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Bob Wills: life and influence

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Turkey, TX - Bob Wills is an icon in Texas, and his influence on music has crossed generations and genres. And every year since 1971, the town of Turkey has served as host for a celebration of the man himself and all things western swing.

Wills' life was storied and ambitious -- and his influence on country music is monumental.  His musical career spanned five decades, thirteen albums, and three music halls of fame.  Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings have all cited Bob Wills as an inspiration.

Doctor Charles Townsend taught history at West Texas A&M University for 27 years - and he wrote the book on Bob Wills - literally. Townsend has written two biographies about Wills, who he says is a true Texas legend.

"When I started in the late sixties, I knew that Bob Wills was worthy of a scholarly biography - a good biography," said Townsend.  "I thought he was that important, but to tell you the truth, sir, he was so much more important than even I knew at the time, when I started the book."

Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys brought western swing music into the mainstream, so much so that Wills was known as "The King of Western Swing."

Jimmy Young is a renowned eight-time hall of-fame fiddler who played with Wills on many occasions.  He remembers the uncanny effect the music had on the crowd.

"Sometimes I think Bob would hypnotize the people out there on that floor, because he sure knew how to run his dance," recalled Young with a chuckle.  "He'd get 'em on the floor ... you know, there was just something about him that was just ... magnetized, you know."

In 2011, the Texas Legislature enacted a ceremonial resolution designating western swing as the official state music, referring specifically to Bob Wills.

If you'd like to see that resolution or learn more about Wills himself, just follow the links attached to this story.