Bob Wills, born James Robert Wills, was a legendary bandleader, fiddler, singer, songwriter, and “King of Western Swing.” He began his musical career playing mandolin and fiddle and performing with Texas country string bands in the 1920s. In 1933, Wills formed the primarily traditional string band, the Playboys, which would eventually be more well-known as his Texas Playboys. Unlike other traditional country string bands, Wills added drums, amplified steel and standard guitar, and horns to create the sound that earned him the King of Western Swing title. A few of their most successful songs include “New Spanish Two-Step,” “Smoke on the Water,” “Red Likes the Boogie,” and “Faded Love.” Some of the most notable Playboys were Tommy Duncan on vocals, Leon McAuliffe on steel guitar, and Eldon Shamblin, arranger and one of the trailblazers for the electric guitar.
After a health scare, Bob Wills disbanded the Texas Playboys in 1964 but continued his solo career. In 1973, Bob Wills fell into a coma after a recording session. Wills inspired many country music and rock n roll artists, from Merle Haggard to outlaws Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1968.
Bob Wills was inducted into the West Texas Walk of Fame in 1990.