Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bob Wills - New San Antonio Rose

Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys - New San Antonio Rose:

James Robert Wills (March 6, 1905 – May 13, 1975), better known as Bob Wills, was an American  Western swing musician, songwriter, and bandleader, considered by many music authorities one of the fathers of Western swing and called the King of Western Swing by his fans.

He was born in Limestone county near Kosse, Texas to Emma Lee Foley and John Tompkins Wills. His father was a statewide champion fiddle player and the Wills family was either playing music, or someone was "always wanting us to play for them," in addition to raising cotton on their farm.

In addition to picking cotton, the young Jim Bob learned to play the fiddle and the mandolin. Both a sister and several brothers played musical instruments, while another sister played piano. The Wills frequently held country dances in their home, and there was dancing in all four rooms. They also played at 'ranch dances' which were popular in both West Texas and eastern New Mexico at the time the Wills lived in Hall county.

Wills not only learned traditional music from his family, he learned some Negro songs directly from African Americans in the cotton fields near Lakeview, Texas and said that he did not play with many white children other than his siblings, until he was seven or eight years old. African Americans were his playmates, and his father enjoyed watching him jig dance with black children.

"I don't know whether they made them up as they moved down the cotton rows or not," Wills once told Charles Townsend, author of San Antonio Rose: The Life and Times of Bob Wills, "but they sang blues you never heard before."

While in Fort Worth, Wills added the "rowdy city blues" of Bessie Smith and Emmett Miller to a repertoire of mainly waltzes and breakdowns he had learned from his father, and patterned his vocal style after that of Miller and other performers such as Al Bernard. Wills acknowledged that he idolized Miller.

Wills' daughter, Rosetta: "He had a lot of respect for the musicians and music of his black friends." She remembers that her father was such a fan of Bessie Smith, "he once rode 50 miles on horseback just to see her perform live."

Wills recalled the early days of what became known as Western swing music, in a 1949 interview. "Here's the way I figure it. We sure not tryin' to take credit for swingin' it." He said that "We'd pull these tunes down an set 'em in a dance category. It wouldn't be a runaway, and just lay a real nice beat behind it an the people would get to really like it. It was nobody intended to start anything in the world. We was just tryin' to find enough tunes to keep 'em dancin' to not have to repeat so much."

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Townes Van Zandt

Townes Van Zandt