|Cultural origins||1920s and 1930s; small towns in the US Southwest|
|Typical instruments||guitar • piano • drums • vocals • fiddle • banjo • double bass • steel guitar • mandolin|
rock and roll
Western swing music is a subgenre of American country music that originated in the late 1920s in the West and South among the region's Western string bands. It is dance music, often with an up-tempo beat, which attracted huge crowds to dance halls and clubs in Texas, Oklahoma and California during the 1930s and 40s until a federal war-time nightclub tax in 1944 led to its decline.
The movement was an outgrowth of jazz, and similarities with Gypsy jazz are often noted. The music is an amalgamation of rural, cowboy, polka, folk, Dixieland jazz and blues blended with swing; and played by a hot string band often augmented with drums, saxophones, pianos and, notably, the steel guitar. The electrically amplified stringed instruments, especially the steel guitar, give the music a distinctive sound. Later incarnations have also included overtones of bebop.
Western swing differs in several ways from the music played by the nationally popular horn-driven big swing bands of the same era. In Western bands—even the fully orchestrated bands—vocals and other instruments followed the fiddle's lead. Additionally, although popular horn bands tended to arrange and score their music, most Western bands improvised freely, either by soloists or collectively.
Prominent groups during the peak of Western swing's popularity included The Light Crust Doughboys, Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies, and Spade Cooley and His Orchestra. Contemporary groups include Asleep at the Wheel and The Hot Club of Cowtown.
According to legendary guitarist Merle Travis, "Western swing is nothing more than a group of talented country boys, unschooled in music, but playing the music they feel, beating a solid two-four rhythm to the harmonies that buzz around their brains. When it escapes in all its musical glory, my friend, you have Western swing."
Origin of the name
Western swing in its beginnings was just dance music. The term swing, meaning big band dance music, wasn't used until after the 1932 hit "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)". Recording companies came up with several names before World War II trying to market it—hillbilly, old-time music, novelty hot dance, hot string band, and even Texas swing for music coming out of Texas and Louisiana. Most of the big Western dance bandleaders simply referred to themselves as Western bands and their music as Western dance music, many adamantly refusing the hillbilly label.
Bob Wills and others believed the term Western swing was used for his music while he and his band were still in Tulsa, Oklahoma between 1939 and 1942. The Los Angeles-area Wilmington Press carried ads for an unidentified "Western Swing Orchestra" at a local nightspot in April 1942. That winter, influential LA-area jazz and swing disc jockey Al Jarvis held a radio contest for top popular band leaders. The winner would be named "the King of Swing". When Spade Cooley unexpectedly received the most votes, besting Benny Goodman and Harry James, Jarvis declared Cooley to be the King of Western Swing. The Billboard, on the other hand, reported in its January 29, 1944 issue that Jarvis held the contest and Cooley came in fourth in the orchestra section, behind Sammy Kaye, Freddie Martin, and Jimmy Dorsey.
About 1942, Cooley's promoter, Foreman Phillips, began using "Western swing" to advertise his client. The first known use of the term Western swing in a national periodical was the June 10, 1944 issue of The Billboard: "...what with the trend to Western music in this section, Cooley's Western swing band is a natural. ... Music is not the true Western type... Dancers can foxtrot or do a slow jitter to it." A more widely known "first use" was a 1944 Billboard item mentioning a forthcoming songbook by Cooley titled Western Swing. This, however was preceded by this item on page 11 of the May 6, 1944 Billboard. "Spade Cooley, who moved in with his Western swing boys several months ago, has released the Breakfast Club. Cooley moved up from Foreman Phillip County barn dances at Venice, Calif., ballroom, where he was featured for 74 weeks."
After that, the music was known as Western swing.
Late 1920s to mid-30s: Beginnings
Western swing began in the dance halls of small towns throughout the lower Great Plains in the late 1920s and early 30s, growing from house parties and ranch dances where fiddlers and guitarists played for dancers. During its early development, scores of groups from San Antonio to Shreveport to Oklahoma City played different songs with the same basic sound. Prince Albert Hunt's Texas Ramblers out of Terrell in East Texas, and the East Texas Serenaders in Lindale, Texas, both added jazz elements to traditional music in the later half of the 1920s through the early 30s. Fred "Papa" Calhoun recalled that around 1930, he played in a band in Decatur, Texas that played "a lot of swing stuff like the Louisiana Five was playing back in those days. We also liked Red Nichols and Bix Beiderbecke."
