Steel Guitar Rag

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"Steel Guitar Rag"
Single by Bob Wills & his Texas Playboys
Format10-inch 78 rpm record
GenreWestern swing
Songwriter(s)Leon McAuliffe

"Steel Guitar Rag" is the seminal Western swing instrumental credited with popularizing the steel guitar as an integral instrument in a Western band.[1][2][3]

Written by Leon McAuliffe, it was first recorded by Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys in 1936.[4][5] The song bears a striking resemblance to "Guitar Rag" recorded by guitarist Sylvester Weaver in 1927.,[6][7] although others have claimed stylistic similarities to a popular Hawaiian song, "On the Beach at Waikiki" (words, G.H. Stover; music, Henry Kailimai; arrangement, Sonny Cunha; 1915), which was widely performed on the vaudeville circuits in the U.S.[8][9][10] Many musicians and bands have recorded this instrumental over the years. A recent version was performed by Country Music Hall of Famer Jimmy Russell.


  1. ^ Townsend, San Antonio Rose,p. 99: 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."
  2. ^ Harrington,Sonic Cool, p. 22: "In September '36, Leon McAuliffe had a huge hit with 'Steel Guitar Rag,' which helped popularize the sound of the electric guitar to the whole nation."
  3. ^ Lange,Smile When You Call Me a Hillbilly, p. 121: "McAuliffe's guitar eventually became an integral part of Bob Wills sound, particularly after the release of 'Steel Guitar Rag' in the late 1936. McAuliffe turned the instrumental piece, which was derived from a Hawaiian tune, into country music's first steel guitar standard."
  4. ^ Stambler, Country Music, p. 289: " 'I've [Leon McAuliffe] written some songs that are good, but not many. I can't manufacture 'em, they have to come to me. I wrote 'Steel Guitar Rag' and the bridge to 'San Antonio Rose'—the trumpeter wrote the words—but Bob has total credit.' "
  5. ^ Oliphant, "Texas Jazz", p. 50-51: "As early as 1933, Leon McAuliffe also was playing steel guitar, and in 1935 he joined Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, recording with the latter his own composition, 'Steel Guitar Rag,' during a session of September 29–30, 1936."
  6. ^ Dempsey, The Light Crust Doughboys Are on the Air, pp. 57-58: "Dough Boy Kenneth Pitts admired McAuliffe's tune, 'Steel Guitar Rag,' which McAuliffe adapted from a tune called 'Guitar Rag' by blues guitarist Sylvester Weaver."
  7. ^ Komara, Encyclopedia of the Blues, p. 385: "The latter ['Guitar Rag'] is a blues guitar landmark, having been appropriated countless times including as 'Steel Guitar Rag' by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys in 1936."
  8. ^ Koskoff, Music Cultures in the United States, p. 129: "The debut of the song 'On the Beach at Waikiki' at the Panama-Pacific Exposition [1915] is credited with sparking a national fad for Hawaiian songs."
  9. ^ *Ruymar, The Hawaiian Steel Guitar, p. 50, quoting John York, president of the Western Swing Music Society: "When you next listen to a recording of Leon McAuliffe playing Steel Guitar Rag or Pan Handle Rag, listen for the Hawaiian style with a slight difference. Leon's influence came from listening to recordings of Jim and the Genial Hawaiians, and of Sol Ho'opi'i."
  10. ^ Santoro, Stir It Up, p. 183: "Hawaiian sounds began to outsell other forms of pop music on the mainland U.S., and had such an impact that Mexican bands added steel guitar players and masqueraded as Hawaiians to crash the lucrative U.S. vaudeville circuit."


  • Dempsey. John Mark. The Light Crust Doughboys Are on the Air: Celebrating Seventy Years of Texas Music. University of North Texas Press; Har/Com edition (September 2002) ISBN 1-57441-151-9
  • Harrington, Joe S. Sonic Cool: The Life & Death of Rock 'n' Roll. Hal Leonard, 2002. ISBN 0-634-02861-8
  • Komara, Edward. Encyclopedia of the Blues. Routledge, 2005) ISBN 0-415-92699-8
  • Koskoff, Ellen. Music Cultures in the United States: An Introduction. Routledge, 2005. ISBN 0-415-96588-8
  • Lange, Jeffrey J. Smile When You Call Me a Hillbilly: Country Music's Struggle for Respectability, 1939-1954. University of Georgia Press (August 2004) ISBN 0-8203-2623-2
  • Oliphant, Dave. "Texas Jazz: 1920-50". The Roots of Texas Music edited by Lawrence Clayton, Joe W. Specht, pp. 37–65. Texas A&M University Press, 2005. ISBN 1-58544-492-8
  • Ruymar, Lorene. The Hawaiian Steel Guitar and Its Great Hawaiian Musicians. Centerstream Publications, 1996. ISBN 1-57424-021-8
  • Santoro, Gene. Stir It Up: Musical Mixes from Roots to Jazz. Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-19-509869-2
  • Stambler, Irwin; Grelun Land. Country Music: The Encyclopedia. St. Martin's Griffin, 2000. ISBN 0-312-26487-9
  • Townsend, Charles. San Antonio Rose: The Life and Music of Bob wills. University of Illinois Press, 1986. ISBN 0-252-01362-X

External links[edit]