. Another ensemble piece will be performed by Bo Willis and Kiersten Morales on violin, Drew Crane on piano, Emma Hardin on cello, and Zac Hardin on bass. (Emma and Zac play bluegrass cello and bass for Rockin' Acoustic Circus, so Tuesday is a chance to hear their classical side.) I heard this quintet's performance at a studio concert last week -- marvelous. Bo Willis is graduating from the Barthelmes Music School program and will attend the University of Tulsa on a full scholarship.

This coming Friday evening, May 8, 2009, the Pendleton Family Fiddlers are throwing a release party and show for their first CD album. It'll be held at the Spotlight Theatre, the art deco landmark located at Riverside Drive at Houston Ave. Tickets are $10 and CDs are $10.

Fronting the group are a couple of multi-talented sisters, Emma Jane (15) and Marina (14), state and national champion fiddlers and yodelers. (They sing and play mandolin and guitar, too.) They're backed by their dad Scott on rhythm guitar, their mom Virginia on fiddle and mandolin, and their uncle David McNamee on bass.

We've had the privilege of knowing the Pendletons for a few years now and continue to be impressed not only by their talent but by their generosity in encouraging other musicians and performers. That's exemplified by the way they're handling their CD release. Not only will the Pendletons perform, but so will eight other acts, according to the flier:

Victoria Hannath, actress-singer • Regina Scott, fiddle phenom
Natasha Irons, soaring vocals • Jasmine Love, smooth stylist
Travis Gregg, good humor • Ragtime Bill Rowland
John Hansen, banjo non grata • Larry Stockard, folk music relapse

The Pendletons have been regular performers at the Spotlight Theatre, part of the weekly "Olio" of acts that accompany the long running melodrama "The Drunkard" every Saturday night. The Spotlight's history as a launching pad for young performers was the reason the Pendletons chose the venue and included their fellow Spotlighters on the program.

It should be a fun and affordable evening of family entertainment, and if you love great fiddle music, you'll want to be there.

I recently came across a funny little novelty song recorded by Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys called "The Thingamajig." It seemed just the song for a rainy day of fix-it projects. It's much in the spirit of "Rag Mop," an novelty number from 1949 that was a hit for Wills and, later, for the Ames Brothers.

Follow this link to hear "The Thingamajig" and "She Took" at a delightful blog called I'm Learning to Share.

"The Thingamajig" was written by prolific songwriter Cindy Walker. ("You Don't Know Me" and "Dream Baby" are perhaps her two best known songs.) It was recorded on Feb. 3, 1952, at the KVOO studios, for RCA. (Was KVOO still in the Philtower in '52?) Lead vocals by Julian "Curley" Lewis. Johnnie Lee Wills is asking the questions and singing on the trio part. Don Tolle on electric guitar, Tommy Elliott on steel guitar, Clarence Cagle on piano, Chuck Adams on bass, Waid Peeler on drums, Curley Lewis, Henry Boatman and James Guy "Cotton" Thompson on fiddle. Don Harlan played clarinet on this session, but I don't hear it on this song. He might be singing with the trio, along with Johnnie Lee Wills and Leon Huff, the band's usual vocalist.

Here, for the record, are the lyrics. (I'm not entirely sure about "bucket big" in the first verse, and "spring" in the chorus could be "sprig." UPDATE 2009/05/17 -- changed "bucket big" to "bug is big" on the advice of a commenter.)

What did I do with that thingamajig?

I gotta to find that thingamajig.
I gotta to have it to fix my rig
Tain't no bigger than a bug is big.
What did I do with that thingamajig?

Is it square?
No, it isn't square.
Does it flare?
No, it doesn't flare.
It ain't square, it don't flare,
It ain't shaped like a pear.
It's just a little ol' thingamajig.

Is it round?
No, it isn't round.
Is it brown?
No, it isn't brown.
It ain't round, it ain't brown
It don't make any sound
It's just a little ol' thingamajig.

It's just a doodad
With a thingamabob,
A doomaflitchet
That you twist like a knob,
A whatchamacallit
Fastened down with a spring.
It's just a little ol' thingamajig.

Is it flat?
No, it isn't flat.
Like a mat?
No, not like no mat.
It ain't flat like a mat;
It's no bigger than that.
It's just a little ol' thingamajig.

I gotta to find that thingamajig.
I gotta to have it to fix my rig.
Tain't no bigger than a bug is big.
What did I do with that thingamajig?

Is it brass?
No, it isn't brass.
Is it glass
No, it isn't glass.
It ain't brass, it ain't glass,
But alack and alas,
I've got to find that thingamajig.

Is it stone?
No, it isn't stone.
Like a hone?
No, not like no hone.
It ain't stone like a hone.
It ain't button or bone.
It's just a little ol' thingamajig.

It's just a doodad
With a thingamabob,
A doomaflitchet
That you twist like a knob,
A whatchamacallit
Fastened down with a spring.
It's just a little ol' thingamajig.

Is it tin?
No, it isn't tin.
Do it spin?
No, it doesn't spin.
It ain't tin, it don't spin,
But if you are my friend,
Please help me find that thingamajig!

UPDATE 2009/05/18: Dad says he remembers the song from back then, and that Grandma (his mom) loved it.

UPDATE 2012/01/12: Uncle Allen says this was his dad's (my Grandpa Bates's) favorite. It makes sense, since he dealt with many thingamajigs, doomaflitchets, whatchamacallits, and doodads in his line of work (electronics repair and sales -- Johnny's Electronics in Nowata).

MORE: A commenter suggests that the lyric is "Tain't no bigger than a bug is big," which makes far more sense than "bucket big."

The National Fiddler Hall of Fame, based here in Tulsa, will hold its third annual gala and induction tomorrow night, Wednesday, April 29, 2009, at the Tulsa Community College PACE, 81st & US 169. (Gala tickets range from $30 to $100.)

The featured fiddler is Mark O'Connor, who will perform at the gala, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and will also hold a workshop on Thursday at 5:30 Gilcrease Museum. The workshop cost is $25, $15 for students.

Johnnie Lee Wills (1912-1984), who presided over a daily radio show on KVOO and Thursday and Saturday night dances at Cain's Ballroom for many years, will be one of the four inductees. Here's a bio of Johnnie Lee Wills by Guy Logsdon.

Western Swing on 78 has posted MP3s from some Johnnie Lee Wills transcription discs from 1950-1951. These are complete radio programs with between-songs banter along with the music.

Johnnie Lee Wills, Schmitt Transcriptions Part 1
Johnnie Lee Wills, Schmitt Transcriptions Part 2
Johnnie Lee Wills, Schmitt Transcriptions Part 3
Johnnie Lee Wills, Schmitt Transcriptions Part 4
Johnnie Lee Wills, Schmitt Transcriptions Part 5

How do you do, friends?
We're here to play for you
And sing the songs you want to hear
Before we are through.

It's Johnnie Lee and all the boys
Sending thanks to you
For your support and loyalty
And your friendship true.

There's been a lot of discussion about the vote in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on whether to ratify "Do You Realize??" as the official rock song of Oklahoma. The resolution received only 48 votes in favor, three short of the required majority. Gov. Brad Henry signed an executive order making the choice of the Flaming Lips tune official.

An online poll last fall picked "Do You Realize??" over nine other finalists, getting about 51% of 22,000 cast. I can't find a reference, but I seem to recall some suggestion at the time that Flaming Lips fans were stuffing the virtual ballot box. As an active band with a devoted, tech-savvy following, they're more likely to generate that kind of support than a musician prominent in an earlier era, like Hoyt Axton, Leon Russell, Wanda Jackson, or The Ventures. In my opinion, the Lips tune rocks least of the 10 songs. (The full list of finalists is here, along with a player that lets you listen to all of them.)

In March, the Flaming Lips were invited to appear at a legislative session. On that occasion, bassist Michael Ivins (any relation to Molly?) wore a red T-shirt emblazoned with a large yellow hammer and sickle, the symbol of international communism, a source of offense to many of the legislators who voted no on Thursday's resolution. It should have been a source of offense to every legislator.

Lead singer Wayne Coyne seems to think that only "small-minded" people should be offended by a hammer-and-sickle T-shirt:

"Me, I just say look, it's a little minority of some small-minded religious wackos who think they can tell people what kind of T-shirts and what kind of music they can listen to, and the smart, rational, reasonable people of Oklahoma are never going to buy into that," frontman Wayne Coyne told Tulsa World in an interview Friday.

State Rep. Corey Holland, R-Marlow, voted against the resolution. His reply to Coyne:

The great thing about this country is he has the right to make whatever statement he wants to make.... I have the right to be offended by that.

Gabriel Malor, a former Oklahoman who blogs regularly at Ace of Spades HQ, headlined his post on the controversy, "I'm Not Entirely Convinced We Shouldn't Just Lock Them In and Set the Building on Fire," referring to the legislators who voted against the resolution.

Steve Lackmeyer, writer and blogger for the Oklahoman, likens the State House vote to county government corruption. (UPDATE: Steve's comment has prompted me to look again at how I summarized his entry, and I think I oversimplified in my haste. It would be more accurate to say, "For Steve Lackmeyer, the State House vote brought to mind legislative resistance to county government reform after the corruption scandals of the 1980s." But just read his entry for yourself.)

Oklahoman editor Ed Kelley slams the legislature in a catchall video condemnation that is ignorant in multiple dimensions, and I don't say that lightly. He claims that the legislature wants to punish hardworking immigrants, implying the word illegal by his reference to "their children who are American citizens," but not using the word. (The legislature, and an overwhelming majority of Oklahoma citizens, welcome legal immigrants, but support sanctions against employers who use illegal labor and support cooperation between local law enforcement and Federal immigration authorities.) He refers to Ivins's T-shirt as bearing a "symbol of the old Communist Party, which went out of business with the old Soviet Union almost two decades ago." Hey, Ed, tell the oppressed people of China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam that the Communist Party "went out of business." Tell that to Chinese civil rights attorney Gao Zhisheng, still missing after being taken from his home by Chinese security forces on Feb. 4.

For that matter, Ed, does the fact that the Nazi Party has been "out of business" for over 60 years mean that no one should be offended by it any more? Had Ivins shown up in a red T-shirt with a white circle and a foot-wide black swastika, we wouldn't be talking about the legislature's vote. We'd be reading about venues canceling Flaming Lips tour dates, about their record sales plummeting, about denunciations by civil rights groups. It would have been a career-ending move, and rightly so.

Hey, Ed: Timothy McVeigh has been permanently out of business for about eight years now. Would it have been OK by you for Ivins to show up at the State Capitol with a McVeigh T-shirt? God help us if there's ever a day when that would be considered the latest in ironic hipster wear.

Tens of millions have been killed and billions have been enslaved in the name of Communism over the last century. Billions still suffer under its yoke.

The most disturbing aspect of this fuss is the realization of how little Americans realize the inherent inhumanity of Communism. It can be summed up in a single image, from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four: "a boot, stamping on a human face -- forever."

With May Day coming up -- the traditional holiday for the international Communist movement -- it's as good a time as any to refresh our memories and educate the younger folks about those who suffered and died as a result of Communist policies -- not torture and imprisonment simply employed in the name of Communism but inherent to the Communist worldview. Look for several posts on the topic here at BatesLine this week. I hope other bloggers will join me in raising awareness of how deeply evil Communism was and still is.

MORE: Brandon Dutcher weighs in:

Now, I know nothing about Mr. Ivins. It appears that at the very least he needs some education on the matter, and indeed I suspect it goes deeper than that. My guess is that (to borrow from another band) he still hasn't found what he's looking for. In any case, for now I think it would be useful simply to juxtapose Mr. Ivins' silliness with the seriousness of the great man himself:

Click through to hear Ronald Reagan calling on the Communists to stop treating their citizens as prisoners.

Brandon also links to The Black Book of Communism, the definitive catalog of the devastation wrought by this evil philosophy:

The authors, all distinguished scholars based in Europe, document Communist crimes against humanity, but also crimes against national and universal culture, from Stalin's destruction of hundreds of churches in Moscow to Ceausescu's leveling of the historic heart of Bucharest to the widescale devastation visited on Chinese culture by Mao's Red Guards.

As the death toll mounts--as many as 25 million in the former Soviet Union, 65 million in China, 1.7 million in Cambodia, and on and on--the authors systematically show how and why, wherever the millenarian ideology of Communism was established, it quickly led to crime, terror, and repression. An extraordinary accounting, this book amply documents the unparalleled position and significance of Communism in the hierarchy of violence that is the history of the twentieth century.

Chamber Music Tulsa and Barthelmes Conservatory are hosting a residency with the Cypress String Quartet. On Thursday, the quartet did workshops at Edison Preparatory School involving students from nine elementary and middle schools.

On Friday, the quartet did a strings seminar with Barthelmes Conservatory student ensembles. My wife and son were there and my wife writes, "The ensemble workshops focused on creativity, active listening, knowing who was your 'partner' at appropriate times, and much much more. It was fun to watch an ensemble that literally spent less time looking at the music, than they did watching others for cues. "

Tonight, the Cypress String Quartet will present a multimedia production called "Inspired by America," featuring music by Antonin Dvorak, Charles Ives, Samuel Barber, Charles Tomlinson Griffes, and several pieces by living American composers written for the Cypress String Quartet. There's even a string quartet by Benjamin Franklin to be played with bow only (no fingering).

Here are the details:

Inspired by America
The Cypress String Quartet
Sat., April 25, 2009, at 7:30 pm
Booker T. Washington High School Auditorium
1514 E. Zion St. (near Peoria and Apache)

Produced by the Emmy-winning director Michael Schwartz, this 90 minute journey through the history and the conscience of America, as narrated by the author of "The American Soul", Dr. Jacob Needleman, takes the audience on an artistic examination of what America stands for.

This deeply reflective look at the unique greatness of this wonderful country, in spite of those chapters of our history that challenge our ideals, uses great live chamber music, narration, and imagery to have us ponder those things essential to build an enduring and positive future for America in the world.

Following the performance, the Quartet will be available to talk to audience members and to autograph programs.

Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults. To purchase tickets, please call Rose McCracken, Chamber Music Tulsa at 587-3802.

The Inspired by America website includes a trailer, an extended preview, and audio clips. The program notes, with a list of pieces and movements that will be performed, are also online.

Beginning tomorrow, April 17, Coffee House on Cherry Street (15th & Rockford in Tulsa) will host an exhibition of the photography of Jason Sales. Sales is best known for his vivid images of rock performances. You can see more of his work on his Flickr photostream.

The opening reception will be held tomorrow night, Friday, April 17, at 8 p.m., at the Coffee House on Cherry Street. Nashville singer Tayla Lynn (she's Loretta Lynn's granddaughter) will be performing starting at 8:30 along with Tulsa songwriter and guitarist Jesse Aycock.

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.)

Tonight at 8 p.m. (Friday, March 27, 2009) the Rockin' Acoustic Circus will perform at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in the old Tulsa Union Depot at 1st and Boston. The six-member band performs bluegrass, western swing, and modern country. They put on a great show.

Here's a sample: "Bethany" from the Fiddlefest in Guthrie earlier this year, which shows what you get when you cross bluegrass with Django Reinhart. Listen for the cello solo:

(More videos here.)

Ticket prices are family-friendly, according to the website, "General admission is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, college students and Jazz Hall members and $5 for students over 12 years of age. You may also reserve a seat for $20 per person at one of the front tables." For tickets and more info, call the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame at (918) 281-8600.

Wanda Jackson, a native of Maud, Okla., and a resident of the Oklahoma City area, will be inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland next month, but tonight she's playing Cain's Ballroom here in Tulsa. Deeply rooted in the western swing music of Bob Wills, Spade Cooley, and Tex Williams, she started out as a country singer, working with Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys. In 1955 and 1956 she toured with Elvis Presley and made the transition to rockabilly.

The show starts at 8 p.m. If you love old-time rock 'n' roll, you'll want to hear one of the originals.

Charles G. Hill nominated Wanda's "Funnel of Love" for our state rock 'n' roll song for its multiple ties to Oklahoma:

1. Wanda's from Maud, and today lives in Moore.
2. The tasty guitar licks are provided by latter-day Tulsan Roy Clark.
3. What could be more Oklahoman than Tornado as Metaphor? I mean, really.

More clips after the jump -- "Hard Headed Woman," and two excerpts from a 2008 Smithsonian Channel documentary about Wanda.

UPDATE: It was a great show with an appreciative audience of all ages. Wanda sounds as great as ever, backed by a terrific rockabilly band, Bill Holden and the Nighthawks. When she introduced "Funnel of Love," she mentioned that it was largely overlooked when it was first issued, because it was the B side of her hit, "Right or Wrong." Young rockabilly aficionados rediscovered and embraced the song a few years ago, and she had to go back and re-learn it. It was great to hear it live. She introduced a set of Elvis songs (including "Heartbreak Hotel") with reminiscences of her years touring with him, and how he introduced her to rockabilly.


Shortly before the end of her set, Wanda took a moment to tell us about her coming to faith in Jesus, "the Savior of my soul and the Lord of my life," in 1971, and she followed her words with a rousing rendition of the gospel classic, "I Saw the Light."

Wanda also thanked Jennifer Chancellor, Barrelhouse Beat music columnist for the Tulsa World; there's a huge archive of stories, audio clips, and links to YouTube videos featuring Wanda Jackson here on

At the end of the show, Cain's owners Jim and Alice Rodgers presented Wanda with a huge bouquet of roses and read a proclamation from Mayor Kathy Taylor declaring today as Wanda Jackson Day in Tulsa.

Now back to the clips....

Still the king

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Happy 104th birthday to the King of Western Swing! Ah, gather 'round friends! Why hurry? Let's all stay a little longer:

That's from the movie Blazing the Western Trail, with Charles Starrett as the Durango Kid, with the Texas Playboys' 1945 lineup: Tommy Duncan on vocals, Bob Wills and Joe Holley on fiddle, Jimmy Wyble on lead guitar, Cameron Hill on rhythm guitar, Noel Boggs on steel guitar (very cool double-necked lap steel there), Alex Brashear on trumpet, Monte Mountjoy on drums, Teddy Adams on bass, and Millard Kelso, usually the piano player, is on the squeezebox in this clip.

