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San Antonio Rose: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF BOB WILLS (Music in American Life) Paperback – October 1, 1986


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Paperback, October 1, 1986
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Frequently Bought Together

San Antonio Rose: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF BOB WILLS (Music in American Life) + Bob Wills: Hubbin' It + The Jazz of the Southwest: An Oral History of Western Swing
Price for all three: $68.84

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Product Details

  • Series: Music in American Life
  • Paperback: 498 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; Trade Paperback Edition edition (October 1, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 025201362X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252013621
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 6.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #774,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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"The Texas Playboys are on the air!"
Pecos Shafer
This one is a little unusual because it was written by a scholar who put a lot of effort into making it both as complete and interesting as possible.
Aubrey C. Doggett
So his music acquired the label "western swing," and its popularity went from regional to national.
Ronald Scheer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 5, 1998
Based upon the oral history and interviews with band members, family and Bob Wills himself. Covers early life and hardships, personal and professional life. His succuss and hardships are explained in footnoted and annotated fashion.
A very good insight to life in pre-war (pre-television) and post war America.
After reading, I hear the old recordings differently based upon the interview comments. I never heard the suitcase beat on the "Steel Guitar Rag" until I read the musicians description
Bob Wills life included the "first right to work" case argued before the US Supreme Court; he played at dances with Bonnie and Clyde in the audience; he owned a nightclub that was sold to Jack Ruby (assassin of Lee Harvey Oswald). Also tells the tale of how he wrote his most famous song "San Antonio Rose" by the men who were there when he did it!
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Pecos Shafer on July 23, 2005
OK. I'm a little biased. My grandfather J.W. Shafer, otherwise known as "Bub Shafer" (don't ask me why...nobody knows why), was a second cousin to Bob Wills. In this book, there's a photo of Bob standing in a cotton field near Turkey, Texas and he's got his arm around a young boy that looks about 13-years-old at the oldest. The young boy was my grandfather, and the caption beneath the photo states that Bob is posing with a relative in the cotton fields near Turkey, TX.

I didn't read this book until a few years ago, and I read it cover-to-cover. It details EVERYTHING, including a consistent barrage of extensive notes and details about the writing and progression of almost every song from concept-to-recording, and all the events surrounding anything that Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys must have done. In fact, you almost feel as though you are reading a virtual daily journal as if the author walked side-by-side and recorded the details as time progressed over many decades of Bob Wills' life. It's all documented perfectly, as most of the documentation came from bandmembers or friends or relatives...and 99% of each person's accounts were cross-checked against other sources for authenticity. Mr. Townsend definitely wanted to get the real Bob Wills rather than a comic book version pieced together by wild tales and drifting imaginations.

My favorite parts of the book deal with the intertwined perfection and imperfection of Bob and his life.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on May 31, 2005
Lovers of western swing owe a debt of gratitude to musicologist Charles Townsend, who spent many years collecting material for this wonderful biography of Bob Wills. In addition to many interviews with Bob and Betty Wills in the years (1971-73) before his death, Townsend talked at length to scores of people who worked with Wills and remembered him.

The great achievement of the book is its warm appreciation of Wills and his Texas Playboys and its evocation of a swath of 20th century social history, while standing also as a sound work of research. Each chapter is followed by pages of footnotes that cite his sources; there are 200+ photographs of Bob and the many bands, right up to the final reunion; and the book ends with a 30+ page discography, with details of every recording session from 1929-1973. The 19-page index also makes it an excellent reference book.

Townsend argues that Wills created a unique form of popular music by mixing instruments associated with both country music and jazz - strings on the one hand and drums, brass, and reeds on the other. He notes how Wills' distinctive style was a blend of frontier fiddle music, New Orleans Dixieland, and blues learned as a boy picking cotton with black field laborers. Not exactly country, and certainly not hillbilly - though he was often identified as such by recording marketers who seemed seldom to understand him - Wills often emulated the big swing bands of the 1930s and 40s. So his music acquired the label "western swing," and its popularity went from regional to national. Finally, with his best-loved hit "New San Antonio Rose" (1940) he entered the mainstream of American popular music.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 25, 1999
this is the only book to get some of the information of bob and the western swing movement. written by noted scholar and from a scholary/musico historian viewpoint. must read.
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