Bill Boyd & his Cowboy Ramblers recorded over 200 sides for RCA Victor between 1934 and ’51, and that period of time is represented on this third BACM volume of songs by this popular western swing band. Probably, today fewer people know who Bill Boyd was than, say Bob Wills or the Light Crust Doughboys, but this Texas-based band was hugely popular in the 1930’s and 40’s. Many of Boyd’s sidemen were also famous members of other great western swing bands, and all the fans knew their names. Cecil Brower, Jesse Ashlock, Knocky Parker, Marvin Montgomery, Art Davis and Bill’s brother Jim Boyd come to mind.
In this collection of 26 tunes you’ll hear a few typical Texas string-band stylings, especially among the earliest recordings, but blues and hot Western swing soon pretty much take over. And it’s clear why these guys became so popular. One of my favorites is “Oh No She Don’t” from 1936, featuring a vocal by Jesse Ashlock and Jim Boyd. Another is “Bill Boyd Rag” which, I believe, was composed by Bill along with Art Davis who, probably, is also the featured fiddler on this track. Another couple of favorites I didn’t expect to find in a collection of western swing, are swing arrangements of “Alice Blue Gown” and Duke Ellington’s “Jeep’s Blues.”
In the early 1940’s, Bill went to Hollywood with his fiddler, Art Davis, where they teamed up with Lee Powell to star in a half-dozen or so B-western movies called the “Frontier Marshalls” for PRC studios. Bill & Art sang (Art has no vocal solos on this CD and he was absent for a time in the 30’s while appearing in some of Gene Autry’s films, but his fiddle is here). Unfortunately, Boyd’s band isn’t heard on those PRC film soundtracks but now we have a significant amount of the band’s music on CD. Folks who came to the early WMA conventions may remember an accordionist named Red Gilliam. Red appears on one of the last tracks on this CD! Detailed liner notes by Kevin Coffey. VenerableMusic.com, phone (678) 232-0268.