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Legends of Country Music

Legends of Country Music

by Bob Wills
The year 2005 marked the 100th anniversary of Bob Wills’s birth, an occasion this four-CD box set celebrates in grand style. There’s a sampling of Wills’s earliest recordings; a full helping from his heyday, 1935-47; and a well-considered overview of his still-vital music through the ‘50s and ‘60s -- culminating in four tracks from the 1973 album For the Last Time,


The year 2005 marked the 100th anniversary of Bob Wills’s birth, an occasion this four-CD box set celebrates in grand style. There’s a sampling of Wills’s earliest recordings; a full helping from his heyday, 1935-47; and a well-considered overview of his still-vital music through the ‘50s and ‘60s -- culminating in four tracks from the 1973 album For the Last Time, which represented the final reunion of Wills, then disabled by a stroke, and ten of his former Playboys. Wills never thought of himself as a country artist, and he made sure the Playboys were virtually unclassifiable as anything but one hell of a band. Western-flavored swing, blues (Bessie Smith was a Wills favorite, and he did her proud in 1938 with a solid treatment of “Down Hearted Blues”); pop (a rich component of the Wills repertoire, with striking adaptations of Tommy Dorsey’s take on the classical favorite “Liebestraum” and the Ray Noble Orchestra’s 1934 hit “Who Walks In when I Walk Out,” being among the most enduring performances in the Wills canon); traditional country (he put songwriter Cindy Walker on the map with “Cherokee Maiden,” “Dusty Skies,” and “Sugar Moon”); and jazz (clearly inspired by Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings) -- all were part of the Playboys’ wide-ranging repertoire. A stern taskmaster, Wills drew to his ranks some of the most gifted musicians of his time: giants such as vocalist-songwriter Tommy Duncan, steel guitarist Leon McAuliffe, guitarists Eldon Shamblin and Herman Arnspiger, piano virtuosos Al Stricklin and Millard Kelso, fiddlers Jesse Ashlock and Johnny Gimble, bassist Joe Ferguson and drummer Smoky Dacus, among others, who could bring home a formal arrangement in the studio and improvise with breathtaking facility in live settings (this box set includes no live recordings, however). Wills himself, fiddler, songwriter, singer, and bandleader, lorded over it all, with a joie de vivre that remains as infectious as it is distinctive. Wills and the Playboys’ classics are American standards, and they’re all here -- “New San Antonio Rose,” “Faded Love,” “Take Me Back to Tulsa,” “Right or Wrong,” “Time Changes Everything,” “Steel Guitar Rag,” et al. -- in this authoritatively annotated collection. In vision, spirit, and execution, what Wills and his Playboys wrought in their heyday stands with the greatest music of the 20th century, as these four discs attest.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Jeff Tamarkin
That Bob Wills was one of the architects of American music is a given, but his particular creation -- he didn't name it Western swing, but that's what it came to be called -- did not arise from the dust. Wills, refusing to be restricted, subsumed virtually every genre available to him at the time, from blues to big band, popular song to old-timey, and forged something new and exciting, something uniquely of the American South yet universally accessible. Among the first bands of its kind -- the term country music had not yet been applied to white Southern music, and Wills detested the "hillbilly" tag -- to incorporate drums and electric guitars, as well as jazzy brass, Wills and his musicians, whom he gave unprecedented creative leeway, were as vital an American musical institution as any. Yet with dozens of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys compilation albums on the market, ranging from single-disc primers to encyclopedic collections of radio transcriptions, the consumer, particularly the initiate, might understandably be flummoxed. Where to begin? Rhino's two-disc Anthology, released in the early '90s, remains the single tidiest summation of the Wills oeuvre, but for a next step up, Legends of Country Music is the way to go. A four-CD box set, it focuses on the bandleader/fiddler's key recording years (mid-'30s to mid-'40s) for the OKeh and Columbia labels, before winding up with later sides cut for such labels as MGM, Kapp, and Liberty. Legends of Country Music packs in 105 tracks, among them all of the original recordings that established Wills as an icon. To set the scene, it kicks off with a pair of tracks Wills made in 1932 with the Fort Worth Doughboys, before skipping ahead a few years to the earliest Texas Playboys sessions. The band takes a while, but not too much of a while, to find its groove. Seriously stellar musicianship is present from the start, but by the late '30s, when Wills' fiddle meets up with Leon McAuliffe's steel guitar, Eldon Shamblin and Herman Arnspiger's guitars, Johnnie Lee Wills' banjo, and Al Stricklin's piano, this band was making sounds like no other. Lead vocals alternate, Tommy Duncan or McAuliffe taking the lion's share, but history will probably note that Wills' constant between-lines banter, and his frequent "ah-haaaa"s, adding levity to the performances, ultimately became the vocal trademark most often associated with the Texas Playboys. The set dutifully features all of the cornerstone Wills recordings -- "New San Antonio Rose," "Faded Love," "Bubbles in My Beer," "Take Me Back to Tulsa," "Steel Guitar Rag" -- and, by necessity, many known mainly to converts. But there's much more to be discovered beyond the basics, particularly on the second and third discs. By disc four, as Wills leaves Columbia Records and American music begins heading in radically new directions, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys can be heard becoming less prolific and, for some time, less important. But he was never quite forgotten. The set follows through, into the '50s, '60s, and even his final session in 1973, by which time Wills had influenced a generation of acolytes, some of whom (Asleep at the Wheel, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard) continued to honor him decades after his death.

