With cold weather and rain affecting so many of us, I thought something upbeat and “sunny” would really fit the bill today.
I have spoken before about how the 1930s climate disaster known as the Dust Bowl brought a huge influx of people to Los Angeles from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Many of these people became political, social, and cultural leaders in the city; others joined the police department and perpetuated a foundation of racism that affected the city for decades.
One of the most positive things that resulted from this wave of new Los Angelinos was the spread of a style of music now known as Western Swing. Bob Wills, Spade Cooley, Merle Travis, and Jimmy Wakely all performed this delightful hybrid of country music and jazz. Let’s add Texas Jim Lewis to that list.
Jim Lewis was born in 1909 and was playing country music on the radio by the mid–1920s. He formed a string band in the 1930s which performed in Detroit and other cities in the Midwest. A trip to New York City in 1935 led to signing with Irving Mills and a three-year booking at the popular Village Barn. Texas Jim was an engaging leader who featured himself on the Hootin’ Nanny, a one-man band apparatus that included bells, whistles, horns, washboards, and a gun that fired blanks.
By the mid-1940s Lewis has relocated to the West Coast where he played for dancers at his own Redondo Barn, an important Western Swing venue located in Redondo Beach, just south of Los Angeles. He continued to perform locally and tour nationally until the 1950s when he moved to Tacoma, Washington. In Tacoma, he worked as a disc jockey and then became a fixture on children’s television.
Hootin’ Nannie Annie is a real swinger. It was written by Texas Jim and features him on vocal and “hootin’ nannie.” The use of four fiddles and three guitars gives the band a “big sound,” and the rhythm section really kicks things along nicely. Along the way, we hear brief solos from guitarist (and brother) Jack Rivers Lewis and accordionist Billy Liebert.
For me, this is one of the Western Swing Soundies that is so infectious that it should appeal to everyone in our group, country and city folk alike.