I’ve written in this space before about “Uncle” Art Satherley, the British-born A&R man for Columbia Records in the ‘30s and ‘40s, and how he thought that the Bob Wills audience preferred countrified fiddle and string-band tunes to the more sophisticated big-band sound Bob was experimenting with in the early 1940s. One can only imagine what Uncle Art thought about the song that leads off this week’s SWING ON THIS. It’s a swingin’ horn-driven version of “Liebestraum,” written in the mid-1800s by composer Franz Liszt. So it’s not only done in Wills’ big-band style; it’s also a CLASSICAL piece, for Pete’s sake.
A&R people like Satherley oversaw recording sessions for their labels and often performed other functions, including advising acts on what to record (A&R stood for “artists and repertoire”), helping with arrangements and production, and even assisting in marketing and promotion. I feel certain that Uncle Art didn’t think “Liebestraum” would go over with Western-swing fans, and it may have been due to his influence that the song, recorded in February ’41 by Bob and the boys, didn’t get out of the can until 1982, when it finally saw the light of day in a Time-Life boxed set.
But it’s a dandy, and I follow it up this week with one of those great singles Bob’s brother Johnnie Lee Wills did for RCA Victor in the early ‘50s, while he was holding down the house-band job at Tulsa’s Cain’s Ballroom. And after that, we’re off and running with the usual wide swath of material, including, this time around, a radio broadcast of Hank Thompson’s first-ever recording and a cover of Doris Day’s first No. 1 hit by Merl Lindsay and his Oklahoma Nite Riders.
That’s SWING ON THIS, Saturday night at 7 p.m., Tulsa time, over radio station KWGS, 89.5 FM, and live-streaming everywhere in the cosmos at publicradiotulsa.org. C’m’on along for the ride!
1. “Liebestraum,” Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (for DALE CLARK)