After ending his pioneering partnership with Vernon Dalhart, country music trailblazer Carson Robison formed "Carson Robison's Madcaps", a "hot jazz" band with a decidedly country sound. Their recording of "Nonsense" (Edison Lateral 14085) in September 1929 was an uptempo and frantic number that would be a pioneering effort of the sound that was to be known as western swing. It featured instrumentation that was common with dance bands of the time, such as reed and brass instruments, but also several elements that gave it some "Western" flair, such as a banjo being prominently "finger picked" rather than strummed (the standard role for the banjo in jazz of that time), a lush fiddle sound, and drums played prominently with a strong and syncopated beat.
In the early 1930s, Bob Wills and Milton Brown co-founded the string band that became the Light Crust Doughboys, the first professional band in this genre. The group, with Fred "Papa" Calhoun on piano, played dance halls and was heard on radio. Photographs of the Light Crust Doughboys taken as early as 1931 show two guitars along with fiddle player Wills.
On February 9, 1932, Milton Brown, his brother Durwood, Bob Wills, and C.G. "Sleepy" Johnson were recorded by Victor Records at the Jefferson Hotel in Dallas, Texas under the name, The Fort Worth Doughboys. Brown played guitar and Johnson played tenor guitar. Both "Sunbonnet Sue" and "Nancy Jane" were recorded that day. The record was released by Victor (23653), Blue Bird (5257), Montgomery Ward (4416 & 4757), and (Canadian) Sunrise (3340). Montgomery Ward credited "Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies".
When Milton Brown left the Doughboys later in 1932, he took his brother Durwood to play rhythm guitar in what would be called the Musical Brownies. In January 1933, fiddler Cecil Brower, playing harmony, joined Jesse Ashlock to create the first example of harmonizing twin fiddles. Brower, a classically trained violinist, was the first to master Joe Venuti's double shuffle and his improvisational style was a major contribution to the genre. Photos from 1933 show three guitar players in the Doughboys.
In October 1933, Wills was fired and a new group of Doughboys went to Chicago for a recording session with Vocalion (later Columbia) Records. The years between 1935 and World War II were the most successful for the group. By 1937, some of the best musicians in the history of Western swing had joined the band. Kenneth Pitts and Clifford Gross played fiddles; and in 1939, Brower joined the Doughboys, replacing Buck Buchanan as fiddler in the string section but playing lead (Buchanan had played harmony).
In late 1933, Wills organized the Texas Playboys in Waco, Texas. Recording rosters show that beginning in September 1935, Wills utilized two fiddles, two guitars, and Leon McAuliffe playing steel guitar, banjo, drums and other instruments during recording sessions.
The amplified stringed instruments, especially the steel guitar, gave the music its distinctive sound. As early as 1934 or 1935 Bob Dunn electrified a Martin O-series acoustic guitar while playing with Milton Brown's Brownies. According to Jimmy Thomason, "It happened when Dunn was working at Coney Island in New York...he ran into this black guy who was playing a steel guitar with a homemade pickup attached to it...hooked up to this old radio or something and was playing blues licks...and he got this guy to show him how he was doing it. I never knew this black musician's name but both Bob and Avis talked to me about him often."
In 1935, Brown and His Musical Brownies recorded W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" (Decca 5070) using a shortened arrangement of what they played at dances at the Crystal Palace outside Fort Worth, Texas. In the dance hall arrangement, the band would play at slow-drag tempo for as long as 15 minutes with an accompanying vocal. The tempo would then increase to presto for the final choruses. The crowds of dancers loved the arrangement and eagerly anticipated the change in tempo. Waltzes and ballads were interspersed among faster songs if the dancers, who would dance two-step or round dances, became tired after faster numbers.
A documented instance of a Western swing group adopting the newer, by then mainstream 4/4 meter swing jazz style, replacing the 2/4 style, was when producer Art Satherley required it at a September 1936 Light Crust Doughboy recording session.
