January 9

Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys in “Ida Red”

“Ida Red” is an American traditional song of unknown origins. Made famous by Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, they made a version that is upbeat in 1938. Wills’ “Ida Red” served as the primary inspiration for Chuck Berry’s first big hit “Maybellene”.

First, Fiddlin’ Powers & Family did the earliest recording of the track with vocals. Also, some say that there was an early well-known instrumental by Dykes Magic City Trio.

Just like his father and grandfather, Wills would have learned this tune in his earliest days of fiddling. As he has a reputation in parts of Texas for his talent, playing the track would be as easy.

Who or What is “Ida Red”?

Ida Red, the public figure, appears in a number of other songs only distantly related to the song “Ida Red”.

In the 1930s, Bob Wills set the old tune into a 2/4 dance beat. He wanted this to be played by his Western swing dance band, the Texas Playboys. Eventually, his 1938 recording became a hit. The song, which Wills originally recorded, made use of popular 1878 song lyrics. This was “Sunday Night” written by Frederick W. Root.

Wills and the Texas Playboys performed this arrangement in two of movies: Go West, Young Lady (1941) and Blazing the Western Trail (1945). Later, the award-winning Western swing band The Hot Club of Cowtown revived the track. They also featured it on four of their albums: Swingin’ Stampede (1998), Continental Stomp (2003; live version), Four Dead Batteries (film soundtrack, 2005), and Best of the Hot Club of Cowtown (2008).

“Ida Red Likes the Boogie”

In 1949, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys brought out a boogie-woogie version of “Ida Red” called “Ida Red Likes the Boogie”. In 1950, the boogie-woogie version spent 22 weeks on the charts peaking at the 10th spot. Numerous artists have covered “Ida Red Likes the Boogie” numerous times since.

Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff had their Bluegrass and country versions. They used the traditional humorous free floating verses but in 4/4 time instead of following the easy-going Appalachian tempo.


bob wills, ida red

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