Grammy Foundation Awards $20,000 Grant to the Oklahoma Historical Society for Preservation of Bob Wills’ Music


The Grammy Foundation has awarded a $20,000 grant to the Oklahoma Historical Society to preserve some 600 hours of Bob Wills’ music recorded in the 1940s. Carolyn Wills, daughter the famous Oklahoma musician, made the announcement today during a Bob Wills Day celebration at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

The Wills family recently donated the entire Bob Wills collection to the OHS. The collection resided in the small community of Turkey, Texas for the past 40 years, where there was a shortage of space and staff to care for the artifacts.

“How wonderful it is for the collection to end up in Oklahoma,” Wills said. “I have come to realize over the years just how important Oklahoma was to my father, and I am so excited at the prospect of his collection finding a permanent home in the OKPOP Museum.”

Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, said the Grammy Foundation Grant provides credible validation that the Wills’ music is a cherished part of America’s music history. “We are honored to get this vote of confidence from the Grammy Foundation, and equally honored that the Wills’ family has entrusted us with  his personal artifacts and more than 600 hours of never-before-heard recordings.”

The centerpiece of the collection is 150 glass disc recordings from the 1940s. The discs contain radio broadcast transcriptions from stations throughout the southwest. The collection also includes 136 reel-to-reel tapes containing over 275 hours of performances from the 1950s and 60s.

After receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy’s in 2007, Wills’ family realized the need to preserve Bob Wills’ legacy, promote the integrity of his music and his place in American history, and encourage his musical style of innovation and improvisation.  They created the Bob Wills Heritage Foundation, and through a Preservation Planning Grant from the Grammy Foundation, were able to get a clear assessment of the value and importance of the collection.

Even though Wills was not born in Oklahoma, he became the “King of Western Swing” when his band, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, broadcast a daily radio show from Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. Some of their most popular classics included “Take Me Back to Tulsa,” “Faded Love,” and “San Antonio Rose.”

In addition to the Grammy Foundation announcement, Bob Wills Day at the Capitol featured a display of some of Wills’ artifacts and live music throughout the day.

“The momentum and possibilities in Oklahoma are truly wonderful, and when the vision of OKPOP is fulfilled, the world will understand the significance of Oklahoma’s culture and impact of Bob Wills,” Carolyn Wills said.

The proposed OKPOP Museum will celebrate the Oklahoma’s creative spirit and people who have influenced artists and pop culture around the world. “This is truly a unique opportunity for Oklahoma,” Wills explained. “People from all over the world will come to the state to tour this unique museum.”

Proponents of OKPOP are seeking legislative approval of a $42 million bond issue to construct the 75,000 square foot museum in the Brady Arts District in Tulsa. An additional $8 million will come from private support.  The Oklahoma Historical Society will not need any state dollars to operate the museum.

A project of the Oklahoma Historical Society
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