The birth of Western swing, mixing styles and almost what happened to Nashville: It’s a new history of North Texas music. | Art & Seek

North Texas was the cradle of musical creativity – from blues to rockabilly, gospel to Tejano. But books on music history tend to focus on one artist, one genre, or a music scene in one city. The new book aims to capture more, the clutter of influences and musical mergers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Written by Gene Fowler and William Williams, Metro Music: A celebration of the Trinity River Groove century compiles cross-pollination that occurred in North Texas until the 1970s. The new history is a scrapbook or a dive into period posters, print clippings, album covers, business cards and photographs.

“I wanted to turn it into a book that would reveal a broader scope of Dallas-Fort Worth music history,” Fowler said. “It’s never been done before.” There were simply books about Deep Ellum or western swing, but never one that dealt with the whole soup of musical heritage. ”

Blues legend and electric guitar pioneer T-Bone Walker debuted in 1929 with “Trinity River Blues”. It’s not just the title of his song, but also the musician himself who represents some of it Metro music is all about. Walker recorded a song under the name Oak Cliff T-Bone – he’s from here.

But Walker has established himself as a promising music artist not in Dallas but in Fort Worth. At the age of 20, he headed west to lead a home band at the Jim Hotel, one of Fort Worth’s leading blues and jazz venues (and black-only clientele).

In short, musical influences and talents traveled throughout the Trinity. Give some sense of diversity, influences and some famous and overlooked artists captured in Metro Music, There are three moments and / or musicians.

The Fort Worth Beat: Western swing begins to kick off.

North Texas was probably the cradle of Western swing – in 1929, when singer Milton Brown met Bob Wills and guitarist Herman Armspringer, who danced at Fort Worth.

“When Bob Wills came to Fort Worth, he brought the old violin tradition,” Fowler said. “And Milton Brown was interested in the jazz and big-band sounds of the time. And they formed this group called Light Crust Doughboys “in 1929.” And that’s what really started the beginnings of western swing. People called it a beat in Fort Worth. “

Light Crust Doughboys in various costumes with their tour bus in 1933. At the microphone is W. Lee O’Daniel. Courtesy of Kevin Coffey.

It was the first of several nicknames associated with the Fort Worth music scene, including “Cowtown Cool” and of course “Funkytown”.

The “Hillbilly Hot-Jazz Sound” Doughboys survived Brown’s breakup with the band in 1932; continued with the creation of the more popular jazz Musical Brownies. Brown died in 1936, but by the time Wills had formed his own band, the most famous Western swing band of all, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.

To give you an idea of ​​how huge the western swing was: The Light Crust Doughboys were sponsored by the Burris Mill and Elevator Company, and the band’s immediate radio success helped kick-start the political career of W. Lee’s autocratic CEO. “Pappy” O’Daniel. He eventually became the controversial governor of Texas (1939-1941) and a U.S. senator (1941-1949).

The impact of music still persists. Both the Light Crust Doughboys and the Texas Playboys continue to tour as nostalgia today. Even the huge nightclub built for Bob Wills in Dallas in 1950 – originally Bob Wills Ranch House – still stands.

He became the legendary Longhorn Ballroom. And Kessler theater owner Edwin Cabaniss hopes to restore it.

Edwin Cabaniss, who restored the Kessler Theater, hopes to do the same with the spacious Longhorn Ballroom – featuring Ray Charles, Willie Nelson and the Sex Pistols. Photo: Jerome Weeks

The Mexican violin player could excel in more than one musical format.

No wonder the western swing has penetrated almost every other form of music in North Texas – including together, which are basically traditional Mexican music styles mixed with German polkas.

The musicians drew inspiration from various creative currents, but this blending also took place for purely work reasons: the musicians needed to work. Talented people could perform with several bands at once – as the violinist Alfredo Casares, who managed to start a career with both English bands and his own home ensembles.

“Alfredo came to Texas from Mexico in the 1920s,” Fowler said, “and became a very experienced violinist. He got a job with many Anglo Western swing bands. He was with the Light Crust Doughboys for a while. I like to say that it was multicultural before multiculturalism was cool – because it was divided into many different areas. “

Alfredo Casares on violin, orchestra director in the 1950s for WFAA-TV, Mexican jamboree. Courtesy of the Dallas Mexican American Historical League.

In addition to working with groups such as the Doughboys, Casares has led a number of Mexican music groups over the years, including Professor Casares and His Boys and Mexican Serenaders on WFAA radio. In the 1950s, he even served as a moderator on the WFAA-TV program, mexican jamboree in front of the Fred Casares Orchestra.

Casares has had a long and successful career. In his 90s, he was celebrated in 1991 with a memorial concert by other Latin bandleaders and musicians at the Cruz Ballroom in Dallas.

The business side of music is often overlooked in history. But North Texas has influential recording studios and music entrepreneurs.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area has given rise to a long line of major saxophone players: Ornette Coleman, King Curtis, David “Fathead” Newman. But the one that was mostly forgotten was a big problem in the 60’s: Big Bo Thomas.

Big Bo Thomas was not just a bandleader. He ran three Dallas nightclubs and a record company. RL Griffin (far right) continues this tradition – as a singer, bandleader and owner of Blues Palace No. 2 at Fair Park. Photo: Courtesy of William Williams.

“He was a very popular and busy businessman,” Fowler said. “Eventually, he split into three clubs in Dallas and then had his own record company. And he was a favorite artist. In the 1960s, he had a tune called “Big Bo’s Twist,” which reportedly sold tens of thousands of copies in a matter of weeks. “

In addition to busy businessmen like Thomas, North Texas was home to historically significant recording studios – such as 508 Park, where blues giant Robert Johnson recorded in the late 1930s. We also had influential sound engineers, namely Jim Beck, whose recording skills and clever marketing ideas were essential in creating the sound of the “honky tonk” of Texas country music, which combined clean, old-fashioned studio techniques with a hoarse roadhouse piano.

Fowler said some music scholars even claimed that Beck’s sound was so influential that if he had not died in 1956 at the age of 39, Dallas could have evolved into “the next Nashville.” Columbia and Decca have already planned to move their country music clothing here.

As a sampler-history of North Texas music, Metro music is coming to an end in the 1970s because, as Fowler explained, he and Williams felt they could not find enough material to assess the whole mix of things that had happened here over the last 30-40 years.

So he plans to shoot the second part?

“I hope,” Fowler said, “I hope some younger person who’s involved in the newer scene takes it and makes a book, say from 1981 to the present, because I think it might be a really interesting book.” . “

There is hope here.

More music samples from Metro music:

The classic Dallas song “Deep Ellum Blues” has long been associated with Leadbelly, but it’s not certain if he wrote it. The first known recording was in fact from the Lone Star Cowboys in 1933 – later covers include those from Grateful Dead, Hot Tuna, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Levon Helm.


Ernest Tubb, Texas Troubador, recorded his biggest hit “Walking the Floor Over You” in 1941 – he started the country style of music “honky tonk”. Tubb wrote it in two years at Fort Worth, but it was recorded at Biggs Studio in Dallas:

In the late 1960s, Novas was one of the most popular bands in Dallas. It’s easy to hear why – harmonies and musical influences from the Beatles, Hollies and Byrds. If it were said that “William Junior” was a lost piece from the Monkees, you might believe it, the song is such a perfect pop music time capsule from:

Do you have a tip? E-mail Jerome Weeks to [email protected] You can follow it on Twitter @dazeandweex.

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David Berry

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