More clips from the same movie:

Ida Red
Goodbye Liza Jane
Time Changes Everything

That last clip has some nice twin guitar work by Jimmy Wyble and Cameron Hill, and that's Wyble playing the solo on "Stay a Little Longer."

Jimmy Wyble is still around at age 86, teaching contrapuntal jazz guitar on Thursdays this month at Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. According to this, he plays at the Chado Tea Room in Pasadena on Tuesdays and in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo on Sundays. This interview covers the breadth and length of his career, which also included a stint with Benny Goodman. (Here's video of him talking guitar and playing at Chado in 2007.)

(Via Tyson Wynn, who also has George Jones singing "Take Me Back to Tulsa" on his Bob Wills tribute album from the '60s, and the Rolling Stones paying tribute during their Austin, Texas, performance.)

DON'T FORGET: The Texas Playboys, with Leon Rausch, Tommy Allsup, and Bobby Koefer, perform at Bob Wills' Birthday Party at Cain's Ballroom tomorrow night, Saturday, March 7. Doors open at 6:30. Opening acts are the Round-Up Boys and Oklahoma Stomp.

... and the world is silhouetted 'gainst the sky....

Bet you can't listen to that without harmonizing.

("Blue Shadows on the Trail," by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers.)

little_cowboy_lullaby-bob_wills-sheet_music.jpgMy kids listen to CDs at night, usually one CD on infinite repeat, and over and over again for several weeks. Over the Christmas holidays they listened to piano instrumental versions of carols. I introduced them to the soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. We tried Mark Knopfler's soundtrack for Local Hero, but there were a couple of loud songs that interrupted the flow of quieter pieces.

The three-year-old really wanted to listen to a Bob Wills CD, but it was too bouncy in places and tended to make it hard for the kids to get to sleep and stay asleep. So I put together a mix CD of slow, restful western tunes:

  1. Goodnight, Little Sweetheart, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  2. Little Cowboy Lullaby, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  3. Texas Sandman, Johnnie Lee Wills & His Boys
  4. Just Friends, Hot Club of Cowtown
  5. Dedicated to You, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  6. Medley: La Golondrina, Lady of Spain, Cielito Lindo, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  7. No Wonder, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  8. Along the Navajo Trail, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  9. Prairie Lullaby, Sons of the Pioneers
  10. Wagon Wheels, Sons of the Pioneers
  11. Lonely Yukon Stars, Riders in the Sky
  12. My Oklahoma, Riders in the Sky
  13. Tumbling Tumbleweeds, Riders in the Sky
  14. Don't Fence Me In, Riders in the Sky
  15. Streets of Laredo, Riders in the Sky
  16. Red River Valley, Riders in the Sky
  17. Sleepwalk, Santo and Johnny
  18. Moonlight Serenade, Santo and Johnny
  19. Song of the Islands, Santo and Johnny
  20. Tear Drop, Santo and Johnny
  21. Harbor Lights, Santo and Johnny
  22. Tenderly, Santo and Johnny
  23. Everlasting Hills of Oklahoma, Sons of the Pioneers
  24. Goin' Home, Leon McAuliffe and His Cimarron Boys (adapted from the Largo movement of Antonin Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, "From the New World")

I notice that of the Texas Playboys tunes, I tended to choose the sentimental numbers that Bob Wills sang himself. The opening number of the disc is the number that was (and still is) used to close Texas Playboys dances. It opens with some sultry chords by Leon McAuliffe. I made my little girl chuckle last night: After I kissed her goodnight, I said, "Take it away, Leon," then hit the play button.

Two of the songs are songs my mother sang to me at bedtime: "Don't Fence Me In," and "Cielito Lindo" -- we knew it as the Ay-ay-ay-ay song.

One song I didn't have, but wished I did, was "Blue Shadows on the Trail" by Sons of the Pioneers. It's on a Disney Lullabyes videotape, from the movie Pecos Bill. Others I might have included but didn't: "Yearning (Just for You)," "Happy Trails," "In the Arms of My Love."

To explain the inclusion of a couple of New York musicians in a western collection, I'll repeat an anecdote from an earlier entry:

This little detail from the Wikipedia bio of the Farina brothers, Santo and Johnny, made me smile:
When they were very young, their dad was drafted into the Army and stationed in Oklahoma. There (on the radio) he heard this beautiful music. It was the sound of the steel guitar and he wrote home to his wife and said "I'd like the boys to learn to play this instrument."

I like to think Mr. Farina was listening to this guy over KVOO -- from "Steel Guitar Rag" to "Sleepwalk" in one generation.

Specifically, I like to think that Mr. Farina heard Leon McAuliffe playing those opening chords on "Goodnight, Little Sweetheart."

UPDATE 2013/05/24: Added the above graphic, the cover of the sheet music for "Little Cowboy Lullaby" by Bob Wills and Cindy Walker, from the lyrics and sheet music page at Thanks to the kindness of retired blogpal See-Dubya, I was able to add "Blue Shadows" to a second edition of the CD, to which I added Tommy Duncan's "High Country."

Chrome 93.5

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I don't often scan the FM dial, but I was in the car last night, and the two talk stations were in the middle of basketball games, and I wasn't in the mood to hear 10 minutes of the middle of a ball game.

There's a new station -- new to me anyway -- called Chrome 93.5, and it plays music from the '50s and '60s. When oldies radio started it was '50s and '60s, but somewhere along the way oldies crept up to the '70s and '80s, when I was in high school and college, and that is just wrong.

The station doesn't seem to have a web presence. It shows up on the FCC database as K228BR, a translator, broadcasting with a whole 250 watts of power from a 58m tower at the Clear Channel megaplex (formerly Oertle's) at 26th and Memorial. The service area has a radius of about five miles.

I'm happy to hear real oldies -- doowop, rockabilly, Motown, British Invasion -- on the radio again. Driving around town this evening we heard "Stop in the Name of Love" (Supremes, 1965), "Look through Any Window" (Hollies, 1965), "Teen Angel" (Mark Dinning, 1959), "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" (Stevie Wonder, 1965), "One Fine Day" (Chiffons, 1963), "Since I Don't Have You" (Skyliners, 1958).

Because I was singing along to some of the music, my 12-year-old said, "So... this is the music you listened to when you were in high school and college?" No, son, this is music your grandparents would have listened to in high school, college, and young adulthood. But it's better than the stuff we had 20 years later.

UPDATE: The Tulsa Boy Singers will be performing on Six in the Morning on Thursday, December 18. The brief segments with TBS will air at 7:50 a.m. on KOTV (Channel 6), and at 8:10 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. on KQCW (UHF Channel 19 / Cox Cable Channel 12).

The Tulsa Boy Singers will present their annual Christmas concert this Friday and Saturday night, December 19 and 20, 2008, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th & Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. The program begins each night at 7:30. Admission is by donation. The program will include a variety of sacred and secular Christmas favorites.

Following each concert, TBS staff will be available to conduct a brief audition for boys who are interested in joining the choir. If you know a boy age 8 through 18 who would like to sing, come to one of the concerts. The choir includes both trebles (boy sopranos) and boys whose voices have changed and sing alto, tenor, and bass parts. My 12-year-old son is in his fourth year with TBS and continues to enjoy both the music and the camaraderie with his fellow singers. (Feel free to email me at the address on the sidebar if you'd like the perspective of a TBS parent.)

Vinyl appeal

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This is a "bleg" -- begging on a blog. I need some advice and assistance.

I recently came across and purchased a copy of the Johnnie Lee Wills "Reunion" LP, recorded on April 3rd and 4th, 1978 at Tulsa Studios, released on the Flying Fish label, and featuring an amazing lineup of western swing all-stars: Johnny Gimble, Joe Holley, and Curly Lewis on fiddle, Eldon Shamblin, Don Tolle, and Roy Ferguson on guitar, Alex Brashear on trumpet, Gene Crownover on steel, Wayne Johnson on sax and clarinet, Clarence Cagle on piano, Glenn "Blub" Rhees on sax, Ted Adams on bass, Claude Clemmons and Tom Montgomery on drums, John Thomas Wills (Johnnie Lee's son), and a cameo by O. W. Mayo, Johnnie Lee's manager and announcer and long-time owner of Cain's Ballroom. Steve Ripley produced the album, Jim Halsey was executive producer, and Bob Burwell was creative director.

The track list:

Side One: Silver Bells; Rag Mop; Memories of You, Dear; I Wish That Your Picture Was You; Four or Five Times; La Golondrina; Rosetta.

Side Two: South; If I Had Another Chance; In a Spanish Mission; Talkin' 'bout You; Whose Heart Are You breaking Now?; Milk Cow Blues; Goodnight Little Sweetheart.

(This album is part of my long-term aim to own every recording on which Eldon Shamblin performed. I would love to hear the albums made by the reunited Original Texas Playboys in the late '70s and early '80s.)

I haven't listened to the album yet. While I have a couple of turntables, one is older than this album and the other is nearly as old, and I haven't used either in over a decade -- probably closer to two. I have no idea if the belts or needles are any good, or where I'd get replacements if I needed them. I don't want to use this album as a guinea pig.

I remember that in college I had a Discwasher kit, which I used religiously before putting an album on the turntable. I have no idea if that product is still around or if it's even recommended anymore.

While I appreciate the special qualities of vinyl recordings, I'd really like to get this album into a digital format, so I can enjoy it on my MP3 player and in the car. My wife and I have other recordings that we'd like to hear again as well. Some of them, recordings of school orchestras and church choirs, are never going to be available from another source.

So I'd welcome advice, particularly from those of you in Tulsa, about sources for testing and reconditioning turntables, needles, cleaning methods and supplies, and digitizing vinyl records.

Please note that while I am a music lover, I am not an audiophile, so I don't demand an acoustically perfect experience. I have a high tolerance for scratches, warbles, and other artifacts of age and wear. I just want to hear the music.


Some time not too long ago, I watched The Blues Brothers. The movie is remarkable for bringing together great musicians from a wide variety of genres with some connection to the blues, including R&B, Soul, Big Band.

There's the scene early in the movie where the band plays the first gig after their reunion at Bob's Country Bunker, where they have both kinds of music -- country and western. The band soothes the savage country music fans in the bar by playing "Rawhide" and "Stand By Your Man."

During my recent viewing, it hit me what a wasted opportunity this was. Instead of introducing the Good Ol' Boys and adding them to the list of people who wanted Jake and Elwood dead, the scene might have highlighted the western side of the blues by bringing the Blues Brothers together with the Original Texas Playboys for a down-and-dirty rendition of "Blackout Blues," "Trouble in Mind," "Sittin' on Top of the World," or "Milk Cow Blues."

The Original Texas Playboys were actively touring and recording in the late '70s and early '80s, including several albums on Capitol. The Blues Brothers was released in 1980, so it could have happened, but for a lack of awareness of the blues roots of Western Swing.

But as an intriguing western swing what-if, it pales in comparison to "Can't Buy Me Faded Love."

UPDATE: Thanks to all who commented and e-mailed with helpful advice. Several of you pointed me to the many USB-capable turntables on the market. And then David Sims mentioned this CNET guide to turning vinyl LPs into CDs.

Bob Wills on NPR

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This first ran in 2003, but it's still worth a listen. NPR's Morning Edition ran an 11-part series called "Honky Tonks, Hymns and the Blues." A couple of years later, it was turned into a two-hour radio documentary.

Part 10 is all about Bob Wills and western swing. The eight-minute report includes segments from a 1949 interview with Wills, in which he talks about how he became a fiddler and the importance of amplifiers. Music historians Jean Boyd and Douglas Green (you may know him as Ranger Doug) chime in about the musical influences in Texas in the early 20th century. There's a nice juxtaposition of Louis Armstrong and then Bob Wills singing "Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas."

The web page for this episode include a bibliography and supplemental audio clips of interviews with Merle Haggard and Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson, plus more from that 1949 interview with Bob Wills discussing how the western swing sound evolved from what it took to keep people dancing.

MORE: This coming January 27, 2009, Collectors' Choice Music will reissue a remastered Kaleidoscope's (later Rhino's) 10-disc "Tiffany Transcriptions" series. (Read all about the Tiffany Transcriptions here.) From Rich Kienzle's liner notes:

For all the great records Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys made in 1946-47 for Columbia and MGM -- and there were plenty -- the Tiffany sessions captured something deeper, intangible and vibrant, music that even the occasional miscue or missed note can't diminish. It represents the very soul, spirit and musical passion of Bob and the band as they really were on those Western and Southwestern bandstands. Sixty years later, it still sounds like yesterday.

Unfortunately, these aren't the complete Tiffany Transcriptions, which would fill about twice as many CDs and which would include ads and song introductions. Maybe someday....

That stutterin' boy

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Last Saturday night, my sister and I took our dad to hear country music legend Mel Tillis at the Robson Performing Arts Center in Claremore.

Tillis puts on a great show. I'd never seen him perform before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. He was backed by his eight-man band, the Statesiders -- two fiddles, two keyboards, bass, guitar, drums, and pedal steel. Most of his sidemen have been with him for at least half of his half-century career. He gave them plenty of opportunities to shine, with instrumental numbers sprinkled throughout the 90 minute performance, along with most of his hits. Mel had some funny (and very slightly blue) jokes to tell, too.

Tillis said that his band is one of the last of its kind, following in the tradition of Bob Wills, Spade Cooley, and Hank Thompson. You could hear the western swing influences throughout the show, but especially in the hot fiddling of Wade Landry and Ernie Reed, who were a pleasure to listen to and were clearly having a great time with the music.

Tillis and Wills were both signed with Kapp Records in the late '60s, and Tillis is the vocalist on a couple of Bob Wills 45s recorded in March 1967 -- "Faded Love" b/w "Memphis" (the Chuck Berry hit), and "I Wish I Felt This Way at Home" b/w "Looking over My Shoulder." (A fifth Tillis vocal from that session, "Sugarfoot Rag," was released only on LP.)

The Robson PAC is an attractive venue inside and out. It's clearly modern, but the brick and vertical lines of the facade lend it some classic dignity. The main hall seats 1,024, and it looked to be nearly sold out, at $45 each for orchestra seats.

Mel Tillis will be back on the road between Thanksgiving and New Years' performing in 11 states -- from Florida to North Dakota to Arizona -- and Saskatchewan. If you're a fan of classic country, you'll enjoy the show.

Along US 60, halfway between Bartlesville and Nowata, there are a pair of curves that shifts the road south by a mile as you go east. On the northside* of the road, near the western curve, there was a gas station and a few houses.

Once upon a time, way back in the 1930s, there was a dance hall there. I received an e-mail today from Nowata resident Rick Holland:

While searching the web recently, I came across a teaser on a Google about Bob Wills playing in Glenoak, Okla. that led me to your blog, but I could never find any mention of Glenoak. I grew up listening to Bob Wills music in the 50's and 60's and still do. There is a Bob CD in player at all times and have even got my 18 yr. old daughter hooked on it. Repetitive brain washing I guess.

Back when Bob played in the Tulsa area, he used to play at Glenoak between Bartlesville and Nowata. My Dad used to bounce at all of the dances in this area and he became friends with Bob and Tommy. Bob also used to buy cattle at the Faulkner Farms just north of Delaware where I was raised. One night after several hours of dickering over cattle price and a few drinks Tommy sat down in the kitchen of the Faulkner's home over coffee and wrote a song. Grandma Faulkner told me the name of the song but I have forgot it over the years.

Enough rambling, I am looking for any information on the dances that used to be held at Glenoak. If my father were alive he would be 93 yrs.old and most of his age group has passed. I have been able to find exactly where it was located and have been out there several times. I've even remember seeing old flyers that were passed around for the dances they held, but that has been years ago. I guess my obsession with Bob Wills is because when you listen to Bob it takes you back in time when life was not as fast paced and the little things in life didn't bother you. Any information you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

My grandfather, Johnny Bates, who lived in Nowata for nearly all his adult life (from his 18th birthday in 1935 until his death in 1999), told us about going to hear Bob Wills at Glenoak. He told me he once went up to sit on the stage to stay out of the way of a fight on the dance floor. His two years as a single adult -- 1935 to 1937 -- were spent in the Nowata branch of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and they coincided with the years Bob Wills was based in Tulsa -- 1934 to 1943. During that era, the Texas Playboys had a daily noon broadcast on KVOO 1170 (now KFAQ) from Cain's Ballroom, and every night (except Thursdays and Saturdays when they played the Cain's) they drove to play a dance hall somewhere in the KVOO listening area.

Anyone else out there remember Glenoak or remember hearing about it from older relatives?

RELATED: Can anyone tell me if Johnnie Lee Wills' "Reunion" album, recorded in the late '70s on the Flying Fish label, has been issued on CD?

UPDATE 2016/03/11: An excerpt from Al Stricklin's memoir about the very first dance he played as a member of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, at Glenoak on September 6, 1935. At that same link, a story from a bouncer at that dance hall back in the day.

*NOTE: One of my correspondents mentions believes that the dance hall was on the south side of the road. County maps from the period (here is the Oklahoma State Highway Department's 1936 map of Nowata County) locate Glenoak on US 60 just east of the Nowata-Washington County line, and they show homes and a commercial building on the south side of the road at that point. The 1936 WPA map of ownership and assessed valuation in T26N R14E shows that most of Section 22 was owned by Harry Benear, but there were a couple of smaller parcels at the northwest corner of the section where the highway map indicates a commercial establishment was located.

The 1950 Nowata County highway map shows the commercial building still there, but by the 1962 Nowata County map, homes are shown in its place. (This map was current as to highways in 1968, but the cultural features -- homes, businesses, schools -- had not been updated since 1962.) Off-topic but interesting: The schoolhouse shown two miles east and two miles north of Glenoak in 1936 is shown as "not in use" in 1950 and has vanished by 1962. Another interesting thing about the 1962 map: It shows the relocation of Alluwe to make way for Oologah Reservoir, but the reservoir isn't there yet.

One more mostly unrelated observation from these maps: As early as 1936 US 169 crossed the Missouri Pacific tracks south of Nowata and skirted the east side of the city. The 1950 map shows the creation of a business loop through downtown on Maple Street and Choctaw Ave. The 1968 map shows the intention of rerouting US 60 north of the city (see the dirt section line road labeled "F. A. P." -- Federal Aid Primary -- and the proposed road that links it to US 60 east of town).

