The Light Crust Doughboys are one of the most long-lived and musically versatile bands in America. Formed in the early 1930s under the sponsorship of Burrus Mill and Elevator Company of Fort Worth, Texas, with Bob Wills and Milton Brown (the originator of western swing) at the musical helm and future Texas governor W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel as band manager and emcee, the Doughboys are still going strong in the twenty-first century. Arguably the quintessential Texas band, the Doughboys have performed all the varieties of music that Texans love, including folk and fiddle tunes, cowboy songs, gospel and hymns, commercial country songs and popular ballads, honky-tonk, ragtime and blues, western swing and jazz, minstrel songs, movie hits, and rock 'n' roll.
In this book, Jean Boyd draws on the memories of Marvin "Smokey" Montgomery and other longtime band members and supporters to tell the Light Crust Doughboys story from the band's founding in 1931 through the year 2000. She follows the band's musical evolution and personnel over seven decades, showing how band members and sponsors responded to changes in Texas culture and musical tastes during the Great Depression, World War II, and the postwar years. Boyd concludes that the Doughboys' willingness to change with changing times and to try new sounds and fresh musical approaches is the source of their enduring vitality. Historical photographs of the band, an annotated discography of their pre-World War II work, and histories of some of the band's songs round out the volume.
In the history of American popular music, no other band formed more than seventy years ago is still playing today. The Light Crust Doughboys' unprecedented and remarkable longevity separates them from other popular groups but does not of itself call for a book-length chronicle of their existence. For me, the mandate for this study derives from the many questions raised by the lifespan of the Doughboys. How has this band lasted so long, continuing on through successive generations of Texans and monumental changes in the socioeconomic climate of the state? Have the Doughboys survived by changing with the times and attitudes, or by maintaining musical traditions that have offered stability to Texans in a state of flux? Why did the Doughboys remain regional musical celebrities rather than seeking the national limelight? Why in the last twenty years, quite late in their career, have they begun to receive prestigious recognition? What have they contributed to western swing, to Texas music? What do they see for themselves as their future?
These and other questions will be answered in the course of this narrative of the band. At the core of the research effort are the memories of Marvin "Smokey" Montgomery, a member of the group since 1935 and, until his death in 2001, the oldest living member of the band.
I first encountered Smokey Montgomery's name when I began gathering information for my first book, The Jazz of the Southwest: An Oral History of Western Swing. It seemed that each time I asked about the origins of western swing, I was directed to the Light Crust Doughboys. And I was thrilled and amazed to discover that the Doughboys band was still a working band and their banjoist, Marvin Montgomery, was its unofficial historian. He also turned out to be a wonderful, generous man who was bountiful with his time, his band stories, his photo album, and his collection of Doughboy memorabilia. These items constitute the foundation of this oral history of the Light Crust Doughboys. I dedicate this book to the life and memory of Smokey, who will not see the product to which he contributed so much.
In a very real sense, this book brings me full circle. A decade ago I began to study Texas music and, knowing how broad the topic was, settled on western swing as my research area. The history of the Light Crust Doughboys, however, pulled me back to the whole spectrum of Texas music. The Light Crust Doughboys have ranged far beyond any one type of Texas music to embrace all of the music of Texas, thereby becoming the quintessential representatives of the Texas musical scene. In 1977, Texas Senate Resolution No. 463 recognized the Doughboys for their significant contributions to Texas history and Texas music. In that resolution resides the best reason for undertaking a study of the Light Crust Doughboys, who are, in every way, a truly Texas band.