Hank Penny, one of the giants of Western Swing, had come over for an afternoon of films. He was particularly interested in viewing the Soundies he had made with Deuce Spriggins in 1946. Penny watched the films, smiled, and noted, “This group stayed together for around six months or so, and then regrouped under my leadership; I soon disbanded, however, because the band didn’t swing worth a damn.” A matter of opinion, I thought to myself.
String bass player and vocalist Deuce Spriggins had been a featured member of the Spade Cooley band throughout the mid-1940s. In 1945 Spriggins married Cooley’s female vocalist, Carolina Cotton, and together they left Cooley to form a Western Swing unit of their own. The band, billed under Spriggins’ name, made four Soundies in February 1946 but disbanded slightly thereafter. Spriggins regrouped with a new outfit that featured Hank Penny on guitar and vocal. That band made four Soundies in July-August, one of which we feature here.
As noted above, what swings and what doesn’t swing is sometimes just a matter of opinion. The truth of the matter is that Spriggins had decided to have the three fiddles and three guitars scored in the manner of brass and reeds sections, which in turn created a different type of swing than one hears in Bob Wills’ music, or later recordings under Hank Penny’s name.
“If You Ever Come to Texas” was written by Jack Elliott – not the folk artist Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – and was arranged by a member of the band. The vocals are by Spriggins and Carolina Cotton, and there is a fine steel guitar solo along the way by Ralph Miele. For swinging, happy dance music, this Soundie sure passes the test for me.