The Light Crust Doughboys are an American western swing band from the Lone Star State created in 1931 to promote Light Crust Flour and other products of Burrus Mill and Elevator Company in Saginaw, Texas, a suburb of Ft. Worth. The original group was formed by the company president, W. Lee O’Daniel and performed until about 1942. During this period they began a radio broadcast on KFJZ in Ft. Worth and the show would open with the announcer saying “The Light Crust Doughboys are on the air!” After the first couple of weeks, O’Daniel wanted to cancel the show, but its early popularity encouraged him to continue the broadcast and it came a popular stable at noon each weekday. This is a YouTube link to a 1934 recording of the group’s theme song.
Band members were initially paid $7.50 per week and also were required at first to work at the company mill. This only continued for a while before O’Daniel allowed them to practice during the day instead of working at the mill. Original band members included Bob Wills, Herman Arnspiger and Milton Brown who came to the group from their own band, the Wills Fiddle Band. Other notable players over the years included Tommy Duncan, Kenneth Pitts, Clifford Gross, Dick Reinhart, Smokey Montgomery, Ramon DeArman, Knocky Parker and Muryel Campbell. At its peak, the radio broadcast played over 170 radio stations in the Southwest.
Personnel changed many times over the years. Wills, Duncan and Brown left for their own musical pursuits though the band continued with the signature sound that Wills had established. In 1935, O’Daniel himself would leave the company to start his own mill. He also founded his own promotional group called Pat O’Daniel and His Hillbilly Boys. The notoriety from these activities was a springboard to O’Daniel’s political ambitions and he was elected governor of Texas in 1938. Through all the changes, the Light Crust Doughboys group performed all around Texas until the advent of World War II during which time they disbanded. Burrus tried to reform the band and radio show in 1946 but never were able to achieve the following they once enjoyed.
After the war, the group was resurrected by Smokey Montgomery and performed regularly for many years. Then in 1983, long time musician and producer Art Greenhaw of Mesquite, Texas booked the group to play at his Mesquite Folk Festival. Greenhaw became interested in the group and joined it as a bass player in 1993. Art added horns to the ensemble and other members included Jerry Elliott, Bill Simmons, John Walden, Jim Baker and Dale Cook. In 1995 were named by the Texas Legislature to be the Official Music Ambassadors of the Lone Star State. The group continues to record and perform today and has won many honors and awards. They won a Grammy for their CD “We Called Him Mr. Gospel Music: The James Blackwood Tribute Album.” They contributed greatly to the opening of the Light Crust Doughboys Hall of Fame and Museum in Quitman, Texas in 2005. They were inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2006. After more than 80 years, the band is still going strong. Click on this YouTube link to hear the band’s lively rendition of “The Orange Blossom Special.”
The band in its current configuration will be appearing five times each day on the Dr. Pepper Stage of the Texas State Fair in Dallas from October 11-October 18, 2015. Also, Hall of State will have an exhibit featuring the Light Crust Doughboys during the Fair run. First time public display for many artifacts including their Grammy Award, 8 Tiffany Grammy Nominee Medallions, instruments, wardrobe, as well as other awards and trophies.
Other contact links for the Light Crust Doughboys:
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An interesting AND entertaining piece of history!
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