In another entry in our series examining both the territory bands of the United States and music originating from the state of Texas, we look at Boots and his Buddies, one of the Lone Star State’s leading swing bands of the 1930s.
Clifford “Boots” Douglas was born in Temple, Texas, likely on September 7, 1906 or 1908. He began playing drums in his teenage years, and first played professionally in 1926 as a member of Millard McNeal’s Southern Melody Boys of San Antonio. Douglas formed his own band, called “Boots and his Buddies” (presumably deriving their name from the comic strip Boots and her Buddies) at some point in the first half of the 1930s, and played gigs around the state of Texas, occasionally venturing into neighboring states. Boots’ Buddies began recording in 1935 for RCA Victor, with their recordings issued on the Bluebird label. They continued to record until late in 1938. With Douglas arranging, they seem to have had a tendency to “borrow” music from others and play it under their own titles. Their regional popularity rivaled that of fellow Texas swing man Don Albert, and while their phonograph records gained them some greater recognition outside of their home state, they never were never widely known outside of Texas. Though the end of the swing era saw a steady decline in the band’s popularity, Boots and his Buddies were still playing through the end of the 1940s. In 1950, Douglas finally disbanded his Buddies and relocated to Los Angeles, California, where he worked for the county, still playing on the side. According to social security records, he died in 2000, at the age of either 92 or 94.
Bluebird B-6063 was recorded August 14, 1935 in San Antonio, Texas by Boots Douglas and his Buddies. The personnel consists of Thaddeus Gilders, Percy Bush, Douglas Byers, and L.D. Harris on trumpets, Johnny Shields on trombone, Alva Brooks and Jim Wheat on alto sax, Baker Millian on tenor sax, A.J. Johnson on piano, Jeff Thomas on guitar, Walter McHenry on string bass, and Boots Douglas on drums. It was the first issued record by Boots’ Buddies, and the first and third sides from his earliest session. This pressing dates to the late 1930s, early pressings would have appeared on Bluebird’s “buff” label. I purchased this copy from a local fellow in Arlington (the same guy that provided my Fred Gardner’s Texas University Troubadours record), it has likely spent its entire life in the state, since its arrival from the pressing plant.
First up is “Wild Cherry”. This side is pretty well beaten, but still plays well thanks to the high quality of these Bluebird records.
On the other side, they play a sizzling rendition of “Rose Room” (which we last heard played by Duke Ellington’s band). This was Boots and his Buddies’ first recorded side. This may be the loudest side I’ve ever played, I had to turn the volume way down to transfer it properly.