Leon McAuliffe

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Leon McAuliffe
Birth nameWilliam Leon McAuliffe
Born(1917-01-03)January 3, 1917
Houston, Texas, U.S.
DiedAugust 20, 1988(1988-08-20) (aged 71)
Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
GenresCountry, Western swing
Occupation(s)Musician, bandleader
InstrumentsGuitar, slide steel guitar
Years active1930s–1980s
LabelsColumbia, Dot, Capitol, Majestic
Associated actsLight Crust Doughboys, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, The Cimarron Boys

William Leon McAuliffe (January 3, 1917 – August 20, 1988)[1] was an American Western swing guitarist who was a member of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys during the 1930s. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of that band, and was a member of the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.


When he was sixteen he was a member of the Light Crust Doughboys, playing both rhythm guitar and steel guitar. In 1935, at age 18, he played with Bob Wills in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He stayed with Wills until World War II.[2][3]

With Wills, he helped compose "San Antonio Rose". He is more noted, however, for his most famous composition, "Steel Guitar Rag", and his playing, along with that of Robert Lee Dunn (of Milton Brown's Musical Brownies), that popularized the steel guitar in the United States.[4]

His playing (and Dunn's) is also credited with inspiring the rhythm and blues electric guitar style occurring some 20 years later.[5][6]

After the war, McAuliffe returned to Tulsa and formed a Western swing band named the Cimarron Boys. In 1949, their song "Panhandle Rag" (Columbia) reached No. 6 on the Billboard country chart.[3][7] McAuliffe recorded through the 1960s. In the 1970s, he participated in a reunion of the Texas Playboys.[3]

In the 1980s, McAuliffe along with Eldon Shamblin and Junior Brown, taught music at Rogers State University in Claremore, Oklahoma.[8][9]


Year Single US Country
1949 "Panhandle Rag" 6
1955 "Hard-Hearted Gal"
1961 "Cozy Inn" 16
1962 "Faded Love" 22
1964 "Shape Up or Ship Out" 35
"I Don't Love Nobody" 47
1971 "Faded Love" (with Tompall & the Glaser Brothers) 22


  1. ^ "Leon McAuliffe, Musician, 71". Nytimes.com. August 21, 1988. Retrieved August 7, 2021.
  2. ^ Townsend, Charles (1986). San Antonio Rose. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. p. 42. ISBN 0-252-01362-X. McAuliffe, who was with Wills from March 1935, to December, 1942, is one of the most distinguished artists in the history of western swing
  3. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "Leon McAuliffe". AllMusic. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  4. ^ Townsend, Charles (1986). San Antonio Rose. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. p. 99. ISBN 0-252-01362-X. There are authorities, McAuliffe among them, who believe this recording ["Steel Guitar Rag", March 25, 1935] and the subsequent use of the instrument in Wills's organization played the leading role in making the steel guitar popular in American music.
  5. ^ Brookes, Tim (2006). Guitar: An American Life. Grove Press. pp. 148–149. At time he [McAuliffe] sounds like a blues-rock six-string, at time like a ragtime banjo, at times like an ethereal whisper. One of his astonishing achievements was his precision. It takes a lot of experience and precise hands and ears to hit a note exactly right on a steel, given that it lacks frets, but McAuliffe played his as if it were a Telecaster, using the steel to create slurs that sound very much like the bent notes that the blues electric guitarists in Chicago would develop twenty years later.
  6. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony, ed. (1992). Present Tense. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. pp. 17–18. ISBN 0-8223-1265-4. In San Antonio Rose, his exhaustive study of life and music of western-swing kingpin Bob wills and his Texas Playboys, Charles Townshend [sic] offers fragmentary but suggestive evidence that T-Bone Walker and Charlie Christian, the front-runners in the first generation of black electric guitarists, were inspired, at least in part, by the early amplified playing of white musicians such as Dunn and McAuliffe. ... Western-swing and jazz present a similar continuum on the white side of the tracks, with men like McAuliffe a jazzy but heavily country-inflected style, while mavericks like Dunn played a kind of pure, futuristic jazz all their own. And every one of these player, black and white, was solidly grounded in the blues
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2006). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits (2 ed.). New York: Billboard Books. p. 217. ISBN 0-8230-8291-1.
  8. ^ Griffin, David. "JUNIOR BROWN returns to Claremore". Newson6.com. Retrieved August 7, 2021.
  9. ^ "RSU Public Television to Rebroadcast RSU History Documentary". Rogers State University. August 17, 2009. Retrieved August 7, 2021.

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