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Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys

The Tiffany Transcriptions – 2009 (Collector's Choice)

Reviewed by C. Eric Banister

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CDs by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys

The latest release from re-issue label Collector's Choice Music, and its first boxed set, looks back to an influential artist and brings back into print one of his most sought after recordings - The Tiffany Transcriptions by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. In the late 1930s and early '40s many people from the Oklahoma and West Texas area made their way to California to search for work and escape the effects of the Dust Bowl. Knowing that his audience would be awaiting him, band leader Bob Wills took his group, which was well known to California's newest residents, and played to sold-out audiences up and down the coast.

In the mid-1940s, Wills' path crossed that of disc jockey Cliff Johnson (known on the air as "Cactus Jack") and businessman Cliff Sundin. In short time, the three formed Tiffany Music with the idea that Wills and His Playboys would record a series of transcriptions (16-inch acetate discs containing 5 songs per side) that could be licensed to radio stations across the country as radio shows.

The venture was short-lived and the recordings remained under the ownership of Cliff Sundin until his death in 1981. In 1983, California-based Kaleidoscope Records purchased the recordings and released selections on LP. From 1983 to 1990, 10 volumes were released. In the early 1990s, Rhino Records released them on CD, but they have long since been out of print. The Collector's Choice boxed set brings all 10 volumes back into print along with fantastic detailed liner notes by Western Swing expert Rich Keinzle.

The 150 songs presented here range from Wills' hits to songs that the Playboys never commercially cut in other forms. Recorded at the end of 2 tours (1946 and 1947) the band was in full concert mode when they set up to run through recording of the transcriptions. This live energy brings new light to many Wills hits such as "San Antonio Rose," "Steel Guitar Rag" and "Milk Cow Blues." The release brings us as close as possible to what it might have been like to attend a Playboys show during one of the early incarnations' peak years and is a must for Wills fans and fans of Western Swing.