Western Swing: February 2011 Archives

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.)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Western Swing category from February 2011.

Western Swing: January 2011 is the previous archive.

Western Swing: March 2011 is the next archive.

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