Lost Treasures: Original Texas Playboys – “Gambling Polka Dot Blues”

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Our Lost Treasure this week was originally recorded in 1965 but never released at that time.  Texas Swing pioneer Bob Wills back-up group of many decades, the Texas Playboys made a few recordings on their own without Bob Wills, who retired from the music business in the mid-60’s after a long, successful career performing on radio & on records.  Wills formed the Texas Playboys in 1934 & they backed him on both radio shows & on record through to his retirement. “Gambling Polka Dot Blues” had been intended for release on Kapp Records & promo copies were issued to country stations, who showed no interest in a form of country music that had long since past it’s prime. 

In 1965, the antiquated sound of Texas swing was as distant from the contemporary sounds of both the genre & country radio as could be.  Successful country stations went to great lengths to distance themselves from their “hillbilly” past.  They wouldn’t touch the record.  Kapp withheld the 45, but it was finally released as a ‘promo copy’ in 1977 on Capitol Records after hippie Western swing band Asleep At The Wheel achieved moderate success performing on TV show “Austin City Limits” & received airplay on a few progressive country stations in addition to eclectic/AAA adult rock FM outlets.  However, “Gambling Polka Dot Blues” debut week on the country charts it peaked at #94 & was gone by the following week.  Capitol declined to press large copies of the release & pulled it from their catalog.  It’s only appearance is on an LP compilation of Texas music released in 1977.  Missing of course, is the unique vocals, “conducting” & band introductions made famous by Bob Wills as the group records on their own. Texas swing your way into the weekend with this great classic & thanks for pointing your browsers to Puget Sound Radio.

 

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Author: Mike Cherry

retired broadcaster: on-air, MD, PD, asst PD, Prod Mgr, IT, station technician/engineer, pioneer Internet webcaster, station installation/maintenance; 12 years in commercial radio, 17 years volunteer in campus/community radio in B.C., Alberta & Wash. Amateur radio operator & "DXer" specializing in AM night-time DX, short-wave DX/listening & remote SDR DXing/listening

9 thoughts on “Lost Treasures: Original Texas Playboys – “Gambling Polka Dot Blues”

  1. This is a great slice of what country music – better described as “hillbilly music” sounded like in the 1930’s & 40’s. This recording wouldn’t have seen the light of day if it weren’t for the revival of ‘western swing’ by Texas band Asleep At The Wheel who brought this unique sound to listeners in the mid-1970’s & beyond. Asleep At The Wheel covered many of Bob Wills songs & even recreated a ‘Bob Wills & Texas Playboys’ radio show on Austin TX’s NPR outlet. AATW performed a number of times as well on TV show “Austin City Limits”

  2. At least one successful country station proudly embraced the heritage of Western Swing. Program director Bobby Wooten encouraged us to go deep into the archives and showcase the pioneers of what we at Kountry KAYO called America’s Own Music. Beyond Bob Wills, there were many swing bands, Spade Cooley and his Western Dance Gang, Hank Penny and the Radio Cowboys, Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies, Ocie Stockard and the Wanderers, Otto Gray and the Oklahoma Cowboys, Cliff Bruner and his Texas Wanderers, Billy Gray (who also fronted the bands of Ray Price and Hank Thompson) and his Western Okies, Bill Boyd and his Cowboy Ramblers, Adolf Hofner and his Texans, and W. Lee O’Daniel and the Light Crust Doughboys. Listen to KAYO long enough and you’d occasionally hear them.

    We played the Skillet Lickers, the Fruit Jar Drinkers, the Smoky Mountain Boys, the Clinch Mountain Clan, the Carter Family, Grandpa Jones, Cousin Minnie Pearl, Uncle Dave Macon and Ole Brother Charley, and those other brothers, Bill and Earl, Alton and Rabon, Jim and Jesse, Ira and Charlie, Doyle and Teddy. And we played the hits! We did it with glee and without shame while station owner Jessica Longston raked in the money with glee and without shame.

    Leon Rausch sang lead on that record, but western swing’s most famous vocalist, Tommy Duncan, who had temporarily parted with Bob Wills in 1948, made “Gambling Polka Dot Blues” a top ten hit on Capitol in 1949. It peaked at #8 and stayed three weeks. Billboard tallied it as the sixty-ninth biggest country song of the year. Personnel (his “Western All Stars”): Davie Coleman, drums; Glynn Duncan, bass; Noel Boggs, steel guitar; Jimmy Wyble, guitar; Cameron Hill, guitar; Joe Holley, fiddle; Ocie Stockard, fiddle; and Millard Kelso, piano.

    1. Dick – thanks for that great listing of ‘western swing’ bands – most of whom I’ve heard but not all on that list. Of course KAYO was very lucky to have a deep country library to draw from & I certainly remember in the mid-60’s there was no fear of playing some really vintage music from several decades earlier. That’s one of the fine milestones that KAYO set apart as a winning country station. So many during that time wanted to disassociate themselves with country’s past & concentrate on the newer ‘urbanized’ sound coming out of Nashville, Bakersfield & Texas.

      I knew this wasn’t the original recording of “Gambling Polka Dot Blues” but didn’t realize the original version was by Tommy Duncan or that he’d been a member of Bob Wills’ band.

      1. Hey Mike,

        KAYO was lucky to have that music library and deejays who knew and loved the music, but even luckier that management and ownership jumped into C & W boots first.

        They eagerly rebutted and publicized all the negative noise from Seattle’s snobbish elites who were so affronted at the thought of their Seattle Opera House being invaded by those dust-covered “hicks in pickups” that they actually tried to prevent Jack Roberts Productions and KAYO from booking shows there. But when the news got out, bags and bags bulging with thousands of letters from loyal KAYO fans landed on the front steps of the Seattle Center office and stopped that crazy idea dead in its tracks.

        At KAYO we had some of the best fans ever. They would come to our big back window, which was usually open, just to shoot the breeze.

        One Sunday in 1973 I was playing a new record, Ravishing Ruby by Tom T. Hall. The phone rang (I always answered the phone!) and a lady said, “Hi, my name’s Ruth, and Tom T. got the idea for that song from my boyfriend’s truck.” She said she lived in Kent, her fiancee was a long hauler, and he’d had a sign painter write “Ravishing Ruth” on both sides of his sleeper. She offered to send me a photo. She was a little disappointed that he’d changed the name and I told her he should have called it “Ravishing Ruthie”. We ending up talking for maybe half an hour and I told her if she was ever in the area to drop in and bring the photo and she could see the station. The side door was never locked and people might walk in at any hour. A couple of weeks later she walked in with her daughter Linda, who was eleven. I talked her into telling the story on the air. From then on, every time I played that song, I called it Ravishing Ruthie. I still have that photo somewhere. Maybe I’ll find it some day.

        1. great story Dick! I remember playing Tom T’s “Ravishing Ruby” that year as I was working at country stations (CJDC) & he was having hit after hit in the early 70’s.

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