by Jill Holt, Curator of Textiles
Several months ago, we received a large collection of memorabilia from the family of Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing. Among the items received was a red plaid lap blanket as well as a couple of photographs of Bob Wills with the blanket. I felt that there was a story behind the photographs but I did not have the details. As I researched the life and career of Bob Wills, I came across a passage written by Charles R. Townsend in the book “The Stars of Country Music: Uncle Dave Macon to Johnny Rodriguez” by Bill C. Malone and Judith McCulloh. Bob Wills suffered a debilitating stroke in 1969. By 1973, against the odds, he was able to sufficiently recover and made plans to join in one last recording session with the Texas Playboys. It was scheduled for December 3-4, 1973 in Dallas, Texas. The day before the recording session, all of the Texas Playboys came to the home of Bob and Betty Wills in Fort Worth for a jam session. As I read this, I realized that the two photographs I had were taken at this jam session. The photos show Bob Wills sitting in his wheelchair with the blanket on his lap surrounded by the musicians singing and playing. The next day, they all gathered for the first day of recording. That evening, Bob Wills suffered another stroke and slipped into a coma from which he never awoke. The next day, the Texas Playboys finished recording without him amid great sadness. The album was released in 1974 and was titled “Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys…For the Last Time.” Bob Wills passed away on May 15, 1975. His popularity remains strong even today.