1938 session rosters for Wills recordings show both "lead guitar" and "electric guitar" in addition to guitar and steel guitar. The "front line" of Wills' orchestra consisted of either fiddles or guitars after 1944. That helped the style gain a much wider following through the music of Wills and his Playboys in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Brown and the Light Crust Doughboys in Fort Worth.
Wills recalled the early days of Western swing music in a 1949 interview. "Here's the way I figure it," he said. "We sure not tryin' to take credit for swingin' it." Speaking of Milton Brown and himself—working with popular songs done by Jimmie Davis, the Skillet Lickers, Jimmie Rodgers, songs he'd learned from his father and others—Wills said that "We'd...pull these tunes down an set 'em in a dance category. ...They wouldn't be a runaway...and just lay a real beat behind it an' the people would began to really like it. ...It was nobody intended to start anything in the world. We was just tryin' to find enough tunes to keep 'em dancin' to not have to repeat so much."
By the mid-1930s, Fort Worth was a hub for Western swing. The Crystal Springs Dance Pavilion was at the center, and it prospered as a country music venue until the 1950s. An estimated 1,800 persons attended a New Year's Eve Dance there in 1955.
Late 1930s to mid-40s: Height of popularity
Western swing was extremely popular throughout the West in the years before World War II and blossomed on the West Coast during the war. In the 1940s, the Light Crust Doughboys' broadcasts went out over 170 radio stations in the South and Southwest, and were heard by millions of listeners. From 1934 to 1943, Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys played nightly at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa, reaching crowds as large as 6,000 people. The 50,000-watt KVOO-AM radio station broadcast daily programs. Regular shows continued until 1958 with Johnnie Lee Wills as the bandleader. Doyle Brink and his Texas Swingsters out of Waco, Texas also played on the road for almost 50 years.
Burt (or Bert) "Foreman" Phillips developed a circuit of dance halls and bands to play for them. Among these halls in 1942 were the Los Angeles County Barn Dance at the Venice Pier Ballroom, the Town Hall Ballroom in Compton, the Plantation in Culver City, the Baldwin Park Ballroom, and the Riverside Rancho. These Western dances were a huge success. According to Hank Penny, Phillips had said, "I don't want any of that Western Swing!" But that's what he got, and it got him huge eclectic crowds. Writer Gerald Vaughn wrote that "a Dance band hopes to make people move, not stand and listen, so the emphasis has to be on beat, rhythm, syncopation."
One of the groups which played at the Venice Pier Ballroom was led by Jimmy Wakely with Spade Cooley, his successor as bandleader, on fiddle. Several thousand dancers would turn out on Saturday night to swing and hop. "The hordes of people and jitterbuggers loved him." When Bob Wills played the Los Angeles Country Barn Dance at the Venice Pier for three nights shortly before he broke up his band to join the U.S. Army during World War II, the attendance was above 15,000. Fearing that the dance floor would collapse, police stopped ticket sales at 11 p.m. The line outside at that time was ten deep and stretched into Venice. Another source states that Wills attracted 8,600 fans.
Riverside Rancho, operated by Marty Landau, had a 10,000-square-foot (930 m2) dance floor, three bars and a restaurant. According to Merle Travis, "At that time "Western swing" was a household word. Al Dexter had had a million-seller on his "Pistol Packin' Mama" record. Bob Wills was heard on every jukebox with this "San Antonio Rose". T. Texas Tyler was doing well with his "Remember Me (When the Candlelights are Gleaming)". It was practically impossible to wedge your way into the Palace Barn where Red Murrell and his band were playing. A mile down the hill was the Riverside Rancho. You were lucky to find a ticket on a Wednesday night. Tex Williams and his Western Caravan were playing there."
Other LA "country nightclubs", that is, places that weren't "dives" (and there were many), included The Painted Post ("Where the sidewalk ends and the West begins"), Willow Lake, Cowtown, Valley Ballroom, Cowshed Club, Dick Ross's Ballroom, and Dave Ming's 97th Street Corral. In 1950, Hank Penny and Armand Gautier opened the Palomino in North Hollywood, "one of country music's most fabled venues, the commercial and social focal point of Hollywood's country set." "Western jazz" brought it its initial popularity.
According to one report, crowds of ten thousand people were not uncommon at Western swing dances in the Los Angeles area. Another eyewitness report described the California crowds as "huge." Western swing bandleader Hank Thompson, who was stationed in San Pedro during World War II, said that it was not uncommon to see "ten thousand people at the pier," referring to Redondo Beach.
Fred "Poppa" Calhoun, piano player for Milton Brown, vividly remembered how people in Texas and Oklahoma danced when Bob Wills played. "They were pretty simple couples dances, two steps and the Lindy Hop with a few Western twirls added for good measure. By 1937 the jitterbug hit big in the West and allowed much greater freedom of movement. But the jitterbug was different in the West. It wasn't all out boogie woogie; it was 'swingier'—more smooth and subdued."
Another orchestra from the era was The Deuce Spriggins Orchestra, which played nightly at the Western Palisades Ballroom on the Santa Monica Pier, then known as the largest ballroom on the West Coast. The music was broadcast as a radio show, The Cavalcade of Western Music, on KFI-AM. The group also appeared on the U.S. military's Melody Roundup radio program during the war.
In the 1940s, many "jukebox" short film features featuring prominent bands (Wills, Cooley and others) were produced by several small companies, usually based on simple Western movie plots.
1944: Nightclub tax
In 1944, with the United States' continuing involvement in World War II, a 30 percent federal excise tax was levied against "dancing" nightclubs. Although the tax was later reduced to 20 percent, "No Dancing Allowed" signs went up across the country. Jazz drummer Max Roach argued that, "This tax is the real story why dancing...public dancing per se...were just out." Club owners and promoters couldn't afford the combined city, state government taxes. The decline of Western swing in the years following the war also reflected the waning of the more mainstream big band sound.
Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys remained popular after the war, and could not provide enough new recordings to fill demand. In 1947 Columbia reissued 70 older Wills recordings. In January 1953 Billboard reported that band leader Spade Cooley played to 192,000 payees over 52 Saturday night dates at the Santa Monica Ballroom, grossing $220,000.
In 1955 Decca Records, in what Billboard called "an ambitious project", issued seven albums of "country dance music" featuring "swingy arrangements of your customers 'c&w' dance favorites". Milton Brown and His Brownies, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Spade Cooley and His Buckle-Busters, Adolph Hofner and His San Antonians, Tex Williams and His String Band, Grady Martin and His Winging Strings, and Billy Gray and His Western Okies all had their own albums. In November, Billboard reported that Decca was rushing out three more albums in the series, albeit with less of a Western swing flavor.
Western swing influenced genres known as honky-tonk, rockabilly, and country rock, popularizing the following in country music: use of electrically amplified instruments, use of drums to reinforce a strong backbeat, expanded instrumentation, a honky tonk beat of a heavy backbeat superimposed onto a polka or waltz beat, and jazz/blues solo styles.
Moon Mullican, who had performed with Western swing bands, later found more success as a solo artist and his 1940s and 50s hits often were done with a more Western swing than pure country feel.
Western swing was one of the many subgenres to influence rockabilly and rock and roll. Bill Haley's music from the late 1940s and early 50s is often referred to as Western swing, and his band from 1948 to 1949 was named Bill Haley and The 4 Aces of Western Swing.
Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Asleep at the Wheel helped make Austin, Texas a major center of Western swing beginning in the 1970s. The annual South by Southwest music festival and the Austin City Limits PBS television series have contributed to this success. Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen were also key players in this revitalization. Western Swing Monthly, based in Austin, is a newsletter for musicians and fans.
- Western music
- Swing music
- Western swing fiddle
- List of Western swing and swing (big band) musicians
- Category:Western swing musical groups
- Category:Western swing performers
- Boyd, Jean Ann. Jazz of the Southwest: An Oral History of Western Swing. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0-292-70859-4
- Boyd, Jean A. "Western Swing: Working-Class Southwestern Jazz of the 1930s and 1940s". Perspectives on American Music, 1900-1950 (ch. 7, pp. 193–214), edited by Michael Saffle. Routledge, 2000. ISBN 978-0-8153-2145-3
- Brink, Pamela H. "Western Swing". Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, David J. Wishart (ed.), p. 550. University of Nebraska Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-8032-4787-1
- Carney, George O. "Country Music". Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, David J. Wishart (ed.), pp. 535–537. University of Nebraska Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-8032-4787-1
- Coffey, Kevin. Merl Lindsay and his Oklahoma Nite Riders; 1946-1952. (Krazy Kat KKCD 33, 2004) booklet.
- Ginell, Cary. Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1994. ISBN 978-0-252-02041-4
- Ginell, Cary; Kevin Coffey. Discography of Western Swing and Hot String Bands, 1928-1942. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-313-31116-1
- Kienzle, Rich. Southwest Shuffle: Pioneers of Honky Tonk, Western Swing, and Country Jazz. New York: Routledge, 2003. ISBN 978-0-415-94102-0
- Komorowski, Adam. Spade Cooley: Swingin' The Devil's Dream. (Proper PVCD 127, 2003) booklet.
- Lange, Jeffrey J.Smile When You Call Me a Hillbilly: Country Music's Struggle for Respectability, 1939-1954. ISBN 978-0-8203-2623-8
- Logsdon, Guy. "The Cowboy's Bawdy Music". The Cowboy: Six-Shooters, Songs, and Sex (pp. 127–138) edited by Charles W. Harris and Buck Rainey. University of Oklahoma Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-8061-1341-8
- Logsdon, Guy. "Folk Songs". Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, David J. Wishart (ed.), pp. 298–299. University of Nebraska Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-8032-4787-1
- Malone, Bill C.; Judith McCulloh (eds.) Stars of Country Music: Uncle Dave Macon to Johnny Rodriguez. University of Illinois Press, 1975. ISBN 978-0-252-00527-5
- Marble, Manning; John McMillian; Nishani Frazier (eds.). Freedom on My Mind: The Columbia Documentary History of the African American Experience. Columbia University Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0-231-10890-4
- Price, Michael H. "Jazz Guitar and Western Swing". pp. 81–88 The Guitar in Jazz: An Anthology, James Sallis (ed.). University of Nebraska Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0-8032-4250-0
- Saffle, Michael (2000), Perspectives on American Music, 1900-1950, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 978-0-8153-2145-3.
- Townsend, Charles. San Antonio Rose: The Life and Music of Bob wills. University of Illinois Press, 1986. ISBN 978-0-252-01362-1
- Wetlock, E. Clyde; Richard Drake Saunders (eds.). Music and dance in Texas, Oklahoma, and the Southwest. Hollywood, CA: Bureau of Musical Research, 1950.
- Wills, Bob. 1949 interview from Honky Tonks, Hymns and the Blues. Part 2: "Raising the Roof", first broadcast by NPR July–September 2003. Written by Kathie Farnell, Margaret Moos Pick, Steve Rathe.
- Wolff, Kurt; Orla Duane. Country Music: The Rough Guide. Rough Guides, 2000. ISBN 978-1-85828-534-4
- Zolten, Jerry. Western Swingtime Music: A Cool Breeze in the American Desert. Sing Out! The Folk Song Magazine. Volume 23/Number 2, 1974.
- Brink, Western Swing, p. 550: "In many ways, western swing music is a manifestation of the cultural forces that came together where the geographical isolation and harsh living conditions of the frontier met the electronic age. People still living in dugouts and sod houses on the Southern High Plains became a part of popular culture through the radio and the jukebox, mingling their musical talents and tastes with the new sounds introduced to them through the accessibility of phonographs and the airwaves."
- Logsdon, "Folk Songs", p. 299: "In the 1920s Bob Wills, a fiddle player son of a cotton farmer in West Texas, started playing ranch-house dances. His desire to play dances eventually developed a dance genre known as western swing. While the music has elements of jazz and blues, it actually evolved from the specific merger of cowboy and farmer folk song and instrumentation."
- Townsend, San Antonio Rose, p. 38: "According to Leon McAuliffe, one of the musicians who later helped Jim Rob pioneer western swing, this emphasis on music for dancing was the principal reason Wills's music was so different from music in the East that also had rural and folk roots: 'The basic difference in country and western music, if there is any way of defining it, is that west of the Mississippi River when we played, we played for dancing. East of the Mississippi they played a show, or they played in a schoolhouse, just for people to sit and listen, visual or audible entertainment and not for dancing'."
- Malone, Stars of Country Music, p. 170: "Wills knew dance audience too well to sing about divorce, the heartbreak of broken homes, or poverty during the Depression. ...Bob had fun performing, and he tried to play music that created an atmosphere of gaiety and happiness. Everything that contributed to this atmosphere—the beat, the jazz choruses, the syncopation, and the extemporaneous improvisation—remained basic to his style until the end of his career."
- Boyd, Jazz of the Southwest, p. ix-x: "They were and are in the same league with Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and many others, not in the 'hillbilly' category where they were assigned by record executives who could not decide how to classify improvisation played on string instruments. Western swing musicians have nothing against country music and in fact recognize country music as one of many tributaries of their music. But 'country' is an inappropriate and misleading label for western swing."
- Townsend, San Antonio Rose, p. 63: "Without exception, every former member of Wills's band interviewed for this study concluded, as Wills himself did, that what they were playing was always closer in music, lyrics, and style to jazz and swing that any other genre."
- Price, "Jazz Guitar and Western Swing", p. 81: "Clearly western swing deserves its place in any study of jazz, and its guitarists, while always a breed apart, were and are central to the music, intimately bound to its origins and evolution."
- Price, "Jazz Guitar and Western Swing", p. 82: "The assimilation was so thorough that western swing, at the hands of an accomplished bandleader like Bob Wills, Milton Brown or Spade Cooley, cannot be seen as ersatz anything. It was from the start—or at least from its earliest documentation on record—its own music, something more than its parts, allowing a freedom of expression offered neither by traditional country music (which would have no part in improvisation or between-the-beats rhythm) nor by the structured jazz community (in which no southwestern bumpkin would be likely to feel welcome)."
- Coffey, Merl Lindsay and His Oklahoma Nite Riders, pp. 3-4: "By 1938, Merle [Lindsay] was leading a versatile dance band that numbered as many as ten pieces; it was a fairly typical Oklahoma western swing band of the day in its lineup, along similar lines to the Texas Playboys, ... with twin fiddles, three horns, steel guitar and rhythm (including drums, an instrument far more common at the time in Oklahoma bands than in Texas and elsewhere)."
- Wolff, Country Music, "Big Balls in Cowtown: Western Swing From Fort Worth to Fresno", p. 71: "The instrumentation of both Brown's and Wills' bands, in fact, was one of the major distinctions that set their music apart from either straight hillbilly or jazz. For starters, the Brownies featured Bob Dunn, a steel guitarist who is credited as the first country artist on record to use an electric string instrument. Wills had his answer to Dunn in McAuliffe, whose "Steel Guitar Rag" became hugely popular and brought the new amplified sound to the public's attention."
- Boyd, "Western Swing", p. 208: "But modernization did not diminish the unique and basically rural character of western swing, which remained distinct from mainstream horn jazz because of the prominent place given to fiddles and guitars, both standard and steel. The fiddle was the lead instrument in any western swing band, even those with horns, and every other instrumentalist adjusted to the fiddlers' stylings and preferences for sharp keys. There were also rhythmic differences between western swing bands and horn bands. Western swing was dance music, with the emphasis on a clearly discernible and uncluttered beat pattern. Western swing bands tended to use a highly syncopated rhythmic bass (i.e. time signature), moving to the more relaxed swing-four (i.e., time signature) only to back certain soloists. This gave western swing bands more rhythmic drive and an overall more aggressive character than most horn bands. The amount of improvisation also was significantly different between western swing and mainstream horn bands. Most of the nationally know horn bands were populated by reading musicians who were more comfortable with scores than long stretches of solo or collective improvisation. But western swing musicians were largely self-taught non-readers who improvised out of necessity and the need to express their individuality in their music."
- Marble, Freedom On My Mind, p. 57: "The Song 'It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)' is notable because it gave a motto (The Swing Era) to the 1930s and to jazz music in general"
- Lang, Smile When You Call Me a Hillbilly, p. 89: "Prior to the war [WWII], record companies labeled early western swing as 'Novelty Hot Dance' or 'Hot String Band' music. In 1941, the Victor recording company referred to its latest release of Texas and Louisiana country groups as 'Texas Swing.'
- Lange, Smile When You Call Me A Hillbilly, p. 98: "Wills himself proved an extremely capable musical politician, sharply refuting any association with southeastern country music ('Please don't anybody confuse us with none of them hillbilly outfits') ..."
