Spade Cooley & the Western Swing Dance Gang with Tex Williams on Vocals
Shame on You
Oklahoman Donnell Clyde “Spade” Cooley was born in 1910. In 1931, Spade, attracted to the Hollywood scene, moved with his family to California. He played fiddle in several bands, and squeezed out a living before Republic Pictures signed Spade as a stand-in for Roy Rogers in 1937. Rogers admired Spade’s talent as a fiddler, and invited him to tour as a member of his band during their breaks in filming.
In 1941, Spade made his first recording. His first Columbia session produced his biggest hit ever, “Shame on You.” He became tremendously popular on the Southern California ballroom circuit during wartime, with his shows regularly drawing crowds numbering around 5,000. Lyle Lovett had nothing on Spade as far as the “Large Band” thing goes. Spade’s band at times numbered as many as 22 players. In 1943, Spade beat Bob Wills in a battle of the bands. As a result, Spade crowned himself “The King of Western Swing.” Spade was all over the radio, and later had several popular TV shows.
Spade invested the fruits of his labors heavily in California real estate and became quite wealthy. In 1945, he took his second wife when he married Ella May Evans, who was one of his singers. Towards the end of the ’40s, Western music started losing it’s popularity as Nashville’s hurtin’ and cheatin’ music became more popular.
In the early 50’s, Spade began drinking pretty heavily and also had several heart attacks. He signed with Decca around this time, and changed to a straighter style of music. He also had another TV show. By 1955, he was dropped by the label. In 1956, his TV show was canceled. In 1957, he retired.
Spade drank even more after his retirement. He became jealous of Ella May after he supposedly overheard her telling someone she was having an affair with Roy Rogers. In March of 1961, he filed for divorce. A month later, in front of his 14-year-old daughter, he strangled and stomped his estranged wife to death. He was charged with first degree murder and got sentenced to life in prison based mostly on his daughter’s testimony.
In 1969, just months before he was due to be paroled from California’s Vacaville prison, Spade was let out for three days to do a concert. He finished the show, got a standing ovation, walked offstage, and dropped dead.
Tex Williams is most famous for his version of “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette.” “Smoke” was written by Merle Travis for Tex, and was Capitol Records first million seller ever. Merle and Phil Harris both later had hit versions of the same song. Tex smoked two packs a day. He later tried to quit, but was never unable to ever get his habit below a pack a day. He died of cancer.
This collection of Spade’s Rags, Stomps, Western Swing, and Polkas features Tex on vocal. These Bloodshot Revival collections are all culled from old radio transcripts. Bloodshot has apparently unearthed a treasure-trove of these old shows, many of which have never been heard since their original broadcast. They plan to release a whole series of these Bloodshot Revival CDs over time. This first one has a total of 25 listed cuts (this counts the spoken intros). It’s a bit of history at a budget price. Well worth a listen. Release Date April 20th.
Bloodshot Records, 912 W. Addison St., Chicago, IL 60613; http://www.bloodshot.com