Lone Star Swing: On the Trail of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys

Lone Star Swing: On the Trail of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys

by Duncan McLean
     
 

Using the prize money from his Somerset Maugham Award, Duncan McLean traveled from Orkney, Scotland, to Texas in search of the extraordinary mix of jazz, blues, country, and mariachi that is Western Swing.

This account of his travels takes in barbed-wire museums, onion festivals, hoe-downs, ghost-towns, dead dogs, and ten thousand miles of driving through the

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Overview

Using the prize money from his Somerset Maugham Award, Duncan McLean traveled from Orkney, Scotland, to Texas in search of the extraordinary mix of jazz, blues, country, and mariachi that is Western Swing.

This account of his travels takes in barbed-wire museums, onion festivals, hoe-downs, ghost-towns, dead dogs, and ten thousand miles of driving through the Lone Star State. A constant soundtrack of vintage music from bands like the Texas Top Hands, The Lightcrust Doughboys, and the Modern Mountaineers cheers McLean as he tries, with great difficulty, to track down any trace of his greatest heroes: Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

Both a quest for a musical grail and a wildly funny travelogue, Lone Star Swing captures the singular wonders of Texas and its maverick inhabitants, its staggering 100-in-the-shade heat, its mouth-blistering chilies. . . . Above all it captures the spirit of the glorious mongrel music-once incredibly popular, now all but forgotten-that he crossed the world to hear.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
This first nonfiction outing by the award-winning Scottish fiction writer McLean (Bucket of Tongues, 1994; Bunker Man, 1997) is sure to make some waves on this side of the Atlantic. McLean took the money he received for winning the Somerset Maugham Award and went to Turkey, Tex., of all places, to attend the annual Bob Wills Festival. Along the way, he also tried to trace the past that Wills, a pioneer of western swing, left scattered all across the Lone Star State. Laughingly chronicling his progress, McLean equals the best of American road literature. The principal source of his humor? The nearly constant problems Texans faced in deciphering McLean's Orkney-Scottish accent. A particularly fine moment in the saga: McLean's telephone conversation with an aged, nearly deaf swing musician who can only understand half of what the author is saying. McLean is also able to offer gentle yet pointed observations on American culture in general. His fascination with tabloids such as the Weekly World News (he claims to take it literally), his obsession with right-wing talk radio, and his enjoyment of such specifically Texan events as the annual Presidio Onion Festival display McLean's biting sense of humor, which distinguishes his book from the mere music survey or the everyday travelogue. But of course, music is still a subject here. McLean confesses himself to be left cold by Austinþ regarded by many in the music industry as the music city in Texas. Instead, he finds the smaller towns, where Bob Wills and his band members left their legacy, to be far more inspiring. If, like many another postmodern narrator, McLean often prefers anticlimax over climax in his writing, it'sbecause existentialism made him do it. A funny and charming lookþthrough Scottish eyesþat Texas as a microcosm of America.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780224041805
Publisher:
Random House Adult Trade Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/02/1997
Pages:
256

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