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October 11

Yesteryears Chart Topper II: Take Me Back to Tulsa (1941)

Back when Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys were in demand for their swing music, the songs they were producing became instant hits. One among the many crowd favorites was the Take Me Back to Tulsa. It began as a fiddle tune which Bob Wills would randomly play. Soon, lyrics were added by Tommy Duncan as co-writer. When reporters asked Bob where he got the lyrics, he said they were just words to him with no specific sense. Ironic though because the song became a huge hit for the band not only in that era but even to the following decades. It is even considered a classic nowadays. Furthermore, it has also been reported that Bob Wills’ rival for western swing, Spade Cooley, recorded his own version of the song and even sang it on one of his films.

Over the years, some lyrics were altered and updated to adapt to the cover singers’ times and life contexts. Note the following examples:

One line on the second verse states; Poor boy picks the cotton, rich man gets the money.

Originally, it was written as: Darkie picks the cotton, white man gets the money.

Other alterations were made during live performances, as well. For the same line, Bob’s brother Luke was heard saying “Little man picks the cotton, big man gets the money” in his vocal rendition.

To date, there are 15 versions of Take Me Back to Tulsa. Most notable aside from the original were made by George Jones (1962), Merle Haggard and The Strangers (1970) and Asleep at the Wheel (1973).  Later at the turn of century, Tommy Duncan who was a former partner to Bob, recorded the song again in 1996. This time with his band called Western All-Stars.

So folks, have you got a favorite yet? Meantime, dance, tap and have fun with this Western Swing Classic.


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