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Spade Cooley

Shame On You: The Western Swing Dance Gang – 1999 (Bloodshot Revival)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by Spade Cooley

Thirty years after his death, western swing bandleader Spade Cooley remains a tarnished figure in the history of country music, mainly due to the torture murder of his wife.

And that's what makes this such a welcome release. It's easy to forget that there was a time in the mid-'40's when Cooley's popularity rivaled even that of the great Bob Wills. Though Columbia released an excellent collection of Cooley's '40's recordings in 1994, this is a 25-track collection of 1944/45 radio transcriptions recorded at the height of the original Cooley band's popularity and presented in immaculate sound quality.

Though a few tracks - "Swingin' the Devil's Dream," "The Trouble With Me," "Better Do It Now," "Silver Bell," "Cowbell Polka," and the title track - appear on the '94 collection, the majority do not and some, in fact, were never otherwise recorded by the group in a studio setting. Vocalist Tex Williams, steel guitarist Joaquin Murphy and most of the rest of Cooley's band would split from Cooley in late '45, a loss that Cooley never recovered from. This is a prime chance to hear one of the great western swing bands during their comparatively brief stay at the top of the heap.