The Light Crust Doughboys - Biography
By J Poet
The Light Crust Doughboys were one of the first western swing bands, founded in 1929 and still active as of 2009, but their main claim to fame was giving birth to the careers of Bob Wills and Milton Brown. The band has had countless shifts in personnel over the years and finally won a Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album Grammy in 2003 for We Called Him Mr. Gospel Music: The James Blackwood Tribute Album (2002 Art Greenhaw.)
Bob Wills was born in Kosse, Texas in 1905 and was playing fiddle professionally by the time he was 10 years old. He dropped out of high school to play music and settled in Ft. Worth where he started the Wills Fiddle Band. In 1930, Wills hired Milton Brown as the band’s lead vocalist and his brother Derwood Brown as the band’s second guitar player. The band was hired by WBAP in Ft. Worth Texas for a show sponsored by the Aladdin Lamp Company, which changed the band’s name to the Aladdin Laddies. In 1931, the Light Crust Flour Company hired the Wills Band for their program on KFJZ and changed their name to the Light Crust Doughboys.
W. Lee O'Daniel, Light Crust’s manager and the show’s MC, helped get the show syndicated on the Texas Quality Group Network and the Light Crust Doughboys soon became popular throughout the southwest. But O'Daniel didn’t want the band recording and tried to keep them from playing too many gigs. The band made one single 78-RPM record for Victor as the Fort Worth Doughboys, and O'Daniel was not pleased.
Milton and Derwood Brown quit the band in 1932 and Wills left to organize his first version of the Texas Playboys in 1933. O'Daniel hired a new group of musicians to carry on the name, but in 1935 Burris Mills, who owned the Light Crust Doughboys name fired O’Daniel. He started a new band called the Hillbilly Boys.
The Light Crust Doughboys O’Daniel left behind continued playing and recording. They became one of the most popular swing bands in Texas and by the 1940s their show was heard on 170 radio stations in the South and Southwest. The music they made in those years can be found on Light Crust Doughboys 1936-1941 (2007 Krazy Kat.) Burris Mills canceled their radio show in 1942, just as many band members enlisted for WW II. After the war the Doughboys reformed under the leadership of Marvin “Smokey” Montgomery who kept the band together till his death in 2001. Some of their post war recordings are collected on Guitar Jump 1947-48 (2005 British Archive of Country Music UK).
After Montgomery died, long time guitarist Art Greenhaw took over the band, which had morphed into a southern gospel group in the mid-90s, although they continued playing their brand of cowboy jazz too. They were nominated for a Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album of The Year Grammy every year between 1998 and 2006. Greenhaw started a label for the band in 1996 and they released Around the World: Songs We Played in Europe (1996 Light Crust Doughboys), The Great Gospel Hit Parade: From Memphis To Nashville To Texas with James Blackwood (2000 Art Greenhaw), A Surf 'n Swing Fret 'n String Christmas (2000 Art Greenhaw), Steel Away! James Blackwood & The Light Crust Doughboys (2000 Art Greenhaw), Doughboy Rock (2000 Rockabilly Hall of Fame), Guitars Over Texas (2003 Art Greenhaw), and the Grammy winning We Called Him Mr. Gospel Music - The James Blackwood Tribute Album (2002 Art Greenhaw) a collaboration with The Jordanaires and Larry Ford. The Light Crust Doughboys were inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2000, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2003, and the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2006. In December 2005, the Light Crust Doughboys opened their own museum in Quitman, Texas.