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Fiddler Bob Wills dies

May
13
1975

On this day in 1975, Texas swing musician James Robert (Bob) Wills died. He was born in 1905, near Kosse, Limestone County, Texas. In 1913 his family moved to Hall County, where Wills learned to play the fiddle; in 1915 he played at his first dance. He played for ranch dances in West Texas for the next fourteen years, and his life and career were greatly influenced by that environment. During that time he brought together two streams of American folk music to produce western swing. He had learned frontier fiddle music from his father and grandfather, and blues from black playmates and coworkers in the cottonfields of East and West Texas. In 1929 Wills moved to Fort Worth, where he performed on several radio stations, organized a band that became the Light Crust Doughboys, and worked for a future governor of Texas and United States senator, W. Lee O'Daniel. In 1934 Wills moved to Oklahoma, where he made radio and musical history with his broadcasts over Station KVOO. During his years in Tulsa (1934-43) he and his new group, the Texas Playboys, continued to develop the swinging western sound he had pioneered in West Texas, and his recording of his composition "New San Antonio Rose" (1940) made him a national figure in popular music. By the time of his death in 1975, he had received numerous honors, including a Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

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