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 Fuller Up The Dead Musician Directory 
Luther M. Wills
Luke Wills
October 21, 2000
Age 80 
 Cause of Death Pending 
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Gordon's Pick:

Luther Wills 
      Luther M. "Luke" Wills, 80, died Saturday at a Las Vegas hospital. 
      He was born Sept. 10, 1920, in Memphis, Texas. A Navy veteran of World 
      War II, he was a musician in the entertainment industry, a 35-year 
      resident of Las Vegas and a member of American Legion Post 8, Screen 
      Actors Guild and Western Swing Music Association. 
      He is survived by his wife, Dorothy; son, Luke II; daughter, Joyce 
      Bouchard, all of Las Vegas; sisters, Olga Kerr and Lorene, both of 
      Tulsa, Okla.; 11 grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren. 
      Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. today at Palm Mortuary-Jones, where 
      services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Burial will follow at Palm Valley 

      View Memorial Park 


      From: Daynawills 
      Sent: Sunday, October 22, 2000 12:42 PM 
      Subject: Uncle Luke passes away 

      Uncle Luke passed away at 11:10 last night, Oct. 21, 2000. 
      Tenative funeral arrangements are for Wed. Oct. 25th, at Palm 
      Mortuary on Eastern Ave. in Las Vegas at 1:00 PM. 

      If you wish to send a card, send it to 
      Dorothy Wills 
      C/O Joyce Bouchard 
      849 Trotter Circle 
      Las Vegas, NV 89107 

      Thank you all for taking the time to acknowledge our loss. 



All-Music Guide
Born Sept. 10, 1920, in Memphis, Texas
Bob Wills And the Texas Playboys
Bob Wills -  

Billy Jack Wills -   

Luke Wills - 
Tiny Moore, Noel Boggs, Lester Barnard, Jr., Alex Brashear, Johnny Cuviello,
Tommy Duncan, Millard Kelso, Monte Mountjoy, Herbie Remington, Eldon Shamblin,
Joe Holley, Roy Honeycutt, Dean McKinney, Evelyn McKinney, Ocie Stockard,
Louis Tierney

      Bob Wills' name will forever be associated with Western Swing. Although he did not invent the genre singlehandedly, he did popularize the genre and changed its rules. In the process, he reinvented the rules of popular music. Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys were a dance band with a country string section that played pop songs as if they were jazz numbers. Their music expanded and erased boundaries between genres. It was also some of the 
      most popular music of its era. Throughout the '40s, the band was one of the most popular groups in the country and the musicians in the Playboys were among the finest of their era. As the popularity of Western Swing declined, so did Wills's popularity, but his influence is immeasurable. From the first honky tonkers to Western Swing revivalists, generations of country artists owe him a significant debt, as do certain rock and jazz musicians. Bob Wills was a maverick and his spirit infused American popular music of the 20th century with a renegade, virtuosic flair. 

       Bob Wills was born outside of Kosse, Texas, in 1905. From his father and 
       grandfather, Bob learned how to play mandolin, guitar and, eventually, fiddle and 
       he regularly played local dances in his teens. In 1929, he joined a medicine show 
       in Fort Worth, where he played fiddle and did blackface comedy. At one 
       performance, he met guitarist Herman Arnspiger and the duo formed the Wills 
       Fiddle Band. Within a year, they were playing dances and radio stations around 
       Fort Worth. During one of the performances, the pair met a vocalist called Milton 
       Brown, who joined the band. Soon, Brown's guitarist brother Durwood joined 
       the group, as did Clifton "Sleepy" Johnson, a tenor banjo player. 

       In early 1931, the band landed their own radio show, which was sponsored by 
       the Burris Mill and Elevator company, the manufacturers of Light Crust Flour. The 
       group rechristened themselves the Light Crust Doughboys and their show was 
       being broadcast throughout Texas, hosted and organized by W. Lee O'Daniel, the 
       manager of Burris Mill. By 1932, the band were stars in Texas but there was 
       some trouble behind the scenes -- O'Daniel wasn't allowing the band to play 
       anything but the radio show. This situation led to the departure of Milton Brown; 
       Wills eventually replaced Brown with Tommy Duncan, who he would work with 
       for the next 16 years. By late summer 1933, Wills, aggrivated with a series of 
       fights with O'Daniel, left the Light Crust Doughboys and Duncan left with him. 

