Johnny Gimble, the great Western Swing musician, had been over for an afternoon of film and chat. Soon after, he ran into his buddy Hank Penny and told Penny of the visit with me. Within a few days Hank was at my apartment, ready to watch himself in a set of 1946 Soundies with Deuce Spriggins’s band.
Deuce Spriggins had been an important part of Spade Cooley’s Western Dance Band, a group that made eight Soundies in 1944-45. Spriggins was there, singing and providing support in the rhythm section on string bass. I don’t know if his parting with Cooley was amicable or not, but by 1946 he was leading a band of his own.
Spriggins, like all of the better bandleaders, had a musical vision of his own. His band appears to have been more dance oriented, playing with a less driving and propulsive rhythm than the bands of Spade Colley and Bob Wills. But the music was just perfect for dancers. Spriggins’s arrangements were often more two-beat in feel, and also put a strong focus on the violins and guitars. Each trio of instruments played in the manner of the trumpet or reed section in a tradition dance band. It is perhaps this fact that led Hank to tell me that he took over the band soon after these Soundies were made, but soon gave it up “because the band did not swing a damn.”
With all due respect to Hank, I am really fond of Deuce’s Soundies, eight in total produced over two sessions. Hank was key to the second series and he is credited on screen in all four. His vocal sparkles, as does the work of the soloists and other sidemen. This is a band that we will return to in the future!