Music: October 2005 Archives

Greetings from Oklahoma

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I first became aware of Bear Family Records a year or so ago, as I looked at the list of Texas Playboys albums for sale on Amazon. At the top of the list in terms of price and quantity was a box set called "San Antonio Rose" featuring 11 CDs, one DVD, and a hardbound book, retailing for about $300, and containing just about everything Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys recorded from the beginning until 1947, when the band left Columbia Records. Browsing the catalog at Barnes and Noble, I noticed that earlier this year Bear Family issued a second box set, "Faded Love," covering the rest of 1947 through Bob Wills' last recording in 1973 -- 13 CDs and one DVD. It also runs about $300 retail.

Bear Family has a reputation for scouring the archives for hidden treasures, including alternate takes and unreleased music, to produce the most comprehensive collections imaginable. Their latest releases include a 7-CD set of the Everly Brothers from 1960-1965, a collection of 200 versions of the German song Lili Marleen, and the latest in a series of DVDs from the 1950s Los Angeles-based country music TV show, "Town Hall Party."

Another new release from this fall is "Greetings from Oklahoma," one in a series of discs of songs that mention the state or places in the state in the title. So far they've also covered Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Hawaii, and Alabama. A writer for Bear Family Records (based in Germany) explains the rationale behind the series:

States have separate identities that help Americans distinguish themselves from one another. When 'Tonight Show' host Jay Leno happens to mention the name of a state during his nightly monologue, it's usually followed by scattered but wild cheering from the audience. Everyone understands. That noisy response is telling millions of people, "I'm from there! I'm so proud of being from Tennessee or Alabama or Virginia that I'm sitting here shouting and applauding like a fool." Being proud of where you come from is a passionate business and sometimes that pride just can't be contained by national borders. This series is all about regional pride ("I'm an American, hell yes! But I'm also a Texan!").

(In light of that, I'm amazed that "You're from Texas" didn't make it into the Texas collection.)

The Oklahoma disc includes well-known songs like Bob Wills' "Take Me Back to Tulsa," Hank Thompson's "Oklahoma Hills," and Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee." There's "The Everlasting Hills of Oklahoma," one of my favorite Sons of the Pioneers songs -- I think I first heard it on a late '70s Oklahoma tourism commercial. (The tourism department also used an instrumental version of "Everyone's Gone to the Moon" around the same time -- a pretty tune, but you don't want potential visitors to think of lunar landscapes when they think of your state.) And the collection includes Leon McAuliffe's version of "Tulsa Straight Ahead." Tulsa has those two songs on the album, but Oklahoma City only gets one mention, tied with Muskogee, Henryetta, and Moffet. The collection has both kinds of music -- country AND western -- no Gene Pitney, Eric Clapton, or Rodgers & Hammerstein.

There at the last

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Today I came across this heartwarming, bittersweet account by western swing fiddler and vocalist Jody Nix of the 1973 recording of the album "Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys: For the Last Time," an album that Joel of On the Other Foot has rightly judged "duff-free."

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This page is a archive of entries in the Music category from October 2005.

Music: September 2005 is the previous archive.

Music: November 2005 is the next archive.

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