Spirit of America Bookstore

Bob Wills
[1905-1975]
and His Texas Playboys

Bob Wills on stage, with cigar & fiddle          short profile

Bob Wills's music
tribute albums

movies & other works

works about Bob Wills

family & friends

links

I think I was singing when I was born.
Bob Wills


          James Robert Wills was born on 6 March 1905 near Kosse, Texas. His father, John Wills, was a country fiddler, with other fiddlers on both sides of the family. 'Jim Rob' began playing fiddle as a boy, and for years he and his father were in great demand around West Texas. He traveled around the West, then took barber school, got married in 1923, and settled in Turkey, Texas (now considered his home town).
          In 1929, the young man moved to Ft. Worth, and became known as Bob Wills; he soon organized the Wills' Fiddle Band, then the Alladin Laddies. He expanded his repertoire of waltzes & breakdowns with the songs and music of Bessie Smith, Emmett Miller, and his idol, singer Al Bernard. In 1931, W. Lee O'Daniel, the manager of Burris Mill & Elevator Co. (and future Texas governor), hired the band to advertise Light Crust Flour over WBAP Radio; the group changed its name to the Light Crust Doughboys and appeared over a growing number of stations and began to record for Victor. But O'Daniel prohibited the band from playing for dances, causing a series of clashes with Wills; so Bob left the Doughboys in 1933, along with vocalist Tommy Duncan, and organized the Playboys. His new band played over WACO in Waco for a time, then moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

          Broadcasting over KVOO Radio as "Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys", the group enjoyed soaring popularity; their show debuted on New Years Night in 1935; the live broadcast from Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma began with a stirring "The Texas Playboys are on the air!". The Big Band era of popular music reigned in the sophisticated cities, as Dixieland jazz evolved into the larger sound of 'Swing'. Wills added reeds and drums to his band, blending jazz and country music into the lively sounds of 'Western Swing'. By 1940, Wills had expanded the band to 18 pieces and began to record a string of legendary hits.

          Also in 1940, singing cowboy star Tex Ritter persuaded Bob to appear with him in "Take Me Back To Oklahoma", the first of several film appearances by the band. The energetic band leader – wearing a big white hat and chomping on a cigar – strutted in front of his band, grinning and shouting, "Ah, ha!" and pointing to musicians for their instrumental breaks; he soon earned the title 'The King of Western Swing". Bob formed Tiffany Music with two California partners, with the intention of recording a series of radio programs for syndication – Tiffany would make money from program sales, and the station would make money from local advertising. The requirement to fill air time led to the band creating & playing covers of many hits of the time; the 1947-48 recordings were remastered and released in 2008 as a 'definitive' ten-disk box set of 150 songs.

          Bob's enormous success was diluted by personal difficulties; he struggled with a drinking problem and with seven marriages; his marriage to Betty Lou Anderson lasted from 1942 to his death in 1975, and produced three children. On 3 December 1973, Bob Wills had a stroke that put him in a coma; he died 17 months later of pneumonia on 13 May 1975.
          During his career, Bob Wills wrote and recorded at least 470 songs; he received many honors, including 1968 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, 1999 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2000 induction at the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

signature of fiddler & bandleader Bob Wills

official Bob Wills website
Bob Wills entry at Wikipedia
browse music of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys at Amazon

Spirit of America's Western Swing Music Page


Bob Wills's Music
browse music of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys at Amazon

Bob Wills Western Swing Songbook  
"Bob Wills, King of Western Swing Songbook:
Piano / Vocal / Guitar" [1997]

Hal Leonard Corp. 11¾x9¼ pb [1997] for $14.95

            

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys Anthology, 1935-1973 music album   "Anthology, 1935-1973" [1991]
by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys

Rhino / W.E.A. music CD [7/91] 32 tracks on 2 disks for $24.68
Essential Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys music CD  "The Essential Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, 1935-1947" [1992]
featuring pianist Al Stricklin, steel guitar legend Leon McAuliffe, vocalist Tommy Duncan & fiddler/leader Bob Wills
Sony music CD [10/92] 20 tracks for $7.98
For the Last Time music CD by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys  "For The Last Time" [1994] by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
recorded at a studio in Dallas, Texas in December 1973; Bob Wills led the first session from his wheelchair, but was unable to continue the next day (fiddler Hoyle Nix filled in); also present were Merle Haggard and Texas Playboys stalwarts drummer Smokey Dacus, steel guitarist Leon McAuliffe, guitar great Eldon Shamblin & pianist Al Stricklin
Capitol Records music CD [4/94] 24 tracks for $8.94
King of Western Swing, 25 Hits album by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys  
"The King of Western Swing: 25 Hits, 1935-45" [1998]
by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys

