Old Crow Medicine Show Tribute To Bob Wills

By Wes Phillips

Western swing is one of my stone favorite forms of music—when people wonder why white people don’t feature more prominently in jazz history, It’s because a lot of them were playing music that people didn’t recognize as jazz. Bob Wills didn’t invent western swing, but he sure as shootin’ perfected it. Like that other swing music, western swing is deeply rooted in dancing—and, unlike other forms of jazz and country, the best of it remains danceable to this day.

Technically, Jimi Hendrix’s predecessors in the use of feedback and distortion are the steel guitarists rooted in the western swing tradition, such as the great Bob Dunn (Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies and others), whose spitting, cracking tones frequently convinced radio listeners that he was a trombonist or other horn player. (There’s a fabulous 2 CD set of Dunn’s greatest work that is a must-have, in my opinion). Brown, who by the way, could accurately be called the originator of western swing, recognized Dunn’s genius, not only incorporating him in the band, but constructing a showpiece for him called “What Has Bob Done?”.