Light Crust Doughboys
The Light Crust Doughboys is an American Western swing band from Texas, United States, organized in 1931 by the Burrus Mill and Elevator Company in Saginaw, Texas. The band achieved its peak popularity in the few years leading up to World War II. In addition to launching Western swing pioneers Bob Wills and Milton Brown, it provided a platform for many of the best musicians of the genre, including Tommy Duncan, Cecil Brower, John Parker and Kenneth Pitts.
The original group disbanded in 1942, although band member Marvin Montgomery led a new version organized in the 1960s. A contemporary incarnation beginning in the 1990s (including Montgomery until his death in 2001) bills itself as the longest-running country music band in the world.
The Light Crust Doughboys were charter inductees into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame in 1989, and were also inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In December 2005, the Light Crust Doughboys Hall of Fame and Museum opened in Quitman, Texas.
In 1931, Burrus Mill's president, W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel, wanted to link radio and advertising to promote the company's Light Crust Flour. O'Daniel, who would later travel with the band and use its popularity as a springboard for his political ambitions, said the idea to start the band and link radio to advertising was pitched to him originally by Bob Wills, Herman Arnspiger and Milton Brown, who at the time were out-of-work musicians. There is disagreement about exactly when and on what radio station the Doughboys first broadcast, but it is generally accepted that by January 1931 the band had started playing on KFJZ-AM. Their first broadcasts on the station included a sad prison song, "Twenty-One Years", and a popular fiddle song, "Chicken Reel". Their radio signature was their introduction by announcer Truett Kimzey: "The Light Crust Doughboys are on the air."
Though the Doughboys' early broadcasts were well-received, the notion of using radio to advertise was still new, and O'Daniel was unconvinced. He also reportedly did not like the band's "hillbilly music," and canceled them at least once (though he almost immediately reinstated them). At first he paid the band members $7.50 a week, but also required that they work a "regular" job at the mill: Wills drove a truck, Arnspiger worked on the dock loading flour, and Brown was a salesman. After a few weeks of brutally long days, the band members were allowed to stop working their "regular" jobs, but O'Daniel required them to be at the mill in their new practice room working on music eight hours each day. The band eventually won O'Daniel over by asking him to serve as their emcee during a broadcast.
The Doughboys began to hit their stride in March 1931, when they chartered a bus to Galveston, Texas to perform at a bakers convention. The band had the bus wired for sound and they played impromptu gigs at stops along the way to large crowds. Impressed, O'Daniel purchased a seven-seater Packard and rigged it with placards imploring people to eat more bread. In 1933, during a goodwill tour for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, the radio station's sound engineer, who usually accompanied the band as its "master of ceremonies," could not get away from the station. O'Daniel replaced him, to great effect—O'Daniel was a natural at showmanship and promotion, and the crowds loved him. Wills and Tommy Duncan departed in 1933; and by 1935, O'Daniel had left Burrus Mill to start his own flour company with a new radio band, Pat O'Daniel and His Hillbilly Boys. He was elected Texas governor in 1939.
The original Doughboys group disbanded in 1942 with U.S involvement in World War II, and its final recording was released in 1948.
During the following decades, leader Smokey Montgomery kept the band going in some form. In 1969, the Doughboys began recording again; and in 1973, the band took part in the last recording session for Wills in Dallas for the album, For the Last Time. In 1977, Texas State Resolution No. 463 recognised the Doughboys for their contributions to Texas history and Texas music.
In 1983, musician and producer Art Greenhaw booked the Doughboys to play at the Mesquite Folk Festival, which Greenhaw had founded. He became excited about the prospects for reviving the band, which had been working only sporadically for several years. In 1993, Greenhaw joined the group as bassist; and as co-producer, he added horns to its sound, bringing about a new type of "country jazz" influenced by the old swing sound. Other members included Jerry Elliot (since 1960), Bill Simmons, John Walden, Jim Baker (since 1993) and Dale Cook. In 1995, the Texas Legislature declared the Doughboys the "official music ambassadors of the Lone Star State"; and they continue to perform today.
The band's collaborations with gospel singer James Blackwood earned Grammy nominations in 1998, 1999 and 2001; and in 2005, Southern Meets Soul: An American Gospel Jubilee, earned a Grammy nomination for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Album.
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