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Disc 1

  1. Sunbonnet Sue
  2. Nancy Jane
  3. Osage Stomp
  4. Get with It
  5. Spanish Two Step
  6. Maiden's Prayer
  7. I Ain't Got Nobody
  8. Who Walks in When I Walk Out
  9. Oklahoma Rag
  10. Sittin' on Top of the World
  11. I Can't Be Satisfied
  12. Waltz in D
  13. She's Killing Me
  14. Bluin' the Blues
  15. Steel Guitar Rag
  16. Trouble in Mind
  17. What's the Matter with the Mill
  18. Basin Street Blues
  19. Red Hot Gal of Mine
  20. Too Busy
  21. Crippled Turkey
  22. Bring It on Down to My House, Honey
  23. Right or Wrong
  24. Swing Blues #1
  25. White Heat

Disc 2

  1. Steel Guitar Stomp
  2. Rosetta
  3. Blue Yodel #1
  4. I'm a Ding Dong Daddy (From Dumas)
  5. Oozlin' Daddy Blues
  6. Black Rider
  7. Down Hearted Blues
  8. Pray for the Lights to Go Out
  9. San Antonio Rose
  10. Silver Bells
  11. Beaumont Rag
  12. Whoa Babe
  13. Ida Red
  14. Yearning
  15. I Wonder If You Feel the Way I Do
  16. Prosperity Special
  17. You're Okay
  18. Liza Pull Down the Shades
  19. That's What I Like 'Bout the South
  20. My Window Faces the South
  21. Don't Let the Deal Go Down
  22. Lone Star Rag
  23. That Brownskin Gal
  24. Corrine Corrina
  25. Time Changes Everything
  26. Bob Wills Special
  27. Big Beaver

Disc 3

  1. New San Antonio Rose
  2. Liebestraum
  3. Lyla Lou
  4. Maiden's Prayer
  5. The Girl I Left Behind Me
  6. I Knew the Moment I Lost You
  7. Twin Guitar Special
  8. Take Me Back to Tulsa
  9. Takin' It Home
  10. Cherokee Maiden
  11. Dusty Skies
  12. My Life's Been a Pleasure
  13. Drop Us off at Bob's Place
  14. Home in San Antone
  15. That Hot Lick Fiddlin' Man
  16. Miss Molly
  17. My Confession
  18. Ten Years
  19. Let's Ride with Bob
  20. Bluer Than Blue
  21. Hand Your Head in Shame
  22. Texas Playboy Rag
  23. Roly Poly
  24. Stay a Little Longer
  25. I Can't Go on This Way
  26. I'm Thru Wasting Time on You
  27. New Spanish Two Step

Disc 4

  1. Sugar Moon
  2. Brain Cloudy Blues
  3. Bob Wills Boogie
  4. Fat Boy Rag
  5. The Kind of Love I Can't Forget
  6. Hometown Stomp
  7. Misery
  8. Deep Water
  9. Bubbles in My Beer
  10. Papa's Jumpin'
  11. Sally Goodin'
  12. Still Water Runs the Deepest
  13. Blues for Dixie
  14. Keeper of My Heart
  15. Ida Red Likes to Boogie
  16. Boot Heel Drag
  17. Faded Love
  18. St. Louis Blues
  19. Cadillac in Model "A"
  20. Heart to Heart Talk
  21. Wabash Blues
  22. A Big Ball in Cowtown (We'll Dance Around)
  23. Pan Handle Rag
  24. Blue Bonnet Lane
  25. What Makes Bob Holler
  26. Goin' Away Party

