“San Antonio Rose” or the “New San Antonio Rose” was the signature song of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Wills wrote the song which was instrumental at first. On November 28, 1938, Bob and his Playboys recorded the track.
When bandleader Wills decided to form the Texas Playboys, he and Duncan became the ingenious heart of band. Duncan was versatile in his singing style and repertoire. Apart from that, he had a fine voice and range. He was perfect for the kind of dance music Wills performed and recorded. He sang everything from ballads and folk to pop, Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, Blues and Cowboy songs.
From “San Antonio Rose” to “New San Antonio Rose”
Duncan was a great contributor to the song “San Antonio Rose”. On April 16, 1940, the band made a brand new recording of the tune having Duncan for vocals. They added lyrics to the song and it gave the song the title “New San Antonio Rose”. The song sold three million copies of Columbia Records. Among all the recordings, Bing Crosby with Bob Crosby and the Bob Cats made the most successful on December 16, 1940. Their cover sold over a million copies and Bing Crosby received a gold disc award.
“New San Antonio Rose” was the first national hit by Bob Wills and His Playboys. The said track pushed them from their Southwestern fame to national attention. In two separate years, 1941 and 1943, their cover made it to the charts.
The song, both the music and lyrics, reflects the Bob Wills’ Mexican influence—him growing up in the Southwest. Wills developed the melody of the original “San Antonio Rose” itself from a traditional tune, “Spanish Two Step”, by playing the bridge in reverse.
On December 30, 1994, Bob and his Playboys ruffled the feathers of Southern country music moguls. This was the time when they performed “New San Antonio Rose” with horns and a drum at the Grand Ole Opry.