film TRAILER coming SOON

film synopsis

Western swing, which got its start in the early 1930s in Fort Worth, combined black, white, rural, and urban influences in an intoxicating musical gumbo, with a spongelike ability to absorb a myriad of musical styles and transcend multiple ethnic boundaries. This groundbreaking film traces its origins, development, and legacy, utilizing original and contemporary voices.

Film overview

The Birth & History of Western Swing is an ambitious film project that seeks to document an important development in 20th century popular music that has yet to be examined in a feature-length study. The reasons why such a project hasn’t yet been done, after 90 years since its birth in a ramshackle dancehall on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas, are what make it uniquely important in American music. Western swing combined elements of black, white, and ethnic music styles in a way that historians have never known where to place it. Is it jazz? Is it country? Is it folk? The answer to all of these questions is yes, it is all of these things, but western swing’s marginality to each of those genres has been such that it has always been put on documentarians’ back burner.

 

In a 1997 review of “The Complete Recordings of Milton Brown & his Musical Brownies,” the late journalist Robert Palmer said, “Their music has proved too jazzy and swinging to win them a prominent place in the annals of country music, too “hillbilly” to be taken seriously by jazz scholars, too full of regional quirks to be accepted as mainstream pop.” The absence of studies of western swing is a dereliction of duty by today’s documentarians, which The Birth & History of Western Swing endeavors to rectify.

 

In Ken Burns’ recent documentary on country music, western swing was mentioned as merely a sub-genre defined and disseminated by Bob Wills alone. The segments on western swing in the documentary were thorough and complete with regard to Wills’ legendary career, however, much important history was not included. Although Wills deserves the accolades bestowed upon him as the "King of Western Swing" who brought the genre to national prominence, research has shown that not only did he not “invent” the music, as many of his proponents still insist, but that the growth of western swing in the Southwest was much more complex and gradual, a fascinating study of how rural house dances featuring a fiddle and guitar exploded during the on-coming Swing Era of the 1930s to rival in popularity the massively successful orchestras of iconic figures like Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.

 

In The Birth & History of Western Swing, the producers will show how founding father Milton Brown literally brought rural string instrumentation to the city, combining frontier fiddles and guitars together with urban jazz, pop, and blues tunes in the early 1930s, serving as a salve for Depression-weary Americans. With Brown’s Musical Brownies serving as their prototype model, bands sprang up like weeds throughout the Southwest, beginning in Fort Worth, and then spreading to Dallas and other Texas cities, plus more in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico. The size of the audiences that came to dance to this exciting new music in the dancehalls, auditoriums, and large fraternal lodges required amplification, and electric guitars were soon populating every band. Important bands such as the Light Crust Doughboys, Bob Wills & his Texas Playboys, Cliff Bruner’s Texas Wanderers, Bob & Joe Shelton’s Sunshine Boys, Bill Boyd & his Cowboy Ramblers, Adolph Hofner’s Texans and the Tune Wranglers each possessed singular personalities and definable sounds of their own, all tuned to their own respective territories and ethnic influences.

 

Western swing presided over a boon in radio broadcasts, which spread the music to the farthest reaches of stations’ signals. Jukeboxes and electrical transcriptions, both introduced in the mid-1930s, enabled the music to travel even further, and with the migration of Americans to the West Coast during World War II, western swing, with Bob Wills & his Texas Playboys leading the way, went along with it. In the 1940s, the music moved to film, and became an even more pervasive presence in theaters across the country. Honky tonk would rise in the latter half of the 1940s, heavily influenced and adapted from the pioneering amplified electric sound of western swing. By the 1950s, television added another dimension to western swing, as the music’s evolving rockabilly sound helped fuel the fire that would eventually become rock ’n’ roll. A prime example was Bill Haley's Four Aces of Western Swing transforming into Bill Haley & the Comets.

 

The Birth & History of Western Swing gathers voices from the genre’s past and present, including never-before-aired interviews with many of its first generation of musicians as well as founding father Milton Brown’s late brother Roy Lee, the last survivor who actually witnessed Brown’s history-making dance band in action from the bandstand. In addition, it utilizes analysis from its major scholars: Brown biographer Cary Ginell, Wills biographer Dr. Charles Townsend and the author of Jazz of the Southwest, Dr. Jean Boyd, as well as other current keepers of the flame, including Jason Roberts, leader of the current incarnation of Wills’ former group, Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, and Barbara Martin, longtime editor of Western Swing Monthly, the genre’s literary meeting place and Bible. Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel also lends an insightful voice to the film with stories of the revival of the genre that he spearheaded nearly 50 years ago after the passing of Wills in 1975. Jody Nix provides emotional memories of he and his father Holye Nix recording with Wills on his final Grammy Award-winning 1973 album, For The Last Time - Bob Wills & his Texas Playboys.

