The postwar development and proliferation of radio stations across the United States proved to be a boon for musicians; regional acts now had the ability to break from their geographic locations and make an impact on the rest of the country. Both artists and businesses recognized the benefits of teaming up; companies realized a popular artist could draw in customers, while musicians discovered that businesses could help to expand their listening audience and help garner radio play. For the nascent music industry and radio broadcasting, this new form of patronage was win-win. Thus, all sorts of businesses, from gardening and farming supplies to vitamins and flour companies suddenly took an interest in sponsoring artists and radio programs.
One group that took advantage of the transcription service was Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. For three years, Wills utilized the transcription service to advertise his music publishing company, Tiffany Music. Broadcast between 1946 and 1949, the band recorded nearly 400 songs that were broadcast to several dozen subscribing radio stations. Unbeknownst at the time, one of Wills’ partners used the transcription service as a way to embezzle money from him, and legal troubles would sour the enterprise, which ended in 1949.
Many of these recordings have been released over the years, but a recent archival search turned up a number of long-thought-lost performances. The fifty songs found on Riding Your Way date from 1946 and 1947, and they span all sorts of genres. Known as the “King of Western Swing,” Bob Wills and his troupe were a diverse group, as the songs found here range from jaunty instrumental hoedowns (“Brushy Fork,” “Sixteen Days in Georgia,” “Soldier’s Joy”) to modern interpretation of traditional song (“The Yellow Rose of Texas”), as well as interpretations of popular numbers, such as Jimmie Davis’ “You Are My Sunshine,” Gene Autrey’s “Be Honest With Me,” and Cole Porter’s “Don’t Fence Me In.” The band also offer a number of their own originals, like “Bubbles In My Beer,” “I Wonder If You Feel The Way I Do,” and “I Knew The Moment I Lost You.” The fare is enjoyable, catchy, and timely; arrangements are warm and engaging, and though recorded nearly seventy years ago, they still feel amazingly fresh.
The two hours of music found on Riding Your Way are enhanced by a deluxe packaging that includes an extensive biography of each member of the band, a detailed history of the Tiffany transcription service, as well as memorabilia and ads from the era, and a detailed list of the songs that the band recorded. It’s a Bear Family quality historical document without the expensive price tag, and is an essential, enjoyable collection necessary for country swing fans.