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Cooley, Spade (17 December 1910–23 November 1969), western swing bandleader and fiddler, was born Donnell Clyde Cooley in or near Pack Saddle Creek, Oklahoma, the son of John Cooley and Emma (maiden name unknown). Some sources indicate that he was born on 22 February 1910 in Grand (or Grande), Oklahoma. The family moved in 1914 to Oregon, where at age seven Cooley received his first musical instruction in classical violin, though soon he was applying his musical talents by fiddling at local dances. As one-quarter Cherokee Indian (from his father’s side), Cooley attended Chemawa Indian School, at which he played the cello in the school orchestra. It was also at Chemawa that Cooley acquired his nickname “Spade” during a poker game in which he drew a number of spade flushes....

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McAuliffe, Leon (03 January 1917–20 August 1988), steel guitarist, was born William Leon McAuliffe in Houston, Texas. The names of his parents are not known. As a youngster McAuliffe became fascinated with the “Hawaiian” style of guitar playing that he heard on the radio and on recordings, such as those by popular recording artist Sol Hoopi. Because many players in this style used steel-bodied instruments, the style was also known as “steel guitar.” By the time he was fifteen, McAuliffe had formed his first group, colorfully named the Waikiki Strummers, and they landed local radio jobs, playing Hawaiian-flavored music along with country, jazz, and blues numbers. Two years later he was invited to join the Light Crust Doughboys, a local band sponsored by a flour company and organized by the company’s public relations representative, ...

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Wills, Bob (06 March 1905–13 May 1975), fiddler and band leader, was born James Robert Wills near Kosse, Limestone County, Texas, the son of John Tompkins Wills, a migrant farmworker and farmer, and Emmaline Foley. When Wills was age eight, the family moved to Hall County in West Texas. The eldest son in a family that eventually included ten children, Wills worked in cotton fields to help support the family, attending school only through the seventh grade. Impressed by the African-American music that he heard in migrant farm camps, Wills later incorporated some of its features into his own work. He had begun to play professionally at an early age, providing mandolin accompaniment for his father, an accomplished fiddler who supplemented the family income by playing at dances....