Fiddler Bob Wills dies

May 13th, 1975

On this day in 1975, Texas swing musician James Robert (Bob) Wills died. He was born in 1905, near Kosse, Limestone County, Texas. In 1913 his family moved to Hall County, where Wills learned to play the fiddle; in 1915 he played at his first dance. He played for ranch dances in West Texas for the next fourteen years, and his life and career were greatly influenced by that environment. During that time he brought together two streams of American folk music to produce western swing. He had learned frontier fiddle music from his father and grandfather, and blues from black playmates and coworkers in the cottonfields of East and West Texas. In 1929 Wills moved to Fort Worth, where he performed on several radio stations, organized a band that became the Light Crust Doughboys, and worked for a future governor of Texas and United States senator, W. Lee O'Daniel. In 1934 Wills moved to Oklahoma, where he made radio and musical history with his broadcasts over Station KVOO. During his years in Tulsa (1934-43) he and his new group, the Texas Playboys, continued to develop the swinging western sound he had pioneered in West Texas, and his recording of his composition "New San Antonio Rose" (1940) made him a national figure in popular music. By the time of his death in 1975, he had received numerous honors, including a Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

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Fiddler Bob Wills dies

May 13th, 1975

On this day in 1975, Texas swing musician James Robert (Bob) Wills died. He was born in 1905, near Kosse, Limestone County, Texas. In 1913 his family moved to Hall County, where Wills learned to play the fiddle; in 1915 he played at his first dance. He played for ranch dances in West Texas for the next fourteen years, and his life and career were greatly influenced by that environment. During that time he brought together two streams of American folk music to produce western swing. He had learned frontier fiddle music from his father and grandfather, and blues from black playmates and coworkers in the cottonfields of East and West Texas. In 1929 Wills moved to Fort Worth, where he performed on several radio stations, organized a band that became the Light Crust Doughboys, and worked for a future governor of Texas and United States senator, W. Lee O'Daniel. In 1934 Wills moved to Oklahoma, where he made radio and musical history with his broadcasts over Station KVOO. During his years in Tulsa (1934-43) he and his new group, the Texas Playboys, continued to develop the swinging western sound he had pioneered in West Texas, and his recording of his composition "New San Antonio Rose" (1940) made him a national figure in popular music. By the time of his death in 1975, he had received numerous honors, including a Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

«   Previous Next   »

Related Handbook of Texas Articles

Share this article

Share the Texas Day by Day

Get a Piece of Texas History in Your Inbox

With more than 27,000 articles about Texas history, the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas is the largest online encyclopedia about all things Texas. Now you can celebrate the history of Texas every day by activating your free subscription to Texas Day by Day. Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles. It's one of the best ways to learn more about Texas history — in only 15 minutes a day!

Activate your free subscription to Texas Day by Day and you can:

  • Explore Texas history each day in bite-sized pieces conveniently delivered to your inbox each morning
  • Astound your friends with your Texas history prowess
  • Get in-depth looks at some of the overlooked events and landmarks in Texas history
  • Discover new places to explore in the Lone Star State
Get your Texas Day by Day delivered straight to your inbox: