Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. For the week of Sept. 5, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman takes a look at Milton Brown, whose meeting with Bob Wills in Fort Worth led to the formation of one of the most distinguished acts in the history of western swing, the Light Crust Doughboys.
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And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.
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This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet the “other” King of Western Swing.
William Milton Brown was born in Stephenville on Sept. 8, 1903. At an early age, he was singing church hymns and sentimental love songs, but he also enjoyed the upbeat pop, jazz and fiddle hoedowns he heard from traveling medicine shows. By 1930, Brown was living in Fort Worth. There he met a young fiddle player named Bob Wills who shared his eclectic musical tastes. Before long, Brown and Wills were performing regularly on KFJZ as the Light Crust Doughboys. Because they played such a broad variety of musical styles, including fiddle breakdowns, blues, ballads and swinging jazz numbers, the group gained a huge following. However, Brown soon left the band over disputes with the manager, Pappy O’Daniel. He formed his own group, Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies, which included fiddles, piano and the first amplified steel guitar. For a while, Brown was the most prominent band leader in western swing, and he helped define the sound of country music for generations to come. Had he not died in 1936 from complications following a car wreck, some argue that Brown would be known today as the true “King of Western Swing.”
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll recall an unexpected incident that helped propel the state’s punk music scene into the national spotlight.