Fun with Western Swing and a Give Away

I’m so glad to be here during the Boot Scootin’ Special Week! Today I’m here to tell you that you can’t scoot those boots if you don’t have music to scoot them to, and I’m going to specifically talk about Western Swing.

What is the difference between Western Swing and good old country music?

All music evolves and changes over time as it is influenced by other musical genres and the people who play the music. Not everyone is satisfied with playing the same song the same way and look for ways to jazz it up a little. That is literally how western swing came to be.

Western swing evolved from the cowboy and country dance music played in dance halls and parties during the early part of the last century. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, classic western music played in the southern and western US states was influenced by the blues, jazz, folk, polka and eventually swing itself. The instruments started changing, too. Classic western music is played on a fiddle and or/guitar, but the western swing movement added piano, drums and, of course, the steel guitar, which gave the genre its distinctive sound.

Unlike big bands and swing bands of the same era, which tended to follow a set score, western swing bands tended to improvise, giving them a fun and unpredictable quality, but it was a quality people liked. Dancers loved western swing, which could be danced with a variety of styles. Thanks to its tempo, it was possible to do round dances, two-steps or even the jitter bug in later days. Before World War II, recording companies had a hard time coming up with a marketing name for western swing. They called it hillbilly music, old time music, and hot string music. Many of the bands that played it called it simply “western music”.

In 1933, Bob Wills organized The Texas Playboys, one of the iconic western swing bands, with two fiddles, two guitars, a banjo, drums, and of course the steel guitar, played by Leon McAuliffe. If you listen carefully to some of his songs, you can hear him call on “Leon” to play. Other western swing bands were The Fort Worth Doughboys, Brown and his Musical Brownies, Light Crust Doughboys, Spade Cooley and His Buckle-Busters and Billy Gray and His Western Okies.

In the mid-1930s Fort Worth was the center of Western Swing, but California would soon catch up. During World War II western swing reached the height of its popularity with promotors creating circuits of dance halls for the bands to travel to. Bob Wills played a dance at Venice Pier in Los Angeles attended by 15,000 people. Riverside Rancho, also in Los Angeles, had a 10,0000 square foot dance floor and hosted huge dance parties.

Western swing began to ebb in the 1950s, however the genre influenced rock and roll and rockabilly during that decade. One of Bill Haley’s early bands was known as Bill Haley and the 4 Aces of Western Swing. In the 1970s, western swing experienced a revival thanks to groups such as Asleep at the Wheel, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen and Lyle Lovett.

In case you aren’t familiar with the western swing sound, some classic western swing songs are Pistol Packin’ Mama, San Antonio Rose, Stay All Night, Stay a Little Longer and one of my favorites, which you can listen to below, Big Balls in Cowtown.

Are you a western swing fan? If so what’s a favorite western swing dance song of yours? I’ll choose two commenters to receive a $10 Amazon gift certificate.


Website | + posts

Jeannie Watt raises cattle in Montana and loves all things western. When she's not writing, Jeannie enjoys sewing, making mosaic mirrors, riding her horses and buying hay. Lots and lots of hay.

81 thoughts on “Fun with Western Swing and a Give Away”

  1. Howdy from TEXAS! I am about 60 miles SW of Fort Worth. Born and raised here. Grew up loving all the great western music styles. My first memories TV brought us were Porter Wagner and the Grand Old Opry with Minnie Pearl.

    • Hello back, Jerri Lynn! What a great place to live, especially in regards to music! I do love Minnie Pearl and the Grand Ole Opry, and watched Porter Wagner and was dazzled by his suits!

  2. Good morning. Oh I love Western swing and of course Bon Wills. I grew up on an hour outside of Ft. Worth and Music was a huge part of my family. All your favorite songs you listed are some of mine. Stay all night, stay a little longer we would all sing around our deer camp growing up. One of my favorites is Waylon Jennings “Bob Wills is Still The King”! This song gets my motor a going!
    Bob Wills Is Still the King
    Written and recorded by Waylon Jennings

    C F C
    Well the honky-tonks in Texas were my natural second home
    Where you tip your hat to the ladies and the Rose Of San Antone
    F C
    I grew up on music that we called Western Swing
    G7 C
    It don’t matter who’s in Austin Bob Wills is still the king

    F C
    Lord I can still remember the way things were back then
    In spite of all the hard times I’d live it all again
    F C
    To hear the Texas playboys and Tommy Duncan sing
    G7 C
    Makes me proud to be from Texas where Bob Wills is still the king

    F C
    You can hear the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville Tennessee
    It’s the home of country music, on that we all agree
    C F C
    But when you cross that old Red River hoss that just don’t mean a thing
    G7 C
    Cause once you’re down in Texas Bob Wills is still the king

    F C
    Well if you ain’t never been there then I guess you ain’t been told
    That you just can’t live in Texas unless you got a lot of soul
    C F C
    It’s the home of Willie Nelson the home of Western Swing
    G7 C
    He’ll be the first to tell you Bob Wills is still the king.

    Jeannie- Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    • Great blog! One of my favs is “Turn Me Loose And Let Me Sing” by Willie Nelson! Another Texan here that is from that same 70 miles or so SW of Ft. Worth like two of your other commenters, Stephenville, Texas, Cowboy Capital of the World! Swing is upbeat, toe tapping kind of music that just makes me happy and makes me smile! Loved your blog!

