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Check out the interviews with artistes appearing at the Legends of Western Swing Festival



Wichita Falls, Texas 

Review By Graham Lees


As a fan of western swing music and the fact that Marlene and I planned to get married, on the 16th June, we decided that the Legends Of Western Swing Festival incorporated into a three-week tour of Texas, would make the perfect honeymoon. Contacting Chuck Woods, one of the festival's organisers, he booked Marlene and myself into the Travelodge Motel, which was the festival's base for most of the artistes appearing over the four-day event.

The western swing festival started on the afternoon of Wednesday 20th June, running through until the Saturday night, with afternoon and evening performances from midday - midnight. It was a pleasure to finally meet Chuck Woods, as we had corresponded regularly by e-mail from the very first time I had made contact with him regarding an article I was writing on western swing. Marlene and I were also introduced to a lovely lady and the perfect hostess, Mrs. Gloria Miers, whose husband Dewey was instrumental, along with Chuck in keeping the Legends Of Western Swing Festival alive over the past few years, but sadly had passed away some months before.

The town's honourable mayor Jerry Luke opened the festival...a few announcements were made and Marlene and I, plus a couple from London were introduced to the rest of the audience by Chuck, because we had come so far especially for this festival. After leaving the stage, the mayor came over to shake our hands and welcome us. During the course of the day many, many people came over to speak to us. Nothing was too much trouble for Miss Gloria (as she was fondly known by all the artistes). Gloria introduced me to many of the artistes, arranged interviews with them and did everything in her power to assist and make our stay as pleasant as possible. I have never met so many friendly and lovely people, as there were at this western swing festival.

The very best in bands were booked with a total of 13 bands doing an afternoon and evening performance, with the very popular 6-piece Ted Scanlon And The Desperados as house band for the four days and starting things off. Ted and the boys filled the air with strains of wonderful western swing music and Bob Wills classics like 'Faded Love', 'Big Balls In Cowtown' and 'New San Antonio Rose' which were to be heard many times throughout the week. Ted has had his health problem over the past couple of years, having to have brain tumour removed. Things were still not right and Ted was scheduled to go back into hospital for more investigation the week following the festival. Ted has been one of the festivals ardent supporters, with this his 12th year at the Legends Of Western Swing Festival. Ted had declined to go into hospital earlier for treatment, fundamentally so that he could take part in the festival. Now that is dedication to the music, we all wish him well and hope he soon back on the road. Ted Scanlon And Desperados gave a thrilling and varied first set including his own 'She's On Her Way Back To Texas' and a magnificent medley of Ray Price covers.

Five-piece band Jake Hooker & the Outsiders, combining twin fiddles, steel guitar, drums and bass, are one of the most exciting bands I have seen in the 40+ years that I have been listening to country music. Jake is seen as a young Johnny Bush form whom he took some of his music. Injecting renewed freshness into his set, Jake also included the Web Pierce #1 hit 'There Stands The Glass' from 1953, with the biggest reaction from the crowd coming with his stylish presentation of Ray Price's 'Crazy Arms', which was just first class. The interaction between the band members was sensational. Fiddle players Bobby Flores and Reggie Rueffer are masters of the instrument, showing their skill with a flamboyant performance of 'Orange Blossom Special'. 

One of the bigger bands playing at the festival was the eleven-piece Dave Alexander & Legends Of Western Swing, with top fiddle player Bobby Boatright and 83-year-old tenor sax player Billy Briggs (who played in Bob Wills band in the 50's) included in the band's line-up. Production numbers such as 'Canadian Sunset', 'I Don't Know Why (I Love You Like I Do)' and 'Marie' drew great interest from the audience, with showman Dave Alexander wowing the audience with his easy style.

Bill Adams and his eight-piece band were on top form and one of the top draws at the festival. Fine vocals from Bill on the likes of 'Faded Love', My Window Faces The South' and also saw a couple of nice duets with his female vocalist Susan Riley including the likes of 'Let's Have A Heart To Heart Talk'. Playing fiddle in the band was Bobby Boatright and Jimmy Young who entertained us with his Bob Wills impression, complete with cigar.

During the five days of the Legends Of Western Swing festival, Bobby Boatright was one of the hardest working musicians of the week. He would be seen playing with several of the bands including Bill Adams and In The Mood For Swing, Tom Morrell, Craig Chamber & The Time Warp Tophands and the Texas Playboys.

Although Bob Wills passed away in 1975 his band was kept alive for many years. At the encouragement of Bob Wills' wife Betty, the band continued as Leon McAuliffe and The Original Texas Playboys and finally was retired in 1986, after pianist Al Stricklin passed away. The rights to the name Bob Wills' Texas Playboys has been acquired by Tommy Allsup and Leon Rausch, so that the most noticeable band in western swing will continue to survive and keep alive the wonderful music of Bob Wills. Allsup/Rausch & Bob Wills' Texas Playboys have appeared at The Legends Of Western Swing Festival since its early development and gave us two thrilling sets on the Friday. Today's line-up sees musicians such as piano pounder Curley Hollingsworth, steel guitar player Tommy Morrell, Craig Chambers and fiddle player Bobby Boatright.

Another of the top popular bands playing on the Saturday afternoon and evening at the Legends of Western swing Festival was Tom Morrell, Craig Chambers & The Time Warp Tophands, including Bobby Boatright, Leon Chambers and Curly Hollingsworth.. Other great bands playing over the 5 days at Wichita Falls', Legends Of Western Swing Festival included Eddie McAlvain & the Mavericks with Frankie McWhorter on fiddle. A young Jeremy Watkins & Highway 6, including members of Rick Trevino's band and on keyboards Ronnie Huckaby a member of George Strait's Hole In the Wall Band since 1983. Another top band performing was Johnny Bush and The Bandoleros. In the 60s Bush played with Ray Price's band the Cherokee Cowboys, and eventually became bandleader for Willie Nelson. Johnny Bush's biggest success was with Willie Nelson's song 'Whiskey River' in 1972.

Fiddle player Jody Nix and his band The Texas Cowboys gave an excellent performance as did every band during the week. Jody's father Hoyle Nix fronted the West Texas Cowboys some years ago. While Bob Wills was recovering from a stroke in 1973, Hoyle Nix invited Bob to Big Spring to appear with him and the West Texas Cowboys at the dance they played every Saturday night. Hoyle intended that Bob just sit on the bandstand and watch them after they honored him with a formal introduction. Determined to play himself, Bob held the fiddle with his left hand and had Hoyle bow it. When Bob Wills recorded the album "For The Last Time", Nix helped record the album doing the vocals on "She's Really Gone" and "Big Ball's In Cowtown". Jody also worked on the session, taking the vocals for three selections and played drums.

The biggest band to perform at the Legends of Western Swing festival was Curtis Potter with the National Swing Band of Texas. A 21 piece band playing the sounds of the 1940s with the likes of Glen Miller's 'In The Mood'.

All too soon the Legends of Western Swing Festival was over. Five days just flew by. Thanks to Miss Gloria, Chuck Woods and everyone at the festival for making Marlene and I so very welcome. It was five days of sheer heaven!