OKLAHOMA CITY (February 27, 2023) – One of the state’s most significant figures in music history will be celebrated at the Oklahoma State Capitol on Monday, March 6. The Oklahoma Arts Council and Oklahoma Historical Society have announced the return of Bob Wills Day, a celebration returning to the Capitol after a hiatus of nearly a decade. The event commemorates the life and legacy of the “King of Western Swing” who helped popularize the music genre during the 1930s and 40s. Wills’ band, the Texas Playboys, had a daily program on the Tulsa radio outlet KVOO and were regular performers at the venerable Cain’s Ballroom.
Bob Wills Day will feature a special recognition of Wills—who passed away in 1975—in the Oklahoma State Senate and Oklahoma House of Representatives. Wills’ daughter, Carolyn Wills, will be in attendance. A slate of performances by Western swing musicians will fill the Capitol rotunda throughout the afternoon, and Bob Wills memorabilia will be on display. The Oklahoma Historical Society will host a live evening recording of “A Very OK Podcast: The Bob Wills Story” about the iconic musician at Ponyboy, located near the Capitol.
Free and open to the public, performances will take place in the second-floor Capitol rotunda from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Performers will include Jana Jae, Jay Steagall & The Part-Timers featuring Danny Steagall, Kyle Dillingham, Oklahoma Opry, and Cowboy Jim Garling.
The live recording of “A Very OK Podcast: The Bob Wills Story” will take place at Ponyboy, located at 423 NW 23rd St. in Oklahoma City. Hosted by Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) Executive Director Trait Thompson, the show will feature a panel discussion with former OHS Executive Director Dr. Bob Blackburn, OKPOP Executive Director Jeff Moore, Carolyn Wills, and authors Brett Bingham and John Wooley whose book “Honky-Tonk” tells the story of Cain’s Ballroom.
Bob Wills Day at the Capitol was started in the 1980s by state Senator John Dahl. The celebration took place every spring until the Capitol restoration project began in 2014. In 1988, Bob Wills’ song “Faded Love” was designated as Oklahoma’s official country and western song by the legislature.
About Bob Wills
Bob Wills is considered the founder of Western swing music, a genre of dance music popular from the 1930s through the 1950s that combined elements of swing jazz, Dixieland jazz, Mexican folk music, blues, polka, and more. Born in Texas in 1905, Wills moved to Oklahoma with his band in 1934 to expand their opportunities. Wills’ popularity in music led to roles in Western musical films during the 1940s. In 1968, Wills was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1999, Wills and the Texas Playboys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His imprint on popular music can still be heard today.
About the Oklahoma Arts Council
The Oklahoma Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts. The agency’s mission is to lead in the advancement of Oklahoma’s thriving arts industry. The Oklahoma Arts Council provides hundreds of grants to organizations in communities statewide each year, organizes professional development opportunities for the state's arts and cultural industry, and manages the art collections at the Oklahoma state Capitol. Additional information is available at arts.ok.gov.
About the Oklahoma Historical Society
The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit okhistory.org.
About “A Very OK Podcast”
Hosted by Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Trait Thompson, “A Very OK Podcast” explores the interesting stories and fascinating personalities that make up Oklahoma’s unique history. The podcast is part of the OHS series History OffCenter, which focuses on immersive, engaging experiences with an emphasis on community outreach.
The OKPOP Museum, located in the Tulsa, is dedicated to the creative spirit of Oklahoma’s people and the influence of Oklahoma artists on popular culture around the world. This innovative and interactive museum will highlight Oklahoma creatives in the field of music, film, television, theatre, pop art, comic books, literature, and humor. The museum will collect artifacts, archival materials, film and video, and audio recordings that reflect Oklahoma’s influence nationally and internationally. Opening late 2024. Visit www.okpop.org for more information.