Stand By: I Found My Lost Smokey Dacus Interview Transcript

SKF NOTE: Last week, after years and years of searching, I found the full transcript of my interview with drummer Smokey Dacus. I wrote here about Smokey and the lost transcript in April 2014. I said in part:

Smokey Dacus, original drummer with Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys, is credited as the first to play drumset in a country band. Modern Drummer founder/publisher Ron Spagnardi chose to not publish my interview with Smokey Dacus as a feature. Ron’s decision remains one of very few regrets from my MD days. If memory serves, only key points from the Dacus interview were included in the Country Drummers segment of my feature MD series, A History of Rock n Roll Drumming. The remainder of that interview is one of many manuscripts in a box in my closet.

bobwillsattheranchhouse

I am preparing the interview for publication on Life Beyond the Cymbals. It is 41 typewritten pages of insight into one of the world’s great drum innovators and one of America’s – especially country music’s – innovative bands.

This segment from the transcript is a brief look at how Bob Wills and Smokey Dacus first met. I will post the full interview – which has never been published – very soon.

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Smokey Dacus: So I was playing in this hotel band in tuxedos. But the common thread I mentioned was: everything I played — luncheons, dinners, or dances — was written. That was when you used to go to Jenkins Music Store [and] pay 75-cents for an orchestration. The cotton pickin’ thing was at least a half-inch thick. There was a piano score, scores for at least four violins, a full reed section, three trumpets, the trombone — the whole bit!

Well, we didn’t have all those [instruments]. So we would just take out the pieces we needed for our group. But everything we played was read. Okay.

And so, I was playing in this hotel band and Bob Wills approached me. Somewhere along the road I had gathered the reputation of being the best dance drummer in town. And Bob came to me in late ’34 and he wanted me to come play drums with him.

Well, at that time, his type of music had two names. It was either a fiddle band or a string band. That’s the only way you referred to them. And they did not use drums! They had no use for a drummer because their rhythm was a bass fiddle and a banjo — which was the basic rhythm.

Now, you add a guitar to that, well, he kind of helped it a little. And the piano player, if he wasn’t taking a chorus, well, then the piano player played rhythm. Just chords. So the rhythm section at its high point included the bass fiddle, the banjo, the guitar, and the guy chording the piano.

So, [Bob Wills] came to me and I said, “What in the hell do you want with a drummer in a fiddle band?” I thought he’d lost his mind! And he said, “I want to take your kind of music and my kind of music and put them together and make it swing.”

end

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