That 1936 map also shows the route of the Union Traction (U.T.) interurban line, also known as the Union Electric Railway, which started in downtown Nowata and paralleled US 169 north to Coffeyville.

The National Preservation Conference, which comes to Tulsa next week, is making tickets for several Saturday, October 25, field sessions available to the public. There is a cost for each event, but you can sign up for these events without having to pay the conference registration fee. There are five field sessions available, all starting at 1:30 p.m. For Tulsans, this is a great way to learn about your hometown history.

Tulsa Overview (ticket price $35) 1:30 - 5:00 p.m. From being the end point of the notorious Trail of Tears, to railroad and market town serving surrounding cattle ranches, to thriving oilboom city -- Tulsa has a diverse and vibrant history. See how all these influences still resonate in modern-day Tulsa. Featured sites include Gilcrease Museum, Roosevelt School, Tulsa's oldest house, Cain's Ballroom, Tulsa Union Depot, Williams Technology Center (HOK), and the Tulsa Municipal Building (Old City Hall).

Downtown Tulsa Safari (ticket price $20)
1:30 - 5:00 p.m.
Lions and tigers and... dolphins? Pigs and turkeys and buffalo, too? In downtown Tulsa? Absolutely! There's an urban jungle in the heart of the city if you know where to look. Go on an offbeat architectural safari to spot the whimsical terra cotta wildlife on Tulsa's buildings.

Going Green, Tulsa Style (ticket price $35)
1:30 - 5:00 p.m.
It's great to be green in Tulsa. See some recent renovations of older buildings that have made concern for the environment a priority: Dennis R. Neil Equality Center, the SemGroup Building, the Fire Alarm Building, and East Village.

Tulsa's Historic Gardens (ticket price $35)
1:30 - 5:00 p.m.
Philbrook Gardens, Tulsa Rose Garden, Woodward Park, and Swan Lake are just some of the special spots to be visited or viewed. Find out how Tulsa's most renowned horticultural attractions were developed from pastures, farmland, and a Creek Indian allotment.

Mid-Century Tulsa: Back to the Future! (ticket price $35)
1:30 - 5:00 p.m.
Celebrate Tulsa's mid-century homes of the Future. Featuring mid-century neighborhoods such as Lortondale and Ranch Acres, see how residents have worked diligently to restore the architecture of their homes and their communities. Creative marketing, community education and sheer determination have created a mid-century feeding frenzy with homes being snatched up by design savvy and preservation-minded buyers.

The public may also buy tickets ($75 each) for the closing party at Cain's Ballroom, featuring western swing legends Asleep at the Wheel.

All of the above tickets will be for sale during normal business hours at the National Preservation Conference registration desk in the Tulsa Convention Center.

After meeting a friend for a chat and a beer at Lola's after work today, I decided to take advantage of the clear, warm (but not hot) evening and went for a walk through the Brady District.

Heading up Main Street I passed The Marquee (located between the Tulsa Violin Shop and the White Rabbit Deli, in the former location of Mooch and Burn) and the House that Bob Built, the legendary Cain's Ballroom. Reading the posters, I noticed that two wonderfully fun and talented musical acts, both with unique sounds, will be in town over the next week.

Friday night at 9, The Marquee will host Brave Combo, the New Wave polka band from Denton, Texas. Here's how they describe themselves:

Succeeding in its first mission, Brave Combo is America's premier contemporary polka band, and a Grammy winning one at that. In the same breath, to name some but hardly all of the colors found on Brave Combo's musical palette, one can describe them as a groundbreaking world music act, a hot jazz quintet, a rollicking rock'n'roll bar band, a Tex-Mex conjunto, a sizzling blues band, a saucy cocktail combo, a deadly serious novelty act, a Latin orchestra, and one of America's dance bands par excellence. It's all in a night's music for Brave Combo, often in a synergistic fashion that includes everything from klezmer surf rock to rocking cha cha to what The Washington Post calls "mosh pit polka," as well as to the hokey pokey and the chicken dance. And zyedeco, acid rock, Muzak, bubblegum, cumbia, classical, and the twist, to still not exhaust the list. This plethoric multitude of musical styles and flavors is frequently mixed, matched, and melded, into delicious, new concoctions by an imaginative team of musical gourmet master chefs.

Doors open at 8, all ages are welcome, admission is $10.

Now the show I'm really, really excited about: Hot Club of Cowtown will play Cain's second stage next Thursday night at 8.

Hot Club of Cowtown is Whit Smith on guitar, Elana James on fiddle, and Jake Erwin on bass. This trio brings together the sound of Django Reinhardt's Quintette du Hot Club de France and Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys at their swingingest -- as they sounded on the mid -40s Tiffany Transcriptions.

(Of course, you don't have to cover too much distance to bring those two sounds together. Curly Lewis, fiddler for the Johnnie Lee Wills band, has said that all the western swing fiddlers tried to sound like Stephane Grappelli, Hot Club de France's legendary jazz violinist.)

Hot Club of Cowtown is just brilliant. Here they are, from just a couple of weeks ago, performing "Chinatown":

Tickets are $14 in advance (Starship, Reasors, and, of course, Ida Red), $16 at the door. All ages admitted. Doors open at 7. Cain's is a (hooray!) smoke-free venue.

MORE: Here's a Brave Combo video -- a polka version of The Doors' "People Are Strange":

Elvis Polo has an entertaining and enlightening talk show every Saturday night from 6 to 9, but as an extra special treat, he's invited my son Joe to bring his fiddle to the studio and play the bumpers into and out of the commercial breaks during the first hour, from 6 to 7. Tune in to 1170 to listen live, or check the weekend shows podcast page later to listen on demand.

Here's Joe's performance at last month's Skiatook Bluegrass Festival. (He did even better at the Texas Cowboy Reunion, but I haven't got that uploaded yet.)

Backing Joe up is Eldon Combs, from Lowell, Ark., on upright bass, and Scott Pendleton on rhythm guitar.

MORE: Here's the podcast from Saturday night.

Drummer Johnny Cuviello and steel guitarist Herb Remington wrote and recorded this song as part of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys way back in 1947 -- with Johnny's drum solos alternating with a catchy steel melody. Sixty years later, last October, on Johnny's 92nd birthday, they played it again at Patsy's Cowgirl Cafe in Austin, Texas. Go, Johnny, go!

MORE: Here's a number from a 1964 Texas Playboys TV appearance in Dallas -- Joe Andrews sings "You Can't Break a Heart," a release on the Longhorn label:

Earlier I posted two other videos from this same TV appearance: Billy Jack Wills singing "Rockabye Baby Blues" and Luke Wills singing "Take Me Back to Tulsa."

Back in May, I wrote about a store soon to open on Brookside called Ida Red:

Just across from the Coffee House pushcart, Jim and Alice Rodgers of Cain's Ballroom had a booth to promote their new Brookside venture, Ida Red, named in honor of the famous Bob Wills tune (which in turn inspired the Chuck Berry hit "Maybelline").

Ida Red, at 3346 S. Peoria, will be an outlet for Cain's concert tickets and merchandise, gifts, and CDs by local musicians. At the booth they had on display some of the 28 flavors (at least) of premium brands of soda pop they plan to offer at Ida Red, along with cupcakes and free wi-fi. (Hooray for free wi-fi!)

The Rodgers family has already achieved great things with the House that Bob Built on N. Main St. Cain's Ballroom has been beautifully restored, with its facilities modernized in a way that respects its rich history. It consistently ranks in the top 50 in ticket sales for club-sized venues worldwide.

Ida Red has its grand opening celebration tonight and tomorrow night with live "red" music both nights at 8 p.m. Tonight it's Red Alert. Saturday night it's the Red Dirt Rangers. Kids are welcome. As the song says,

Hurry up boys and don't fool around.
Grab your partner and truck on down.

For something to do after the party, get on your bike and ride to Circle Cinema. The midnight movie this week is Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, a classic 1985 cult comedy directed by Tim Burton.

MORE: Local artist Amby has custom totes and artwork for sale at Ida Red.

I can't let this entry go by without a performance of the song "Ida Red." Here's Elana James and the Continental Two -- that's Tulsa's own Whit Smith on guitar and Jake Erwin on upright bass.

Belated congratulations to Tulsa's Emma Jane Pendleton, 14, who took first place in the Patsy Montana National Yodeling Championship, and to her younger sister Marina, 13, who took second. The two sisters are also top fiddlers; Emma Jane is the reigning Oklahoma Junior Fiddle Champion and won the junior championship at the Grand Lake National Fiddle Fest.

Here's a Tulsa World slideshow featuring Emma Jane Pendleton singing Patsy Montana's million-selling hit "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart."

We saw the Pendleton family a couple of weeks ago at the Skiatook Bluegrass Festival, where the two girls both won prizes in the Youth Fiddle competition. Emma Jane won first and Marina won second in the 11-15 and took first and third in the open category (if I recall correctly). Their dad, Scott Pendleton, played rhythm guitar for all the contestants. My oldest son was in the competition as well. The Tulsa World posted a slideshow of photos from the contest, which includes interviews with the Pendleton sisters, my son, and Claremore fiddler Jordan Flippo.

The Pendletons' next performance is Tuesday, July 15, at 7:30, in downtown Sand Springs at the Triangle Park. You'll enjoy hearing this multi-talented musical family perform.

(Corrected, July 18, results of the Skiatook context.)

I am very proud to announce that my son finished second Saturday in the 18-and-under division at the Old Timers Fiddle Contest at the 2008 Texas Cowboy Reunion in Stamford, Texas. His prize was a $50 bill, presented to him by the event's MC, former Congressman Charlie Stenholm. He performed Cotton-Eyed Joe, Tennessee Waltz, and Faded Love. I heard a number of people in the audience humming along on that last number. He has only been playing violin for two years, and he's made great strides since last year's contest, when he placed third.

As I told him before his performance, however the contest turned out, we already know he's a much better fiddler than he was a year ago. I hope to post video later in the week. (Internet connectivity here is rather limited.) One of the senior contestants, Bonnie Workman, complimented him afterwards and encouraged him to keep going, even though he didn't win. She told him it takes heart to be a fiddler, and she could hear it in his music.

He had the novel experience of being recognized today. He was wearing a distinctive hat, which made a difference, but a couple of people stopped him when we went back for the cowboy poetry performance that afternoon -- a young man told him he was in awe of his fiddling ability. He was recognized again at a dance at Old Glory that evening. We just happened upon the event - a Czech polka band playing under an open-air pavilion to a crowd of about 50.

Abilene TV station KRBC was covering the fiddle contest and interviewed my son. Click that link to see the video.

There may not be a better place to experience old time Texas than Stamford, Texas, at the annual Texas Cowboy Reunion.

You may have noticed an addition to the header. There's a subtitle -- "Tulsa straight ahead" -- and next to it, on the home page, is a little button. Press the button, and you'll hear Leon McAuliffe and His Cimarron Boys perform a tune of that title, written by one of McAuliffe's fiddlers, Jimmy Hall, on the band bus coming back from Wichita. (That's Hall on the vocal, too.)

Here are the lyrics:

There's a detour sign
o'er a road that winds
out on the broad highway.
But the place for me
is the sign I see:
T-U-L-S-A, straight ahead!

There's a railroad crossin'
and the bus a-rockin',
just takin me away.
Well, I'll pass the time
'till I see that sign,
T-U-L-S-A, straight ahead!

Gonna settle down
when I reach that city fair.
I'm homeward bound,
and I know I'll soon be there.

Where the tall corn grows
and the black oil flows
in old O-K-L-A
In the middle of it all,
I hear that call,
T-U-L-S-A, straight ahead!

Gonna settle down
when I reach that city fair.
I'm homeward bound,
and I know I'll soon be there.

Now there's no use talkin'
'cause I'll get there walkin'
if there's just no other way.
'Cause I read that sign
on the old state line,
T-U-L-S-A, straight ahead!

I've decided to adopt the song as BatesLine's theme song and the title as the site's motto. (I even asked to use the phrase as the name of my weekly column in Urban Tulsa Weekly, but they prefer the more generic "Opinion/Editorial.")

The phrase can have dual but complementary meanings. By itself it suggests our city progressing in the right direction. It can also refer (as it does in the song's lyrics) to Tulsa as a desirable destination, "that city fair," a great place to live.

While many people seem to think I'm all about opposing progress, my aim has always been to encourage genuine progress that improves our quality of life and helps us reclaim the title of America's most beautiful city. In that pursuit, I won't hesitate to oppose the detours, diversions, and dead ends that are often touted as the only way to move forward. It's my hope that this site and my writings elsewhere will help move Tulsa straight ahead.


Here's a reminder that tonight at 7:30 is the second and final performance of the Tulsa Boy Singers spring 2008 concert at Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th & Cincinnati, downtown Tulsa.

I went Friday night and heard some wonderful music -- both classical and modern, sacred and secular. They opened strong with a challenging piece by Benjamin Britten. The text, "Rejoice in the Lamb," was written by Christopher Smart, described in the program as "an eighteenth century poet, deeply religious, but of a strange and unbalanced mind." Here is one lovely section of the poem, sung as a treble solo tonight by Jacob Davis:

For I will consider my cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the living God.
Duly and daily serving him.

For at the first glance
Of the glory of God in the East
He worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body
Seven times round with elegant quickness.
For he knows that God is his saviour.
For god has bless'd him
In the variety of his movements.
For there is nothing sweeter
Than his peace when at rest.

For I am possessed of a cat,
Surpassing in beauty,
From whom I take occasion
To bless Almighty God.

Other highlights include anthems by English renaissance composers Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, an arrangement of "Loch Lomond" (with a solo by my son), and a medly from the musical Oliver!. TBS also performed a song in Hebrew which they sang at the Holocaust Remembrance Service a few weeks ago.

In addition to wonderful music, there is a silent auction to raise money for TBS. The twenty donated items are impressive, and include tickets to Tulsa Opera's La Boheme, gift certificates for the Melting Pot, the Polo Grill, and Billy's on the Square. There will also be a raffle with five items to give away. And as always, following the concert there will be a reception with food, wine, and punch.

Treat yourself to a wonderful evening of music in a beautiful setting (pictured above).

Here is video of another song on the program, Mi Shebeirach, which TBS also performed at this year's Holocaust memorial service at Temple Israel a few weeks ago.


The Tulsa Boy Singers will present their 60th Anniversary Spring Concerts Friday and Saturday, May 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th and Cincinnati, Downtown Tulsa.

Music will include:

Rejoice in the Lamb - Benjamin Britten
Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in G - Charles V. Stanford
Panis Angelicus - César Franck
Salvator Mundi - Thomas Tallis
Locus Iste - Anton Bruckner
Loch Lomond - Arr. Jonathan Quick
Medley from "Oliver!" - Lionel Bart

Before each concert there will be a raffle and silent auction with wine and cheese at 6:30 p.m. Proceeds go to support Tulsa Boy Singers. There will be a reception following each concert.

Admission is $5.00 per person or pay as you can.

Underwriting for these concerts is provided by the Oklahoma Arts Council, the Assistance League of Tulsa, Primeaux Kia, and Trinity Episcopal Church.

Here is a video from their June 2007 tour of Britain, performing "O Nata Lux" by Thomas Tallis and "Lord, For Thy Tender Mercies' Sake" by Richard Farrant:

Some swing for your weekend: Bruce Springsteen in concert in Milan, Italy, May 12, 2006, performing a boogie-woogie, Western swing version of "Open All Night":

(Hat tip to Richard Hedgecock.)

I was really excited to find this recent upload to YouTube. It's Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys from about 1960 on WFAA-TV in Dallas, and it features Bob's baby brother Billy Jack Wills singing his signature tune, "Rockabye Baby Blues." Billy Jack had his own band in Sacramento from 1952-1954, holding down the fort at the Wills Point ballroom with mandolinist Tiny Moore, while Bob took the Playboys around the country. (This All Music Guide bio tells the story.) This was his theme song:

That's Gene Crownover on console (non-pedal) steel guitar, and Maurice Anderson on what appears to be a pedal steel guitar. I'm not sure who the fiddler is on the wagon with Bob. Luke Wills is one of the bassists.

Billy Jack Wills' Western Swing Band was heard on KFBK, and Joaquin Records has issued two albums of the band's radio transcriptions. Billy Jack, 20 years younger than big brother Bob, took western swing in a direction influenced by jump blues and bebop. The band's recordings are a real pleasure to listen to, not only because of the tight arrangements featuring trumpet, electric mandolin, and steel guitar, but because of the vocals -- sometimes Billy Jack himself, but more often Tiny Moore, whose smooth stylings didn't get enough exposure with the Texas Playboys.

(Here's another great find! The Internet Archive has a complete Billy Jack Wills KFBK program, including ads for Standard Furniture Warehouse at 2018 I St., in Sacramento. Tiny Moore is the announcer. Toward the end you'll hear steel guitarist Vance Terry on "Panhandle Rag." )

Billy Jack penned one other baby-inspired tune (and a favorite of our family's) called "Bottle Baby Boogie." He also wrote and sang "Cadillacin' Model-A," a rockabilly-tinged song about a young farm boy off to "pick up his sweet-sweet-sweet and go honky-tonkin' at the county seat," promenading through town Cadillac-style in his old four-banger jalopy. He first recorded it with the Texas Playboys:

but here he is singing it with his own band:

But Billy Jack Wills's biggest songwriting success was writing the lyrics for an old fiddle tune called "Faded Love," which became one of brother Bob's most enduring hits and Oklahoma's official State Country and Western Song.

Here's one more song from that same TV appearance. This time it's brother Luke, Luther J. Wills, singing "Take Me Back to Tulsa":

ONE MORE: From one of Bob's westerns, Saddles and Sagebrush, here's Leon McAuliffe singing "Hubbin' It," with a nice little guitar solo by Junior Barnard. (Bob sings a little, too, as does one other Playboy whose voice I don't recognize.)

AND FINALLY: Since I mentioned him, here's a link to some of Tiny Moore's early work with the Port Arthur Jubileers on the Western Swing on 78 blog.

