“Ah haaaa,” as Bob Wills, King of Western Swing, used to say to express his joy and pleasure from the melodic or improvised sounds coming from his sidemen. One’s gotta love that eclectic genre with its elements of pop, jazz, blues and folk. At the same time, the genre maintains a link to its traditional string band roots. Western Swing is both freewheeling and entertaining.
I still remember that day in the early-1970s when an old-time fiddler I knew introduced me (as a young college student) to the music of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Back in the 1940s, that band was very popular, and the musicians in Wills’ band were some of the finest of their era.
I first learned the song, “Miles and Miles of Texas” from Asleep at the Wheel, the Western Swing revivalist band that helped re-popularize the genre in the 1970s. Texas guitarist/singer Ray Benson and his band have been swinging ever since, and they never cease to put on a great upbeat live show.
Another contemporary Western Swing band is Dave Alexander and his Big Texas Swing Band. Alexander has also been at it for quite awhile, and he’s garnered such awards as induction into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame, as well as both Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year Awards from the Academy of Western Artists. He’s performed with some big names in country music, and he often invites former members of the Texas Playboys to join him in his shows. As a former member of the Texas Playboys himself, four-time Grammy nominee Dave Alexander is on a mission to perpetuate the Western Swing sound and to acquaint people with an important and exciting aspect of our American musical heritage.