Western Swing Music Society

Vancouver, BC Canada

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- Alan Morgan

Like most lovers of Western Swing my collection takes three forms...recordings which are now CDs. Videos which are now DVDs, and books which are now...still books.  Undoubtedly the day will come when the computer screen will replace books.   Hopefully not in my day because I love my books.  Although western swing book titles are few when compared with record and video titles, I was surprised when I checked the current stock list of western swing books still available for sale.  

Books are great for instant reference or just reading again...and again.   At the time of writing this article all the following books are available new from my favourite bookseller, amazon.com
San Antonio Rose San Antonio Rose – Life & music of Bob Wills
by Charles Townsend (1976)

The first and best book on Bob Wills still in print after 35 years.   About 400 pages containing a masterpiece of layout and design featuring many photos, discography and filmography. 

An absolute must for Bob Wills fans
                              Approx $32

Milton Brown & the Founding of Western Swing
by Gary Ginell   (1994)

374 pages of this hardcover book about the band that predated Bob Wills by a year.  Highlights are the reminiscences by Milton Brown's brother, Roy Lee Brown.                                    Approx.$34

Hell Bent For Music – Life of Pee Wee King
by Wade Hall   (1996)

 Pee Wee King's band was very popular in the 1950s and 1960s and featuring the rhythms of polkas, waltzes and western swing.   Recorded best western swing in mid 1950s.
                       Approx. $24

Jazz From the Southwest
by Jean Bond  (1998)

Subtitled “ An Oral History of Western Swing”.   A  completely different slant on western swing by a lecturer of Texas University with chapters on fiddlers, steel guitarists, horn players etc.   I reviewed this book in a past WSMS newsletter, but other reviewers did not agree with my high praise...a position I still hold.
                                                    Approx. $22

Discography of Western Swing & Hot String Bands  (1928-1942)                          
by Gary Ginell & Kevin Coffey (2001)

Bound hardcover book with 288 pages.   Of course the title tells all.  As my interest is in the later period of western swing I look forward to a second volume.   Kevin Coffey is the writer of many excellent booklets released with quality produced western swing CDs.
                                                      Approx. $112

Southwest Shuffle   
by Rich Kienzle  (2003)

Rich Kienzle is my favourite writer of articles, books, and CD booklets on the subject of western swing.  In this great book he compiles the best of his writings into an extremely informative 288 page book.
                            Approx $30

Shame Shame – Saga of Spade Cooley
by Robert Joling  (2009)

Tells the story of Spade's dark side with little mention of his great  music.  Reviewed in the 2010 WSMS newsletter. Not a book I recommend.
                                                       Approx.  $12

Spade Cooley – A Novel
by Ellen Milinkoff (2010)

Tells the story of his music and violent life.  As the title suggests, a novel, but not an accurate account of his musical life.   Better than Shame Shame, but not recommended.
                                                        Approx. $16

Western Swing Performers –
(Wikipedia Encyclopedia ) ( 2010)
This compact  122 page book features the listing from Internet's largest reference website of 33 Western Swing performers.
This book may interest western swing enthusiasts unable to log onto Wikipedia.  However,  for anyone who has access to the Internet Wikipedia is a gold mine of information
The average 2-page biography applies to Bob Dunn, Milton Brown, Junior Barnard, etc.   Other performers such as Spade Cooley and Speedy West get 6 pages and Bob Wills scores 11 pages.   The text in this book is direct from the Wikipedia encyclopedia but without Wikipedia's images ( photos, illustrations, charts, etc.)

This will only interest non-Internet users as the Internet user will have access to far more than these 33 performers as well as regular updated information and  images.                                     
                                Approx. $15
From Bob Wills Of course there will be other titles, not in my personal library, and books that are now out of print.   Amazon also has a service listing second hand dealers offering rare out of print book titles.       Another excellent website for searching for a rare book is www.abe.com   This site covers second hand book dealers from around the world and I have used this website for many years and find it the ultimate rare book search site.

In closing I must mention another book that is out of print and rarely available.                             

From Bob Wills to Ray Benson – History of Western Swing Music
by Tom Dunbar ( 1988)

This small 100 page book is often cited in bibliographies as it is an excellent reference source for all bands.   As the title suggests ,all bands from Bob Wills to Asleep At the Wheel are covered by biography, photo and selected discography.     It looks like it was self-published, although it claims: Term Publications, Austin, Texas.
I borrowed a copy of this rare gem from an Australian western swing fan who received it from western swing giant, Smokey Dacus, who also autographed the book in 1991.   As I could not purchase it, I photocopied the 100 pages which I bound in a hard cover folder.   As I previously mentioned it is extremely rare but worth regular searches on www.abe.com   

V5K 1M3                

Contact – John York  email or phone: 604-299-2301