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys   Primary Artist,Fiddle,Vocals,Voices,Vocal Harmony
Johnny Gimble   Fiddle,Mandolin
Tiny Moore   Fiddle,Mandolin,Vocals
Johnnie Lee Wills   Banjo
Jimmy Wyble   Electric Guitar
Wayne Johnson   Clarinet,Saxophone
Leon McAuliffe   Acoustic Guitar,Steel Guitar,Vocals
Leon Rausch   Electric Guitar,Vocal Harmony
Noel Boggs   Steel Guitar
Milton Brown   Vocals
Ted Adams   Bass
Danny Alguire   Trumpet,Vocals
Herman Arnspiger   Guitar
Jesse Ashlock   Fiddle
Lester Barnard   Electric Guitar
Harold Bradley   Electric Guitar
Alex Brashear   Trumpet
Keith Coleman   Fiddle
Johnny Cuviello   Drums
Ray DeGeer   Clarinet,Saxophone
Tommy Duncan   Vocals
Cameron Hill   Electric Guitar
Tommy Jackson   Fiddle
Sleepy Johnson   Acoustic Guitar,Fiddle,Guitar (Tenor)
Millard Kelso   Piano
Jack Lloyd   Clarinet
Jamie MacIntosh   Trumpet
Monte Mountjoy   Drums
Tommy Perkins   Drums
Herb Remington   Steel Guitar
Hargus "Pig" Robbins   Piano
Eldon Shamblin   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Rhythm Guitar
Everett Stover   Trumpet
Stricklin   Piano
Billy Jack Wills   Bass,Drums
Cecil Brower   Fiddle
Joe Holley   Fiddle
Ocie Stockard   Tenor Banjo
Luke Wills   Bass
Derwood Brown   Guitar,Vocals
Son Lansford   Bass,Bass Guitar
Gene Tomlins   Drums
George Balay   Clarinet,Tenor Saxophone
Billy Bowman   Steel Guitar
Gene Crownover   Steel Guitar
Neil Duer   Trombone
Skeeter Elkins   Piano
Claude Fewell   Tenor Banjo
Bob Fitzgerald   Drums
Don Harlan   Clarinet,Saxophone,Alto Saxophone
Doc Lewis   Piano
Tubby Lewis   Trumpet
Jack Loyd   Bass
Rusty McDonald   Vocals
Zeb McNally   Saxophone,Alto Saxophone
Doyle Salathiel   Guitar
Benny Strickler   Trumpet
Jimmie Widener   Banjo,Bass (Vocal)
Jim Belken   Fiddle
Art Haines   Fiddle,Trombone
Darrell Jones   Bass
Johnnie Manson   Fiddle
Glenn Rhees   Saxophone
Phil Sperbeck   Steel Guitar
Mancel Tierney   Piano
Bob Moore & His Orchestra   Bass
Woody Wood   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone
Joe Ferguson   Bass,Saxophone
Jerry Case   Guitar
Johnny Megretto   Drums
Waid Harris Peeler   Drums
Lewis E. "Louie" Tierney   Fiddle,Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Preacher Harkness   Fiddle
Charles Laughton   Clarinet,Trumpet,Saxophone
Leon Huff   Vocals
Smoky Dacus   Drums
Art Haynes   Fiddle,Trombone

Technical Credits

Merle Travis   Composer
W.C. Handy   Composer
Tommy Allsup   Producer
Leon McAuliffe   Composer
Cliffie Stone   Composer
Cindy Walker   Composer
Richard M. Jones   Composer
Art Satherley   Producer
Irving Aaronson   Producer
Joe Allison   Producer
A. Delmore   Composer
Tommy Duncan   Arranger,Composer
Walter Haynes   Producer
Jerry Livingston   Composer
Eli Oberstein   Producer
Fred Rose   Producer
S. Williams   Composer
Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys   Arranger,Composer
Rich Kienzle   Liner Notes
C. Walker   Composer
Jesse Kaye   Producer
David Gorman   Art Direction
Abner Silver   Composer
Lonnie Carter   Composer
D. Moore   Composer
A.K. Hunter   Composer
E. Nelson   Composer
J Bond & DJ Goldfinger   Composer
O.W. Mayo   Composer
R.M. Jones   Composer
J.B. Rodgers   Composer
Paul Cohen   Producer

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