Leon McAuliffe achieved fame as a steel guitarist in the heyday of Western Swing. The instuction 'Take it away, Leon" was the hallmark of one of the most famous of swing bands, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.
Born William Leon McAuliffe in Houston, Texas on March 1, 1917, he began playing guitar at the age of 14. He began appearing on local radio in 1931. He began to specialise in steel guitar and in 1935, at age 18, he was invited to join Bob Wills' Texas Playboys. He remained with that band for many years. His signature song was 'Steel Guitar Rag.'
Leon McAuliffe served as flight instructor during World War 2 and afterwards formed his own band, first known as Leon McAuliffe and his Western Swing Band but later becoming the Cimarron Boys. One of his big hits 'Panhandle Rag' reached number 6 in the Country and Western charts in 1949. At one point in his career he also appeared in several motion pictures. In 1978 he was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.
A resurgence in interest in Western Swing in later years saw a reunion of Leon McAuliffe and the Texas Playboys for a time. Leon died on 20th September 1988.
Leon McAuliffe at home.
Album cover from Leon McAuliffe and his Cimarron Boys.
The video below shows Leon McAuliffe and his Cimarron Boys performing 'Steel Guitar Rag', written by Leon and first performed in 1936 while he was with Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. This became Leon's signature tune and its performance played a huge part in popularising the steel guitar.
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