I self-identify as a New York Jew, but I also have some ancestry from the Lutheran Midwest. If my paternal grandparents had gone out dancing in South Dakota in the 1930s, there’s a good chance they would have been dancing to Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.
We conventionally imagine that there’s a big racial divide in twentieth century American music, with jazz on one side and country on the other. In reality, that divide was always more about laws and commerce than music itself. Jazz and country both swing, they both draw on the blues, they both combine vernacular song forms with sophisticated instrumental improvisation, and they are both expressions of their audiences’ real-life present-day emotional experiences. So should we really be surprised that a country-western band like the Texas Playboys should also have a horn section, and do Count Basie and Duke Ellington songs?
This recording comes from the Tiffany Transcriptions, a series of radio broadcast performances cut by the Texas Playboys in 1946 and 1947. The recording time was longer than was usual for records of the time, so the band could stretch out and play the way they did at their shows, rather than the tightly managed arrangements they usually put on records. The band sounds loose (and sometimes conspicuously drunk), but their driving swing is undeniable. You can see the Texas Playboys here, featuring some especially sweet pedal steel guitar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-N3f2q4yhmA
One last thing about “Bring It On Down To My House”—at 1:30 is the best trumpet riff ever. I like to assign my electronic music production classes the challenge of creating an entire piece of music using a sample of that riff and nothing else. You would amazed at the sheer variety of music they’ve produced with it. Like Waylon Jennings said: Bob Wills is still the king.
You can learn more about Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys here:
About the Curator - Ethan Hein
Ethan Hein is a Doctoral Fellow in Music Education at New York University. He teaches music technology, production and education at NYU and Montclair State University. With the NYU Music Experience Design Lab (https://www.musedlab.org), Ethan has taken a leadership role in the creation of new technologies for learning and expression, most notably the Groove Pizza (https://musedlab.org/groovepizza). In collaboration with Soundfly, he has developed a series of online music theory courses (https://soundfly.com/courses/unlocking-the-emotional-power-of-chords). He maintains a widely-followed and influential blog (http://www.ethanhein.com), and has written for various publications, including Slate, Quartz, and NewMusicBox.