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The Light Crust Doughboys Are on the Air

Celebrating Seventy Years of Texas Music

John Mark Dempsey

Publication Year: 2002

Millions of Texans and Southwesterners have been touched over the years by the Light Crust Doughboys. From 1930 to 1952, fans faithfully tuned in to their early-morning and, later, noontime radio program, and turned out in droves to hear them play live. The Doughboys embodied the very essence of the “golden era” of radio—live performances and the dominance of programming by advertising agencies. Their radio program began as a way to sell Light Crust Flour. Their early impresario, W. Lee “Pappy” O'Daniel, quickly learned how to exploit the power of radio to influence voters, and he put that lesson to good use to become a two-time Texas governor and the model for Pappy O'Daniel in the movie, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? But the group was more than a way to push flour; the talented musicians associated with them included Bob Wills and Milton Brown, each of whom receive credit for founding western swing. With the demise of their regular radio program, the Light Crust Doughboys had to remake themselves. Trailblazers in western swing, the Doughboys explored many other musical genres, including gospel, for which they were nominated for Grammys in 1998, 1999, 2001, and 2002. They continue to play together with versatility and wide-ranging talent—“official music ambassadors of the Lone Star State” as declared by the state legislature in 1995. Their legendary banjo player, Smokey Montgomery, was with the group for sixty-six years before his death in 2001. For the first time, here is the story of the Doughboys phenomenon, from their debut broadcast to their contemporary live performances. This is a rich slice of Texas musical and broadcasting history. Included inside is a bonus CD containing seventy-two minutes of Doughboys music, from early studio recordings to contemporary tunes.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Contents

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pp. iii-

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Foreword

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pp. v-vi

It’s been said that years after the breakup of The Beatles, George Harrison told Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, “You don’t know how lucky you are, mate. . . playing with your own band for all these years!” Such is also the life of a Light Crust Doughboy. There have been many times in my life when my dream has been to make music side by side with marvelous instrumentalists and singers such as Smokey Montgomery and the current Light Crust Doughboys: Jerry Elliott, ...

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Introduction

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pp. vii-ix

This book was a race against time. We lost. But, even so, it was a triumphant experience. When work on this history of the Light Crust Doughboys began in the summer of 2000, 87-year-old Marvin “Smokey” Montgomery was still regularly performing with the group, indeed, was the onstage leader of the Doughboys. He had joined the group in 1935 at the height of its radio popularity, and became its undisputed leader when the Doughboys were reorganized after a hiatus during World...

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CHAPTER ONE

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pp. 1-16

When the tale of the Light Crust Doughboys began, Herbert Hoover was president. The majority of Texans, indeed, the majority of Americans, still lived and toiled on the farm. Car travel had begun to transform the nation, but the great interstate highway system existed only in the minds of a few visionary dreamers. Of course, there was no Internet and no television, and while the medium that would make the Doughboys stars all over the Southwest—radio—had already captured the...

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CHAPTER TWO

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pp. 17-68

...It’s no coincidence that the words most associated with the Light Crust Doughboys contain the phrase “on the air.” In their 1930s and 1940s heyday, the Doughboys were creatures of broadcasting. “There is no way of knowing how many millions of people heard their broadcasts,” wrote historian Charles R. Townsend (Townsend, Display). But while the Doughboys were certainly talented musicians and popular live performers, first and foremost they were salesmen for a household food product—Light Crust Flour. ...

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CHAPTER THREE

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pp. 69-108

The departure of three such towering figures as Bob Wills, Milton Brown, and W. Lee O’Daniel by all rights should have been the end of the Light Crust Doughboys. But at that time the Doughboys, besides being a band, were a corporate entity; simply put, they existed to promote Light Crust Flour and Burrus Mill. The name of “the Light Crust Doughboys” meant much more in the minds of Texas music lovers than the individual names of...

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CHAPTER FOUR

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pp. 109-153

The Light Crust Doughboys had begun as a “fiddle” band, with two acoustic guitars and a single fiddle. Over the years, their sound and style steadily grew larger and more sophisticated. At the beginning of 1937, the Doughboys sound became “complete” when they added pianist John William “Knocky” Parker, Jr., to their lineup. Parker’s arrival cemented the Doughboys’ move to a jazzier, bluesier style of playing, and, symbolically at least, represented the...

images

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pp. A1-A16

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CHAPTER FIVE

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pp. 154-187

Texas after World War II was a rapidly changing place. The economy, jolted from the Depression by the demands of war production, continued to boom as thousands of young men returned home from the service. The massive migration from the farm to the cities, which began before the war, resumed, with country people being attracted by lots of goodpaying jobs. Radio, dominated in the prewar years by a handful of powerful regional stations, began to see an expansion...

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CHAPTER SIX

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pp. 188-220

That the Light Crust Doughboys survived the period from the mid-’50s to the ’90s is not so much a miracle as a testament to the love that the members—in particular Smokey Montgomery—had for their music. Through all of the social and musical changes of the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s—a time extending from the days of black-and-white TV to the arrival of the Internet—the Light Crust Doughboys never quit playing their music. Grocery store openings, county fairs, conventions, private parties—the...

Postscript

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pp. 221-224

Appendix 1

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pp. 225-260

Appendix 2

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pp. 261-269

References

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pp. 271-278

Index

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pp. 279-294


E-ISBN-13: 9781574414301
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574411515

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 31 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: Evelyn Oppenheimer Series