Cover for TOWNSEND: San Antonio Rose: The Life and Music of Bob Wills. Click for larger image

San Antonio Rose

The Life and Music of Bob Wills

"Until Hank Williams came along, it was just Bob Willis," says Willie Nelson. "He was it." And indeed he was, especially for the thousands in the Southwest who knew and loved Bob Wills. The colorful band leader-composer-fiddler from Turkey, Texas, was the one performer who for years lassoed the emotions of country-and-western fans nationwide. For a while in the early forties, his records sold better than those of any other recording artist. He was voted not only into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, but also into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, the only performer other than Gene Autry to be so honored.

Affectionately written by a Texan who responded to the legendary fiddler's magnetism, San Antonio Rose is a meticulous recapturing of Wills and the musical excitement he created. Charles R. Townsend traces Wills's colorful and dynamic life, from his birth into a family of frontier fiddlers (1905), through the development of his career and the poignancy of his last recording session (1973), to his death in 1975. He shows how Wills brought black and white musical traditions together and examines the tremendous impact he had on both popular and country music through the more than 550 selections he recorded and the forty years he and his Texas Playboys performed in dance halls and on radio.


"One can only stand in awe at the kind of work that went into Townsend's book. . . . San Antonio Rose must be recognized as a major advance in the study of American music. It is a masterpiece of layout and design, rich with photos and well-done illustrations, [and] should be in the library of anyone interested in American music."--Charles Wolfe, Journal of Country Music

"A warm and honest portrait of the man who brought the music of 'country folks' to town, who merged the spontaneity of country fiddling with the Big Band Sound, giving birth to Western Swing."--Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"A landmark in country music scholarship."--Michael Mendelson, Western Folklore


Charles R. Townsend, professor of history at West Texas State University, won a Grammy Award in 1975 for his brochure notes accompanying United Artists' release of For the Last Time, the last recording session of Bob Willis and his Texas Playboys.

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