Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys popularized western swing by infusing country music with jazz elements. This invention was bolstered by dozens of fiddlers over the course of the band’s arc, including the great Johnny Gimble, who passed away this past May. Wills was a fiddler too, of course, but of a different kind. “Bob was not a jazz ‘takeoff’ fiddler,” said Ray Benson, front man for the Grammy-winning western swing band Asleep at the Wheel, who has paid tribute to Wills in multiple ways over the years. “He was an original breakdown fiddler of the first order. His rhythmic influence owed a lot to black music as opposed to Appalachian fiddling.” Jason Roberts, a former fiddler in Asleep at the Wheel, added, “He hired the best jazz and swing fiddlers and let them play the jazz. He was the piece that held it all together. The Playboys never took their eyes off of him, never knowing when he’d point his bow at them, expecting them to play all they knew.” Wills’s legacy as a fiddler will be celebrated next Thursday during the second annual Bob Wills Fiddle Festival and Contest, a four-day affair at the heart of which is a fiddle competition divided into seven divisions: Junior Junior (ages 12 and under), Junior (13–17), Adult (18–59), Senior (60 and up), Accompanist, Bob Wills, and Open. There will be films starring Wills, presented by the Library of Congress, and live music from half a dozen bands, of which Asleep at the Wheel and Charley Pride will headline. Benson will also discuss the making of his band’s new album, Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, as well as tell stories about his friendships and collaborations with former Texas Playboys. Special guests are expected to show up. “I hope Leon Rausch”—the 88-year-old former lead vocalist for the Playboys during the late fifties and early sixties—“will be there,” Benson said.
Various locations, October 15–18, twinfiddleproductions.com
’Cue Without the Queue
Getting a taste of James Beard Award–winning pitmaster Aaron Franklin’s world-famous brisket has become harder than ever, with the recent news that he has put the kibosh on paid “line waiters” at Franklin Barbecue, in Austin. For those people who have day jobs that don’t allow them to beg off for a couple of hours so they can camp out in front of his restaurant, perhaps the best way to sample the goods is to attend a food festival in which he is a participant. As luck would have it, Franklin is driving his smoker down to Houston for Southern Smoke, a food and drink block party occurring this Sunday. Tickets aren’t cheap: general admission is $200 and a VIP pass will put folks back $350. But Franklin’s delicious, perfectly cooked brisket is only a small fraction of the offerings. There will also be a whole hog prepared by Rodney Scott, of Scott’s Bar-B-Que in South Carolina; grilled fish on the half shell from Sean Brock, of McGrady’s, Husk, and Minero, three establishments also located in South Carolina; and beef cheek ssam (a type of wrap) from Chris Shepherd, of Underbelly in Houston. Shepherd concocted the idea to bring these chefs together at his restaurant as well as at neighboring joints Blacksmith and the Hay Merchant as a way to raise funds for his former sommelier, Antonio Gianola, who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Four additional chefs who enjoy smoking meat despite owning non-barbecue restaurants will join them. Dubbed the “HOUBBQ Collective,” this group will prepare their own fare in addition to auctioning off a backyard barbecue for up to thirty people.
Underbelly, Blacksmith, and the Hay Merchant, October 11, 4 p.m., southernsmoke.org
The Austin artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade is known for his larger-than-life sculptural pieces, like the 10-foot-tall frogs dancing and playing instruments atop the roof of the Taco Cabana on Dallas’s Lower Greenville Avenue; the 40-foot-long iguana that in the seventies sat on the roof of the Lone Star Cafe, in New York City, but now resides near the entrance of the Fort Worth Zoo; and the 35-foot-tall cowboy boots planted outside the North Star Mall, in San Antonio, which last month garnered a Guinness World Record as the “Tallest Cowboy Boot Sculpture.” Daddy-O also displays psychedelic tendencies in the two-dimensional world, as the exhibit “Bob ‘Daddy-O’ Wade Photoworks: 1971–2015” will showcase. The retrospective is made up of 25 canvases largely featuring images Daddy-O culled from vintage black-and-white photo photos and postcards, which he then enlarged, tinted, and airbrushed with acrylic paint colors to make them pop with new life. The subjects include banditos, cowgirls, and hula dancers. There are also some oddities, like in the piece Father Forgive Them, from 1971, in which the curtain is pulled back on an old circus freak show performer.
78704 Gallery, October 9 to December 31, 78704.gallery
Southerners, because of their many stereotypes, are familiar with being the butt of jokes, but as was shown by “Hee-Haw,” the TV variety show that excelled at self-deprecating bumpkin humor, Southerners can take it, and even enjoy it. Find more of this style of comedy at the new play Moonshine: That Hee-Haw Musical, about Misty Mae, who hails from Kornfield Kounty and ventures off to the big city of Tampa, Florida. She comes back with a boyfriend who sends the town into a frenzy. The production is enjoying its world premiere at the Dallas Theater Center and has earned plaudits from Rolling Stone and the New York Times. The show, which Lindale native Miranda Lambert has seen and raved about, runs for only three more nights. Lambert likely loved the play in part because two songwriters she has collaborated with, Grammy-nominee Brandy Clark and Grammy-winner Shane McAnally (of Mineral Wells), wrote the music and lyrics.
Wyly Theatre, October 9–11, dallastheatercenter.org
Strokes of Genius
The exhibit “Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum,” features more than one hundred pieces that take various forms and are made by creatives who didn’t necessarily intend on making “art.” But through their obsession the artists ended up making masterpieces, like Henry Darger’s illustrated book The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, October 10 to January 3, 2016, cartermuseum.org
Mole is like the marinara of Mexico, a multipurpose sauce nurtured for hours and hours using complex, hand-me-down recipes dating back several generations and rooted in chocolate, chilies, and spices. For $40, sample more than fifteen varieties that are among the silkiest, thickest, and richest that San Antonio has to offer, and then wash it all down with two complimentary drinks, at the seventh annual Mole Throwdown.
Centro Cultural Aztlan, October 15, 6 p.m., centroaztlan.org