March 2005

Bebop Cowboys Happy Birthday Bob Wills
March 6, 2005Lula LoungeToronto

On Sunday evening, March 6, there was a birthday barn dance for Bob Wills, the ‘King of Western Swing’ at Lula Lounge in Toronto. If Bob hadn’t died in ’75, he’d have been 100 years old last night. But he sure lives on in the hearts of the standing-room-only crowd of 250 who grinned and hooted and carried on in the spacious rooms of Lula Lounge, while the host Western Swing band, the Bebop Cowboys, twanged and sang Bob’s music. This solid band was joined throughout the evening by a ‘busload’ of ‘hot playboys and playgals’ including: Danny Marks, Michael Kaeshammer, Tom Wilson, Chuck Jackson, Oh Susanna, Mark "Bird" Stafford, Whiskey Jack, Greg Quill, Marianne Girard, Alex Pangman, Dan Kershaw, and members of The Backstabbers, Foggy Hogtown Boys and the Creaking Tree String Quartet.

Here’s what you have to know about Bob Wills. During his over-40-year career as bandleader, fiddler, singer, and songwriter, he was to organize one of the finest stage and recording bands ever to perform country music—The Texas Playboys. By blending jazz, blues, traditional fiddling and Mexican songs into a swinging dance craze, he would originate what would come to be recognized as one of the major sub-styles in the country music tradition: Western Swing. And without Bob, there might never have been rock 'n' roll.

According to Steve Briggs, guitarist for the Bebop Cowboys, who appear Wednesdays at the Cadillac Lounge in Toronto, 3 of the 10 essential Western Swing albums are dedicated to Bob Wills: Take Me Back to Tulsa—Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys; The Best Damn Fiddle Player: A Tribute to Bob Wills—Merle Haggard; Tribute to Bob Wills (Volume 1&2) by Asleep at the Wheel.

Bob’s 1940 recording of “San Antonio Rose” made him a national figure. His band became so popular in the 40’s that they out drew the Bands of Bennie Goodman and Tommy Dorsey. His birthday is celebrated statewide in Texas, and thanks to José Ortega and Lula Lounge, there was a damn fine party for Bob in Toronto.
We welcome your comments and feedback
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Report by Stanley Fefferman
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Photographs by Roger Humbert

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