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Fiddle player Jesse Ashlock (far right) performs with Bill Neely (far left) at the Split Rail in Austin. Ashlock was a longtime and integral member of Bob Wills's Original Texas Playboys. Photograph by Jerry Kleiner.
ASHLOCK, JESSE (1915–1976). Jesse Ashlock, fiddle player, was born on February 22, 1915. He started playing violin at age nine. In 1930 he began going to the Crystal Springs Dance Pavilion in Fort Worth where James Robert (Bob) Wills played with his band. Wills bought Jesse a fiddle, taught him to play, and included him in a few of the band's performances at Crystal Springs. In 1932 Ashlock joined Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies. Brown was Wills's chief competition in western swing.
In 1935 Ashlock joined Wills's Original Texas Playboys as a fiddle player. He stayed with Bob Wills throughout the rest of Wills's career and continued playing shows until three days before his death. While playing for Wills he became an integral part of the band. He was known as a practical joker. He once told Bob Wills during a performance that his pants were unzipped, causing Bob to stop playing his chorus and double over trying to cover up the offending opening. During his career with Wills, Ashlock was also involved with the movies that Wills made.
Ashlock's playing style had its roots in jazz. His fiddle style was characterized by hot breaks and hot choruses. His idol was jazz violinist Joe Venuti. Ashlock's attempt to play his fiddle like a horn earned him placement in the category of the "hot fiddlers." He died on August 9, 1976, in Austin where he had moved from Claremore, Oklahoma, the previous year. At the age of sixty-one he had performed at the Broken Spoke, a country honky-tonk, three days before his death from cancer. In 1990 Ashlock was inducted into the Western Swing Society Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame in 1991.
Charles R. Townsend, San Antonio Rose: The Life and Music of Bob Wills (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Matthew Douglas Moore, "Ashlock, Jesse," accessed April 29, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fashm.
Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Modified on July 21, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.