Legends of Country Music: Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys
Texas without BOB WILLS? If you can even conceive of such a thing, you need to spend some serious time with the four-CD LEGENDS OF COUNTRY MUSIC: BOB WILLS AND HIS TEXAS PLAYBOYS (Columbia Legacy). Crowing his trademark “a-haaaa!” over this weird, ofttimes hokey music, Wills—bandleader, master fiddler, drunk, innovator, and hothead—led an ever-changing lineup of musicians who, from the thirties until the early seventies, fearlessly blurred musical borders. In an age where French deejays sample African musicians for American audiences, his Playboys might not seem so radical. But radical they were. Wills liked to emphasize that he was no Nashville hillbilly: He played what he called “Texas fiddle music,” though his amalgam of blues, jazz, minstrel, vaudeville, and pop came to be known as western swing. By blending horns with strings, electric guitars with country, and pedal steel with bebop, Wills reached out to a wide and appreciative swath of listeners on the dance floor; the Playboys, especially in the years fronted by Crosby-ish crooner Tommy Duncan, were a sensation on the radio. Included here are such Texas landmarks as Wills’s “New San Antonio Rose,” “Take Me Back to Tulsa,” and “Faded Love,” as well as his takes on classic Cindy Walker tunes, like “Bubbles in My Beer.” Rockabilly, bluegrass, Dixieland—sometimes in one song—roll by on these tracks, laid down by true pioneers who pointed the way for generations to come.