A.S.V. Living Era music CD [4/98] 25 tracks - out of prodn/used
King of Western Swing import CD by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys   "The King of Western Swing" import CD [2000]
by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys

Country Stars audio CD [5/2000] 20 tracks for $13.99
Take Me Back To Tulsa music CD box set by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys   "Take Me Back To Tulsa, 1932-48" Box Set [2001]
by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys

Proper Box UK music CD set [12/2001] 107 tracks on 4 disks for $25.98
A Tribute to Bob Wills's 100th Birthday music CD  "Bob Wills: A Tribute To Bob's 100th Birthday" [2005]
guest artists include Tommy Allsup, Dierks Bently, Terry Bradshaw, Wilford Brimley, Glenn Campbell, Charlie Daniels, Larry Gatlin, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Leon Rausch, Johnny Rodriguez, Red Steagall, Tanya Tucker, Porter Wagoner, Gene Watson, and others
Common Ground music CD [11/2005] 21 tracks for $18.98
King of Western Swing 2-disk album by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys   "The King of Western Swing" [2007]
by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys

Primo import music CD [1/2007] 40 tracks on 2 disks for $10.98
King of Western Swing 4-disk box set by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys   "The King of Western Swing {annotated, remastered}" Box Set [2007]
by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys

J.S.P. Records audio CD set [5/2007] 100 tracks on 4 disks for $28.98
1947-48 Tiffany Transcriptions music CD box set by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys  "The Tiffany Transcriptions {original recordings, remastered}" Box Set [2009]
by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys

a series of radio programs recorded in 1947 & 1948 for syndication by Bob Wills's Tiffany Music at the historic Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, California
Collector's Choice music CD set [1/2009] 150 tracks on 10 CDs for $122.98
official album site

http://www.amazon.com/20th-Century-Masters-Bob-Wills/dp/B00004D3AH/
http://www.amazon.com/Bob-Wills-Greatest-Hits/dp/B000000CXE/
http://www.amazon.com/Best-Bob-Wills/dp/B000002O3P/
http://www.amazon.com/Legends-Country-Music-Best-Wills/dp/B000ICLTNW/
http://www.amazon.com/Best-Legends-Country-Music-Book/dp/B000GRTR2E/
http://www.amazon.com/Seven-Miles-Wills-Texas-Playboys/dp/B000UZ4FUQ/



Bob Wills Tribute Albums

Tribute To Fiddle Player Bob Wills album by Merle Haggard  "A Tribute To The Best Damn Fiddle Player In The World: Or, My Salute To Bob Wills" [1970] by Merle Haggard & The Strangers
Merle Haggard taught himself to play fiddle before recording this album and augmented his Strangers band with members of Wills's pioneering Texas Playboys, including guitarist Eldon Shamblin & fiddler Johnny Gimble
Koch Records music CD [6/95] 12 tracks - out of prodn/used
Capitol Records vinyl LP album [1970] 12 tracks - out of prodn/used
Tribute To The Music of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys album by Asleep At The Wheel  
"Tribute To The Music of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys" [1993]
by Asleep At The Wheel, with Dolly Parton

Capitol Records music CD [11/93] 18 tracks for $11.98
New York's King Of Western Swing in three volumes by Nolan Bruce Allen  "New York's King Of Western Swing Salutes The Bob Wills Era" [2002-05]
by Nolan Bruce Allen & The Lone Star Western Swing Band

Volume 1: G.M.C. Records music CD [12/2002] 21 tracks for $17.99
Volume 2: Lone Star Records music CD [12/2004] 22 tracks - out of prodn/used
Volume 3: Lone Star Records music CD [12/2005] 24 tracks - out of prodn/used
Instrumental Tribute to Bob Wills by Craig Duncan & The Smoky Mountain Band  "King of Western Swing: An Instrumental Tribute To Bob Wills" [2009]
by Craig Duncan & The Smoky Mountain Band

Green Hill Records music CD [5/2009] 13 tracks for $12.98



Motion Pictures & Other Works
Bob Wills's credits [1940-51] at Internet Movie Database
search Bob Wills on DVD at Amazon

