Waylon Jennings might have said it best: “Bob Wills is still the King.” The song of that name closed Jennings’ 1975 album Dreaming My Dreams, which was released just one month after the death of the King of Western Swing at age 70. Waylon’s ode to Bob Wills was revived three decades later by The Rolling Stones, and the sentiment still held true. Now, Real Gone Music is celebrating Record Store Day 2014 – that’s Saturday, April 19 – with a slice of ultra-rare, vintage Americana that you’ve never heard before.
The Second Disc is exclusively breaking the news that the California label will commemorate the legacy of the Texas icon with the limited edition vinyl release of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys – Transcriptions. The ten tracks on this 1,500-unit collectible have never appeared anywhere in any format before, and four of the songs will remain exclusive to this Record Store Day release.
By 1946, Bob Wills and his band The Texas Playboys were already the stuff of legend. The bandleader, songwriter and fiddle player extraordinaire had popularized “Western swing” with his dance band melding traditional country-and-western guitar, fiddle and banjo sounds with steel guitar, drums, piano, horns and reeds. 1940’s “New San Antonio Rose,” written by Wills, propelled the band to widespread fame, and Bing Crosby’s recording sold over one million copies. Wills and the Playboys even travelled to Hollywood to star in films like Take Me Back to Oklahoma opposite singing cowboy Tex Ritter, and raised a ruckus by bringing horns and drums into the hallowed hall of the Grand Ole Opry. In 1946 and 1947, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys recorded almost 400 full songs for Tiffany Music, Inc., a body of work that came to be known simply as “the Tiffany Transcriptions.” These incendiary recordings were distributed only to radio stations on 16-inch transcription discs, intended for airplay as part of a syndicated radio program featuring Wills and his band including vocalist Tommy Duncan. When Tiffany folded at the end of the decade, however, the company left over 200 songs consigned to the vaults…until now.
Hit the jump for complete details on this exciting new find!
Over the years, fans and historians didn’t forget Wills’ “Tiffany Transcriptions.” Recorded on Mondays in between tour stops, these recordings consisted of largely on-the-spot arrangements of a wide variety of material from familiar Wills hits to standards, ballads, blues and swing instrumentals. In addition, the 16-inch, 33 1/3 rpm recording format allowed some of the songs to be longer than the standard, three-minute limitation of the era’s typical 10-inch, 78 rpm commercial records.
After decades as collectors-only items, Kaleidoscope Records released a number of vinyl volumes based on the Tiffany Transcriptions in the early 1980s. In the 1990s, Kaleidoscope and Rhino brought some of the tracks to CD. To date, though, less than half of the songs recorded by Wills and the Playboys have seen the light of day since the original transcription pressings. Now, for the first time in over 65 years, Real Gone Music is issuing ten never-before-released sides – yes, these tracks were never even pressed on transcription discs!
They’ll be housed inside a replica package designed after the actual mailers in which Tiffany discs were sent to radio stations in the 1940s – with “pre-distressed” trompe l’oeil wrinkles and wear on the record jacket and a cutaway hole in front showing the vintage Tiffany logo on the vinyl label, which continues the Tiffany numbering system of assigning a record number to each side. Furthering this tremendous attention to detail, the back cover also presents vintage graphics from the period, and the records are pressed in the style of some of the original discs on 150-gram red vinyl. Tracks include such songs as Cole Porter’s “Don’t Fence Me In” and Johnny Mercer’s “I’m an Old Cowhand.”
Bob Fisher has newly remastered all of these tracks from recently-discovered tapes, with Real Gone indicating the intent to “preserve their rough and ready vibrancy while eliminating excess background surface noise.” But this Bob Wills treasure trove is too significant a find to languish simply on one vinyl release. The week following RSD, Real Gone will issue the 2-CD set Riding Your Way: The Lost Transcriptions for Tiffany Music 1946-1947 unearthing more of these truly “real gone” treasures from the legendary Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. Six tracks will be reprised on the CD release; the remaining four tracks on the RSD vinyl will not.
This limited edition of 1,500 units should perk up the ears of fans of country, jazz, big band and the Great American Songbook. It will be available at all of the finer independent record shops on Saturday, April 19, 2014. You can check out the track listing below, and watch this space for more information on the upcoming Riding Your Way collection!
Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Transcriptions (Real Gone Music, 2014)
Side One (Record 53)
- I’m an Old Cowhand
- Long Eared Mule (*)
- Put Another Chair at the Table
- I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes
- Don’t Fence Me In
Side Two (Record 54)
- Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Age
- Black and Blue Rag (*)
- Have I Stayed Away Too Long
- Moonlight on the Ganges (*)
- What is Life Without Love (*)
(*) denotes tracks exclusive to this release