  3. I enjoy country music some of the older stuff. Willie Nelson is one of my favorites. Thanks for bring back these memories.

  4. Welcome today. This was fun to learn more about this type of dance/music. My mom used to sing and play on record some of this music. Us little kids would dance with her and have a grand time. Oh those were great songs/music. Thanks for the dance down memory lane

  5. I love Western Swing, and have seen Asleep at the Wheel twice.

    Among my favorite tunes is Stay All Night, Stay a Little Longer .

    • I love country and swing music.
      some of my favorites are asleep at the wheel and hot club of cowtown.
      my favorite song changes pretty often right now it is Mine and yours by jamie Lin Wilson.
      I don’t know if it is swing but she is big in Texas

  6. I love Western Swing recently when I bought my new truck it came with 3 months of free SiriusXM radio and one station my husband was hooked on was Willie’s Roadhouse and it played a good bit of Bob Wills. Bob Wills he would tickle me when he would do that “unnn ha “ if that’s even how you would spell that and since you know Bob Wills music I am sure you know I am talking about. I guess if I had to pick a favorite it would be the Stay All Night, Stay a little longer Song. Willie Nelson does a very good version of it. Another thing I liked about that SiriusXM station was that of course it was owned by Willie Nelson but my favorite thing was the DJs always gave a little history on the songs or the singers it was very informative. I love history. Thanks Jeanie Watts I enjoyed your blog today

    • We also are Willie’s Roadhouse fans, or were until we let the Sirius lapse. And I love the Bob Wills uhh ha (I have no idea how to spell it, but it makes me so happy to hear it!) I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog, Glenda.

  7. I love western swing and country music! I’ve always wanted to learn how to play a steel guitar, as that’s my favorite instrument! Still haven’t, but I’d still love to! My favorite would have to be Bob Wills Yellow Rose of Texas. Well, honestly, anything by him!

  8. Country music is my favorite for sure. Gives me great enjoyment. Thanks for this informative and fun post.

  9. Western Swing has fond memories for me. Great music blog.Music and this type is so uplifting and special.

  10. I LOVE western swing! I grew up with my grandparents playing it on their radios and my parents playing it sometimes, too. I can’t dance worth anything but I love to listen and watch the people who can dance.

  11. Charlene by Carl Perkins
    I grew up listening to country music. The music that is “county” in today’s world is not what I call country.

    • I agree!!! I now sound like my Daddy, saying “That’s not country” all the time! I grew up with Charley Pride, George Strait, George Jones. Trace Adkins I added, Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, and I love Neal McCoy, but the newer stuff, NO!!

  12. I don’t know if I’ve ever been introduced to Western swing before! I’d probably have loved it back then. I adore older country western music!

  13. What a fun post, Jeannie! My late husband got to play with Bob Wills back in the late sixties, and it was a highlight of his career! Thank you for sharing!

  14. Oh, this was fun! I like Stay All Night, Stay A Little Longer and Take Me Back To Tulsa.

    This reminds me of my Dad!

  15. Jeannie, what a great blog! Being a Texan, this brought back so many memories. Thanks for such interesting info and great memories. Hugs, Phyliss

  16. I love western swing, Jeannie. It gets into your soul and you can’t sit or stand without moving something. George Strait recorded a lot of Bob Wills songs and then some of his own western swing. It’s just amazing music and I’ve loved it since I was a little girl.

  17. When we were kids the first Friday of the month was “Round and Square Dance” night at the local Grange hall. I don’t know if some of the dancing would have been called Western Swing but the music definitely was. It was a fun night for people of all ages and there were usually a few little ones sleeping on a pile of coats in the cloak room. Thanks for the memories.

    • What a great memory, Alice. I bet a lot of people today don’t know what a Grange Hall is, but I do. I love the image of the little kids sleeping on the coats.

  18. I am not familiar with Western Swing per se. I grew up in the Northeast and don’t really know how popular it was up there. One thing that was popular was square dancing. The music is similar as are the lyrics mixed in with the calls. Thank you for the interesting post. Stay safe and healthy.

    • Thank you, Patricia. Square dancing is a lot of fun, especially when you get those people who really know what they’re doing. I loved it as a kid, both watching and dancing.

  19. I love Western Swing, I love how happy it sounds and I love to watch the couples dancing. I also love reg. country music. There’s a lot of wonderful Country bands and singers.

  20. Hi Jeannie,
    Back in 2009, my oldest sister Annette ended up in a nursing home and I was designated her POA. One day when I was at the nursing home visiting her, I met a man who was there to see his wife. His name was Blanco Gamell (I’m not sure if I spelled the last name right) and he was well into his 80’s. He started telling me about being part of Bob Wills’s entourage. I asked him what he played and he said he really didn’t play anything well, but Bob kept him on to “get rid of the rabble” and so on. From talking to him, it sounded like he was a jack of all trades with the group, and he had some wonderful stories to tell. He was there every day when I went to see Annette, and we always had some conversation–he was lonely, and boy, did he have some stories. He told me he was going to write his life story “someday” but I doubt that day ever came for him, at his age. I wish he had done it–that man had a very colorful life!

Comments are closed.