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August 24

“Steel Guitar Rag:” A Western Swing Instrumental Recorded by Bob Wills

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An influential Western swing instrumental, “Steel Guitar Rag” is credited to making the steel guitar a popular and integral instrument in a Western band. This seminal style of music popularized by jazz performers paved the way for the use of such an instrument. Since then, the steel guitar has become an essential instrument in a Western band.

man wearing a cowboy hat
Leon McAuliffe | Photo Credits: Pinterest/UK

Penned by American Western swing guitarist Leon McAuliffe, “Steel Guitar Rag” was originally recorded by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys on September 29, 1936, in Chicago, Illinois. It is a Western swing type of music, which is a subgenre of American country music that originated in the late 1920s in the Western and Southern regions of the United States.

Some music critics and analysts say that the song somehow resembles “Guitar Rag” recorded by Sylvester Weaver in 1927. On the other hand, others claimed that it has some similarities with the popular Hawaiian song, “On the Beach at Waikiki.” Regardless, this instrumental song has been loved by many fans and other artists that they have also recorded their own versions throughout the years. One of them is Country Music Hall of Famer Jimmy Russell who recorded his own cover recently.

LISTEN to the original rendition of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys’ “Steel Guitar Rag:”

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys

Born in 1905, Bob Wills hails from Texas. He began the Wills Fiddle Boys in Fort Worth in 1929. Because of that, Pappy Lee O’Daniel (a candidate for the Texas Gubernatorial) noticed him. Lee ran the Light Crust Flour Mills in Saginaw, Texas north of Fort Worth. Instantly, Wills became famous playing as the Light Crust Doughboys. However, several years after, the band got tired of the gig because they also loaded flour trucks during the day. In 1934, Wills and the band moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, leaving Pappy Lee. There, he formed his new band renaming it to Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys.

"Steel Guitar Rag:" A Western Swing Instrumental Recorded by Bob Wills 1
Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys | Photo Credits: bobwills.com

Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys were credited and known for popularizing the Western swing country music style. Though, some of their music was dead-on jazz while others were straight western.

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bob wills, instrumental, steel guitar rag


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