The Tune Wranglers

During the 1930s, the Tune Wranglers were a very popular band in San Antonio, Texas. Like many Texas swing players of their era, the Wranglers played pop-flavored cowboy tunes and traditional country music. The group included guitarist and singer Buster Coward, banjoist Eddie Fielding, and the fiddler and singer Charlie Gregg. Fielding's eventual replacement would become one of the group's hot attractions: the banjoist Joe Barnes, hiding behind the stage name of Red Brown, sported a rapid soloing style that influenced a wide range of musicians from heavy metal fuzz boxers to the makers of the Indian film music. The players apparently never went full-time with their musical pursuits, keeping a hand and a lasso or two in play as cowboys. Nonetheless, time was made to cut some 80 sides, some of them in Spanish, and to do gigs in some 200 different towns annually, traveling more than 200,000 miles to get there and back. "Texas Sand" was the group's most well-known song. The band's popularity wandered over the border into Mexico courtesy of the frequent broadcasts over WOAI and other regional radio outfits. This airplay dramatically increased when the Tune Wranglers released their side entitled "El Rancho Grande." The Bluebird label honchos liked the Mexican angle well enough to begin an entire series, promoting Tune Wranglers sides under the band name of Tono Hombres. The group first began recording for the firm in 1936, shortly before adding steel guitar legend Eddie Duncan to the band. Vocal chores tended to be divided up within the band based on the genre of the song, with the steel guitarist picking up pop ditties and Coward singing the blues. Revard's Playboys was another band from the same time that was considered quite similar, and with good reason; many of the same guys were on-stage in a series of revolving-door lineups. (Eddie Whitely was out of the Tune Wranglers to sing on the early Revard's Playboys sides, for example, then he went back to his original band; meanwhile, his replacement switched places with him in the second band.) The band's third and final recording session consisted mostly of Hawaiian numbers including the romantic "Hawaiian Honeymoon" By then band membership had swollen to include the musical twins Neal & Beal, handling banjo and reeds respectively. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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