Bob Wills is still the King

Just northwest of this area the small (pop. 427) town of Turkey, Texas is located.  It is known as the home of Bob Wills, born in 1905 and died in 1975, who became known as the King of Western Swing.  He grew up in a musical family and worked cotton farms in Texas and New Mexico, often working along side of black farm workers where he learned many of their songs while in the field.  He worked as a barber during the day at Hamm’s Barber Shop in Turkey and played in minstrel shows at night while fiddling and later mixed this music with the blues to develop his own style later called western swing.  Then he began to draw crowds and traveled all over the west especially in California playing in clubs and starring in movies.  For a time in the 1950s Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys band drew bigger crowds than Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey.  Luck would have it that we were in the area the weekend of the 42nd Bob Wills Days Festival so we decided to make the trip.  They have BBQ cook-offs, fiddler contests, catfish fries, craft fairs, parades, and many name bands each night playing western swing at the high school for dances.  Many people come in their RVs and campers and some stay in tents.  There are a few bed and breakfasts in the area and some ranches open their gates to the crowds.

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