Fans of “Western swing” music should mark March 25 on their calendars. That is the date of the annual Bob Wills Day celebration at the Oklahoma State Capitol this year.
Fiddlers and other musicians will perform from 9 a.m. to noon in the House of Representatives chamber, and from 1 to 3 p.m. in the fourth floor rotunda.
“All Oklahomans are invited to come to the Capitol and enjoy the music and the camaraderie,” said state Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, coordinator of the event.
James Robert “Bob” Wills was born in Texas in 1905. He became a songwriter, bandleader and musician, learning to play the fiddle and the mandolin; his father was a statewide champion fiddle player. Bob Wills is widely regarded as the co-founder of Western swing music.
He wrote or co-wrote “Take Me Back to Tulsa,” “Faded Love” and “Stay All Night – Stay a Little Longer,” and Wills and his Texas Playboys wrote “San Antonio Rose.” The band found national popularity in the 1940s with songs such as “Steel Guitar Rag” and had a Top 10 hit in 1950 with “Faded Love.” Wills’s repertoire also included the tunes “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” and “Milk Cow Blues.”
Shows that Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys performed at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa in 1934 were broadcast live over Tulsa radio station KVOO. After the band relocated to California, their shows were aired throughout the western United States. In 1945, Wills’s dances reportedly were bigger draws than the “big bands” of Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman.
The Country Music Hall of Fame enshrined Wills in 1968, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Wills and his band in 1999. Bob Wills died in 1975 at the age of 70.
The late Waylon Jennings, a country music legend, wrote and performed a tribute song that proclaimed, “Bob Wills is Still the King.”