By: Laurie E. Jasinski

Type: General Entry

Published: October 18, 2014

Updated: October 29, 2015

The Hi-Flyers was an early and significant western swing band that was organized in 1929 as the High Fliers in Fort Worth by Zack Hurt, a radio personality on KFJZ. Kentucky fiddler Clifford Gross, guitarist Herman Arwine, banjoist Ocie Stockard, and Claude Davis on mandolin were among the original lineup that played a repertoire that included primarily waltzes, breakdowns, and pop selections. The band had its own radio program on KFJZ and played at dances in the area.

Various personnel changes and new musical influences redirected the ensemble’s focus, and the group would evolve into one of the earliest string bands in Texas that incorporated jazz improvisations into its performances. The band changed its name to Hi-Flyers by 1932, and guitarist Elmer Scarborough established himself as the leader. Al Stricklin was with the band for a brief time in 1935. In 1936 other band members left and formed the Sons of the West out of Amarillo. In 1937 the Hi-Flyers recorded for Vocalion in Dallas. They cut a total of nineteen songs in two sessions. The sessions included newer members Billy Braggs on steel guitar, Darrell Kirkpatrick on fiddle, and Landon Beaver, a jazz pianist.

The group was based out of Del Rio (where they played across the border on XEPN radio) for a brief period from 1937 into 1938 before regrouping in Oklahoma City in 1939. They performed on KOMA radio there. From 1939 to 1941 the Hi-Flyers made more recordings that reflected western swing influences along with honky-tonk themes. By this time Buster Ferguson was the vocalist, and Sheldon Bennett played electric guitar. The Hi-Flyers disbanded with the onslaught of World War II and only reformed briefly after the war before permanently calling it quits in 1946.

The Texas Rose label released an anthology of their recordings, The Hi-Flyers, 1937–41, in 1982.

Jean A. Boyd, Dance All Night: Those Other Southwestern Swing Bands, Past and Present (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2012). Paul Kingsbury, ed., The Encyclopedia of Country Music: The Ultimate Guide to the Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). Praguefrank’s Country Music Discographies: Hi-Flyers (http://countrydiscography.blogspot.com/2010/07/hi-flyers.html), accessed November 4, 2015.

  • Music
  • Groups

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

Laurie E. Jasinski, “Hi-Flyers,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 06, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hi-flyers.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 18, 2014
October 29, 2015

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: