For today’s edition of Country Catalyst, the GMC Special Feature that tries to bring new fans into country music, we have a Western Swing classic from the king, Bob Wills. In fact, “Take Me Back to Tulsa” became such a popular hit for Wills and his Texas Playboys in 1941 that his biggest rival, Spade Cooley, later recorded it and even performed it in a musical Western movie.
The song actually started life as just one of the many fiddle tunes Bob had played in the past, but when he teamed up with Tommy Duncan and added lyrics, it ended up being a big hit for the band. But like many songs of the era, the lyrics ended up changing in later years to reflect changing times.
For example, the line that originally read: Darkie picks the cotton, white man gets the money.
Was later changed to: Poor boy picks the cotton, rich man gets the money.
And later still, to: Little man picks the cotton, big man gets the money. (You can hear this version in the rare video below, featuring Bob’s brother Luke doing the vocal — Bob’s up on the stage, doing his usual fiddlin’ and verbal comments.)
There have been other changes through the years, but the most fun alteration was probably when the song picked up a little bit of risque humor in live performances by Asleep At The Wheel, the modern Western Swing masters.
But whatever the era, it’s a lively, fun song that just might make a few new fans for country music.
Asleep At The Wheel – “Take Me Back To Tulsa”