"Take Me Back To Oklahoma" [Monogram Pictures Nov 1940]
Take Me Back To Oklahoma Western B-movie starring Tex Ritter & Bob Wills  Bad guy Storm wants to shut down Ace's stagecoach line; when Tex arrives to help his pal Ace, Storm brings in a hired killer; but Tex and the killer know each other and devise a plan to fool Storm. Directed by Albert Herman; starring Tex Ritter, Karl Hackett, Carleton Young, Terry Walker, Olin Francis, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Slim Andrews, Robert McKenzie, George Eldredge & White Flash the Horse
CreateSpace b&w DVD [10/2007] for $15.00
VCI/FFI b&w VHS [3/2001] out of prodn/used
full credits at IMDb movie entry at Wikipedia

"Melody Ranch" [Republic Pictures July 1941]
Melody Ranch B-movie starring Gene Autry & Bob Wills  Radio star Gene returns to his home town of Torpedo and gets beaten up by three childhood enemies, who now run a saloon; Gene broadcasts from Torpedo while he gets back into shape to whip the three bad brothers. Directed by Joseph Santley; starring Gene Autry, Jimmy Durante, Ann Miller, Barton MacLane, Barbara Jo Allen, George 'Gabby' Hayes, Jerome Cowan, Joe Sawyer, Horace McMahon, William 'Billy' Benedict, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Ray Teal, Mary Lee & Spade Cooley; listed on National Film Registry (2002)
Image Ent. b&w DVD [5/2003] out of prodn/used
Walt Disney Video b&w VHS [3/99] out of prodn/used
full credits at IMDb movie entry at Wikipedia

"Go West, Young Lady" [Columbia Pictures Nov 1941]
lobby card for Go West, Young Lady B-movie starring Glenn Ford & Bob Wills   Western town Headstone is besieged by an outlaw gang; the outlaws lure the new sheriff and his posse into an ambush by Indians, then race to raid the town; but newly-arrived Belinda 'Bill' Pendergast rallies the townswomen to defend against the outlaws. Directed by Frank R. Strayer; starring Glenn Ford, Penny Singleton, Ann Miller, Charles Ruggles, Allen Jenkins, Onslow Stevens, and Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
DVD/Blu-ray not available full credits at IMDb movie entry at Wikipedia

"The Lone Prairie" [Oct 1942] /tt0034990/

"A Tornado In The Saddle [Dec 1942] /tt0035457/

"Riders of The Northwest Mounted" [Feb 1943] /tt0166777/

"Saddles and Sagebrush" [April 1943] /tt0036322/
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0001DMXWO/

"Silver City Raiders" [Nov 1943] /tt0036355/

"The Vigilantes Ride" [Dec 1943] /tt0192748/

"Wyoming Hurricane" [April 1944] /tt0192811/

"The Last Horseman" [June 1944] /tt0037006/

"Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys" 11-minute short film [Sept 1944] /tt0036655/

"Rhythm Round-Up" [Sept 1945] /tt0038027/

"Blazing The Western Trail" [Sept 1945] /tt0191833/

"Lawless Empire" [Nov 1945] /tt0038686/

"Frontier Frolic" 15-minute short film [Oct 1946] /tt0192046/

"Yodel Mountain" short film (Sept 1951] /tt1162146/

"Three Miles South of Cash In Arkansas" short film [Sept 1951]

YouTube video of "Wake Up Susan" & "Liberty Breakdown"
YouTube slide show with "Pray For The Lights To Go Out"
YouTube slide show with "Steel Guitar Rag", 1936
YouTube video clip with "Bleeding Hearted Blues", 1937
YouTube movie clip of "Ida Red", 1941



Works About Bob Wills
browse books about Bob Wills

YouTube slide show with "Bob Wills Is Still The King" sung by Waylon Jennings (studio version)
YouTube slide show with "Bob Wills Is Still The King" sung by Waylon Jennings (live version)

            
http://www.amazon.com/San-Antonio-Rose-MUSIC-American/dp/025201362X/
http://www.amazon.com/Cowboy-Fiddler-Bob-Wills-Band/dp/1574410253/
http://www.amazon.com/Bob-Wills-Hubbin-Ruth-Sheldon/dp/0915608189/
http://www.amazon.com/King-Western-Swing-Wills-Remembered/dp/0823077454/
http://www.amazon.com/My-Years-Bob-Wills-Stricklin/dp/1571681191/ piano player

