In 1950, he had two top ten hits, "Ida Red Likes the Boogie" and "Faded Love", which were his last hits for a decade. Throughout the 1950s, he struggled with poor health and tenuous finances, but continued to perform frequently despite the decline in popularity of his earlier music as rock and roll took over. Wills had a heart attack in 1962 and a second one the next year, which forced him to disband the Playboys although Wills continued to perform solo. The Country Music Hall of Fame inducted Wills in 1968 and the Texas State Legislature honored him for his contribution to American music. In 1972, Wills accepted a citation from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in Nashville. He was recording an album with fan Merle Haggard in 1973 when a stroke left him comatose until his death in 1975.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Wills and the Texas Playboys in 1999. He was born near Kosse, Texas; his father was a fiddle player who along with his grandfather, taught the young Wills to play the fiddle and the mandolin. After several years of drifting, "Jim Rob," then in his 20s, attended barber school, got married, and moved first to Roy, New Mexico then to Turkey, Texas (now considered his home town) to be a barber. He alternated barbering and fiddling even when he moved to Fort Worth to pursue a career in music. It was there that while performing in a medicine show, where he learned comic timing and some of the famous "patter" he later delivered on his records, the show's owner gave him the nickname "Bob." In Fort Worth, Wills met Herman Arnspinger and formed The Wills Fiddle Band.
In 1930 Milton Brown joined the group as lead vocalist and brought a sense of innovation and experimentation to the band, now called the Light Crust Doughboys due to radio sponsorship by the makers of Light Crust Flour. Brown left the band in 1932 to form the Musical Brownies, the first true Western swing band. Brown added twin fiddles, tenor banjo and slap bass, pointing the music in the direction of swing, which they played on local radio and at dancehalls. Wills remained with the Doughboys and replaced Brown with new singer Tommy Duncan in 1932. He found himself unnable to get along with future Texas Governor W.
Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel, the authoritarian host of the Light Crust Doughboy radio show. O'Daniel had parlayed the show's popularity into growing power within Light Crust Flour's parent company, Burrus Mill and Elevator Company and wound up as General Manager, though he despised what he considered "hillbilly music." Wills and Duncan left the Doughboys in 1933 after Wills had missed one show too many due to his sporadic drinking. After forming a new band, "The Playboys" and relocating to Waco, Wills found enough popularity there to decide on a bigger market. They left Waco in January of 1934 for Oklahoma City. Wills soon settled the renamed "Texas Playboys" in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and began broadcasting noontime shows over the 50,000 watt KVOO radio station.
Their 12:30-1:15 Monday-Friday broadcasts became a veritable institution in the region. Nearly all of the daily (except Sunday) shows originated from the stage of Cain's Ballroom. In addition, they played dances in the evenings, including regular ones at the ballroom on Thursdays and Saturdays. By 1935 Wills had added horn, reed players and drums to the Playboys.
The addition of steel guitar whiz Leon McAuliffe in March, 1935 added not only a formidable instrumentalist but a second engaging vocalist. Wills himself largely sang blues and sentimental ballads. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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