© 2024
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Nine O'clock Blues: Bob Wills And The Texas Playboys

Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa
Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society

Bob Wills was known as the King of Western Swing and, as such, certainly must be considered an important figure in the history of the Blues and its myriad off-shoots.

Born in rural Texas in 1905, Wills formed several bands and played dance halls and radio stations through-out the South and West until forming Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys in 1934 when the rest of the country began to find out about the delightfully infectious sound of Wills. Essential to the Texas Playboys sound was the singing of pianist Tommy Duncan and the back and forth banter between Duncan and Wills during songs.


From 1934 until a stroke suffered while recording an album with Merle Haggard in 1973 Bob influenced Country, Blues and even Rock through a legion of musician fans.

Bob Wills was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1968 and honored by the Texas State Legislature for his contribution to American music. 1972 saw him receive a citation from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in Nashville. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Wills and the Texas Playboys in 1999.


Bands like Asleep at the Wheel and many others keep the Western Swing style of Bob Wills alive and well today. And we’ll keep his music alive with a classic Blues song from the Texas Playboys this week on The Nine O’clock Blues.

A bit of Blues trivia:

Examples of lyrics you might hear in Blues; “My woman was stolen by a yellow dog.” Or “That man ran off with a running dog.”

The ‘yellow dog’ refers to the Yazoo-Delta Railroad that takes its name from the Yazoo River the marks the eastern side of the area called the Mississippi Delta in southern Mississippi that is the birthplace of the Delta Blues style. It is called the Yellow Dog due to its initials and distinctive yellow livery that the line carried until it was re-incorporated as the Mississippi Delta Railroad in the second half of the 20th Century. If your woman was “…stolen by a yellow dog’ she took the train out of your life.

Can you catch the reference to the 'dog' in "The Southern Blues" from Big Bill Broonzy?


And ‘running dog’ comes from the iconic neon signs that adorned Greyhound Bus stations for several decades. There were two positions of Greyhound dog on top of each other, one with legs extended and the other with legs gathered under the body and as the two lights alternated which was lit it gave the illusion of a running Greyhound. If your “…man ran off with a running dog” he had taken the bus out of town.

Related Content