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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys

From wailin’ to Waylon…

15 July 1972, Billerica, MA — Don Stover was a bluegrass banjo picker from White Oak, West Virginia. In 1952 he joined the Lilly Brothers from nearby Beckley, and headed for Boston, where they played together for over eighteen years at the (in)famous Hillbilly Ranch.  Stover had great influence on a generation of important young banjo pickers, from Bill Keith (who introduced chromatic scales to bluegrass as a member of Bill Monroe’s band) to Bela Fleck (the bluegrass and jazz-fusion star)

Courtesy of the always fascinating Selvedge Yard, a selection of photos from the archive of photographer Henry Horenstein, “Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981“– a time before CMT and “New Country,”  a time when country was…  well, country.

15 July 1974, Berryville, Virginia — Bluegrass music fans at the Berryville Bluegrass Festival

15 July, 1975, Cambridge, MA. Waylon Jennings began as his career as a Cricket (Buddy Holly’s bass player) and ended it as an Outlaw (a member of the group that also included Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser, and Billy Joe Shaver). Along the way, he conspired with Johnny Cash in the addled 60s , then charted a series of hits that included the classic “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”

See the rest of Horenstein’s arresting photos at The Selvedge Yard.

As we pine for a PBR, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955 that, in another corner of the music world, Chuck Berry’s first hit record, “Maybellene” entered the R&B chart. Piano player Johnnie Johnson recalls that he and Berry rewrote the song at the suggestion of Leonard Chess: “It was an old fiddle tune called ‘Ida Red'[recorded in 1938 by Bob Wills]. I changed the music and re-arranged it, Chuck re-wrote the words, and the rest, as they say, was history.  Leonard Chess asked me to come up to record it live. At that time, someone else already had a song out by the same name, so we had to change our version. We noticed a mascara box in the corner, so we changed the name to ‘Maybellene.'”


The Annals of Pognology*…

* Pognology:  the study of whiskers and associated lore

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Edwardian England was a milieu of many and often peculiar mania.  Palmistry, numerology, and phrenology are well-known aspects of of the era.  Less well known, was pogonomancy, or divination by beard reading, to understand character or to foretell the future.

As Will Schofield explains on his wonderful site A Journey Round My Skull, a leading example of the period,

…a 1912 pamphlet entitled Poets Ranked by Beard Weight, has become a rarity much prized by bibliophiles, and one that still stands out as a particular curiosity among the many colorful curiosities of the period. Its author, one Upton Uxbridge Underwood (1881 – 1937), was a deipnosophist, clubman, and literary miscellanist with a special interest in matters tonsorial. His masterpiece, The Language of the Beard, an epicurean treat confected for the delectation of fellow bon vivants, vaunts the premise that the texture, contours, and growth patterns of a man’s beard indicate personality traits, aptitudes, and strengths and weaknesses of character. A spade beard, according to Underwood’s theories, may denote audacity and resolution, for example, while a forked, finely-downed beard signifies creativity and the gift of intuition, a bushy beard suggests generosity, and so on…

Read on (here) for more on this scratchy fringe at the lip of World War I– and for the rankings of Rossetti and one’s other favorite poets!

As we reach for the trimming scissors, we might spare a memorial thought for James Robert Wills, who died on his date in 1975.  In 1933, Bob Wills, as he became known, formed Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, incorporating jazz-swing influences into country and western– and as he attained fame, created the genre we now know as “western swing.”

Wills was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1968. He had believed his chances of winning so slim that he was backstage chatting with friends when the award was announced. When he was finally tracked down and brought on stage, he said, “I don’t usually take my hat off to nobody. But I sure do to you folks.”

Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys (source: Tulsa Oratorio Chorus)

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