Origins of the Texas Playboys Theme
“We’re the Texas Playboys from the Lone Star State”
The Texas Playboys theme started out as a hokum song originally recorded by Georgia Tom Dorsey for the Gennett label on July 8th, 1929 as Eagle Ridin’ Papa. It was later recorded by the Famous Hokum Boys on April 9th, 1930, and released on the Banner, Oriole, Perfect, Romeo, Jewel and Homestead labels.
According to Cary Ginell’s book Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing (University of Illinois Press), Milton Brown heard one of the recordings (Ginell says it was probably the Hokum Boys version since Gennett was not a widely distributed label), and adapted it for the theme for the Aladdin Laddies. The Aladdin Laddies were on the radio for the Aladdin Lamp Company, and it was the first band that Bob Wills and Milton Brown were in together (no recording of that band exists). When Brown and Wills went to work for W. Lee O’Daniel for Burris Mills, they called their band the Light Crust Doughboys and adapted the song for their theme. The version of the theme featured below was recorded in 1934 after Brown and Wills had left the band and gone their separate ways.
When Milton Brown quit the Light Crust Doughboys to start his own band, he wrote an entirely new theme song, since the Light Crust Doughboys were still using their theme. However, he liked the original song so much, he recorded a version of Eagle Ridin’ Papa as Easy Ridin’ Papa for Decca on March 3, 1936 (all of Milton Brown’s recordings are available on CD from Origin Jazz Library. – this clip comes from there).
After Bob Wills quit The Light Crust Doughboys, he took the theme with him and adapted it for his new band, the Texas Playboys. He used the theme frequently for radio programs, and even after his death, the Original Texas Playboys continued to use the theme. Here’s the Tiffany Transcriptions version.
For more information about the development of this theme, hokum music’s influence on Western Swing, and the relationship between Bob Wills and Milton Brown, read Cary Ginell’s book Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing (University of Illinois Press).
For more information about hokum music, look for the 1930’s recordings of Georgia Tom Dorsey, Big Bill Broonzy, Washboard Sam, Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon, and others from the Chicago urban blues scene of that era.