Tag: Dancing

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.

 

Dancing Outlaws

Dancing! Oh yes! I love it! I put dancing throughout my Outlaw Mail Order Brides series and it’s all the real-life outlaw gunslinger Clay Allison’s fault! They say he suffered a head wound during the Civil War and it left him with a terrible temper. Maybe so. His epitaph reads that he didn’t kill anyone that didn’t need it and it is a well-known fact that he put a lot of men six feet under.

But strangely, Clay loved to dance—a lot. He owned a ranch outside of Cimarron, New Mexico and always kept a violin player on his payroll.

I first put Clay Allison in The Heart of a Texas Cowboy as Houston Legend’s drover and my editor liked him so much she wanted me to give him his own book. I thought it best to make him fictional so I changed his last name to Colby. Book #1 of Outlaw Mail Order Brides—The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride—is about Clay Colby.

Clay and some of his friends are tired of running and want to settle down so they decide to carve a town from their hideout. Next came populating it so they send for mail order brides.

Since Clay has been writing a wanted woman in hiding, Tally Shannon, he asks her to marry him so she travels to Hope’s Crossing. She agrees.

Oddly, Clay makes sure one his fellow outlaws is a fiddle player and they have a dance each night after supper, waltzing over the uneven ground under the stars. And that’s how he and Tally get acquainted. It worked.

My town has the dancing-est outlaws you ever met. It keeps ’em out of trouble. (Psst, not really)

I’ve always loved to watch dancers, but I didn’t know how until around the age of 30. I was married and three kids underfoot when I took classes at the local college for ballroom dancing. I learned the foxtrot, tango, the waltz, and then the teacher threw in the two-step.

It opened up a whole new world and I loved it. The only problem was my husband didn’t dance and had no desire at all to learn so I was forced again to sit on the sidelines.

Occasionally one of male customers would ask me, but then we stopped going to those places altogether, and sadly, I lost what I’d learned.

I still love to watch dancing couples though. And I love the show Dancing With the Stars, living vicariously through them. Sometimes, I even get out of my chair and do the steps. You’d die laughing.

Dancing has been in our culture probably since the beginning of time. The earliest proof was found in 9,000 year old cave drawings. I’m astounded.

Some of the dances had such names as the Quadrille, the Minuet, the Polka, the Waltz, and many others. Rock and Roll brought many, many more dances like the Lindy Hop, the Twist, the Jitterbug, etc. This didn’t involve a partner so I jumped right in and loved twisting and gyrating and making a fool of myself.

Tell me the first person you ever danced with and the type of dance it was. I’m giving away The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride to three people who leave a comment.