- San Antonio Rose - The Life and Music of Bob Wills. Charles R. Townsend. 1976. University of Illinois. page 203. ISBN 978-0-252-00470-4
- Proud to Be an Okie: Cultural Politics, Country Music, and Migration to Southern California. Peter La Chapelle. 2007. University of California Press. pages 81, 262. citing an article in National Hillbilly News, 1946. ISBN 9700520248892
- http://www.pencilstubs.org/default.asp?cmd=pg&NID=1747, http://www.scaruffi.com/vol1/wills.html, http://www.seattlewesternswingmusicsociety.com/roots.htm
- Logsdon, "The Cowboy's Bawdy Music," p.137: "The term 'western swing' was not used until Foreman Phillips, a promoter-disc jockey, used it to describe Spade Cooley in 1942."
- Komorowski, Spade Cooley, p. 4: " He Spade Cooley promptly proclaimed himself the 'King of Western Swing', the first time the term was used to describe this style of music, and it was one that stuck."
- Billboard Jun 10, 1944, page 18. retrieved 1.14.2010
- Lang, Smile When You Call Me a Hillbilly, p. 89: In October 1944, Billboard made the following announcement, unceremoniously giving the subgenre its common label for the first time in a national publication: 'Spade Cooley will put out 25 of his original tunes, together with an album of band numbers and suggestions on arrangements for Western Bands. Book to be titled 'Western Swing'. "
- retrieved 1.2.2011
- Kienzle, Southwest Shuffle, pp. vii-xi: Preface.
- Carney, "Country Music", p. 535: "Seven substyles of country music emerged during the twentieth century. Four of these originated in the Great Plains states of Texas and Oklahoma: singing cowboy, western swing, honky-tonk, and country rock."
- Workin' Man Blues - Country Music in California. Gerald W. Haslan. University of California Press. 1999. page 72, 73. ISBN 978-0-520-21800-0.
- Boyd, Jean Ann. Jazz of the Southwest: An Oral History of Western Swing. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998. page 13. ISBN 978-0-292-70859-4
- Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing. Cary Ginell. 1994. University of Illinois Press. page 81. ISBN 978-0-252-02041-4
- San Antonio Rose - The Life and Music of Bob Wills. Charles R. Townsend. 1976. University of Illinois. between pages 74-75. ISBN 978-0-252-00470-4
- San Antonio Rose - The Life and Music of Bob Wills. Charles R. Townsend. 1976. University of Illinois. page 339. ISBN 978-0-252-00470-4
- San Antonio Rose - The Life and Music of Bob Wills. Charles R. Townsend. 1976. University of Illinois. between pages 73. ISBN 978-0-252-00470-4
- Saffle, Michael (2000), Perspectives on American Music, 1900-1950, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 978-0-8153-2145-3
- San Antonio Rose - The Life and Music of Bob Wills. Charles R. Townsend. 1976. University of Illinois. page 339, 340. ISBN 978-0-252-00470-4
- Workin' Man Blues - Country Music in California. Gerald W. Haslan. University of California Press. 1999. page 74. ISBN 978-0-520-21800-0.
- Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing. Cary Ginell. 1994. University of Illinois Press. page 109. ISBN 978-0-252-02041-4
- Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing. Cary Ginell. 1994. University of Illinois Press. page 131. ISBN 978-0-252-02041-4
- Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing. Cary Ginell. 1994. University of Illinois Press. page 134. ISBN 978-0-252-02041-4
- We're the Light Crust Doughboys from Burrus Mill: an oral history. Jean Ann Boyd. University of Texas Press. 2003. page 54. ISBN 0-292-70925
- San Antonio Rose - The Life and Music of Bob Wills. Charles R. Townsend. 1976. University of Illinois. page 342, 343. ISBN 978-0-252-00470-4
- San Antonio Rose - The Life and Music of Bob Wills. Charles R. Townsend. 1976. University of Illinois. page 237. ISBN 978-0-252-00470-4
- Wills, Bob. 1949 interview from Honky Tonks, Hymns and the Blues.
- Workin' Man Blues - Country Music in California. Gerald W. Haslan. University of California Press. 1999. page 87. ISBN 0-520-21800-0.
