Arnspiger, Herman (1904–1984)

By: Amanda Deen

Type: Biography

Published: July 25, 2014

Updated: October 5, 2020

Herman Arnspiger, guitarist, was born in Van Alstyne, Texas, on November 13, 1904. He is best remembered as one of the first musicians to play alongside Bob Wills in the early days of western swing. Arnspiger and Wills met in Fort Worth in 1929 while Wills was fiddling and performing in blackface with a traveling medicine show. Arnspiger invited Wills back to his rented room where they played for hours. Wills asked Arnspiger to join him, and the two performed together in the medicine show. They also made their first recordings in November 1929 in Dallas for the Brunswick Record Corporation. After the medicine show closed in December 1929, Arnspiger played a radio show on KTAT, Fort Worth. He soon rejoined Wills in 1930 following a chance encounter.

In the summer of 1930 Wills and Arnspiger were playing a house dance in Fort Worth as the Wills Fiddle Band when they heard another singer, Milton Brown. Wills invited Brown and his guitar-playing brother, Derwood, to join the band. They soon found work playing at the Eagles Fraternal Hall in Fort Worth and at other venues in the area. The group also landed a spot on KFJZ radio before going on to play on WBAP radio for a time under the name Aladdin Laddies. Through their radio appearances, they attracted the attention of W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel, manager of Burrus Mills, who gave them a regular radio program on which they appeared as the Light Crust Doughboys. The group became so popular that when station managers removed the Doughboys from the air, angry listeners flooded the station with letters and phone calls, pressuring the management to rehire the band.

Despite their success, the musicians quickly became frustrated with O’Daniel’s overbearing management style. Arnspiger was among the earliest to leave the group but was later rehired at the insistence of Wills. Milton Brown left the group in September 1932 to form his own band, The Musical Brownies. Bob Wills, himself, departed in 1933 and formed The Texas Playboys. In 1934 Arnspiger had a disagreement with O’Daniel and left to join Wills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as one of the Playboys. Arnspiger continued performing with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys until 1940 whereupon he became a pilot and instructor for Spartan School of Aeronautics. He also later worked for Douglas Aircraft as a test pilot. In 1945 Arnspiger set up the Aviation Department at the Sunray Oil Company, from which he retired in 1964. He lived the remainder of his life in Tulsa with his wife, Rowena Arnspiger, and daughter, Glenda Goodwin. Arnspiger died in a Tulsa nursing home on February 21, 1984, at the age of seventy-nine.

Jean A. Boyd, The Jazz of the Southwest: An Oral History of Western Swing (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998). Cary Ginell, Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994). Charles R. Townsend, San Antonio Rose: The Life and Music of Bob Wills (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976). Tulsa World, February 22, 1984.

  • Music
  • Genres (Country)
Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Amanda Deen, “Arnspiger, Herman,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 25, 2014
October 5, 2020

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