Weekend music

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There are still a few places left for the Tulsa Boy Singers 60th anniversary fundraiser this coming Monday night, April 21. The event will be held at Biga, 43rd & Peoria, and will include dinner and wine, a talk by the owner of Biga, a short performance by the Tulsa Boy Singers, and a copy of their latest CD. If you'd like to be a part of this grand night for singing, call Jim Craven, treasurer of TBS, at 743-3535, to reserve your place.

Also, tomorrow night (Saturday, April 19) in the Blue Dome District, it's Urban Tulsa Weekly's seventh annual NewVo event, featuring "new voices" on the Tulsa live music scene. Thirteen bands will appear at four different venues, all within a block or less from each other near 2nd & Elgin and 1st & Detroit: Blank Slate, the Blue Dome Diner, Arnie's Pub and Dirty's Tavern. Shows kick off at 9 at Blank Slate and Blue Dome Diner, 10 at Arnie's and Dirty's. No cover charge, thanks to the folks at Urban Tulsa Weekly and Z104.5 The Edge.

The Tulsa Boy Singers celebrate their 60th season of music this year, and this coming Monday night, April 21, they're holding a fundraising banquet at Biga, 4329 S. Peoria. The evening includes dinner and wine, and a Q & A with Biga owner Tuck Curren. The Tulsa Boy Singers will perform, and diners will receive a copy of their latest CD.

The cost is $60 per person. Seating is limited -- this will be a cozy, relaxed atmosphere for listening to the boys perform. Reserve your spots by sending a check to Tulsa Boy Singers, P.O. Box 52692, Tulsa OK 74152, and write "Biga" on the memo line.

TBS needs funds to continue to grow in its mission to offer musical and citizenship training to boys and young men and to continue to offer beautiful music to Tulsa. Your participation next Monday night will treat you to a wonderful dinner and wonderful music and the satisfaction of helping Tulsa's oldest choral society off to a good start for its next 60 years.

Price a great pearl

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Congratulations to our friend Roger Price, professor of music at the University of Tulsa, who has been unanimously selected as the 2008-09 Distinguished Teacher of the Year by the Oklahoma Music Teachers Association. The nomination for the award was orchestrated by his current and former students:

"I have never met a fellow student of Dr. Price that was not in complete awe of his abilities on the stage and in the studio," said Karl Johnson, a junior music composition major from Tulsa. "In addition to a great passion for his craft, he has an even greater passion for his students as human beings, and that has been the most inspiring and encouraging part of being in his studio."

Price has composed, performed and premiered his own piano concertos in Europe, an extraordinary accomplishment for an American. In addition to his numerous appearances as a recital soloist and collaborative musician, he has performed with such orchestras as the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra led by Jerzy Swoboda, the New York Solisti with Ransom Wilson, and the Tulsa Philharmonic with Bernard Rubenstein. Price also has gained national recognition as a church music composer through his works published through St. James Music Press. This spring, his new composition "Winds, Flames of Fire" for piano duet (two performers at one piano) is receiving its world premiere in Cyprus and Ukraine.

By virtue of this award, Price is also the Oklahoma nominee for Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) 2009 Distinguished Teacher of the Year.

You can hear samples of Prof. Price's performances and his compositions on his website. You can hear him most often on Sunday mornings, playing the prelude and postlude and accompanying the congregation at Christ Presbyterian Church.

Friday evening I was waiting for my flight at the San Antonio airport. The PA system was playing oldies from the '60s and '70s, and on came the Supremes singing, "My World Is Empty without You." (That link is a live performance, and you can really hear Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson's harmonies.) It brought to mind a song with a similar theme: The Walker Brothers, "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore."

Together, the two songs suggest the existence of an entire subgenre of music -- the "lost all sense of proportion" song, in which the singer views the end of a relationship as an irredeemable calamity. No silver lining, no looking on the bright side, no "plenty of fish in the sea," no "tomorrow is another day" -- it's all over, and there's no reason to go on living.

Is this unique to '60s pop? You can hear desperate blues lyrics, but the material is usually treated with a certain amount of irony. In "Trouble in Mind," when Tommy Duncan sings, "Sometimes I feel like livin', sometimes I feel like dyin'," Bob Wills heckles, "No, no, no! Go ahead with the song!"

What may be the king of all such songs is "The End of the World." Here it is, as performed by the girl who made it famous, Miss Skeeter Davis:

And here's the Walker Brothers:

The comments are open -- can anyone (Charles?) think of any other songs that fall into the "lost all sense of proportion" category?

Mosey on over to On the Other Foot to see a grand old Hollywood western: Tex Ritter with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys in Take Me Back to Oklahoma (1940). You've probably seen clips from the movie of Tex and Bob riding a stagecoach and singing "Good Old Oklahoma" or Bob and the Playboys performing the Lone Star Rag. Joel has the whole movie and a great lead-in description to boot.

Don't forget: Bob Wills Birthday celebration is next Friday and Saturday night at Cain's Ballroom, with the Texas Playboys, led by Leon Rausch and Tommy Allsup, performing on Saturday night only. No better place to hear Bob Wills's music than the Mother Church of Western Swing, and no better band to play it than the boys who played with Bob back when.

My older son and I were at the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra performance tonight -- an excellent program of music by Russian composers Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, and Mussorgsky -- and we noticed that one of the viola players had an unusually large and asymmetric instrument. The upper left lobe was larger than the upper right (next to the musician's left hand) and the lower right lobe was larger than the lower left (at the musician's chin).

Now a viola is larger than a violin, designed to produce a lower, mellower sound, but not quite as low and mellow as a cello. The strings are thicker, and the notes are farther apart on the strings. The viola is "slower to speak" than its smaller cousin, and there's more instrument to fit between chin and hand. That not every violist is up to the challenge of playing viola may explain the existence of a large repertoire of viola jokes (collected by a violist):

What's the difference between a viola and a trampoline? You take your shoes off to jump on a trampoline.

What's the difference between a viola and an onion?
No one cries when you cut up a viola.

What's the definition of a minor second?
Two violists playing in unison.

Why do violists stand for long periods outside people's houses?
They can't find the key and they don't know when to come in.

What's the difference between a seamstress and a violist?
The seamstress tucks up the frills.

To add injury to insult, violists disproportionately suffer from various repetitive stress injuries related to the awkward ergonomics of the instrument:

Tendinitis is epidemic among violists. Players have even been obliged to leave the profession because of carpal tunnel syndrome, back, shoulder and left arm injuries and related orthopedic issues.

So a violin maker named David Rivinus began looking for a solution:

A violist with chronic back trouble or left hand tendinitis already knows that playing a huge, traditionally shaped instrument is the wrong way to meet sonority demands. But suppose a violin maker starts with an undersized viola that is easy to play but is also characteristically weak sounding... [t]hen stretches it in places that don't interfere with the mechanics of playing.

Rivinus's Pellegrina viola tenore not only provides more surface area for a stronger sound, the asymmetric shape allows the fingerboard to be banked, minimizing the amount of stress on the left arm and wrist due to supination.

Suddenly the stretch to the viola C string in first position is as comfortable as playing the D string in third position. And the relief to the violinist is comparable. This design change alone has now resulted in rescuing the careers of several professional players whose musical working lives were suddenly--and prematurely--over.

The viola also uses a composite instead of ebony, reducing the weight of the instrument and the impact on endangered ebony forests.

Rivinus makes a violin, the Maximilan, that incorporates the same design concepts.

You can buy a Rivinus viola for under 12 grand, but you'll have to get in line: It may take as long as three years to get one. Maybe someday the only thing funny about the viola will be the shape.

PS: The viola jokes remind me of the one about the girl who goes on a date with a french horn player. How was it? her friend asked. "He was nice, but every time he kissed me he tried to put his fist up my skirt."

I told that joke to Jan, the Happy Homemaker, (a french horn player, herself) and Dawn Eden three years ago over a boatload of sushi in Oklahoma City. Jan did not laugh but patiently explained that a french horn player puts his or her hand, not fist, in the bell. Dawn laughed, mainly because, as she pointed out, I was turning red, embarrassed, I suppose, that I may have offended Jan.

Speaking of whom, Dawn underwent a partial thyroidectomy earlier this week which revealed the presence of cancer. The prognosis is good -- the cancer was still encapsulated -- but she'll have to go under the knife once again to have the rest of her thyroid removed and undergo iodine radiation therapy. Please keep her in your prayers.

Long live the King

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Nobody loves me but my mother.
She could be jivin', too.

My wife and I had the pleasure of attending a performance tonight by the Undisputed King of the Blues, B. B. King. Mr. King is 82, but you'd have never known it. He was in fine, strong voice for a nearly two-hour performance. So was Lucille, his Gibson guitar. In between songs, he chatted with the audience like we were all sitting around the living room. His set included "Every Day I Have the Blues," "Nobody Loves Me But My Mother," "When Love Comes To Town," "Blues Man," "Rock Me, Baby," and, for a finale, "The Thrill Is Gone." At one point, he led the men in the audience in singing "You Are My Sunshine" and asked the ladies to give their men a kiss in response. His eight-piece blues band -- two trumpets, two saxes, drums, keyboards, guitar, and bass -- kicked things off with two instrumental pieces, somewhere between swing and blues, before B. B. made his entrance.

Sunday night he'll be performing in Eureka Springs, then Salina, Kansas, before heading into the Great Lakes states. He'll be back in this part of the country in April, with a date at Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth. The tour goes on into July.

Opening act was the Scott Ellison Band. Ellison is a terrific blues guitarist. As good as they were, I assumed the band must be touring with B. B. King, but they're from right here in Tulsa. Click that link for a list of the band's upcoming dates around Tulsa -- definitely worth going to hear.

MORE: Here's a review of B. B. King's performance in Chico, Calif., about a week ago. And click here to see a video from 1993 of B. B. King performing "The Thrill Is Gone." And here's one more, from 1968. The second song from this set is one he played tonight -- "I've Got a Mind to Give Up Living":


There are far more important things to write about, but this news is too, too exciting.

The Tiffany Transcriptions feature some of the most exciting, liveliest Texas Playboys music on record. These selections were recorded in San Francisco in the mid '40s for use by radio stations. Those who were around then have said that the Tiffanies come closest to capturing the band's live sound. Songs that were left off Bob Wills's commercial recordings -- such as covers of popular big band tunes like "Take the A Train" -- found a place here, featuring Eldon Shamblin's tight arrangements for steel, mandolin, and guitar. Even standard western swing tunes got special treatment, with longer and more spontaneous improvisations, like Junior Barnard's proto-rock-n-roll guitar solos.

Nine of the 10 discs were first issued by Kaleidoscope as LPs, then reissued by Rhino as CDs. A 10th disc, featuring the vocals of the McKinney Sisters, was only issued on CD. Over the last three or four years, Rhino has dropped one disc at a time from their catalog, leaving only Vols. 1, 2, and 5 in print last I checked. Out-of-print volumes have been fetching $60 to $100 on

But very recently, Warner Music Group began selling DRM-free MP3s via Amazon, and that includes the Rhino catalog. All 10 volumes are available for download at the low, low price of $9.99 each. (Vol. 10, which has twice as many songs as the other volumes, is $10.99.) You can buy individual songs for 99 cents each.

I bought a couple of later Bob Wills albums via Amazon MP3 for my dad's birthday (Together Again and Mr. Words and Mr. Music, both from the early '60s when Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan reunited for a time), and I was pleased with the quality (256 kbps) and the ease of downloading. Because the files are DRM-free, there are no obstacles to playing them on any digital media player.

Volume 5, linked on the image above, is my favorite so far, but I haven't heard them all yet.


A little break from politics:

Our littlest one turned two years old on Friday. His use of words has exploded in the last few months, although he mostly says the beginning sound of each word, which is adorable, of course. (That's him in the photo, during a visit to Pops on Route 66 back in November, smiling after a sip of Boylan Natural Cane Cola.)

Fire truck becomes fie kuh, for example. Train is "tshoo tshoo wai." Initial S isn't there yet -- snake, snowman, and snowflake become nay, no-mah, and no-feh, respectively. Sock is chah, where that first ch is a voiceless velar fricative pronounced in the back of the throat like a Hebrew "ch." So before he can "go ou-chai" (go outside) he "nee chah an tsioo" (needs socks and shoes).

Some of his most endearing words are starting to evolve. "Da-da" is becoming "da-dee." "Ja-ja" has become "gwahmah" and will be "grandma" before too long.

For months, he would hear and understand the word "car" but he would always pronounce it by making a car sound -- vocalizing on a high and rising pitch and vibrating his lips together. "Do you see the big car?" "Beeg blblblblblblbl!" But about a week ago he stopped, started saying "cah" consistently, and even substituted a less impressive "vroom" for his standard car noise. I managed to cajole the old sound out of him last night, but he did it almost sheepishly.

As we would look at books and pictures, every man with a long white beard he would call "Bah" -- my dad, his grandpa. Pictures of Santa Claus were "Bah", too, which is easy to understand. Now, after Christmas, he makes the distinction between his grandpa and "Sah Caw."

Still, every man with a hat in a black and white picture is "Dah Whee." We were looking at old family photos on the wall, and I was showing him pictures of me and my wife when we were small. He would say the names as he looked at the photos. There's a black and white one of me next to my grandparents' house in Nowata, probably about three years old, wearing a little hat and suit. So he called the boy in the picture "Dah Whee."

"Dah Whee" is Bob Wills, whose music is often heard in our house. Our two-year-old recognizes the cover of Wills's For the Last Time album, which shows a 68-year-old Wills in a cowboy hat, but he also recognizes as Bob Wills the smiling man in the big cowboy hat, as depicted on the cover of Charles Townsend's biography of Wills, San Antonio Rose. The boy will sometimes request "Dah Whee" music when he's eating in his high chair or when it's naptime. (Leon McAuliffe and Johnnie Lee Wills are acceptable substitutes.) Sometimes he will ask to sit in my lap when I'm at the computer and ask to watch a Bob Wills video (like this one from 1951 of the "Jo-Bob Rag" and "Liberty"). (But his favorite website is the one with the funny kitty pictures.)

Last night, my wife was putting him to bed. He wanted to hear the "Blue's Clues" CD, but his older brother, sleeping in the same room, protested, and Mom was worried that it wasn't conducive to sleep. When she asked, "How about something else?" the toddler said "Dah Whee," which was just fine with our eleven-year-old fiddler. She started the CD and walked out of the room to the opening notes of the Texas Playboy Theme. As she passed the crib, she heard a little voice saying "Ahhhh-haaaa!"

Plaid all over

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We had a great time tonight at a performance of the oft-resurrected musical Forever Plaid, which brings back the era of close harmony pop quartets like the Crew Cuts, the Four Lads, the Four Aces, the Four Freshmen, and the Lettermen.

The play was presented by Tulsa Repertory Musicals at the historic Tulsa Little Theatre.

The Off-Off-Broadway play was first performed in Tulsa in 1995, and two members of the original Plaids are on stage this year: Mark Pryor as Frankie and Justin Boyd as Jinx. My wife, oldest son, and I have all had the pleasure of singing with Justin as part of Coventry Chorale, the schola cantorum for Trinity Episcopal Church's Epiphany Service, and this summer's Tulsa Boy Singers' tour of Britain. His performance tonight of the Four Lads' hit "Cry" was a show-stopper.

Tulsa Little Theatre, just south of 15th, turned 75 years old in 2007. After several years in which it was left to rot, Bryce and Sunshine Hill bought the theater and began restoration in 2004, reopening it in 2005. They've done a beautiful job, creating a very intimate venue for performances. The theater seats about 300 and is available for event rental.

Forever Plaid is worth the price of admission just for the chance to hear great old songs like "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "Catch a Falling Star." The laughter built into the well-timed choreography and the '60s nostalgia are icing on the cake. The three-minute condensed version of The Ed Sullivan Show is a sight to behold: In the time it takes to boil an egg they bring back Topo Gigio, Señor Wences, Bill Dana, and the Flying Wallendas, plus plate-spinners, dog acts, accordion players, and acrobats.

There's a matinee performance on Sunday which is sold out, but tickets are still available for the New Year's Eve show which begins at 9 p.m. Call 744-7340 to make arrangements to see the show.

Because of the snow, tonight's (Saturday's) performance of the Tulsa Boy Singers Christmas concert has been cancelled.

Despite the school closings and power outages and bad weather, the Tulsa Boy Singers will go forward with their Christmas concerts this Friday and Saturday, to be held at Trinity Episcopal Church, at 5th and Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. Each concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $5 or pay as you can. TBS is in its 60th season.

The program will include sacred and secular seasonal classics, including the hymn "Once in Royal David's City," which traditionally begins the annual King's College, Cambridge, service of Christmas lessons and carols.

I had the privilege of traveling with TBS on their tour of Britain this summer. They have a beautiful sound, and there is no place better to hear them sing than in the vast space of a Gothic church like Trinity.

If the stress of the storm has made it difficult to get into the Christmas spirit, the Tulsa Boy Singers Christmas concert will give you the boost you need.

Plus, they have heat and electricity.

P. S. The activity my 11-year-old son most looks forward to each week is TBS rehearsal twice a week. He has a great time with the other boys, and he likes the adults who lead the choir, too, who do a great job of teaching them and leading them in making beautiful music. If you have a son between 8 and 18 who likes singing, come to one of the concerts, and see director Casey Cantwell or one of his assistants afterwards.

VIDEO: This link will take you to a collection of Tulsa Boy Singers videos (with audio, of course) from their British concert tour and spring concerts in Oklahoma. Here they are singing "O Nata Lux" and "Lord, For Thy Tender Mercies' Sake" in York Minster.

John Wooley writes to be sure we know about a special event tonight (Friday night) at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, in the old Tulsa Union Depot, downtown at 1st & Boston.

John Wooley & Chuck Cissel will bring you an evening of big band and western swing. The Round Up Boys and the TU Big Jazz Band One will perform this Friday, December 7 starting at 7:30pm at the Jazz Depot in Downtown Tulsa. For information please call 596.1001

Admission is a mere $10.

