Swing music in "another manner"
(with 14 music samples)
Text borrowed from.The Great American Big Bands
It was "Spade" Cooley who, in the early 1940's, coined the term 'Western Swing'. Before that, the music had been called everything from 'Hillbilly' (a definite misnomer) to 'Texas Swing' (more correct). "Spade" had everything going for him. He owned a 20 acre 'ranch' on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles, a 15 million dollar fortune (in 1961), America's largest Swing band, the longest running Television show, and he was probably the most popular entertainer west of the Mississippi River. Bill Haley (2. v. l.) and his Aces of Western SwingIt all ended for "Spade" when he forced his young daughter to watch as he murdered his second wife (Ella Mae Evans) because he thought she was having an affair with cowboy film star Roy Rogers. Eight years later, he died of a coronary while still in prison (after being on release to play for a Sheriff's benefit concert). During the heyday of Western Swing, there were thousands of bands playing all over the West. Yet it was only a handful of bands, playing predominantly in southern Oklahoma and Northeastern Texas that had formed the 'genre'. 

For most people, the word 'Swing' evokes memories of the great Big Bands that played all over America in the late 1930's to 1950s. But to millions of Americans, there was still another 'Swing'. Western Swing was played in the roadhouses, county fairs and dancehalls of small towns throughout the Lower Great Plains. Jimmie Revard and his Oklahoma Playboys The music was strictly for dancing, and included mostly the simpler one and two step dances with quite a few foxtrots along with both "cowboy" and "Mexican" waltzes. Vocals were handled by a group of the sidemen, and most often was the leader's job. In fact, the popularity of the Leader/singer usually determined the band's success. These local bands could play the same music that the big bands were playing, but because of the smaller instrumentation, and "local style", the music had a different "feel", it wasn't a Big Band sound, it was much more ensemble playing, often with guitar, or violin predominating. The folks who came to the roadhouses were of course, all the 'locals', - everyone knew everyone else, and their ages ran from the young folks to the old-timers, friends and neighbors, husbands and wifes, all could spend some time listening, drinking and dancing the weekend nights away. 

'String Bands' fathered the music which we now call Western Swing. It originated in the Texas and Oklahoma lower Great Plains area. These early String Bands often consisted of just a Mandolin, Banjo, a standard 6-string Guitar, and a 4-string "tenor guitar" (Baritone Ukelele - still popular in the Southwest and in Mexico). By and large, the music (in a European style) consisted of just instrumental "breakdowns" because vocalists could not be heard clearly above the noise (microphones were not yet in wide use). Folks who were either too poor to afford Dance Hall admissions, or too far away from one, would hold weekly "house" parties where local bands performed (very much like the "rent" parties of the 'Jazz Age' generation in Chicago). They would roll up the rug, throw some cornmeal on the living room floor, and invite every neighbor they knew, for a weekend-long party. There were no admission charges, it was simply a form of low cost entertainment. 

The Southwest population consisted of a good sprinkling of German Irish, English, and many French emigres. The music was representative of an area's ethnic and economic background. At first, the songs and the "Hot Licks" were passed along between just the neighborhood musicians. Johnnie Lee Wills (Radio-Show)Even the early radio and recording industry contributed to the "localization" of the music. The recording company executives felt that playing records on the air would hurt their sales. And so, during radio's golden era, much of the music  played was by live bands in the radio studios. Since the music was heard only by people in the station's listening area, the region's musical identity was thus codified. Later, mass marketing of Records and newer radio broadcasting made the music and styles of all areas available to musicians all over the West. 

So we can say that continuing from the early and mid-1920s on, the music which probably best reflected the local ethnicity, slowly began to resemble first "Country" music, and finally mirrored the music that the Big Bands were playing. It differed
from the Big Bands in that the instrumentation was not the same, and the style was more ensemble playing for the simpler 1 and 2 step dances. Following this same pattern, Western Swing would later have elements of Bop and then Rock and Roll.
The Western Swing we know today evolved from this breaking down, via Records and Radio, of "Regional Area only" entertainment. 

There was a curious dichotomy to this new age of Recordings. On one hand, it broke the racial, religious, and social barriers that had existed. But, due to marketing techniques, new "artificial" boundaries were created. Recording company executives felt that 'markets' existed for 'specialized' music forms, and so, 'Race Records' (for Black listeners), 'Hillbilly' records, and 'Western Swing' were newly formed market niches. There was an unfortunate aspect to all this. Folks who didn't consider themselves to be Black, or Hillbillys or Westerners tended to avoid buying such records. Because of this, Western Swing never become very popular in the sophissticated East Coast markets, but was. indeed, extremely popular throughout the West and West Coast. 

Probably the best known of the early Western Swing bands were Milton Brown and his Brownies, and Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, but there were hundreds more who managed to achieve a modicum of fame even if in just their own regional area. In time, many of the 'old timers' died, but Western Swing would survive.The Sons of the PioneersSome of Wills' sidemen, such as his guitarists Tiny Moore and Eldon Shamblin, along with his fiddler Johnny Gimble, continued the Western Swing tradition inspiring future generations. There were such rock-era bands as 'Commander Coty's Lost Planet Airman'; Alvan Crow's 'Pleasant Valley Boys', and 'Asleep At The Wheel'. In addition, there was a great deal of "cross-over" performances. From the Jazz world, Stan Kenton recorded with Tex Ritter, while Charlie "Yardbird" Parker jammed with Ray Price's 'Cherokee Cowboys'. Jazz vibrophonist Gary Burton and Bassist Steve Swallow went into RCA's Nashville recording studios. It worked in reverse too. Such well known Jazzmen as Hank Garland and drummer Joe Morello had their early band training with Paul Howard's Arkansas Cotton Pickers. Other examples are Benny Golson's Killer Joe coming out of Gimble and The Nashville Pickers; Vassar Clements cut two albums of 'Hillbilly Jazz', and Roy Clark formed his own big band.

Pee Wee King

And now 14 "hot" Western-Swing numbers:
(in RealPlayer-format)

play "Liza, pull down the shades"
Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, 1938

"Oh! Swing it"
Johnnie Revard (voc) and his Oklahoma Playboys, 1938

play "High falutin' Mama"
Bill Nettles (voc), 40s

"In the Mood"
Johnnie Lee Wills, late 40s

play "Devil with the Devil"
Roy Newman and his Boys, 1939 (voc: Earl Brown)

"Garbage Man Blues"
Miton Brown (voc) and his Musical Brownies, 1934

play "I'm an old Cowhand"
The Sons of the Pioneers, 1936 (voc: Roy Rogers / Tim Spencer)

"Easy ridin' Papa"
Miton Brown (voc) and his Brownies, 1936

play "Far(r) away Stomp"
The Sons of the Pioneers, 1936

"Tom Cat Rag"
Light Crust Doughboys, 1938

play "Playboy Chimes"
Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, 40s

"Keep them cold icy fingers off of me"
Pee Wee King, 1947 (voc: Tommy Sosebee)

play "Rovin' Eye"
Bill Haley (voc) and his Four Aces of Western Swing, 1948

"The Rhumba Boogie"
"Spade" Cooley, late 40s (voc)