OK, let’s acknowledge this up front: Spade Cooley was a pig … an abusive, arrogant, sexist, and violent man. This is well-known among fans of Western Swing, echoed by sidemen, including band vocalist Patricia McMahon who I had a chance to visit and interview. While I would be the last person to celebrate Cooley’s personal life, his music is another matter and I would never choose to “ghost” the legacy of his sidemen.
Spade Cooley was leading a superior Western Swing band in the mid-1940s, second only to by Bob Wills. Cooley made two sets of Soundies, eight strong shorts in total, and from the first session, April 1944, comes a well-known novelty number by Kay and Sue Werner, “My Wubba Dolly.” Among the soloists is Joachin Murphey, one of finest steel guitar improvisors of the decade. (He is seen playing an Hawaiian lap guitar; I think we hear a pedal guitar on soundtrack.) In addition, we are treated to Johnny Weis’s electric guitar and Pedro de Paul’s hot accordion.
The vocals on this Soundie are shared by Western Swing star Carolina Cotton, who doubled on string bass. Eugene Rogers, credited here as “Oakie” but better known as “Smokey,” was with Cooley for years, and also led bands of his own. The novelty nature of the tune doesn’t get in the way of the presentation and we have a swinging three minutes of Western Swing … with more to come in the near future.