Bob Wills

Induction Year: 1970

Birth Name: James Robert Wills

Birth Date: 03-06-1905

Place of Birth: Kosse, Texas

Death Date: 05-13-1975

Place of Death: Fort Worth, Texas

In Texas in the 1930s, a handful of musicians began blending old-time fiddle tunes with blues, jazz, Mexican songs and big-band swing. The danceable hybrid they created came to be known as Western swing. Bob Wills was at the cutting edge of those musical experiments, and he became the most popular and influential of all the Western swing bandleaders. Along the way, he wrote songs that have become enduring classics in country music, including "San Antonio Rose" and "Faded Love."

James Robert Wills grew up in rural west Texas and was playing fiddle at dances by age 10. Prior to becoming a full-time musician, he farmed, worked construction, sold insurance and tried preaching and barbering. He found his calling with the Light Crust Doughboys band in 1931, broadcasting over WBAP in Fort Worth.

In 1934, Wills moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma where he and his Texas Playboys band held court over radio station KVOO on a popular noontime show for nine years, rivaling the popularity of pop big-bands on radio, on records and on tour. His brand of country music was driven by drums and often punctuated by horns. Over the years, the Texas Playboys swelled from a six-man outfit to a 16-piece orchestra, capable of a fiddle breakdown one moment and full-tilt big-band swing the next. After moving to California, his popularity continued undiminished through the '40s, and he appeared in several Hollywood Westerns.

He left a lasting impact as a songwriter, penning such enduring country classics as "Take Me Back to Tulsa," "Stay a Little Longer," "Faded Love" and "My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You." His 1939 instrumental "San Antonio Rose" proved so popular that, at the urging of his record company, he added lyrics, creating "New San Antonio Rose." The retooled version was not only a bigger hit for Wills but also a million-seller for Bing Crosby and a country music standard today.

Wills' music has been regularly revived and celebrated over the decades since his 1940s heyday. Prominent albums focusing exclusively on Wills' music include collections by George Jones (1962), Merle Haggard (1971) and two tribute albums by Asleep at the Wheel featuring all-star casts in 1993 and 1999.

Bob Wills died in 1975 following a series of strokes, but not before being elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1968 and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

"Bob Wills Boogie"

(written with Junior Barnard, Millard Kelso)

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1946 #4 country

"Brain Cloudy Blues"

(written with Tommy Duncan)

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1946 
Merle Haggard1971 

"Bubbles in My Beer"

(written with Tommy Duncan, Cindy Walker)

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1948 #4 country
Hank Thompson1958 
George Jones1962 
Ray Pennington1971 #68 country
Ernest Tubb1972 
Willie Nelson1973 
Willie Nelson2006 

"Don't Be Ashamed of Your Age"

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1947 
Ernest Tubb & Red Foley1950 #7 country
Willie Nelson2006 
Jerry Lee Lewis & George Jones2005 
John Prine & Mac Wiseman2007 

"Faded Love"

(written with John Wills)

Bob Wills Texas Playboys1950 #8 country
Patti Page1961 
George Jones1962 
Leon McAuliffe1962 #22 country
Jackie DeShannon1963 #97 pop
Patsy Cline1963 #7 country, #96 pop
Eddy Arnold1964 
Dottie West1968 
Tompall & the Glaser Brothers1971 #22 country
Elvis Presley1971 
Delaney & Bonnie1971 
Doug Sahm1973 
The Seldom Scene1973 
Sammi Smith1974 
Loretta Lynn1977 
Willie Nelson & Ray Price1980 #3 country
Mandy Barnett1995 
Asleep at the Wheel, Lyle Lovett & Shawn Colvin1999 
LeAnn Rimes1999 
Patty Griffin2003 

"I Wonder If You Feel the Way I Do"

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1938 
Tommy Collins1959 
Asleep at the Wheel & Merle Haggard1993 

"I'm Gonna Be Boss From Now On"

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1947 #5 country

"Keeper of My Heart"

(written with Jerry Irby)

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1948 #8 country


(written with Tommy Duncan, Tiny Moore)

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1947 
Merle Haggard1971 
Asleep at the Wheel & Marty Stuart1993 

"My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You"

(written with Lee Ross)

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1955 
Ray Price1957 #1 country, #63 pop
Guy Mitchell1960 #45 pop
Johnny Cash1960 
Eddy Arnold1963 
Loretta Lynn1964 
Dean Martin1965 
Ernest Tubb1966 
Skeeter Davis1973 
Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys (remake)1973 

"New San Antonio Rose"

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1940 #11 pop
Roy Hall1940 
Texas Jim Lewis1940 
Bing Crosby1941 #7 pop
Bob Wills Texas Playboys (reissue)1943 #3 country, #19 pop
Patti Page1951 
Ernest Tubb1958 
Pat Boone1960 
Patsy Cline1961 
Ray Price1962 
George Jones1962 
Willie Nelson1966 
Merle Haggard1971 
John Denver1976 
Asleep at the Wheel & Dwight Yoakam1999 

"San Antonio Rose"

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1939 
Cliff Bruner's Texas Wanderers1939 
Floyd Cramer1961 #8 pop
Bill Black Combo1963 
Vassar Clements1975 
David Schnaufer1988 

"Spanish Two Step"

(written with Tommy Duncan)

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1935 
Adolph Hofner & His Texans1940 
Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1946 #1 country, #20 pop

"Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima"

(written with Cliff Johnson)

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1945 #1 country
Sons of the Pioneers1945 #4 country

"Stay a Little Longer"

(written with Tommy Duncan)

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1946 #2 country
Jim & Jesse1965 
Merle Haggard1971 
Willie Nelson1973 #22 country
Mel Tillis1982 #17 country
Asleep at the Wheel & Mark Chesnutt1999 
The Sadies2006 

"Sugar Moon"

(written with Cindy Walker)

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1947 #1 country
Pat Boone1958 #5 pop
k. d. lang1988 
Willie Nelson1995 

"Take Me Back to Tulsa"

(written with Tommy Duncan)

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1941 
George Jones1962 
Merle Haggard1971 
Don Walser1995 
Asleep at the Wheel & Clay Walker1999 
George Strait2003 

"Texas Playboy Rag"

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1945 #2 country

"Thorn in My Heart"

(written with Sam Martin)

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1948 #10 country

"White Cross on Okinawa"

(written with Cliff Johnson)

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys1945 #1 country

Bob Wills

Induction Year: 1970