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"San Antonio Rose"/"New San Antonio Rose" was the signature song of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. "San Antonio Rose" was an instrumental song written by Bob Wills, who first recorded it with the Playboys on November 28, 1938. Band members added lyrics and it was retitled "New San Antonio Rose". A fresh recording was made on April 16, 1940 (Okeh 05694) with a vocal by Tommy Duncan.
The song opens with the refrain:
Deep within my heart lies a melody,
A song of old San Antone.
The song is written in the first person with the Rose of San Antone being the gentleman's lost love. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.
The most successful recording was made by Bing Crosby with Bob Crosby and the Bob Cats on December 16, 1940 - over a million copies were sold for which Bing was awarded a gold disc.
"New San Antonio Rose" was the first national hit by Bob Wills and His Playboys, propelling them from their Southwestern fame to national notice. Their version charted in 1941 and again in 1943.
The song, both the music and lyrics, reflects the Mexican influence Bob Wills found growing up in the Southwest. Wills developed the melody of the original "San Antonio Rose" itself from a traditional tune, "Spanish Two Step", by the playing the bridge in reverse.
"New San Antonio Rose" ruffled the feathers of Southern country music moguls when Wills and the Playboys performed it with horns and a drum at the Grand Ole Opry on December 30, 1944.
^Wolff, Country Music, "Big Balls in Cowtown: Western Swing From Fort Worth to Fresno", p. 94: "One of the key turning points was 'New San Antonio Rose,' the Playboys' first national hit. The record sold over a million and was a jukebox favorite."
^Dorman, It Happened in Oklahoma, p. 84: "The popularity of the Texas Playboys only grew throughout the Tulsa years, culminating in their 1940 recording of the song, 'New San Antonio Rose.' The song was their first big hit, extending their appeal from the Southwest to fans nationwide and earning a gold record."
^La Chapelle, Proud to Be an Okie, p. 94: "Influenced by his early exposure to Mexican fiddle practices, Bob Wills introduced a mariachi chorus into his signature 'New San Antonio Rose' performing it and a few Spanish-language songs to spillover crowds while in Los Angeles."
^McWhorter, Cowboy Fiddler, p. 60: "The Colonel [Art Sutherland] went back in the control room and the boys asked Bob what they were going to do. Bob [Wills] said, "I don't have any idea. I'm going to play the bridge of 'The Spanish Two-Step' backwards, and Leon [McAuliffe], when I get through, you do anything you want to do and let's get out of here'. The played it through for a time and the Colonel came running out of there with his eyes wide open, said, 'Bob, what do you call that tune?' Bob said, 'You know, we haven't named it. We were going to let you name it. This tune's especially for you and you can name it anything you want to.' He said, 'I'm going to call it 'San Antonio Rose'.' "
^Kienzle, Southwest Shuffle, p. 256: " 'He [Uncle Dave Macon] abut flipped his dipper,' Mountjoy explained. 'We were breaking' tradition and all that. He went by a couple of time mumblin' about 'God-damn young upstarts'; and 'What they doin' with those drums here?' ' "
^Kienzle, Southwest Shuffle,P. 257: "When Acuff finished the introduction, the Playboys snapped into 'New San Antonio Rose,' Montjoy's drums and Brashear's trumpet clearly visible to the audience. ... 'They couldn't get the people to quit applauding; they just kept on and on and on. They kept tryin' to quiet the crowd down, and they wouldn't quiet down.' That kind of response usually justifies an encore. But Wills had remorselessly flouted Opry tradition, first by the act of bringing a drummer, then by defying their request that Mountjoy stay concealed. ... There would be no encore. But no one forgot, either."
Boyd, Jean Ann. Jazz of the Southwest: An Oral History of Western Swing. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998. ISBN0-292-70859-9
Dorman, Robert. It Happened in Oklahoma. Globe Pequot Press, 2006) . ISBN0-7627-4000-0