- Workin' Man Blues - Country Music in California. Gerald W. Haslan. University of California Press. 1999. page 88. ISBN 0-520-21800-0.
- L.A. Despair: A Landscape of Crimes & Bad Times. John Gilmore. 2005. Amok Books. Page 313. ISBN 978-1-878923-16-5 ISBN 978-1-878923-16-5
- The King of Western Swing - Bob Wills Remembered. Rosetta Wills. 1998. Billboard Books. page 119. ISBN 978-0-8230-7744-1.
- Country Music, U.S.A.: Second Revised Edition. By Bill C. Malone. University of Texas Press. 2002. page 186. ISBN 978-0-292-75262-7, ISBN 978-0-292-75262-7
- Workin' Man Blues - Country Music in California. Gerald W. Haslan. University of California Press. 1999. pages 111,112. ISBN 0-520-21800-0.
- Workin' Man Blues - Country Music in California. Gerald W. Haslan. University of California Press. 1999. page 111. ISBN 0-520-21800-0.
- Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock 'n' Roll. By Nick Tosches. Da Capo Press. 1996. page 159. ISBN 978-0-306-80713-8, ISBN 978-0-306-80713-8
- The Complete Book of Country Swing & Western Dancing and a Bit about Cowboys Peter Livingston, Boulder Books 1981 ISBN 978-0-385-17601-9 page 44
- Stomping the Blues. Albert Murray. Da Capo Press. 2000. page 109, 110. ISBN 978-0-252-02211-1, ISBN 0-252-06508-5
- Townsend, Charles. San Antonio Rose: The Life and Music of Bob Wills. University of Illinois Press, 1986. pages 240, 241. ISBN 978-0-252-01362-1
- Billboard Jan 30, 1954
- Billboard Oct 15, 1955. page 31.
- Billboard Nov 5, 1955. page 17.
- Popular Music in America: The Beat Goes On. Michael Campbell. page 119
- Popular Music in America: The Beat Goes On. Michael Campbell. page 176, 177
- The camp was profiled in a story that aired on July 21, 2010 on National Public Radio's Morning Edition program. Highlights, transcript, and audio links to NPR story on the Bobby Boatright Memorial Music Camp that aired 07/21/10
- John P. Meyer, "Texas legislates an official state music: western swing", Pegasus News, May 24, 2011.
- Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 35 (2011).
- Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys website
- Milton Brown biography at TSHA
- Western swing at Big Bands Database Plus
- Westernswing.com links
- "A Short History of Western Swing"
- Sound documentation of Western swing
- Western Swing Monthly
- Northwest Western Swing Music Society
- Western Swing Music Society of the Southwest
- Western Swing Society–Sacramento
- The Academy Of Western Artists
Public radio programs
- KANZ-FM, Garden City, Kansas—Western Swing and Other Things, Allen Bailey, Saturdays, 10 a.m.–1 p.m Central Time (US)
- KFSR-FM, Fresno, California—Big Fresno Barn Dance, Don Fischer & Steve Barile, Sundays, 2–4 p.m. Pacific Time (US)
- KWGS-FM, Tulsa, Oklahoma—Swing On This, John Wooley, Saturdays, 7–8 p.m. Central Time (US)
- KZUM-FM, Lincoln, Nebraska—The Heyride, John Schmitz, Fridays, 7:30–9 p.m. Central Time (US)
- WVOF-FM, Fairfield, Connecticut—Swingin' West, Mike Gross, Fridays (May–November), 1–4 p.m. Eastern Time (US)
- Western Swing And Other Things Dodge City Marshal Allen D. Bailey and Cowgirl Janey, Saturdays, 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Central Time (US)
- Swingin' West radio-online Mike Gross-Fairfield University Student Radio, Fridays 1–4 p.m. Eastern Time (US)
- Swingin' West Hour - Swingin' West — Hosted by TwangTownUSA; available 24 hours; requires RealPlayer (two-minute commercial introduction)
- The Western Hour—Western & Western Swing - Golden Graham — Hosted by TwangTownUSA; requires RealPlayer (two-minute commercial introduction)
- Jazzabillies Western Swing
- Asleep at the Wheel band leader Ray Benson relates his experiences reintroducing Western swing to Texans