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Jones Place on the Osage Highlands
Page 11

Bob Wills
Bob Wills

"Would I like to go to Tulsa, you bet your boots I would. Just let me off at Archer, and I'll walk down to Greenwood. Take me back to Tulsa, I'm too young to marry." ('Take Me Back To Tulsa' by Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan)

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  This was the motto. Following the thought Bob Will's band would set up on the front porch. All the furniture was carried out and an evening of merriment was promised.

In the 1930s, America was immersed in the great economic Depression, but it was also experiencing a technological and cultural explosion. The motorized transportation and the new electronic media would forever change the world. And yet, from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean, we were still a developing, open, agricultural wild land. The music that had been carried through the folk tradition continued to be handed down through the families that had worked the land, the families who'd faced dust storms and other hindrances to their hard work west of the Mississippi. But music was reaching those folks with the help of new technology, too. Radio changed things. It created national celebrities, musicians who took folk tunes and dressed them up, giving them class and widespread acceptance. The strong identities with the common man and his work stayed in the music, but a new sound was creeping into it, with more structured arrangements and melodies to dance to. Cowboy music.

Today the door to the Old Jones Place swings open to only the prairie wind, but in 1930's things were sure different. The oil executives from Conoco oil parked in long rows on both side of the long drive and it was the one time a car was allowed on the meadow.

Lee had a gift for making elderberry wine and on this night the sweet drink flowed freely. The spigot on the barrel in the cellar was opened again and again to fill pitchers  placed out for folks to fill their glasses. Some of the more genteel ladies were heard to say, "I didn't know that wine had such a "kick."

'Bob was a stylish, western rogue,' says Ray Benson, leader of Asleep At The Wheel, Western Swinging Bob Wills disciples for the past quarter century. 'He danced on-stage, he was outrageous. He strutted like a peacock, unheard of back in those days.'

His was a tight little fiddle band. The most important qualifications for Texas Playboys were that they be good musicians and good people. They had to get along with the others and with the audience, it was that simple.

The completion of the Bob Wills sound meant having a vocalist who was more crooner than cowpoke, but with a definite western touch. Tommy Duncan's relaxed, smooth voice was as appealing as Bing Crosby's, just more suited for a fiddle band.  When it was mixed with Bob's cheerleading interjections, there was a magical combination.

I can still see the man, calling out "Ah Hah,"  in response to the lyrics of Tommy Duncan. We children wanted to worry the musicians with our adulation. However they were more like friendly fatherly men who would wink at us as they went on with the playing of their instrument. These were the good times, and there was no depression for us.

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