Thursday, March 4, 2010

W. LEE O'DANIEL AND HIS HILLBILLY BOYS. W. Lee O'Daniel's musical career began in January 1931, when a West Texas fiddler named James Robert (Bob) Wills entered his Fort Worth office at Burrus Mill and Elevator Company. As general manager of the firm, O'Daniel had just canceled a radio program on which Wills and his fiddle band had been advertising Burrus Mill's Light Crust Flour. O'Daniel canceled it, as he said, "because I didn't like their hillbilly music." So many cards and letters came into station KFJZ that O'Daniel had to put the show back on the air, and the band became known as the Light Crust Doughboys. When O'Daniel realized how much flour the show was selling, he became the announcer for the show and manager of the band. According to Wills, O'Daniel was an asset to the show. He had a flair for dramatization and publicity; he wrote poems and read them on the air and often had the band work out music for them. Though his songs never became national hits, they became known throughout Texas and the Southwest. He wrote "Beautiful Texas," "Put Me in Your Pocket," and a song for Franklin D. Roosevelt's war on the Great Depression, "On to Victory Mr. Roosevelt" (all in 1933). The Doughboy broadcast became one of the most popular and long-lived shows in the history of the Southwest. The original Light Crust Doughboy show consisted of O'Daniel as announcer, Bob Wills on fiddle, Herman Arnspiger on guitar, and Milton Brown as vocalist. By the mid-1930s all had left the Doughboys, and each eventually had an important place in Texas music. In 1935 Burrus Mill fired O'Daniel, and he organized his own band, the Hillbilly Boys, and his own flour company, W. Lee O'Daniel Flour Company, manufacturers of Hillbilly Flour. Between September 1935 and December 1938 O'Daniel and the Hillbilly Boys did six recording sessions for Vocalion (later part of Columbia Records). Some of their recordings were far from hillbilly music; in general, they represent some of the best western swing that any band in the Fort Worth-Dallas area ever recorded. As a vocalist, Leon Huff was at his best on these recordings, consistently better than when he later recorded for Bob and Johnnie Lee Wills. Kitty Williamson, whom O'Daniel called Texas Rose, vocalized on several recordings. She was probably the first female singer in western swing; her recording of "Baby Won't You Please Come Home" was in the Bessie Smith tradition and was vocalized western swing at its best. Although some of his recordings were hillbilly, it was on his radio shows that O'Daniel promoted a hillbilly fa├žade. His famous "Pass the Biscuits Pappy" smacked of the hillbilly and made the show, Hillbilly Flour, and O'Daniel popular. He read poems and gave brief lectures on morality, most of which he never practiced, according to his musicians. O'Daniel had bigger and more important things in mind than his hillbilly music, however. In 1938 he became a candidate for governor of Texas. He was probably the first candidate anywhere in the nation to use a fiddle band (or perhaps any kind of a band) as a principal part of a political campaign. He toured the state with his Hillbilly Boys, who began his rallies by playing "Beautiful Texas" (which O'Daniel strategically recorded the year before). After the band drew the crowd, O'Daniel gave a campaign speech. Then he sent members of his family and the band into the audience with miniature flour barrels to accept campaign contributions. The method was successful, though no one will ever know how much so, since the donations were all in cash. When he was elected governor, O'Daniel took his Hillbilly Boys with him to Austin and got all of them jobs with the state. For example, Kermit Whalin, a barber, became a state barber inspector. The musicians broadcast a show from the Governor's Mansion on Sundays, and so continued to build the image of Governor O'Daniel and keep his name before the people. Most of the musicians never saw the inside of the mansion; they played the show on the front porch and were never invited inside. When O'Daniel's daughter, Molly, married, he sent band member Jim Boyd and his wife an engraved invitation, but Boyd said, "They stopped us at the church door and wouldn't let us in." When O'Daniel became a United States senator, he insisted that the band go with him to Washington but refused to tell them what salary they would receive. If they refused to go, they lost their state jobs immediately, and Jim Boyd was even evicted from his state-owned home. Practically every musician who played for O'Daniel believed he was selfish, unfair, and extremely ruthless. Aside from his politics and his personal qualities, O'Daniel was important in the music of Texas when it was in its formative years. Without his remarkable ability to promote and publicize, the innovative music of the Light Crust Doughboys might never have gained such vast popularity, and men like Bob Wills might have been known only in North and Central Texas. As governor, O'Daniel made the world aware that there was a distinctive Texas sound and that music was important enough to help a flour salesman attain the highest office in the state.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Dallas Morning News, August 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 1938. Seth Shepard McKay, W. Lee O'Daniel and Texas Politics, 1938–1942 (Lubbock: Texas Tech Press, 1944). Charles R. Townsend, San Antonio Rose: The Life and Music of Bob Wills (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976).

Charles R. Townsend
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WACO STATE HOME. The Waco State Home, three miles northwest of the business section of Waco, was established as the State Home for Dependent and Neglected Children by the Thirty-sixth Legislature in 1919. A tract of ninety-five acres was purchased for the site of the institution, and a board of trustees, made up of three citizens, was appointed by Governor William P. Hobby. About 1930 the Board of Control was placed in charge of the home. The name was changed to Waco State Home by the Forty-fifth Legislature. In 1945 there were 276 boys and girls enrolled at the home and capacity was 364. White children between four and sixteen years of age, adjudged by district courts to be dependent or neglected, were admitted to the home for care, education, and training, with "preference to those children of tender age," according to law. No mentally or physically handicapped child was accepted, and no child who was known to have violated the law habitually was admitted. Care of indigents was free, while transportation, clothing, and a charge of not more than $5.00 per week were required of children having sufficient estates or persons legally liable for their support who were financially able to pay. All admissions and discharges were handled through a sociologist. Adoptions from the home were permitted. Educational, religious, and physical training was given to the students. The home lay within an independent school district, and its school was conducted on the grounds with the support of the state school apportionment. Upon completion of the eight grades taught at the home, children entered Waco High School. The older boys assisted with farm, garden, and dairy work, and the older girls with laundry, housekeeping, and dining room. Children were permitted to earn small sums of money and were allowed personal ownership. A complete medical history of each child was kept. In addition to the original tract purchased, the home leased a 235-acre farm. Equipment and buildings, including a separate hospital, were modern. E. B. McMordie, the first superintendent, was followed by Miss Jennie Burleson, Judge R. R. Patterson, and Arthur C. Wiebusch. Ben S. Peek became superintendent in 1943. Waco State Home was placed under the administration of the Texas Youth Commission by the Fifty-fifth Texas Legislature. On August 31, 1965, the multiservice program of the home was caring for 288 children. Of this number 239 were in residence at the home, 10 were in paid foster homes, and 38 were either with relatives on temporary home trial placements, in preadoptive placements, in free foster homes, in job placements, or in college. In 1970 there were 300 children in the home, and those of scholastic age attended Waco public schools on an annual contract basis, rather than attending school on the grounds. The superintendent at that time was J. Ludwick. In 1979 the Texas Youth Commission transferred control of the Waco State Home to the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. MHMR reorganized the facility into a treatment center for emotionally disturbed children named the Waco Center for Youth.

James W. Markham and William T. Field



The Handbook of Texas Online is a project of the Texas State Historical Association (http://www.tshaonline.org).

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