Other upcoming concerts at the Jazz Hall of Fame: Sunday night, December 9, Pam Van Dyke Crosby sings the music of Patti Page, Kay Starr, and other Oklahoma jazz vocalists; December 16, SCORE featuring Ms. Sandy Gardner, presenting Broadway show tunes (including our own state song); December 23, Holiday Gospel and Jazz Celebration.

And of course you can hear John Wooley's "Swing on This," presenting an assortment of great western swing music each Saturday night at 7 on KWGS 89.5.

Honky-tonk great Hank Thompson passed away Tuesday night at the age of 82 from aggressive lung cancer. Here he is singing, "Whoa, Sailor," his first big hit, a tune about a sailor trying to chat up a girl in a bar, with a funny twist at the end:

Although he was born in Texas and finished his days there, he felt an attachment to Oklahoma, too. He lived in the Tulsa area for a time, and lent his name to Rogers State College's Hank Thompson School of Country Music.

There will be no funeral for Mr. Thompson, according to his wishes. Instead, he will be cremated; some of his ashes will be spread in Texas and Oklahoma, and the remainder will be buried in Waco next to his parents. He's survived by Ann. A celebration of his life will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Billy Bob's Texas, 2520 Rodeo Plaza in Fort Worth.

Porter passes

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See-Dubya and Charles G. Hill have each posted a tribute (each with a YouTube video) to country music star Porter Wagoner, who passed away Sunday.

See-Dubya mentions that his parents tell him he was a fan of Porter Wagoner's TV show, which co-starred a very young Dolly Parton. I remember the show as the second most memorable part of KOTV's Saturday afternoon line-up of country music shows, which was capped at 6 p.m. by Hee Haw.

A couple of years ago I stumbled across a short story which described one family's weekly Porter Wagoner ritual. (You can read the whole story here.)

There's no truth to the rumor that Mr. Wagoner's remains will be cremated and distributed in boxes of Breeze. (If you don't get that, watch the video below, at about 4 minutes in.)

One of the greatest singing cowboys of all time is just six weeks older than the great State of Oklahoma, and this weekend the town named for him is hosting a big celebration in his honor, the Gene Autry Oklahoma Museum Film and Music Festival.

Gene Autry (the town) is a little ways north of Ardmore in south-central Oklahoma, about seven miles east of I-35 on OK-53.

The big party, featuring screenings of Autry's films and performances by cowboy singers and poets, began on Wednesday and winds up on Sunday.

The high point of the celebration is today, the actual centennial of Autry's birth on September 29, 1907. Riders in the Sky, who have been upholding the tradition of cowboy music for over a quarter of a century, will give two performances, at 3:10 and 8:30. They'll be preceded on stage by Steve Mitchell, the Les Gilliam Trio, and Johnny Western. Riders in the Sky put on a great show for the whole family -- a mix of comedy and beautiful western harmonies.

Tickets are $20 each for the matinee show and the other events, except for the evening stage show, for which tickets are $35 for reserved seats, $25 for general admission. Check the festival page for all the details and contact information.

Tulsans will be able to catch Riders in the Sky a little closer to home on Sunday -- they'll perform at the Bartlesville Community Center at 2 pm on September 30. There are still a fair number of tickets available, ranging from $15 to $43 for adults, $5 to $20 for students.

(I've seen the Riders perform at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, at the Poncan Theatre in Ponca City, at the fair in Springfield, Missouri, and at the Walton Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. As far as I know, they have never performed in Tulsa, even though their radio show used to air on KWGS and KVOO.)

Eldon Shamblin sings

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Via Tyson Wynn, a wonderful clip of legendary western swing guitarist Eldon Shamblin playing and singing "Changes Made," following a bit of banter with steel guitarist Leon McAuliffe. This appears to be from a performance by The Original Texas Playboys (the drumset you'll see in the background is on display at Cain's Ballroom). According to YouTube user jsham66 (a relative of Eldon's?), the clip is circa 1986.

And, posted by the same user, here's the tribute video from Eldon Shamblin's 2006 induction into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame:

If you don't know much about him (or even if you do), you should read this tribute to "The Greatest Texas Playboy: Eldon Shamblin," by Buddy McPeters.

There's a complete 11 minute Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys transcribed broadcast from c. 1945-1946 available for your listening pleasure as part of a World War II audio web exhibit from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The show includes the opening and closing theme and vocals by Tommy Duncan and the McKinney Sisters. The McKinneys sing a funny novelty number called "Feudin' and Fightin'." There are two slots for ads which are filled on the transcription disk with a message to radio stations explaining how successful these Bob Wills programs have been at pushing B. F. Goodrich merchandise.

Despite the text that accompanies the recording, I don't think this is a Tiffany Transcription, but rather predates that series. The page includes a number of other songs and audio clips from the World War II era.

It's fair to say that the period between Elvis Presley's arrival at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, in 1958 and the day the Beatles touched down at Idlewild in 1964 was the zenith of instrumental pop. This is not Big Band or Western Swing from the '30s and '40s, nor is it classical.

Some of my favorite wordless tunes come from that era, and Charles G. Hill has an entry that speaks of two of the most evocative songs of that period and the mental images they evoke: Mr. Acker Bilk's "Stranger on the Shore" and Bert Kaempfert's "Wonderland by Night". Charles links to blogger MaryB, who explains why the former is the "saddest song of all" for her. The latter song conjures this scene for Charles:

It's a Friday night, somewhere between ten and midnight, and a convertible is crossing the bridge into downtown; reflections of the streetlights play on the pavement, on the hood, on us. Her little black dress has a row of sequins, and as we pass under the lights, they glow ever so slightly, but it's nothing compared to the glow on her face as she smiles. "Now, you know we have to be back by...." She lets the sentence trail off.

(Read the whole thing to know how it ends.)

Charles mentioned in the comments that he's done three compilation CDs of instrumentals. They're on his non-distributed Wendex label. You can't buy them, but you can see the playlists: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Vol. 3. He notes that the "median year seems to be 1962." It's a great collection (although for my Dave "Baby" Cortez song, I'd substitute "Rinky Dink" for "The Happy Organ").

For me, the late '50s, early '60s instrumentals -- including songs like "Sleepwalk" and the "Route 66 Theme" -- evoke pre-interstate travel on two-lane U. S. Highways. Although the songs were all released before I learned to talk, they still got airplay on the kind of Middle-of-the-Road (MOR) stations my family listened to. (E.g., KRMG, back when they played music.) These instrumental pop hits provided the soundtrack to our travels.

And there's something about Santo (or was it Johnny?) Farina's sultry steel guitar in "Sleepwalk" that just says beachfront Florida motel.

Yes, I know it's Dfest weekend, with bands playing on 13 stages in the Blue Dome District until 2 a.m., but if your tastes run more retro than metro, you won't be left out.

Saturday morning from 8 to 10 on KXBL 99.5, legendary country DJ Billy Parker will be playing two hours of western swing and truly classic country.

Then Saturday evening from 7 to 8 on KWGS 89.5, you can hear music historian John Wooley spin his favorite western swing discs on "Swing on This." John's show is followed at 8 p.m. by two hours of "Big Band Saturday Night."

But if you want to hear live western swing the way it should be swung, you need to head down Route 66 to Bristow. Bob Wills' Texas Playboys will be performing at 8 p.m. at the National Day of the American Cowboy in Bristow's City Park, joined by Billy Mata and Richard Helsley of the western swing band The Texas Tradition (Here are directions to the park.) The Playboys' performance caps a day of events in Bristow, starting with a 10 a.m. parade, a chuck wagon lunch at 1, and a concert beginning at 7 with David Ingles and His Cowboy Band.

Here's a minute-long clip from a performance earlier this month: Bob Wills' Texas Playboys performing "A Big Ball in Cowtown," featuring a steel guitar solo by Bobby Koefer.

As I've mentioned briefly, last month I visited Britain with my son, who was part of the Tulsa Boy Singers' first international tour in many years. The boys performed at Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh, at York Minster, and at St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden, in London ("the Actors' Church"), and they also sang a couple of anthems in Durham Cathedral, near the tomb of English church historian St. Bede. The tour also took us to Stirling and Oxford.

The photos I took of the Tulsa Boy Singers' tour are up on Flickr. I used Flickr's very cool map feature to pin down the locations of each photo as best I could. You can click "Map" on an individual photo page, and it will show you where it was taken.

I also took video of at least one anthem at each performance, and these have been posted at Google Video. I was using the Canon S3 IS to shoot both stills and videos, and it's not the easiest thing to hold still for long periods. Someday, when I find a decent video editing package, I'll edit a slide show of still images over the shaky and jerky parts of the video.

Here's video of two of my favorite anthems -- Thomas Tallis's "O Nata Lux and Richard Farrant's "Lord, for Thy Tender Mercies' Sake" -- in the north transept of York Minster, the largest Gothic church north of the Alps.

TBS is always looking for new singers. If you have a son eight years or older who loves to sing, learn more at You'll find phone and e-mail contact information on the website.

The news is depressing, so let's turn to music for some relief.

Ever wondered how virtuosi like Herb Remington, Leon McAuliffe, Santo and Johnny, Noel Boggs, and Bobby Koefer tease those sweet sounds out of their steel guitars?

Steel guitarist Rick Alexander has posted a series of song and technique videos on YouTube demonstrating the non-pedal steel guitar -- sometimes called lap steel or console steel. Instead of having a series of pedals to alter the pitch of the strings, non-pedal steel guitar usually has multiple necks -- sets of six or eight strings, tuned differently -- enabling the player to switch between keys without retuning the instrument.

All the videos are shot from above, so you get a good view of what he's doing with his picks and steel bar, and in the instructional videos he carefully explains every move he makes.

Here's the eight-minute course intro -- Steel Basics 101:

And here's Rick playing a Hawaiian number, "Song of the Islands":

Rick Alexander has teamed up with Texas Playboy Herb Remington to produce "Tuff Fun Tab," a book of 12 songs hand-annotated with Herb's chords and tablature and accompanied by a CD with two versions of each song -- one with Herb on steel, and one with backup only by Rick's band. It includes "Steel Guitar Rag," "Maiden's Prayer," "Love Me Tender," and "Song of the Islands."

This little detail from the Wikipedia bio of the Farina brothers, Santo and Johnny, made me smile:

When they were very young, their dad was drafted into the Army and stationed in Oklahoma. There (on the radio) he heard this beautiful music. It was the sound of the steel guitar and he wrote home to his wife and said "I’d like the boys to learn to play this instrument."

I like to think Mr. Farina was listening to this guy over KVOO -- from "Steel Guitar Rag" to "Sleepwalk" in one generation.

Man of steel

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Specifically, it's Noel Boggs, who played with Hank Penny, Bob Wills, and Spade Cooley, and fronted his own band, the Daysleepers. He's on a Fender Quad Stringmaster, playing "Alabamy Bound", from the 1954 short "Jimmy Wakeley's Jamboree":

I got to attend last night's Tulsa Boy Singers' spring concert, and it was wonderful. I have never heard a finer sounding choral group in Tulsa. Director Casey Cantwell told KOTV that the choir is at its peak musically, and I believe he's right.

The concert consistent entirely of sacred music, from Palestrina (Sicut cervus) to 16th century England (Byrd, Tallis, Farrant), to modern composers like John Taverner and Franz Biebl. The first part of the concert was a mass by Haydn, accompanied by a trio from the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra. Thanks to the media outlets who promoted it, both nights drew good crowds, though there was room for more.

Watch this space: I hope to have some video of the concert uploaded later tonight.

Although the spring concerts are over, there are still four chances to hear the Tulsa Boy Singers this season. Here's a list of upcoming dates:

So you've got one more chance to hear the boys in Oklahoma, but if you happen to be in the UK, you've got three shots at it. Don't miss your chance.

Here is a sample from their concert last Saturday night: From the 16th century, Palestrina's Sicut cervus. That's Psalm 42: "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God." I fumble-fingered and missed a couple of seconds of the start, but I think you'll enjoy it anyway.

Here's another clip from the concert: Maurice Duruflé's setting of Ubi caritas: "Where charity and love are, God is there."

Don't forget -- the Tulsa Boy Singers concert is tonight and Saturday night, 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th & Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. Admission is free (but donations would be welcomed) and there will be a reception following. Come hear some beautiful music.

A guest appearance by Bob Wills and his fiddle on the country & western showcase "Star Route." Glen Campbell handles the vocals and plays the banjo on the song "Take Me Back to Tulsa."

Listen closely during the first chorus, and you'll hear Bob call, "Circle eight, spread out wide, grab your partner, go hog wild! Sooey!"

The date on the YouTube summary says 1956, but something tells me this is closer to '64 or '65.

This one's even better: Glen and Bob on "San Antonio Rose." There's an extended closeup of Bob playing fiddle. The director doesn't seem quite sure what to do with Bob's hollers. Most of them occur off camera, but he gets one in while they're still in a two-shot and is rearing back for another when the director cuts back to Glen. There's a hilarious look on Bob's face when they catch him hollering on camera, a sort of "maybe I hadn't of oughta done that" expression. And on the next verse, Glen goes up on the lyrics.

The intro says that "San Antonio Rose" "comes as close as any to being the theme song of history's greatest war" and says that over 14 million copies had been sold.

These videos illustrate the shift in focus from the band to the singer. In the Big Band era the singer was a part of the band. (Sinatra started to change that equation.) By the time this TV show was taped, the band was mere backup, and there's certainly no place on screen for a band leader who might distract from the singer with the pretty teeth and hair.

Here's a video I've posted before which highlights the band members as well as the singer: It's Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys from 1946 performing "Goodbye Liza Jane," with Tommy Duncan and the McKinney Sisters singing, and solos by Joe Holley and Louis Tierney on fiddle, Millard Kelso on piano, and the great Junior Barnard on guitar.

UPDATE 2010/03/06: In the comments, some information from an Australian reader regarding this episode of "Star Route":

The clips are from the 1964 Star Route episode "A Salute To Bob Wills" .. the guitarist is Bobby Durham from the Gene Davis Band, who were the Hollywood house band. I say Hollywood as the series was partially filmed in Toronto with a Canadian band.

The regulars, no matter which city it was filmed, were bandleader Gene Davis, featured regulars, Glen Campbell, the Collins Kids, and host Rod Cameron. It was either the Jack Halloran Singers or the Star Route Singers who sang backgrounds on various episodes.

Alas, the videos I posted have been pulled down from YouTube by the user. (Hate it when that happens.)

UPDATE 2013/08/12: The San Antonio Rose video has been reposted! (Still looking for Glen and Bob on "Take Me Back to Tulsa.")


The Tulsa Boy Singers will be on KOTV channel 6 tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 7:50 a.m. to perform some music from their upcoming spring concert.

This coming Friday, June 1, and Saturday, June 2, at 7:30 p.m., the Tulsa Boy Singers will present their spring concert of sacred choral music at Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th and Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. The concert is entitled "Journey through the Ages." The concert will feature many different styles of music including English Choral Music, spirituals, and contemporary hymn settings. Admission is free, and there will be refreshments following the concert. (Donations would be gratefully received and will help defray the costs of the choir's upcoming performance tour of Great Britain, TBS's first international tour in many years.)

Tulsa Boy Singers will also be performing at OK Mozart in Bartlesville on June 15.

TBS has a long and illustrious 59-year history and hundreds of Tulsans have benefited from the education they received in both music and character.

If you are an alumnus, TBS would like to keep in touch with you, to keep you aware of TBS's upcoming concerts and activities. If you're the parent of a boy age 8 and up with an interest in singing, TBS is always looking for new singers, and there will be an opportunity to go through a brief audition following this week's concerts. To contact TBS, e-mail

UPDATE: Click here to watch the video of the Tulsa Boy Singers on KOTV. Leanne Taylor interviews director Casey Cantwell about the group, and the boys sing an arrangement of "Nearer My God to Thee."


I'm not sure what to think of this review of Legends of Country Music: Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. I think the reviewer likes the music, but I'm not sure:

Of all the subgenres of country music, perhaps none has dated as poorly as Western swing, the New Deal amalgam of jazz and the string band.

Does he mean that the music has aged well? That it doesn't seem out-of-date? That it has a certain timelessness? Or does he mean that it has nothing to offer modern listeners?

Then there's this line. See what sense you can extract from it:

It's saddening to the extent that Wills' bucolic big banditry sounds positively atavistic in the countrypolitan-on-steroids present, even to a listener who loathes latter-day Billy Sherrilloid abominations like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain.

And this parenthetical comment, about Wills's use of horns and drums

(Such orchestral eclecticism might otherwise position Western swing as the country subgenre most likely to interest country haters, but for the fact that such haters hilariously seem to regard the Stratocaster as the sonic alpha and omega of Western Civilization.)

might make sense, except that Wills's guitarist and arranger Eldon Shamblin played a Stratocaster, one that was given to him by Leo Fender himself, who was a fan of western swing.

I think the reviewer, Mr. Hollerbach, managed to violate every rule in Strunk and White, and he seems more interested in impressing us with his vocabulary and his ability to string words together than communicating any actual information.

Mark your calendars. There are a couple of wonderful opportunities to hear beautiful music performed by some very talented young Tulsans.

This coming Thursday, May 24, at 6 p.m., is the spring concert for the Barthelmes Conservatory Music School. Students are admitted to the music school based on musical aptitude, and they receive twice-weekly one-on-one lessons on an instrument and attend twice-weekly classes in music theory. It is a very rigorous program, and this Thursday night is an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of the students' hard work, as selected students each play a short classical piece. The concert is in the Great Hall on the fourth floor of the Bernsen Center, northwest of 8th and Boston in downtown Tulsa.

Then next week, on Friday, June 1, and Saturday, June 2, at 7:30 p.m., the Tulsa Boy Singers will present their spring concert of sacred choral music at Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th and Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. The concert is entitled "Journey through the Ages." The concert will feature many different styles of music including English Choral Music, spirituals, and contemporary hymn settings. Admission is free, and there will be refreshments following the concert. (Donations would be gratefully received and will help defray the costs of the choir's upcoming performance tour of Great Britain, TBS's first international tour in many years.)

Tulsa Boy Singers and some musicians from Barthelmes will also be performing at OK Mozart in Bartlesville on June 15.

