40 Facts About Bob Wills

1.

James Robert Bob Wills was an American Western swing musician, songwriter, and bandleader.

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2.

In 1950, Bob Wills had two top 10 hits, "Ida Red likes the Boogie" and "Faded Love", which were his last hits for a decade.

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3.

Bob Wills continued to perform frequently despite a decline in the popularity of his earlier hit songs, and the growing popularity of rock and roll.

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4.

Bob Wills had a heart attack in 1962, and a second one the next year, which forced him to disband the Texas Playboys.

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5.

In 1972, Bob Wills accepted a citation from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in Nashville.

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6.

Bob Wills suffered two strokes that left him partially paralyzed, and unable to communicate.

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7.

Bob Wills was comatose the last two months of his life, and died in a Fort Worth nursing home in 1975.

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8.

Bob Wills was born on a cotton farm in Kosse, Texas, to Emma Lee Foley and John Tompkins Wills.

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9.

Bob Wills's parents were both of primarily English ancestry but had distant Irish ancestry as well.

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10.

Bob Wills's father was a statewide champion fiddle player, and several of his siblings played musical instruments.

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11.

At the age of 16, Bob Wills left the family and hopped a freight train, travelling under the name Jim Rob.

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12.

Bob Wills drifted from town to town trying to earn a living for several years, once nearly falling from a moving train.

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13.

Bob Wills alternated barbering and fiddling even when he moved to Fort Worth, Texas, after leaving Hall County in 1929.

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14.

Bob Wills wore blackface makeup to appear in comedy routines, something that was common at the time.

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15.

Bob Wills played the violin and sang, and had two guitarists and a banjo player with him.

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16.

Bob Wills quickly became known for being talkative on the bandstand, a tendency he picked up from family, local cowboys, and the style of Black musicians he had heard growing up.

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17.

Bob Wills added a trumpet to the band inadvertently when he hired Everet Stover as an announcer, not knowing that he had played with the New Orleans symphony and had directed the governor's band in Austin.

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18.

Bob Wills hired the young, "modern-style musician" Smoky Dacus as a drummer to balance out the horns.

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19.

Bob Wills continued to expand the lineup through the mid to late 1930s.

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20.

About this time, Bob Wills purchased and performed with an antique Guadagnini violin.

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21.

The "front line" of Bob Wills' orchestra consisted of either fiddles or guitars after 1944.

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22.

Altogether, Bob Wills appeared in nineteen films, including The Lone Prairie, Riders of the Northwest Mounted, Saddles and Sagebrush, The Vigilantes Ride, The Last Horseman, Rhythm Round-Up, Blazing the Western Trail, and Lawless Empire .

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23.

In December 1942, after several band members had left the group, and as World War II raged, Bob Wills joined the Army at the age of 37, but received a medical discharge in 1943.

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24.

Bob Wills became an enormous draw in Los Angeles, where many of his fans had relocated during the Great Depression and World War II in search of jobs.

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25.

Bob Wills commanded enormous fees playing dances there, and began to make more creative use of electric guitars to replace the big horn sections the Tulsa band had boasted.

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26.

Bob Wills's then-drummer was Monte Mountjoy, who played in the Dixieland style.

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27.

Bob Wills battled Opry officials and refused to perform without his drummer.

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28.

An attempt to compromise by keeping Mountjoy behind a curtain collapsed when Bob Wills had his drums placed front and center onstage at the last minute.

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29.

In 1945, Bob Wills' dances were drawing larger crowds than dances put on by Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman.

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30.

Bob Wills was in such high demand that venues would book him even on weeknights, because they knew the show would still be a draw.

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31.

Still a binge drinker, Bob Wills became increasingly unreliable in the late 1940s, causing a rift with Tommy Duncan .

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32.

Bob Wills opened a second club, the Bob Wills Ranch House in Dallas, Texas.

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33.

In 1950, Bob Wills had two top 10 hits, "Ida Red Likes the Boogie" and "Faded Love".

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34.

Bob Wills has appeared at the Bostonia Ballroom in San Diego throughout the 1950s.

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35.

Bob Wills continued to tour and record through the 1950s into the early 1960s despite the fact that Western Swing's popularity, even in the Southwest, had greatly diminished.

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36.

Bob Wills appeared twice on ABC-TV's Jubilee USA and kept the band on the road into the 1960s.

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37.

Bob Wills did recover sufficiently to appear in a wheelchair at various Wills tributes held in the early 1970s.

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38.

Bob Wills' style influenced performers Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and The Strangers and helped to spawn a style of music now known as the Bakersfield Sound.

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39.

Bob Wills, speaking or attempting to holler, appeared on a couple tracks from the first day's session but suffered a stroke overnight.

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40.

Bob Wills was honored in Episode 2 of Ken Burn's 2019 series on PBS called Country Music.

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