"Faded Love: The Life and Times of Bob Wills"
compilation DVD [2006 video release]
Faded Love compilation DVD of Bob Wills music  31 minute documentary video produced & directed by Dwight Adair, with excerpts from 17 songs/videos & 5 motion pictures; also the uncut 1940 Bob Wills & Tex Ritter feature film "Take Me Back To Oklahoma" {57 minutes; see above}; extras include archival photo-graphs from the Bob Wills collection, and exclusive April 1993 video interviews with six former members of the Texas Playboys band
Seadera Prodns b&w DVD [9/2006] for $15.95
credits at IMDb official film site

            

Fiddlin' Man, Life and Times of Bob Wills documentary  "Fiddlin' Man: The Life & Times of Bob Wills"
[indep Sept 1993 video release]

58-minute color biography written & directed by Gary Don Rhodes, featuring camera inter-views with his friends, family & fellow musicians, and rare archival footage
V.I.E.W. Video color/b&w DVD [1/2004] for $13.49
V.I.E.W. Video color/b&w VHS [8/96] out of prodn/used
full credits at IMDb

            

Asleep At The Wheel band's "A Ride With Bob" tribute album & video [Dreamworks 1999]
garnered the band two Grammy wins, one for Best Country Instrumental and the other for Best Package Design
"Asleep at the Wheel: The Making of Ride With Bob" [1999 TV] /tt0817489/
http://www.amazon.com/Ride-Bob-Asleep-at-Wheel/dp/B00000JWOJ/

musical stage play "A Ride With Bob" by?/starring? Ray Benson
Premiered in the spring of 2005 in Austin, Texas; has been performed all across Texas,
Oklahoma, and Arkansas, plus San Francisco & Washington, DC



Family & Friends


father John Wills


youngest brother Billy Jack Wills [1926-99]
entry at Answers.com no entry at Wikipedia or IMDb

Billy Jack Wills & His Western Swing Band music album  "Billy Jack Wills & His Western Swing Band, Featuring Tiny
Moore & Vance Terry: Sacramento, 1952-54" [1996]

Joaquin Records music CD [11/96] 19 tracks for $17.99



sister Lorene Wills
brother Luke Wills [1920-2000]
brother Johnny Lee Wills [1912-84]
first wife Edna Posey, married 1923 / divorced ?; 1 child
wife Ruth McMaster, married 1936 / divorced 1936
wife Mary Helen Brown, married 1938 / divorced 1939
wife Mary Louise Parker, married 1939 / divorced 1941
widow Betty Lou Anderson, married 10 August 1942 to Bob's death; 3 children
daughter Carolyn Wills

            

Texas Playboys members
http://www.amazon.com/Raush-Tommy-Allsup-Wills-Playboys-1998/dp/B003PNKMAM/
Clarence Cagle
Truit Cunningham
drummer Smokey Dacus
Casey Dickens
vocalist Tommy Duncan
fiddler Johnny Gimble
Bobby Koefer
Curly Lewis
steel guitar legend Leon McAuliffe
mandolin player Tiny Moore
Leon Rausch
Glenn Rhees
guitar great Eldon Shamblin
pianist Al Stricklin


Links
official Bob Wills website
Bob Wills entry at Wikipedia
Bob Wills's credits [1940-51] at Internet Movie Database
1968 inductee at the Country Music Hall of Fame
1999 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
2000 inductee into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame [est. 1999]
2007 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

Turkey, Texas [est. 1893], the official hometown of Bob Wills
Bob Wills Foundation & Museum in Turkey, Texas
Bob Wills Day [April 2010 = #39] in Turkey, Texas
Church of Western Swing [built 1927] & Bob Wills Museum in Turkey, Texas

Bob Wills Heritage Foundation [est. 2008 by daughter Carolyn]
Triple B Ranch [bot 1945] in Clovis, California

RB's 'Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys' fansite
http://www.famoustexans.com/bobwills.htm
article by daughter Carolyn Wills in July 2010 Cowboys & Indians Magazine
annual Johnnie Lee Wills Tulsa Stampede rodeo [1939-84] in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Cain's Ballroom [est. 1924] in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Bob Wills Fiddle Festival & Contest [Oct 2017 = #4] in Greenville, Texas

Spirit of America's Western Swing Music Page


Online sales in association with  browse Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys music at Amazon

    top of this page    

back to Country, Hillbilly & Folk Music Page          back to Spirit of America Bookstore homepage