A few links, recently discovered, that illustrate the diversity of western swing and its influences:

First is an Amazon "Listmania" list by Tony Thomas, one of Amazon's top 500 reviewers. The list is entitled "Western Swing: what it is and what it ain't" and includes Thomas's recommendations and comments on 22 CDs and box sets and 3 books. His introduction:

Too many people think of Western Swing as a varient of "Country" music. In fact, the classic Western Swing of the 1930s and 1940s was closer to Jazz and Blues music and was a completely different animal than country music of its time. Indeed, the one time Bob Wills, the greatest Western Swing star, appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, he was almost physically removed for using a full drum kit and smoking a cigar on stage. Go to the net page for each item to read my online reviews that go deeper into the history of Western swing. Besides all this, every one of these recordings is a load of fun to listen to.

Thomas covers albums from different eras of Bob Wills's career (the prewar recordings on OKeh and Brunswick), the Tiffany Transcriptions of the '40s, the MGM recordings from the late '40s and early '50s, For the Last Time from 1973), includes several other key western swing band leaders (Billy Jack Wills, Milton Brown, Spade Cooley, Tex Williams, Leon McAuliffe, Adolph Hofner, Moon Mullican), the western swing revival (Asleep at the Wheel, Merle Haggard, Hot Club of Cowtown), and early influences on western swing (Mississippi Sheiks, Emmett Miller).

This article by Norman Weinstein, called Secret Jazz: The Swinging Side of Western Swing, explains how the sound of a famed jazz trombonist influenced the emerging sound of the steel guitar and how elements of the Delta blues, New Orleans jazz, big band swing, bebop, and progressive jazz found their way into the western swing repertoire. He opens the piece with this: "Western Swing is a musical genre wonderfully described by its leading historian Cary Ginell as 'a bastard child that neither country nor jazz is willing to accept into their own house.'" And here's how Weinstein tries to define western swing: "The simplest way to define the genre is to identify it as a style evolving from a hybridization of black and white Southwestern string band styles encompassing a broad variety of jazz, blues, and country music characteristics."

It should be pointed out that western swing isn't by any means disconnected from country music, but it may be more accurate to call it an influence on country rather than a branch of country music. Country stars from Oklahoma, Texas, and the Central Valley of California grew up listening to western swing and it shaped their sound -- older generation artists like Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Merle Haggard, and Buck Owens (who in turn influenced Dwight Yoakum), and more recent stars like Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, and George Strait. And while Hank Williams isn't considered western swing, you can hear the genre's influence in his band's use of steel guitar and rhythm guitar.

If you listen to Hank Williams, it was at the peak of Bob Wills' influence, and a lot of Hank's stuff has got Western swing kind of stuff in it, especially the guitar playing, which for me was the whole thing. Like the Texas Troubadours; [Ernest Tubb] is a direct outgrowth of Bob Wills, but it was real country. That's where we came from. On a break, the Texas Troubadours would play hot jazz Western swing, and then Ernest Tubb would come up and go, "I'm walking ..." boom-chucka, boom-chucka. Which is where Junior Brown gets his sound.

That was from Ray Benson, whose band Asleep at the Wheel has led the western swing revival. Plenty of country artists are fans of western swing, and Benson had no problem recruiting country stars to perform on his two albums of Bob Wills music. Here's an Austin Chronicle interview with Benson on the 1999 launch of the second tribute album, Ride with Bob:

Six years ago, in 1993, the Wheel put out an album that was considered a landmark in the band's already storied history: Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills. It was a star-studded collection that not only won the band a Grammy, it also brought together the old masters -- former Texas Playboys like Eldon Shamblin, Leon Rausch, and Johnny Gimble -- with modern-day Nashville staples like Garth Brooks and Suzy Bogguss, and even an oddball or two, such as Benson's old pal Huey Lewis. And they made it sound great; even the bland, middle-of-the-road types who get blamed for country's current sad state came off sounding like diamonds, and the Wheel reached new audiences that had likely never heard of either them or Wills....

Later, Benson explains how his own eclectic musical tastes led him to western swing in the early '70s:

But as a kid, that was my first group there -- see those four kids? [Points at a black-and-white photo on the wall.] That's me at the top in 1960, and we sang folk music, 'cause folk music was big: Kingston Trio, Woody Guthrie, the Carter Family, the Lamplighters. All these musical influences were kind of going around, and then in 1969, we decided to form a band and get back to the land, which is where all the hippies were going anyway; get out and play country music, half because of Bob Dylan and half because of Hank Williams. But I had all these other musical influences. And I loved the blues. I knew everything. I didn't realize that there was compartments to music, 'cause we listened to all this music and we played it all.

So when we got to do this country band, we said we've gotta narrow our focus down. So we just played hillbilly music. And we said, "Wow! We really want to play roots music." That was our rallying cry: "We're going to play roots music!" I hate Led Zeppelin. Really. I hate white guys sounding like wimpy blues singers. But we loved blues. I love Jimi Hendrix. So we formed the band. We started doing this thing, and then the creative urge to play, to jam, to improvise especially, was there, and I couldn't do it in country music. You did a turnaround or half a chord, you know what I'm saying?

All of the sudden, Western swing entered, and I went, "Wow, I can sing hard songs with country themes and play fiddle breakdowns like I've always played in square dance bands. I mean, you could do it all. I could play swing music, improvise jazz however complex you want within the structure they give you, and wear a cowboy hat. That was the deal. That's how it all happened.

Finally, here's an article from the March 13, 1950, issue of Time magazine (bless you, Time, for putting your complete archives online) about the origin of the song "Rag Mop," a top pop hit for Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys. It all started when steel guitarist Deacon Anderson was in the Army:

"Deacon" Anderson, 26, had worked out a kind of K.P. chantey as he swung his mop. As he explains now: "It's hard to think up words with any sense when you're tired, and I got to spelling out r-a-g m-o-p."

To Anderson, who now plays in a Western band in Beaumont, Texas, the result added up to a song; he gave it a hillbilly beat and tried it on his steel guitar. After the war, he tried to sell the song, but everyone around Beaumont thought the whole idea was just plain silly. Last year he made a recording—he didn't know how to write the notes down—and sent it to a friend with the Johnnie Lee Wills band. Says Tulsa's Johnnie Lee, the idol of the Southwest's square-toe boot and blue-jean set: "At first I thought it was crazy. Then it kinda irritated me." He rearranged it, added some notes and a little pep & polish.

At least some folks think that "little pep and polish" turned "Rag Mop" into one of the first rock and roll records.

Continuing the choral music theme of the previous entry, Tulsa fans of choral music are in for a treat tomorrow night, Tuesday, May 8, at 7 p.m. The American Boychoir will perform at Boston Avenue Methodist Church, 13th and Boston in downtown Tulsa. Tickets are $5 for adults, no charge for 18 and under.

The American Boychoir School, a boarding school for grades 5 through 8, located in Princeton, N. J., was founded in 1937 to bring the centuries-old tradition of boys' choir schools to America. The Tulsa stop is the midpoint of a three-week tour of Texas and Oklahoma. The group has recorded and toured internationally in recent years, and their voices have provided the soundtracks for commercials for Apple Computer, CNN, M&M, others, and for Kodak's Clio-winning "True Colors" ad.

The Tulsa Boy Singers will also be performing, giving a preview of their upcoming Spring Concerts, which are scheduled for June 1 and 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Master Singers The Highway Code EP album coverMonth after month, the Google searches that consistently bring visitors to this site have nothing to do with Tulsa or Oklahoma or Republican politics. This BatesLine entry is currently the number one result for any combination of two of the following four terms: "Master Singers," "Highway Code," "Weather Forecast," "Anglican chant."

The entry is about two delightful novelty tunes recorded by a group called the Mastersingers in the '60s, setting Britain's rules of the road and a typical BBC weather to the beautiful a capella four-part harmonies of Anglican chant.

What I wrote recently attracted the attention of Helen Keating, the wife of Geoffrey Keating, one of the Mastersingers, and she was kind enough to send me what I think should be considered the definitive history of the Mastersingers, the Highway Code, and the Weather Forecast:

'The Highway Code' set to psalm chants was devised by a schoolmaster at Abingdon School, John Horrex, in the late 1950s. It was sung at numerous church socials etc as entertainment, using whatever singers were available (including me!)

In 1963, to celebrate the school's Quatercentenary a record was made which contained a lot of the Highway Code set in different styles - a pub song, Gilbert and Sullivan style and a jazzy version etc. The singers were John Horrex, George Pratt, Geoff Keating and Barry Montague.

A copy of this record was sent to Fritz Spiegl who gave it to the BBC, who used it on a lunchtime programme introduced by Winston Churchill (jnr) and was played at its last edition as ' our most requested piece.'

George Martin then recorded it, the group calling itself the Mastersingers, on a single, with the pub song on the B side. This actually got to no 22 in the charts (then the top 20) and the group was on standby for 'Top of the Pops'!

Cliff Richard then invited the group (called for the purposes of the disc ''The Carol Singers') to back an EP of Christmas carols, which were arranged by George Pratt and Geoff Keating. One number done by Geoff was 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' but it was never used as it was too short for a whole side but too long to put another carol with it.

The tape of this number was played to the Kings Singers and they immediately asked Geoff to rearrange it for them, which they subsequently recorded and sang everywhere. Geoff also arranged 'God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen' for them, both of which appear on their LP 'Christmas with the Kings Singers'. (The latter number, in 5/8 like Dave Brubeck's 'Take Five', inspired George Shearing for his his version on a Christmas disc.)

All the four schoolmasters moved on from Abingdon, John Horrex to Glasgow, George Pratt to Keele University, Geoff Keating to Cheadle Hulme School, and Barry Montague to Australia. The latter's place in the group was taken by Mike Warrington from Cheadle Hulme and that began a series of performances of both the original 'Highway Code' and the new 'Weather Forecast', (also recorded by George Martin) together with lots of local television performances of things like 'Rules of Wrestling' and other silly things. George Martin also recorded 'The London Telephone Directory' (started at 'A', speeded up then slowed down as they got to 'Z's) which the group didn't think was funny and thankfully was withdrawn when the directory was deemed copyright.

We understood that Princess Margaret (a fan of the group which she had met at the Abingdon Quatercentenary celebrations) was given a copy of the disc but the group never got one.

The group did the backing for George Martin's record of Peter Sellers' 'A Hard Day's Night' (as a Richard III type soliloquy), music arranged by George Pratt, and 'Help' (as a sermon), music arranged by Geoff Keating.

The Mastersingers were invited to do the Highway Code on the Ken Dodd show (live) on BBC TV and then the enthusiasm (caused by over-exposure and problems of distances apart) rather dried up.

The Kings Singers, by now good friends with the group, were often told that 'The Highway Code was the best thing they ever did' (!) and they are always incredibly generous in their acknowledgment that they weren't responsible (mind you, hearing the four amateur singers on the original it's not surprising they say that!)

Hope that clears up all the misapprehensions!

I wrote Mrs. Keating back to ask what her husband Geoff and the other Mastersingers are doing nowadays. She replied:

Having retired after 17 years with Geoff as Director of Music at Millfield School in Somerset (and me as Director of Music at Millfield Prep School) we had three years at Sherborne School for Girls where I was Housemistress (and Geoff was half time teaching photography and sailing!) then we retired - well, you might call it that but we're as busy as ever! - to SW Scotland. you we have seven concerts between March 25th of this year and this next June 10th, that shows you. Geoff conducts the Solway Sinfonia plays jazz with his group 'Gentle Jazz' (piano and saxophone), sails, fishes and sells landscape photographs. Not bad for a man who's 70 in a fortnight! Not that he looks it, or acts it, as you will see from the photo on the above website.

John Horrex, the 'founder' of the Mastersingers is now retired in Canterbury, where he ended up teaching, Professor George Pratt, retired from Huddersfield University, is down in Exeter when he's not broadcasting or doing talks on cruise ships, while Mike Warrington is a retired headmaster in Oldham.

From Geoff Keating's page on the Solway Sinfonia site, I found this link to a week-long music holiday he'll be leading next February at a hotel in England's Lake District. Looks like great fun.

A happy 70th birthday to Geoff Keating and many thanks to Helen Keating for setting the record straight about these beloved pieces of music.

MORE, MORE (30 October 2008): Brien K. Meehan has produced a transcription of the Mastersingers' Weather Forecast with words and four-part music. (Links have changed -- see below.)

UPDATE: (29 December 2009): has changed some URLs. Here are Brien K. Meehan's transcriptions of the Mastersingers' Weather Report (Anglican Chant) and the Mastersingers' Highway Code (Anglican Chant). Both are available for free download.

UPDATE: 3 November 2012: I've found Brien K. Meehan's transcriptions of the Mastersingers' Highway Code and Mastersingers' Weather Forecast, on the website of St. James Episcopal Church, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They are also posted to Google docs: Mastersingers' Weather Forecast, Mastersingers' Highway Code, linked from Brien K. Meehan's YouTube profile.

And for safekeeping, here are local copies of Mastersingers' Highway Code Anglican Chant and Mastersingers' Weather Forecast Anglican Chant

UPDATE: 18 March 2013: Keith Webley writes: "It is with great sadness that I report that John Horrex (my wife's uncle) passed away this evening." Our condolences to Mr. Horrex's family and friends.

Sometime ago, I got an e-mail from someone who stumbled across the long list of things I've written here about western swing music. The e-mail came from John England, who fronts a Nashville-based band called the Western Swingers. John asked me if I'd like a free CD, and I said, "Of course!"

John sent me a copy of Swinging Broadway, released in 2003. The whole family has been enjoying it for a couple of weeks now, and by whole family I mean everyone from the 16 month old toddler to Mom and Dad. The CD passes a couple of key quality tests:

(1) The baby bounce test: If the music makes the baby bounce up and down in his high chair, it's good stuff. In particular, "Your Turn to Cry," "Stumbling," and "Little Red Wagon" got the little one grinning and bobbing.

(Not just any music will make our kids bounce. When the oldest one was about eight months old, we went to a barbecue place we'd never tried before. The food was good, but it happened to be karaoke night. The baby bounced to the radio music that was being played before karaoke began, but he stopped when the first amateur balladeer started singing.)

(2) The humming/whistling/singing test: I've caught Mom and the two big kids humming or singing "Won't you ride in my little red wagon?"

My favorite cut on the disc is the instrumental "Stumbling," with its tight guitar ensemble work and rare bass and drum solos. For just six guys, they make a big, full sound.

The Western Swingers play most of their dates in and around Nashville, including a weekly gig at Robert's Western World on Broadway. The next time they'll be anywhere near Tulsa will be June 14 at the Legends of Western Swing Festival in Wichita Falls, Texas. (It's only 240 miles away!)

You can hear a few of their songs and find a list of upcoming dates on their MySpace profile. If you love western swing, you'll love the Western Swingers.

Last Friday night, I had the privilege of being at Cain's Ballroom for the inaugural gala of the National Fiddler Hall of Fame with my wife and son, both of whom play violin/fiddle. We got to meet Bob Wills's daughter Rosetta, who was there to accept the induction of her dad as the first member of the Hall, show fiddler Jana Jae, and guitarist Mark Bruner. It was nice to see two city councilors there -- Rick Westcott with his fiancee and Maria Barnes with her husband.

Music historian John Wooley did an excellent job as MC, introducing this new organization and putting the various genres of fiddle music in historical perspective. We had fun chatting with him before the program began. (He told a very funny story on himself, involving an outburst of literary criticism at a high school football game.)

The food was prepared by a competition barbecue team (made up of doctors, I think I heard) who served smoked salmon and beef tenderloin, with baked beans that included lima beans in the mix. It was all delicious.

The musical program was led off by Oklahoma Stomp, the NFHOF-sponsored western swing band of 12 to 15 year old boys. They performed Fat Boy Rag, Faded Love, Heart to Heart Talk, Roly Poly and San Antonio Rose. My son's friend from Barthelmes Conservatory plays bass in the band, and he took my boy backstage afterwards, where he got to sign the wall. My son was so inspired by the whole evening that he got out his violin as soon as he got home and started practicing Faded Love.

Eight different genres of fiddle music were demonstrated. Here's who played and what they played, backed by a house band made up of Shelby Eicher on mandolin and fiddle, Mark Bruner on guitar, J. D. Walters on steel guitar, Spencer Sutton on piano, and Dave Breshears on drums.

Bluegrass fiddling: Byron Berline with Eric Dysart; Gold Rush, Turkey in the Straw.

Country fiddling: Rick Morton with Jake Duncan; Don't You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me, Lonesome Fiddle Blues.

Irish fiddling: Eric Ryan-Johnson with his son Seamus and with Steve Mayfield on bouzouki; Father Kelley's #1, Rocky Yard, Butterfly, Rocking Polkas.

Show fiddling: Jana Jae with Emma Jane and Marina Pendleton; Black Mountain Rag, Jesse Polka. (Jana Jae performed the first number on a specially tuned blue fiddle: A C# E A.)

Blues fiddling: James Tarver with Mark Bruner and Merrit Armitage; Sittin on Top of the World, Milk Cow Blues. (It was a treat to hear these old blues tunes, which Bob Wills had adapted to Western Swing, performed as blues.)

Contest fiddling: Monte Gaylord, Dave Gaylord, Bubba Hopkins, Douglas Thompson, and Michael Thompson; Sally Goodin, Miss Molly.

Jazz fiddling: Shelby Eicher with Jake Simpson; Walking My Baby Back Home, Summertime. (The latter was performed in the style of Stephane Grappelli, the jazz violinist for the Hot Club of France. I heard second-hand that Curly Lewis said that he was a fan of Grappelli, and that all the Western swing fiddlers wanted to sound like Grappelli.)

Western Swing fiddling: Curly Lewis, Chase Foster; Blues for Dixie, Take Me Back to Tulsa. (In introducing Lewis, John Wooley said that at age 11 he won a fiddle contest sponsored by Bob Wills.)

The grand finale featured all the performers playing the old fiddle standard "Liberty." The music continued as the house band played for anyone who wanted to dance. (At one point, the band played "Maiden's Prayer," but they didn't have anyone singing. I was awfully tempted to run up there and pitch in, but I held back.)

Many thanks to the board members of the Hall of Fame, and particularly to Jim and Alice Rodgers of Cain's Ballroom, for a wonderful, unforgettable evening.

