Unique to Greenville, Texas, the eighth annual Bob Wills Fiddle Fest features competitors from around the world squaring off each year. The legendary Bob Wills pioneered the classic sound that’s known as Western Swing. As part of this event each year, the final event features a fantastic concert featuring some of the finest musicians in America. For this year’s concert the Bob Wills Fiddle Fest concert will feature Lee Roy Parnell, The Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys under the direction of Jason Roberts, and special guest Brennen Leigh.
LEE ROY PARNELL
No Depression may have said it best when they called Lee Roy Parnell "a fine writer blessed with a rich, soulful vocal delivery and a blistering array of guitar chops drawn almost equally from Texas blues, Memphis soul, and Southern rock traditions."
Parnell is part of a long line of Texas roots-music eclectics and among the elite few who can be identified as a triple threat. An ace guitarist who is known as one of the best slide guitarists on the planet, smooth soul-drenched vocalist, hit top-shelf songwriter, his music runs the gamut of diversity.
BOB WILLS' TEXAS PLAYBOYS
When Texas Playboys front man Jason Roberts steps onto a stage with his fiddle and utters his first “AH-ha” of the evening, western-swing fans know they're seeing and hearing nothing less than the living embodiment of a tradition that stretches all the way back to 1933. That was the year the charismatic fiddler Bob Wills and several other musicians in a group called the Light Crust Doughboys broke away from Fort Worth's Burris Mills and its autocratic business manager, W. Lee “Pappy” O'Daniel, to form their own band. As Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, they became one of the most popular touring and recording acts in the nation, offering audiences the highly danceable musical mixture that came to be known as western swing.
Today, the Bob Wills sound continues, as big and bright and brassy as ever. The newest Texas Playboys aggregation is led by two-time Grammy winner Roberts, hand-picked by both the Wills estate and Leon Rausch, whose nearly two decades in the famed western-swing band Asleep at the Wheel includes an eight-year stint actually playing Bob Wills in the Wheel's nationally touring musical-theatre production, A RIDE WITH BOB. And, like Bob's original band, this group of Playboys includes some of the best swing musicians both Oklahoma and Texas have to offer.
Born in North Dakota and raised in Minnesota, Leigh began touring at 14, while cultivating her classic country informed songwriting. At 19, she moved to live music mecca Austin, Texas where she rubbed shoulders with and eventually inspired the esteem of Ray Benson. “I knew the band peripherally, and we’d talked about making a record years before, but I had just signed a publishing deal in Nashville and was about to move away from Texas. So for that reason our stars didn’t align until more recently.” “I wrote thirty western swing songs in the beginning of 2021, alone and with different writer friends,” she continues, “and we culled it down to twelve. Many of the songs have a 1940s Cindy Walker type vibe — she was at the forefront of my mind for this entire process, something of a spirit guide for me — but there’s definitely a jazz influence, country, and a couple of songs that I would call cowboy or folk tunes.”