This western swing band, founded around 1935 in the San Antonio area by Oklahoma-born Jimmie Revard, was one of the best-known western swing bands in the Southwest prior to World War II. Arriving on the scene just as the genre was beginning to gain national popularity, the Oklahoma Playboys became one of the most popular western swing outfits in South Central Texas, alongside local favorites the Tune Wranglers. At times, in fact, the bands shared several members.
The Oklahoma Playboys’ original lineup included Jimmie Revard (bass and guitar), Adolph Hofner (guitar), Emil Hofner (guitar and steel), Ben McKay (fiddle), Curley Williams (guitar), and Eddie Whitley (piano and vocals). Revard (born November 26, 1909, in Pawhuska, Oklahoma), Johnny H. “Curley” Williams, and Adolph Hofner took turns on vocals when Eddie Whitley left after the first few sessions. In 1936 the group signed a contract with Bluebird Records. They released the song “Oh! Swing It” in October 1936 and became one of the label’s best-selling country acts from 1936 to 1938. Other Revard hits included “Holding the Sack” (1936) and “Tulsa Waltz” (1937). The Hofner brothers left the band by 1938 and went on to form their own group. In 1938 the addition of clarinet (Jimmie Revard) and drums (Edmond Franke) helped solidify the band’s standing as “one of the most sophisticated country dance bands of the era.” A mainstay on San Antonio’s WOAI, the group traveled outside of Texas for a time but eventually returned.
Over the years critics have noted that although the group’s fame was largely limited to the Lone Star State, its blues and jazz-inflected string-band sound make the Oklahoma Playboys a remarkable example of the eclectic blending of musical genres found throughout the Southwest. Norm Cohen, for example, included Jimmie Revard and His Oklahoma Playboys as one of the area’s “first rate groups that…demonstrate Western Swing’s various debts to blues, jazz, big-band swing and old time fiddle music.” The Oklahoma Playboys’ career peaked during the mid-to-late 1930s. Revard eventually became a San Antonio police officer, but he continued to perform locally throughout the 1940s and 1950s. He died on April 12, 1991. Though the group’s widespread popularity lasted for only a short time, the music the band left behind is substantial and has assured its place in western swing history.