My Urban Tulsa Weekly column this week is on two very different events: last Saturday's Oklahoma Republican State Convention and last Friday's inaugural gala for the National Fiddler Hall of Fame. The convention story covers the race for state party chairman and a brief description of what delegates were saying about next year's presidential race. (More about the NFHOF gala in a separate entry.)

From 1946 (the Tiffany Transcriptions era), Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys perform "Goodbye, Liza Jane":

That's Bob Wills introducing and playing fiddle. Tommy Duncan sings, backed by Dean and Evelyn, the McKinney Sisters. The other right-handed fiddler (who plays behind Tommy on the last verse) is Louis Tierney. The left-handed fiddler is Joe Holley. Millard Kelso, "the little man with the moustache," plunks the piano. And the highlight of this video is an all-too-brief solo by ahead-of-his-time guitarist Junior Barnard, who had a fuzz tone and knew how to use it. (Here are a few more clips of Junior's choruses.)

(Via Tyson Wynn, who has several more Bob Wills videos he found on YouTube, including three of the Snader Transcriptions from 1951 -- "Blue Prelude," "Sittin' on Top of the World," and "Three Miles South of Cash" -- and the Cindy Walker song "Election Day" from one of Bob Wills's movies, sung by Leon McAuliffe.)

(UPDATE: A hearty endorsement of Shaun Groves from Michelle of GetRightOK in the comments: "I took my three daughters to the Shaun Groves concert the last time he was in Tulsa. The concert was wonderful. He's a funny guy, and his music is great. He has a song called Twilight that is a favorite of my kids (it's my favorite SG song too).")

About a week ago, I received an e-mail from Shaun Groves. He said he was a Christian recording artist and KXOJ was bringing him to Broken Arrow for a show this weekend. He was looking for ways to get the word out about the concert and came across this blog.

I wrote back:

Thanks for writing. To tell the truth, I'm not a big fan of CCM [Contemporary Christian Music], mainly because so much of it is theologically shallow and musically dull. But I will have a look at your site, and if I like what I see and hear, I'll give you a plug. How's that?

In his reply, Shaun said, "You and I share that beef with CCM in general," and he pointed me to a recent post on his music blog about profaning the name of God. He points to Ezekiel 36, which talks of how God's people dishonored His name with their actions.

Shaun goes on to talk about how some CCM profanes God's name, drawing from his experience as a suicidally depressed Christian teen. He describes listening, with friend who was also depressed, to a program of Christian music that his church youth leader had recommended:

I turned to it wanting to feel better. I remember feeling angry instead. What I heard was music I couldn’t relate to at all, what sounded out of touch with reality, written by happy people who’d never been where I was, who’d never felt hopeless before. No words I could put my heart behind and sing to God. The messages in the broadcast, to me, were clear: God doesn’t care and good Christians don’t have problems.

That anger became a driving force in his songwriting:

That night made me mad enough to write about it. It was the first poem I ever wrote in fact and so, I guess, that anger I felt at Christian music that night is partially to credit for me becoming the song writer I am today. That poem even won some contest back in Texas. But it did more than that. Not only did that poem begin for me the habit of funneling my emotions through a pencil onto a page, but it also gave my creativity a purpose.

That purpose is why I moved to Nashville - to write music that supports the spiritual health of Christians, that encourages through honest discourse, acknowledges the good and bad in life, that reminds us all that a life spent knowing God and not also making Him known is only half a life, a life without meaning and prone to depression and anxiety. I moved here to write songs that hometown station of mine wouldn’t broadcast when I needed them to all those years ago....

My career... has always been about saving listeners from the misery I languished in for so long - desperate to hear a sermon, read a book, or tune to a song that touched even a little of the pain I dealt with daily. The goal is to meet people where they are by being honest about where I am and where I’ve been, and from there, walk with them out of the despair and into a life full of purpose and hope.

All victorious music all the time sends the wrong message:

You see, when God is ignoring your hurts - which is what I felt when listening to sermons, Sunday school lessons and songs as a teen - we begin to suspect that God either doesn’t exist or He’s some sick twist who gleefully ignores our woe. And the Enemy wins. We believe his lie: God isn’t good. That’s where always happy gets us....

The best weapon I’ve found in the battle against this powerful lie is honesty. Honesty about the greatness, the laughter inducing, the breathtakingly miraculous, the sweetness of life. Honesty about the tears and fears and hurries and worries we all have in common.

That’s human. That’s Christian. That says God is good, He knows you hurt, He hears you, He’s sent this song, this book, these words to tell you you’re not alone. We’ve been there too. And we and our God want to meet you where you are and help you from there. There’s so much good stuff about life and God you might have forgotten about and we want to remind you of all that. Trust us. We’re just like you. If I’d heard that kind of music when I was sixteen I wouldn’t have been cured, not with one listen, but I may have tuned in again, I may have bought that CD, gone to that concert, gotten out of bed, opened up to someone sooner, felt a lot less dysfunctional and strange and unChristian.

Instead, he turned to music that spoke about the pain he was feeling -- nihilistic music like Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails -- but which offered no hope, only commiseration. In the end, he was brought back to faith by a girl (who came to be his wife), her father (a pastor) and family. They were willing to be honest about their struggles, about their mistakes, about their sins.

My wife’s honesty, and her family’s, brought me back to life. I found in them a safe place to be myself, to ask questions, to beg for prayer. A place I wanted to spend the rest of my life. By sharing their wounds mine were healed.

Shaun goes on to issue a challenge to Christian radio stations, to be willing to play music that's good, that's listenable, but which may not be "all happy all the time."

Even if his music weren't good (but it is), writing that essay alone is worthy of a plug and a link here.

Shaun Groves's Broken Arrow concert is Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Church at Battle Creek. (That's just north of the Broken Arrow Expressway -- OK 51 -- on 145th East Ave, aka Aspen.) Proceeds go to the poverty relief program Compassion International.

Belfast hosted a songwriters' festival recently, which featured musicians from Belfast's American sister city, Nashville.

(That's an apt pairing. Belfast is the buckle of the Bible Belt of Europe, the most religious region in the UK. Nashville is HQ for the Southern Baptist Convention. And Tennessee was settled by Ulster Scots, sometimes known as Scots-Irish, who are ethnically connected to the Presbyterians of Northern Ireland.)

FAMEmagazine's Billy McCoy reviewed one of the festival's concerts:

Lee Roy Parnell and Paul Overstreet were brilliant, not only for their singing, but for their repartee, they worked well together, were very friendly and appreciative of their reception. Lee Roy was particularly good at the Bob Wills number 'Moo Cow Blues' and it was even more pleasing to hear it without the interventions which, in my opinion, takes away from the original. This feature, in my opinion, spoils most of Bob Wills, otherwise good music.

First of all, Billy, it's "Milk Cow Blues," by Kokomo Arnold, and it's one of many old-time blues numbers that Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys performed. And Bob's brother Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys had a hit with it, too.

As for those "interventions," Art Satherley, the Englishman and traditional folk music enthusiast who was Bob Wills's producer from 1935 to 1947, didn't like them either, at first, complaining at the Texas Playboys' first recording session that Bob's hollering was covering up the musicians. He also complained about the band's use of horns and drums, unheard of in hillbilly music. Bob's response was to threaten to pack up and walk out. You hire Bob Wills, you get Bob Wills, playing his music his way.

I can't provide a direct quote, but musicians who played for Bob Wills have said that when he called out the name of one of his sidemen it was like he turned the spotlight on him. It gave the musician a boost and inspired him to play his best. Musicians and audience members alike would tell you that you could tell the difference in quality and intensity of the music when Bob was on the bandstand and when he wasn't. Such was his presence, and his hollering and smart-aleck remarks were a big part of his presence.

On recordings, Bob's hollers meant that the listener knew who was responsible for that hot solo he was about to enjoy. (And 30 to 70 years later, we know it too.) It wasn't an anonymous studio musician, it was Eldon (Shamblin) or Leon (McAuliffe), Herbie (Remington) or Noel (Boggs), Junior Barnard (aka Fat Boy, aka Boogerman, aka the Floor Show) or Jimmy Wyble, Jody (Joe Holley) or Jesse (Ashlock), or Tiny Moore on the "biggest little instrument in the world." And even when Bob recorded with Nashville studio musicians, in his '60s sessions with Kapp Records, he gave them the same courtesy, for instance calling out "Brother Pig!" when Hargus "Pig" Robbins took a chorus on the piano and "Ah, Tay!" for a Gene "Tagg" Lambert guitar solo.

The audience responded, too, to Bob's hollers. They were an essential part of the Texas Playboys dance experience, so much so that Cindy Walker wrote a song to answer the musical question "What Makes Bob Holler?"

Well, when a little sweetie-pie
In a mini-skirt twirls by
And rolls those big blue eyes
Ahhh! I holler!
And when some pretty chick
Says she likes my fiddle lick,
Well, that can do the trick.
Ahhh! I holler!

To say that Bob Wills's music would have been better without the hollers is to miss the point. Bob's hollers were as much a part of his music as his fiddle, so essential that when Bob suffered a stroke after the first day of recording for For the Last Time and was unable to return, his old friend Hoyle Nix filled in with his best impression.

The songs are certainly strong enough to stand on their own, and plenty of other bands have recorded great versions of his music, but a Bob Wills song is missing something without a Bob Wills holler.

MORE: A couple of Bob Wills links of interest which I don't think I've posted yet:

Last September 18, jazz and pop music writer Will Friedwald wrote a very insightful review in the New York Sun of the Legends of Country Music box set. He starts with the first track, "Sunbonnet Sue," recorded in 1932 when Bob Wills and Milton Brown were with the Light Crust Doughboys, and explains how the structure is closer to popular music of the day rather than traditional folk music:

Yet the moral of "Sunbonnet Sue"is that even by 1932, there was no longer such a thing as pure roots music. The phonograph had already entertained several generations, and particularly after about 1920 — when commercial broadcasting began and when jazz, blues, and country began to be heard regularly on record — everyone in every part of the nation began listening to everybody else....

At the time, the mainstream music press labeled all sounds produced by black people as "race music" and all music produced by white people anyplace other than the two coasts or the Great Lakes as Hillbilly. Wills hated this term, much the same way New Orleans jazzmen hated being called "Dixieland." He brought both new energy and sophistication to records by importing ideas wholesale from the swing bands that were starting to dominate the music business in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Friedwald goes on to cite examples of the variety of music the Texas Playboys performed over the years, as sampled in the box set.

Next, here's the entry on Bob Wills from the MusicWeb Encyclopedia of Popular Music. It includes a number of details that you won't find in other biographies on the web, and includes parenthetical mini-bios of Leon McAuliffe, Tommy Duncan, and other Wills sidemen.

Also on the MusicWeb site is an e-book, The Rise and Fall of Popular Music. Chapter 7, The Jazz Age, the Great Depression and New Markets: Race and Hillbilly Music includes a section on the Texas Playboys, putting them in the context of other popular musicians of the era, like Paul Whiteman, Bennie Moten, the Blue Devils (from Oklahoma City), Bing Crosby, Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, and Bessie Smith. (Did you know that Jimmie Rodgers recorded with Louis Armstrong? And with a Hawaiian band? Me, neither.) You'll learn something about the origins of the steel guitar and the dobro and about the importance of flour to popular music of the period.

Here's a nice short bio of guitarist Tommy Allsup, who played lead guitar with Buddy Holly, was an A&R man and producer for Liberty Records, and produced Bob Wills's final album. Allsup, recently inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, is carrying on the western swing tradition with Bob Wills' Texas Playboys.

Tommy's going to be touring Greece and the UK this June with Kevin Montgomery. You can find his MySpace page here.

Here is some advice on how to get a jangly, power-poppy sound out of your electric guitar:

Best guitars for getting a good jangly sound are Rickenbacker 6 and 12 strings (used by the Byrds, Beatles, Tom Petty, and REM's Peter Buck, the Godfather of Jangle). Also consider Fender Stratocasters, and Fender Telecasters (Bridge pickup, tone up, boost the brightness on the amp or processor). Success is also reported with other Semi-hollow body guitars such as the Gretsch Country Gentleman. Les Pauls, Ibanez's, Jacksons and other guitars with high powered humbuckers = no jangle. The Line 6 Variax, made by the folks who brought you the Pod amp simulators, have a setting called "spank" that produces a nice jangle.

(Would Eldon Shamblin's playing be considered jangly? He played a Telecaster and, later, one of the prototype Stratocasters. Tiny Moore's electric five-string mandolin was pretty jangly, too, I think.)

Yes, I'm supposed to be writing my column, and I'm procrastinating. I just got the latest edition of Hz So Good, Rich Appel's e-newsletter on pop music, which isn't helping my concentration. He had a link to this video of Badfinger performing "Baby Blue", which opens with an intro by a young Kenny Rogers, who looks just as unkempt as the Will Sasso parody of Kenny Rogers on Mad TV.

Badfinger's "Day after Day" (here's a video) was probably the first pop song to grab my attention. It was a hit in 1971, and I heard it many mornings carpooling from 11th and Garnett to Holland Hall in Mr. Ivers's VW wagon. (He was a KAKC listener. My family was strictly KRMG and KRMG-FM.) Maybe it stuck with me because I was a lonely kid, in my first year at Holland Hall, with a foot in two worlds but not fully at home in either one.

Just skimming the latest Hz So Good, I see a bit about Dolly Parton's early career (and an album cover of her and Porter Wagoner) and about when "Western" was dropped from title of the Country and Western charts. (I wrote about Porter and Dolly and detergent here.) And Rich asks if the "Western" in "C & W" was there "to refer to western swing, a la Bob Wills." (I write about Bob Wills incessantly.)

Hz So Good is always an interesting read -- e-mail Rich Appel at audiot.savant at verizon dot net to request a subscription.

Friday morning, Oklahoma Stomp, a new western swing band made up of nine boys, aged 12 to 16 years, played a few songs on KVOO 98.5. If you missed the live broadcast and didn't get out to Cain's Ballroom to hear them tonight, you can still listen to the KVOO podcast. Here are direct links to the songs:

San Antonio Rose"
Fat Boy Rag (the version released on Columbia, not the wild Tiffany Transcriptions version)
Roly Poly
Faded Love

These kids are good.

My wife and I had a great time tonight at the Bob Wills Birthday Celebration. We got out on the dance floor a few times. We successfully navigated the hills and valleys of Cain's curly maple floor, and we did OK with the two-step, but it took me halfway into "Goodnight, Little Sweetheart" to remember how to waltz.

The Round-Up Boys and Eddie McAlvain and the Mavericks each played a 45 minute set, then the Texas Playboys played from 9 to 11 with a 20 minute break. They said they'd be playing a longer set at the Saturday night performance.

Oklahoma Stomp, the new western swing band made up of 12 to 16 year olds, will debut at Saturday's performance. And Bob Fjeldsted, leader of the Round-Up Boys, mentioned that Bob Wills's daughter Rosetta would be there as well.

The Texas Playboys are led by vocalist Leon Rausch and guitarist Tommy Allsup (who also took vocals on several songs). Tonight's lineup: Bobby Koefer on steel guitar, Curly Hollingsworth on piano, Curly Lewis, Jimmy Young, and Bob Boatright on fiddle, Ronnie Ellis on bass, Tony Ramsey on drums, Steve "Hambone" Ham on trombone, and Mike Bennett on trumpet. Allsup, Lewis, Ham, and Bennett are all from the Tulsa area.

For the record, here is the Texas Playboys' set list from tonight:

Opening Theme
Corrine, Corrina
Lily Dale
In the Mood
Milkcow Blues
Tater Pie
Tuxedo Junction
Keeper of My Heart
Panhandle Rag
Blues for Dixie
Westphalia Waltz
Trouble in Mind
Take Me Back to Tulsa
Raining in My Heart

Faded Love
Hawaiian War Chant
I Don't Know Why I Love You Like I Do
Right or Wrong
Big Beaver
Goodnight, Little Sweetheart
Closing Theme

I didn't catch the title for one song, but it was a very lush, very pretty number featuring Bobby Koefer on steel guitar.

All the good things I had to say about last year's birthday celebration and performance at the Osage casino were just as true tonight. In addition to all that, I especially enjoyed hearing trombonist Steve Ham do the vocals on "Rosetta" and Curly Hollingsworth's piano choruses. Everyone on the bandstand turned in several swinging solos and wonderful ensemble work. Love those triple fiddles.

One big improvement over last year: No smoking in the building!

Most of the heads there were as gray as mine, or grayer, but there were a few younger folks there, too. One couple brought their daughter along -- she looked to be about six. A couple of thirty-something women volunteered to be Bobby Koefer's hula partners for "Hawaiian War Chant."

One young woman -- in her twenties, I'd guess -- spent most of the last set standing up at the edge of the stage, swiveling her hips to the music and taking pictures of the band with her cameraphone. With her Louise Brooks haircut, she bore an uncanny resemblance (as of a couple of hairstyles ago) to a certain rock historian turned chastity advocate, but instead of being dressed in mod-'60s clothes, her outfit was from a decade or so earlier, down to her bobby socks and saddle oxfords. A male companion was taking pictures of her from several feet away. After the last song, her boyfriend boosted her up on stage, and she went around talking to several of the musicians. (The uncanny resemblance extended to certain mannerisms. To my knowledge, however, she did not compliment the drummer on how cool it was that he held his drumsticks just like Smokey Dacus.) The couple were obviously avid fans, and I would have loved to ask how they had been introduced to the music of Bob Wills.

The dance floor stayed pretty full most of the night, particularly on the big band numbers. Just about everyone came out to dance on "Faded Love."

I hope there's an even bigger turnout tomorrow night. As I said in my column this week, if you've never experienced western swing music, you owe it to yourself to come out to Cain's this weekend. There is no better introduction than to hear it played by the best musicians in the business and to hear it in the historic dance hall where the music first took root.

In my column about Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, I mentioned that Bobby Koefer will be playing steel guitar for the Texas Playboys at the Bob Wills Birthday Celebration tonight and tomorrow night at Cain's Ballroom. I wrote that Koefer "is a joy to watch, with his boundless energy and enthusiasm and one-of-a-kind style."

