Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys - "San Antonio Rose"
James Robert Wills (March 6, 1905 – May 13, 1975) was an American Western swing musician, songwriter, and bandleader. Considered by music authorities as the co-founder of Western swing, he was known widely as the King of Western Swing (although Spade Cooley self-promoted the moniker "King of Western Swing" from 1942 to 1969).
Wills formed several bands and played radio stations around the South and West until he formed the Texas Playboys in 1934 with Wills on fiddle, Tommy Duncan on piano and vocals, rhythm guitarist June Whalin, tenor banjoist Johnnie Lee Wills, and Kermit Whalin, who played steel guitar and bass. The band played regularly on Tulsa, Oklahoma radio station KVOO and added Leon McAuliffe on steel guitar, pianist Al Stricklin, drummer Smokey Dacus, and a horn section that expanded the band's sound. Wills favored jazz-like arrangements and the band found national popularity into the 1940s with such hits as "Steel Guitar Rag", "New San Antonio Rose", "Smoke On The Water", "Stars And Stripes On Iwo Jima", and "New Spanish Two Step".
Wills and the Texas Playboys recorded with several publishers and companies, including Vocalion, Okeh, Columbia, and MGM, frequently moving. In 1950, he had two top 10 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.
"San Antonio Rose"/"New San Antonio Rose" was the signature song of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. "San Antonio Rose" was an instrumental song written by Bob Wills, who first recorded it with the Playboys on November 28, 1938. Band members added lyrics and it was retitled "New San Antonio Rose". A fresh recording was made on April 16, 1940 (Okeh 05694) with a vocal by Tommy Duncan.
The song opens with the refrain:
Deep within my heart lies a melody,
A song of old San Antone.
The song is written in the first person with the Rose of San Antone being the gentleman's lost love. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.
"New San Antonio Rose" was the first national hit by Bob Wills and His Playboys, propelling them from their Southwestern fame to national notice. Their version charted in 1941 and again in 1943.
The song, both the music and lyrics, reflects the Mexican influence Bob Wills found growing up in the Southwest. Wills developed the melody of the original "San Antonio Rose" itself from a traditional tune, "Spanish Two Step", by the playing the bridge in reverse.
"New San Antonio Rose" ruffled the feathers of Southern country music moguls when Wills and the Playboys performed it with horns and a drum at the Grand Ole Opry on December 30, 1944.
So today, with a little history lingering in my ears, I choose Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys’ "San Antonio Rose" as my choose you, remember the good, little synchronicities, song for a, one more, two more, step this way with me, Wednesday.