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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

"THE LIGHT CRUST DOUGHBOYS
ARE ON THE AIR"

by Archie P. McDonald, PhD
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
The Light Crust Doughboys became the most famous, and most successful, western swing group in Texas in the 1930s, and a derivative of the group still performs today, although they are no longer "on the air."

The original Doughboys followed a rough road to success. Bob Wills moved to Fort Worth and organized the Wills Fiddle Band in 1929. Despite that auspicious name, the "band" was just Wills playing fiddle while Herman Arnsparger accompanied him on guitar until Milton Brown joined the band as a vocalist the next year.

Wills talked W. Lee O'Daniel, president of Burrus Mill and Elevator Company, makers of Light Crust Flour in Fort Worth, to sponsor his band on a local radio show. The groupšs name was changed to Light Crust Doughboys because Burrus wanted to sell more flour. Shows opened with, "The Light Crust Doughboys are on the air!" followed by their theme "Listen everybody, from near and far, if you wanta know who we are. Wešre the Light Crust Doughboys from Burrus Mill." OšDaniel fired the band two week later, then had to hire them back when he found out how much the listening public liked the show. That began an uneasy association between O'Daniel and Wills, whom he eventually did fire completely, and the remaining Doughboys, until O'Daniel left the company in 1935.

O'Daniel joined the program for a time as master of ceremonies. He often read poetry and homilies and attracted a sufficiently wide following himself to be elected governor in 1938.

Following a final firing from the group by O'Daniel, Wills moved to Oklahoma and then to Waco and organized a new band called the Texas Playboys, which he continued to lead until his retirement. Eventually Wills was recognized as the "father" of the musical genre known as "western swing."

When O'Daniel left Burrus and the Doughboys, he developed the Hillbilly Flour Company and hired a new band called the Hillbilly Boys. Meanwhile, Burrus continued to sponsor the Light Crust Doughboys on a statewide radio network each day at noon. The band members changed frequently, but the music of the fiddle remained their specialty.

A modern version of the Light Crust Doughboys continues to perform, enabling youngsters to hear an old sound and oldsters to remember to pass the biscuits to Pappy.


All Things Historical > January 25, 2004 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
Published with permission
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.

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