Bob Wills

Active - 1940 - 1976  |   Born - Mar 6, 1906   |   Died - May 13, 1975   |   Genres - Western, Action, Music, Comedy, Drama

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Biography by Hans J. Wollstein

"The King of Western Swing," Bob Wills became but one of the many hillbilly and country & western recording artists to be corralled by B-Western producers who counted on the genre's popularity in the South and Midwest. Accompanied by his band, the Texas Playboys, Wills found his way into Take Me Back to Oklahoma (1940), a Tex Ritter oater which, when premiering in the band's home base of Tulsa, was advertised as starring Bob Wills & his Texas Playboys, "with Tex Ritter." More propitious than this weak Ritter entry was a series of Columbia Westerns starring former Hopalong Cassidy juvenile Russell Hayden. Although rather neglected by the powers that be, the little sagebrush thrillers have stood the test of time rather well and are a great deal more enjoyable today than some of their more high-profile competitors. And unlike most of his colleagues, Wills did more than merely perform his best-selling songs. In one memorable sequence in A Tornado in the Saddle (1942), for example, the bandleader engaged in a wild donnybrook with leading man Hayden, and although he was most likely doubled by Ted Mapes in part of the fight -- which came complete with Columbia's bruising sound effects -- Wills more than held his own in the close-ups. When his contract with Columbia ended in 1944, Wills concentrated on live performances and his recording career.

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