Kinsey’s voice came out of Philcos and Zeniths and other radios all
over East Texas, and eventually
much of the South, each day at noon to announce the beginning of a
performance of the most popular fiddle band ever assembled.
Listeners awaited Kinsey’s daily alert that “The Light Crust Doughboys
are on the air!”
The broadcasts were sponsored by Burris Mills as advertisement for
its Light Crust Flour, and the little band was organized by Bob
Wills, a west Texan who had moved to Fort
Worth. Wills played fiddle, and he founded the “band” with just
himself and Herman Arnspiger, who played guitar. Soon they added Milton
Brown as vocalist for what was known as the Wills Fiddle Band.
persuaded W. Lee O’Daniel,
president of Burris Mills, to sponsor the band on a fifteen-minute
daily radio show in Fort
Worth in 1931, and the group changed its name to The Light Crust
Doughboys. The relationship between Wills and O’Daniel was rocky from
the first. For one thing, O’Daniel did not like the “hillbilly” music
the Doughboys played, and he disapproved of Wills’
habit of alcohol use. He fired Wills
after the second week of the show, but had to permit his return because
of audience demand.
and other band members returned to the air, part of the bargain include
their agreement to work in the flourmill as well as perform. The band’s
growing popularity led in O’Daniel developing the first radio network
in Texas and in sales of Light Crust Flour, which continued to increase
even as the composition of the band changed.
was among the first to go, after O’Daniel fired him a second time.
organized the Texas Playboys and went on to a career that spanned
several decades. He pioneered the musical genre known as “Western
swing,” appeared in several motion pictures, and toured the nation’s
night clubs, dance halls, and concert stages with the Playboys.
Since Burris Mills owned rights to the Light Crust Doughboys, they
continued to sponsor the group on the radio until 1942, when most
of the band members joined the military service or accepted jobs
in defense plants. Such noted musicians as Dick Reinhart, Martin
(Smoky) Montgomery, Ramon DeArman, John Parker, Muryel Campbell,
and Cecil Brower played in the band.
O’Daniel left Burris Mills to form the Hillbilly Flour Company,
and continued to sponsor another group, the Hillbilly Boys. They
helped him win election as governor of Texas
in 1938, but they never achieved the same prominence as when the
Light Crust Doughboys were on the air.
P. McDonald, PhD
October 24, 2005 column
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)