Well, here's a sample of that energy, enthusiasm, and style, a video of Koefer performing the novelty song Hawaiian War Chant with Truitt Cunningham's San Antonio Rose band.

And if you'll click this link, you'll see Bobby take a chorus 56 years ago with Bob Wills, on "Sittin' on Top of the World."


This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is a salute to the late great western swing band leader Bob Wills. This weekend is the annual Bob Wills birthday celebration at Cain's Ballroom, so it seemed like an opportune time to explain, to Tulsans unfamiliar with his legacy, his importance to American music and Tulsa history, what make western swing music so much fun, and why everyone needs to get out to Cain's Friday and Saturday night to listen and dance to Bob Wills's Texas Playboys, led by vocalist Leon Rausch and Tommy Allsup, both veterans of the Texas Playboys in the '50s and '60s.

The line-up this weekend includes many veterans of the Texas Playboys and Johnnie Lee Wills's band: steel guitarist Bobby Koefer, who blew us all away last year at the Playboys' performance at the Osage Casino, fiddlers Curly Lewis and Jimmy Young, and Curly Hollingsworth on piano -- not to slight the other great musicians who'll be on stage, including fiddler Bob Boatright, trumpeter Mike Bennett, and trombonist Steve Ham.

Something I didn't mention in the article: A new western swing band will be playing Saturday night's performance: Oklahoma Stomp, a collection of 12 to 16-year-old musicians organized by Tulsa fiddler Shelby Eicher, in connection with the National Fiddler Hall of Fame.


If you'd like to read something a bit more in-depth, but not book length, here's a good article about Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys from the Journal of Texas Music History.

Here's a BlogCritics review of the Legends of Country Music box set issued by Sony.

Here's a page about Leon Rausch with some of his solo recordings and recordings with Tommy Allsup and Bob Wills's Texas Playboys. And here's a page with the Texas Playboys upcoming tour dates. They're playing Lincoln Center in New York in June, part of the "Midsummer Night Swing" series of outdoor concerts and dances.

You'll find more links and some videos in BatesLine's Western Swing category.

I've been reading San Antonio Rose: The Life and Music of Bob Wills by Charles R. Townsend, published in 1976. It's an excellent biography, which Townsend began researching in the late '60s, interviewing Bob Wills, his wife Betty, and many of the musicians who played in his band. The book is out of print, but the Tulsa library system has several circulating copies.

In a chapter about Wills's 1968 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Townsend asks whether his music really belongs in the country category, and on p. 285 he includes this prescient aside:

Mainstream country music has remained relatively close to its rural and folk origins -- and if this ever ceases to be the case, the term country music will become a meaningless commercial hybrid.

Because I'm tired and burned out on serious stuff (the Republican County Convention was today), here's a bebop version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Bobby Troup, performed by legendary steel guitarist Leon McAuliffe (singing, not steeling, in this one) and his band. Take it away, Leon....

The baby bear's part cracks me up.

said the little wee bear,
"there's the chick that busted my chair!"

Bob Wills Grammy tribute

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In case you missed it, here is Carrie Underwood performing "San Antonio Rose" with Johnny Gimble, Ray Benson, Dick Gimble, introduced by Reba McEntire.

One of the YouTube commenters wrote, "If country music was regularly performed this well, I would listen to country music. That was awesome."

I've been reading San Antonio Rose: The Life and Music of Bob Wills, Charles R. Townsend's definitive biography. At the back of the book is what looks to be a comprehensive discography -- every studio recording Bob Wills ever made, including a couple he cut in 1929 with Herman Arnspiger on guitar (the duo billed as the Wills Fiddle Band), a couple more in 1932 with the Light Crust Doughboys, and his post-Texas Playboys work in the late '60s on Kapp Records.

The final entry is, of course, For the Last Time, the double reunion album recorded in Dallas in December 1973. But right before that was a tantalizing entry about a September 1971 recording session for Capitol Records at Merle Haggard's home in Bakersfield, Calif. Twenty tracks were recorded, but never issued. It was an all-star lineup: Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore, Leon McAuliffe, Joe Holley, Johnnie Lee Wills, Luke Wills, Al Stricklin, Johnny Gimble, Alex Brashear, Smokey Dacus, and Glynn Duncan, there in place of his late brother Tommy Duncan. Merle Haggard played fiddle, and he sang "Misery." Bob Wills couldn't play the fiddle -- a stroke had left his bow hand paralyzed -- but he could still lead the band.

So where is this missing album?

It finally has been released, but it's not an easy thing to come by. It's only available as Disc 13 of Faded Love, Bear Family Records' massive 13 CD + 1 DVD box set, a comprehensive collection of Bob Wills recordings from 1947 to 1973. The price of the set is a mere $360. (1932-1947 are covered by San Antonio Rose, an 11 disc + 1 DVD box set that sells for $316.49 on Amazon.)

It would be exciting to hear more tracks from this great ensemble captured with modern recording techniques.

I learned about this on the website of an Australian record store. The same page quotes Bob Pinson, the definitive discographer of Bob Wills, as saying that Bear Family was likely to issue a box set of all the Tiffany Transcriptions, not just the 10 albums' worth of material that were released by Kaleidoscope on LP and by Rhino on CD. (And several of the CDs are now out of production.)

The Tiffany material isn't included in either of the two Bear Family box sets that have been released, as it was recorded for distribution to radio stations, not for commercial sale. I can't get enough of the Tiffany sound -- the freer feel to the music, the unique take on pop standards, Junior Barnard's amazing guitar solos, and the jazzy trios of Tiny Moore on mandolin, Eldon Shamblin on standard guitar, and Herb Remington on steel guitar. I'd love to hear even more. One estimate says the complete Tiffany Transcriptions, including tracks that were never released to radio stations, would fill 18-20 CDs.

(This review of Merle Haggard's A Tribute To The Best Damn Fiddle Player In The World mentions the 1971 Bakersfield session in passing.)

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned listening to a Johnnie Lee Wills transcription and hearing the announcer call out "Coyote Blues," by Lewis Meyer, best known to Tulsans for his bookstore and weekly book review show on TV.

Tomorrow night (Saturday), John Wooley will be playing two versions of "Coyote Blues" on Swing on This, his weekly hour of western swing, at 7 p.m. on KWGS 89.5 (and streaming on, and he's been kind enough to dedicate them to me and to Mike Ransom, webmaster of Tulsa TV Memories. Here's John's planned playlist, from his website:

1. “Texas Drummer Boy,” Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
2. “Coyote Blues,” Dave Stuckey and the Rhythm Gang
3. “Coyote Blues,” Johnnie Lee Wills and All the Boys
4. “Land of Dreams,” Herb Remington
5. “Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Age,” Johnny Gimble and the Texas Swing Pioneers
6. “Maiden’s Prayer,” Asleep at the Wheel w/Squirrel Nut Zippers
7. “I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None O’ This Jelly Roll,” Cliff Bruner’s Texas Wanderers
8. “In the Jailhouse Now,” Hank Thompson
9. “Let’s Ride with Bob,” Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
10. “Am I Blue,” Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies
11. “Back Home Again in Indiana,” Nashville Swing Band
12. “My Window Faces the South,” Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
13. “Sweet Georgia Brown,” Billy Jack Wills and His Western Swing Band
14. “Mean Woman with Green Eyes,” Tom Morrell and His Time-Warp Tophands
15. “I Had Someone Else Before I Had You,” “Easy” Adams and His Texas Top Hands
16. “Oklahoma Hills,” Jack Guthrie

Should be a great


This is not quite 1957, but it is certainly from the same era, and it will give you a sense of the kind of entertainment that was available in downtown Tulsa back in the day.

In June 1961, Patsy Cline was a passenger in a head-on collision and was thrown through the windshield. Just six weeks later, on July 29, still scarred and hobbled by her injuries, she performed her first concert since the wreck.

The venue was the Cimarron Ballroom at 4th and Denver in downtown Tulsa, in what was once the Akdar Shrine Mosque. (It was demolished in the '70s for parking, and the site is now home to the Tulsa Transit station.) This was the home of Leon McAuliffe and his western swing band, the Cimarron Boys. McAuliffe was steel guitar player for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys during their formative years in Tulsa, but he started his own band in Tulsa after serving in World War II. McAuliffe and his band served as Patsy's band that night.

And that night in July 1961, the sound man decided to roll tape. Thirty-some years later, the reel-to-reel tape resurfaced, and in 1997 it was issued on CD: Patsy Cline: Live at the Cimarron Ballroom.

The Tulsa City-County Library has several copies of the CD circulating. I just checked it out today and listened to it for the first time.

The recording is not an audiophile's dream -- there are a few dropouts, there was feedback on a couple of songs -- but it's still a live performance by one of the most amazing vocalists of the 20th century, backed by a great western swing band. The CD includes the between-songs banter between Patsy and the band and the audience. And we get to hear Patsy Cline without the heavy production of her Nashville sessions. The liner notes include photos of Patsy at the Cimarron, a transcript of the spoken parts of the recording, and, on the back, a facsimile of a poster advertising the event.

For those used to strict segregation between musical genres, the set list will be a surprise. It includes some of her hits ("I Fall to Pieces," "Walking after Midnight," "Poor Man's Roses"), and covers of classic Dixieland ("Bill Bailey"), western swing ("San Antonio Rose"), and Hank Williams ("Lovesick Blues") songs, plus two rock-n-roll tunes: "Stupid Cupid" and "Shake, Rattle, and Roll."

Here are several articles that tell the story of this performance and how it came to be issued on CD, plus a couple of reviews of the CD.

From Guy Cesario's
From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
A short review by Robert Christgau
Providence Phoenix review (via Google cache)

This coming March 15, three legendary country & western performers -- Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Ray Price -- will perform at the Mabee Center in Tulsa, backed by the western swing band Asleep at the Wheel. The concert is part of a month-long, coast-to-coast "Last of the Breed" tour. (Sorry, See Dubya, Vegas is as close as they'll come to your neck of the woods.)

In the midst of the tour a CD called Last of the Breed will be released:

Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Ray Price will release a double-disc album together on March 20 on Lost Highway Records. Titled Last of the Breed, the 22-song set was produced by Fred Foster. The recording sessions included contributions from the Jordanaires, steel guitarist Buddy Emmons and fiddler Johnny Gimble. Haggard, Nelson and Price have also scheduled tour dates, backed by Asleep at the Wheel, in New York, Nashville, Las Vegas, Detroit and Colorado Springs in March. The album includes two new songs and newly recorded versions of songs made famous by the three artists, including Price's 1959 hit, "Heartaches by the Number" (with Vince Gill on backing vocals). Kris Kristofferson provides backing vocals on "Why Me."

People my age will probably best remember Ray Price for his mellow 1970 crossover hit "For the Good Times," written by Kris Kristofferson. But he made his name with honky tonk hits in the '50s and '60s, and his band, the Cherokee Cowboys, launched the careers of Willie Nelson and Roger Miller, among others.

Here are a couple of YouTube videos from back in the day. First, his 1950s hit, "Crazy Arms,"

And here's a great uptempo western swing instrumental, "Silver Lake Blues." Dig those cowboy outfits and synchronized moves.

I'm at Shades of Brown tonight, drinking coffee and working on a column, and I'm listening to Rod Saunders playing guitar. Rod is the director of the Tulsa Guitar Society, which is dedicated to fingerstyle and classical guitar. His repertoire tonight has ranged from calypso ("Jamaica Farewell") to the Beatles ("Here, There, and Everywhere") to classical ("España") to sacred ("Morning Has Broken"). It's the perfect music for a coffee shop -- you can listen intently or let it serve as background to writing or conversation.

Unrelated to that, but at one point, a group of young women sitting near me broke out into a spontaneous and beautifully harmonized rendition of "Down In The River To Pray" (from the baptism scene in "O Brother, Where Art Thou"), but they got embarrassed and lowered their volume when they realized that people were listening in. (Turns out they're sisters -- two from Chicago, one from here, and the one from here, Joy, performs at Lola's on Tuesday nights. After the guitarists finished playing, they were prevailed upon to sing so we all could hear them.)

Sorry, by the way, for the silence of late, but in addition to the usual column, I've been doing research for an upcoming cover story in UTW, digging through some fascinating documents and newspaper clippings. I think you'll find it fascinating, too.

Recognize these words, western swing fans?

The light is in the parlor,
A fire is in the grate;
The clock upon the mantle
Ticks out --"it's getting late" --
The curtains at the windows
Are made of snowy white,
The parlor is a pleasant place
To sit on Sunday night,
To sit on Sunday, Sunday night.

Those are from an 1878 courting song called "Sunday Night," by Frederick Woodman Root. Here's verse 2.

Fine books are on the table,
And pictures on the wall;
And there's a cushioned sofa,
But then that is not all;
If I am not mistaken,
(I'm sure I must be right)
Some people now are sitting there
This pleasant Sunday night,
This pleasant Sunday, Sunday night.

And the last verse:

The lamp is burning dimly,
The fire is getting low,
Somebody says to some one
"It's time for me to go."
We hear a little whisper,
So gentle and so light,
"O don't forget to come again
Another Sunday night,
Another Sunday, Sunday night."

You might know it better if the verses were shortened up a bit and followed by this chorus:

Ida Red, Ida Red, I'm plumb fool about Ida Red.

The Bluegrass Messengers has an attempt at tracing the origins and evolution of the music and lyrics that became "Ida Red", but they have a different date and writer for the song that provided the verse lyrics.

Ida Red didn't stop changing when Bob Wills recorded it in 1938. In 1950, he borrowed the name, but not much else, for "Ida Red Likes the Boogie," which became a top ten hit for the Texas Playboys, with Tiny Moore's vocal backed by Skeeter Elkin's boogie-woogie piano.

A few years later in East St. Louis, Chuck Berry was finding new words for the old fiddle tune:

The St Louis club-goers cared little for the provenance of the cowboy numbers they heard. That allowed Berry to improvise around the melodies and concoct his own stories. Gradually, 'Ida Red' became a Berry composition, 'Ida May', a teen tale of a two-timing girl and a chase between a Cadillac and a V8 Ford. In 1955, on a recommendation from Muddy Waters, Berry signed with Chicago's premier R&B label, Chess. He thought it would leap on his blues material, but, to his surprise, it was 'Ida May' that had the proprietor, Leonard Chess, reaching for a blank contract. The label was looking to cross over to the white market, and Berry was the artist to do it.

With the blues legend Willie Dixon on upright bass and the pianist Johnnie Johnson, Berry and his guitar set off to record 'Ida May'. There was just one problem: it was still too close to 'Ida Red'. 'I changed the music and rearranged it,' Johnson says. 'Chuck rewrote the words.' The hillbilly two-step was converted into bristling, early rock'n'roll. The title, with a little adjustment to the spelling, was settled when, according to Johnson, someone noticed the cosmetic Maybelline in the room.

I don't have a better finish for this than Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, from 1951, performing Ida Red, with Joe Andrews on vocals, and solos by Skeeter Elkin on piano, Cotton Whittington on guitar, Bobby Koefer on steel guitar, and Joe Holley on fiddle, with Bob Wills himself starting and finishing the song.

Crossposted from Tulsa TV Memories, with some further elaboration:

I was listening to some old Johnnie Lee Wills transcriptions from 1950, and I heard the announcer (Frank Sims) say to Johnnie Lee, "Our first tune was written by a good friend of mine and a good friend of yours. What do you say we get under way with the Coyote Blues, written by Lewis Meyer."

I knew bespectacled Brookside bookseller and biographer was a multitalented man, but I never suspected he was a western swing songwriter.

Here's a link with the lyrics of "Coyote Blues", which contains these immortal words:

I can't sit down, I'm black and blue
My gal kicked me on the kickaroo
I got the old coyote blues

And these:

She took me when I was helpless
She tried to build me up
But when she got me housebroke
She got another pup

TTM webmaster Mike Ransom notes that the song is on the Johnnie Lee Wills CD Band's A-Rockin'.

An ecumenical pianist

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Today I attended the funeral of Doris Oler, in the Rose Chapel at Boston Avenue Methodist Church. Doris passed away on Tuesday at the age of 76. Doris was an alto and a charter member of Coventry Chorale, and my wife and I sang with her in that group for many years. She always had a smile and a friendly word for us. Doris also sang in Boston Avenue's choir, taught vocal music in the Tulsa Public Schools, and was very active in Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity. (Here's a link to the obituary that appeared in the Tulsa World yesterday.)

The presiding minister, Bill Tankersley, shared a funny anecdote. Doris grew up in Inola in the '30s and '40s. She learned to play piano at an early age and was good enough that she wound up playing at a few of the churches in town. The churches staggered their service times so that she could play the opening hymns at one church, slip out the door, walk to the next church, play their opening hymns, and so on, until it was time to play the closing hymn at the first church and start over with the rotation.

As part of the service, we read the 23rd Psalm responsively, but sitting there with nine other members of Coventry Chorale, there to honor a departed member of the Chorale, it seemed wrong not to be singing Thomas Matthews' setting of the psalm. (To hear a lo-fi version of it, scroll down to the bottom of that page and click the link with the text "The Lord Is My Shepherd.") I'm sure the others felt the pull, too.

This is beside the point, but... the first hymn we sang was "Praise My Soul the King of Heaven." We sang out of the current edition of the Methodist Hymnal, and it was hard not to laugh out loud at the lengths to which the editors went to avoid any use of the masculine pronoun in this version of the hymn. Most of the time it was a simple substitution of "God" for "him" and "God's" for "his." But "to his feet thy tribute bring" becomes "to the throne thy tribute bring." "In his hand he gently bears us," becomes "Motherlike, God gently bears us," to balance out the word "Fatherlike" at the beginning of the third verse. (Here are Henry Lyte's original lyrics, and here is the inclusified version.) There was nothing on the page to indicate an alteration. I don't like it any better when the Trinity Hymnal editors monkey with the lyrics to eliminate a suspected Arminian overtone, and I will stubbornly sing the original lyrics anyway*, but at least they note when a verse was altered by the editors.

I tried to stick to the lyrics as printed, but I found myself singing the familiar original lyrics instead. Knowing Doris, I think she would have understood, and probably even approved.

* I don't do this when I'm leading singing, however.

A western swing sampler