 

To produce such a sweeping documentary that spans nearly a century of sounds, images, and artifacts, the producers are doing double-duty as preservationists. Many of the vintage interviews they have collected were recorded on obsolete media such as analog cassettes, reel-to-reel tapes, and VHS videos, all of which are deteriorating and need careful restoration in order to preserve the precious memories of the genre’s informants. Many of these interviews are unique, with the performers not interviewed anywhere else. Rare photographs, advertisements, and radio broadcast transcriptions are some of the other valuable artifacts that need to be included, but also require careful restoration.

 

The producers of The Birth & History of Western Swing realize that there is likely to be only one opportunity to produce such a film and want to ensure that it is done right, with all of the important elements necessary to the accurate representation of western swing’s storied history made available to the production. The producers sincerely appreciate the grant and sponsor funding necessary to complete this important documentary film. It is also their desire to use a portion of donated funds to create a lasting tribute to this beloved dance music, with eventual plans to establish The Birthplace of Western Swing Museum in the city where it all began 90 years ago - Fort Worth, Texas.

Festival

Join us for the inaugural Cowtown Birthplace of Western swing Festival. A who's who of legendary musicians from across the country will assemble in Fort Worth to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the birth of western swing at historic National Hall on the 2nd weekend of November. This grand old dancehall has the unique distinction of having the Light Crust Doughboys, the Musical Brownies and the famed Texas Playboys all perform on its hallowed stage in the 1930s and 1940s. In addition to having nine bands perform at National Hall over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, there will also be a fun-filled Friday morning motor coach excursion to the Historic Stockyards District for a VIP Welcome, Herd Cattle Drive and Western Swing Dance at the Longhorn Saloon. Reserved seating is limited, so click on the fiddle logo above to purchase your tickets today.

sponsor our film

$25,000 Film Grant

$25,000 Film Grant Donors will receive Prime Title Film Credit in our documentary film - The Birth & History of Western Swing, plus VIP Reserved Seating for 15 people to all 3 days of the Festival, featuring 10 famous western swing bands with plated dinners provided all 3 nights. Also includes the 4-hour Stockyards Tour for 15 people with BBQ lunch. Prominent top billing advertising of company logo across all forms of Film and Festival advertising, including Social Media, Website, Event Programs, Banners, Posters and Promotional Flyers.

$15,000 Film Grant

$15,000 Film Grant Donors will receive Title Film Credit in our documentary film - The Birth & History of Western Swing, plus VIP Reserved Seating for 12 people to all 3 days of the Festival, featuring 10 famous western swing bands with plated dinners provided all 3 nights. Also includes the 4-hour Stockyards Tour for 12 people with BBQ lunch. Prominent top billing advertising of company logo across all forms of Film and Festival advertising, including Social Media, Website, Event Programs, Banners, Posters and Promotional Flyers.

$10,000 Film Grant

$10,000 Film Grant Donors will receive Title Film Credit in our documentary film - The Birth & History of Western Swing, plus VIP Reserved Seating for 8 people to all 3 days of the Festival, featuring 10 famous western swing bands with plated dinners provided all 3 nights. Also includes the 4-hour Stockyards Tour for 8 people with BBQ lunch. Prominent top billing advertising of company logo across all forms of Film and Festival advertising, including Social Media, Website, Event Programs, Banners, Posters and Promo Flyers.

$5,000 Film Sponsor

$5,000 Film Sponsors will receive VIP Reserved Seating for 6 people to all 3 days of the Festival, featuring 10 famous western swing bands with plated dinners provided all 3 nights. Includes the 4-hour Stockyards Tour for 6 people with BBQ lunch. Also includes prominent credit mention in our Historic Film, along with company logo placement in all Social Media, Website, Event Programs, Banners and Promotional Flyers. 

$3,000 Film Sponsor

$3,000 Film Sponsors will receive VIP Reserved Seating for 4 people to all 3 days of the Festival, featuring 10 famous western swing bands with plated dinners provided all 3 nights. Includes the 4-hour Stockyards Tour for 4 people with BBQ lunch. Also includes credit mention in our Historic Film, along with company logo placement in all Social Media, Website, Event Programs, Banners and Promotional Flyers.

$1,000 Film Sponsor

$1,000 Film Sponsors will receive VIP Reserved Seating for 2 people to all 3 days of the Festival, featuring 10 famous western swing bands with plated dinners provided all 3 nights. Includes the 4-hour Stockyards Tour for 2 people with BBQ lunch. Also includes credit mention in our Historic Film, along with company logo placement in all Social Media, Website, Event Programs, Banners and Promotional Flyers.

View Festival Slide Show Below.

Film Trailer to Debut in January.

 

Contact US

Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing

A 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization

 

3228 Collinsworth Street

Fort Worth, Texas  76107  USA

+1 817.846.4880

info@BirthplaceOfWesternSwing.com

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