Western Swing: April 2008 Archives

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.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Western Swing category from April 2008.

Western Swing: February 2008 is the previous archive.

Western Swing: May 2008 is the next archive.

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