       Wills and Duncan relocated to Waco, Texas, and formed the Playboys, which 
       featured Wills on fiddle, Duncan on piano and vocals, rhythm guitarist June 
       Whalin, tenor banjoist Johnnie Lee Wills, and Kermit Whalin, who played steel 
       guitar and bass. For the next year, the Playboys moved through a number of 
       radio stations, as O'Daniel tried to force them off the air. Finally, the group 
       settled in Tulsa, where they had a job at KVOO.  

       Tulsa is where Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys began to refine their sound. Wills 
       added an 18 year-old electric steel guitarist called Leon McAuliffe, pianist Al 
       Stricklin, drummer Smokey Dacus, and a horn section to the band's lineup. 
       Soon, the Texas Playboys were the most popular band in Oklahoma and Texas. 
       The band made their first record in 1935 for the American Recording Company, 
       which would later become part of Columbia Records. At ARC, they were 
       produced by Uncle Art Satherley, who would wind up as Wills's producer for the 
       next 12 years. The bandleader have his way and they cut a number of tracks 
       which were released on a series of 78s. The singles were successful enough that 
       Wills could demand that steel guitarist Leon McAuliffe -- who wasn't on the first 
       sessions due to ARC's abundance of steel players under contract -- was featured 
       on the Playboys' next record, 1936's "Steel Guitar Rag." The song became a 
       standard for steel guitar. Also released from that session was "Right or Wrong," 
       which featured Tommy Duncan on lead vocals. 

       Toward the end of the decade, big bands were dominating popular music and 
       Wills wanted a band capable of playing complex, jazz-inspired arrangements. To 
       help him achieve his sound, he hired arranger and guitarist Eldon Shamblin, who 
       wrote charts that fused country with big band music for the Texas Playboys. By 
       1940, he had replaced some of the weaker musicians in the lineup, winding up 
       with a full 18-piece band. The Texas Playboys were breaking concert attendance 
       records across the country, filling out venues from Tulsa to California and they 
       also had their first genuine national hit with "New San Antonio Rose," which 
       climbed to number 11 in 1940. Throughout 1941 and 1942, Bob Wills and the 
       Texas Playboys continued to record and perform and they were one of the most 
       popular bands in the country. However, their popularity was quickly derailed by 
       the arrival of World War II. Tommy Duncan enlisted in the Army after Pearl 
       Harbor and Al Stricklin became a defense plant worker. Late in 1942, Leon 
       McAuliffe and Eldon Shamblin both left the group. Bob enlisted in the Army late in 
       1942, but he was discharged as being unfit for service in the summer of 1943, 
       primarily because he was out of shape and disagreeable. Duncan was discharged 
       around the same time and the pair moved to California by the end of 1943. Wills 
       revamped the sound of the Texas Playboys after World War II, cutting out the 
       horn section and relying on amplified string instruments.  

       During the '40s, Art Satherley had moved from ARC to OKeh Records and Wills 
       followed him to the new label. His first single for OKeh was a new version of 
       "New San Antonio Rose" and it became a Top Ten hit early in 1944, crossing 
       over into the Top 15 on the pop charts. Wills stayed with OKeh for about year, 
       having several Top Ten hits, as well as the number ones "Smoke on the Water," 
       and "Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima." After he left OKeh, he signed with Columbia 
       Records, releasing his first single for the label, "Texas Playboy Rag," toward the 
       end of 1945.  

       In 1946, the Texas Playboys began recording a series of transcriptions for 
       Oakland, California's Tiffany Music Corporation. Tiffany's plan was to syndicate 
       the transcriptions throught the Southwest, but their goal was never fufilled. 
       Nevertheless, the Texas Playboys made a number of transcriptions in '46 and 
       '47, and these are the only recordings of the band playing extended jams. 
       Consequently, they are close approximations of the group's live sound. Though 
       the Tiffany Transcriptions would turn out to be important historical items, the 
       recordings that kept Wills and the Playboys in the charts were their singles for 
       Columbia, which were consistently reaching the Top Five between 1945 and 
       1948; in the summer of 1946, they had their biggest hit, "New Spanish Two 
       Step," which spent 16 weeks at number one.  

       Guitarist Eldon Shamblin returned to the Playboys in 1947, the final year Wills 
       recorded for Columbia Records. Beginning in late '47, Wills was signed to MGM. 
       His first single for the label, "Bubbles in My Beer," was a Top Ten hit early in 
       1948, as was its follow-up, "Keeper of My Heart." Though the Texas Playboys 
       were one of the most popular bands in the nation, they were beginning to fight 
       internally, mainly because Wills had developed a drinking problem that caused 
       him to behave erratically. Furthermore, Wills came to believe Tommy Duncan 
       was demanding too much attention and asking for too much money. By the end 
       of 1948, he had fired the singer. 

       Duncan's departure couldn't have come at a worse time. Western Swing was 
       beginning to fall out of public favor, and Wills's recordings weren't as consistently 
       successful as they had been before -- he had no hits at all in 1949. That year, he 
       relocated to Oklahoma, beginning a 15-year stretch of frequent moves, all 
       designed to find a thriving market for the band. In 1950, he had two Top Ten hits 
       -- "Ida Red Likes the Boogie" and "Faded Love," which would become a country 
       standard; they would be his last hits for a decade. Throughout the '50s, he 
       struggled with poor health and poor finances, but he continued to perform 
       frequently. However, his audience continued to shrink, despite his attempts to 
       hold on to it. Wills moved throughout the Southwest during the decade, without 
       ever finding a new home base. Audiences at dance halls plummeted with the 
       advent of television and rock & roll. The Texas Playboys made some records for 
       Decca that went unnoticed in the mid-'50s. In 1959, Wills signed with Liberty 
       Records, where he was produced by Tommy Allsup, a former Playboy. Before 
       recording his first sessions with Liberty, Wills expanded the lineup of the band 
       again and reunited with Tommy Duncan. The results were a success, with "Heart 
       to Heart Talk" climbing into the Top Ten during the summer of 1960. Again, the 
       Texas Playboys were drawing sizable crowds and selling a respectable amount of 

       In 1962, Wills had a heart attack that temporarily debilitated him, but by 1963, 
       he was making an album for Kapp records. The following year, he had a second 
       heart attack which forced him to disband the Playboys. After the second heart 
       attack, he performed and recorded as a solo performer. His solo recordings for 
       Kapp were made in Nashville with studio musicians and were generally ignored, 
       though he continued to be successful in concert. 

       In 1968, the Country Music Hall of Fame inducted Bob Wills and the following 
       year the Texas State Legislature honored him for his contribution to American 
       music. The day after he appeared in both houses of the Texas state 
       government, Wills suffered a massive stroke, which paralyzed his right side. 
       During his recovery, Merle Haggard -- the most popular country singer of the late 
       '60s -- recorded an album dedicated to Bob Wills, A Tribute to the Best Damn 
       Fiddle Player, which helped return Wills to public consciousness and spark a 
       wide-spread Western Swing revival. In 1972, Wills was well enough to accept a 
       citation from ASCAP in Nashville, as well as appear at several Texas Playboy 
       reunions, which were all very popular. In the fall of 1973, Wills and Haggard 
       began planning a Texas Playboy reunion album, featuring Leon McAuliffe, Al 
       Stricklin, Eldon Shamblin, and Smokey Dacus, among others. The first session 
       was held on December 3, 1973, with Wills leading the band from his wheelchair. 
       That night, he suffered another massive stroke in his sleep; the stroke left him 
       comatose. The Texas Playboys finished the album without him. Bob Wills never 
       regained consciousnesss and he died on May 15, 1975 in a nursing home. Wills 
       was buried in Tulsa, the place where his legend began. -- Stephen Thomas 




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