Oklahoma-born Donnell Clyde Cooley was nicknamed Spade following a hot poker game ! Lucky in cards doesn't mean happy in life, though ; in August 1961, Spade was jailed at Kern County prison after being convicted of the horrendous murder of his second wife, Ella Mae. A press article from a Bakersfield newspaper stated that 'he took the verdict without show of emotion'. He died of a heart attack on November 23, 1969, at the very time when it had been announced he would soon be released on parole. Sad story, sad man. But he was the brilliant, classically-trained fiddler who coined the term 'Western Swing' - which was an apt description of his brand of music. In 1941-1942, he fiddled for others - Johnny Bond, for instance - but on September 30, 1943, he inked a one-year solo contract with Columbia which would soon be extended. His biggest hit was 'Shame On You', from his very first session for Okeh (a branch of Columbia) in December 1944, with Tex Williams & Deuce Spriggins on vocal. Innovative arrangements, flashy licks from high caliber musicians such as Joaquin Murphey, Smokey Rogers, Cactus Soldi, Pedro DePaul and John Weis, Cooley's music was stylish and entertaining. A classic session occurred in May 1946 at which they cut 'Three-Way Boogie', 'Oklahoma Stomp' and 'Steel Guitar Rag' - no less. The session logs indicate that, on June 14, 1945, a new 3-year contract was signed with a royalty payment of 3/4 cent on 90% per side. However, by January 1947 he was with RCA Victor, at a time when most of his band had departed to Tex Williams' Western Caravan. He recruited other players (like Jimmy Wyble and Billy Wright), added horns and several vocalists while Noel Boggs took Joaquin's seat at the steel guitar. This transitional period proved to be both prolific and creative. Such tracks as 'Spanish Fandango', 'Boggs Boogie', 'Hillbilly Fever' or 'All Aboard For Oklahoma' are among his very best. He then went to Decca and the quality of his output did not diminish. His stint with those labels has never been fully documented - until now ! I'm particularly happy to publish the Columbia, RCA and Decca discographies & sessionographies for the first time, along with a wealth of never-seen-before pics and fresh information, with kind permission from some of his musicians' families.


Harold Ehrmann

Billy Wright

Billy Wright & Spade

ART ATWELL at the mikeArt Atwell at the mike

WALLY RUTH at the mikeWally Ruth at the mike

SPADE COOLEY and FriendsSpade with Roy Rogers and other friends
SPADE COOLEY playing fiddleSpade on stage



SPADE COOLEY - Transcriptions LPClub Of Spades CS 208 LP radio shows transcriptions


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HAROLD EHRMANNOne of Spade Cooley's most loyal musicians was Harold Hugh Ehrmann. He was with him all through the RCA years and probably beyond. I would like to thank Mrs. Diana Morris, who supplied the two pics here as well as the following piece of info :

'My grandfather was affectionately known as 'Gus' (he nicknamed himself after his uncle Gustav). Born in 1911, he started playing the sax when he was very young. He grew up in Wisconsin, an only child. His mother died when he was quite young. He met my grandmother in the '30s and had their only child, Mary Lynne, in 1938. Not only did grandpa play with Spade, but also with the Freddy Martin Orchestra and the Russ Morgan Orchestra, Jack Morgan being the leader. Aside form the sax, he also played flute, piccolo and clarinet. I had many opportunities to hear him play and, as an adult, I was honored to sing with him at Myron's Ballroom in Hollywood in the early '80s. He died in March 2002 at the age of 90, a few weeks before his 91st birthday'.

SPADE COOLEY, BILLY WRIGHT & BENNY GARCIAMrs. Linda Piro is Billy Wright's daughter and kindly supplied this superb biography of her father, also pictured at right (1) on fiddle with Spade and Benny Garcia on guitar, and (2) on trombone in the back :

'William W. Wright, or Billy Wright, as he was known joined Spade's band in approx. 1949 as a fiddle player and trombonist. Daddy was a fantastic fiddle player/violinist who learned to play trombone so he would be more versatile and work more.

One of Spade's specialties was the "3 fiddles" playing in three-part harmony, at the mike. "Swinging The Devil's Dream" was a fiddle trio tune that was also a Spade Cooley theme song after "Shame on You." Daddy was always the middle of the three. Daddy had a fantastic smile, in fact, he became known as Smilin' Billy Wright. Lon Doty was the third fiddler and also played sax.

SPADE COOLEY & His BandDaddy would take my brother and me to work with him, on Saturday mornings, to the Santa Monica Ballroom. The band would rehearse all day, break for dinner around 5 p.m., be ready to play the TV show at around 8 p.m. which was an hour show (live !) and then, the couches would be pulled back from in front of the stage in that old big ballroom, to make room for the dancers - mostly servicemen and lots of beautiful girls.

The band would play for dancing until 1:30 a.m. Talk about a grueling gig! My brother and I would get bored to tears so we would play on the beach all day, getting back in time for dinner. Then we would go backstage or upstairs to Spade's office and wait around until the show. Many of the guest artists would hang out up there before the show and we got to meet them including Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I thought I was in "hog heaven." After the show, we would run all over the ballroom freely, and sometimes fall asleep on one of the couches against the wall.

SPADE COOLEY & His BandIt was a magical time to be allowed to hang with the players and be part of all that. Daddy eventually left Spade and went with Lawrence Welk. He was with Welk for quite a few years when he became very ill with diabetes and had to leave the band. He continued to play with many fine musicians in L.A. and did many recording dates. Daddy was a consumate musician who was born and raised in Oklahoma. He attended Oklahoma University and became concert master of the symphony. He could fiddle with the best of them and originally went out to California to join the Bob Wills Band. He also played with Hank Penny, Tex Williams, and many, many others. And he did the Gene Autry TV show for years.

My mother, Joella Wright, also was a great musician who played piano with Hank Penny, Tex Williams and many others. She was still playing right before she fell ill and passed on in May of 2002 at the age of 85. My brother and I also became professional performers. My brother is a drummer and arranger in
Oklahoma City, and I became a bass player and singer and eventually put the bass down and fronted my own groups. I was fortunate to be the opening act for several name artists who came through OKC including Kenny Rogers, George Gobel, Foster Brooks and more. I am still singing at private parties and club dates and I am in my late 60's now.
Daddy would be so proud!'

  Above : The
Spade Cooley Band with Ginny Jackson, Billy Wright and Carrot 'Top' Anderson on steel guitar
  Below : Another beautiful shot of The Spade Cooley Orchestra with Ginny Jackson & Noel Boggs on the left.

My most grateful thanks go to George Smith (England), Patrick Brayer (Upland, California) for
the original Spade Cooley letterhead pictured below, Mrs. Diana Morris and, especially,
Mrs. Linda Piro who supplied
the vast majority of the pics you'll enjoy in my Spade Cooley pages.
SPADE COOLEY Original Letterhead
© PAUL VIDAL * Privas, France * November 2000 - July 2007 - May 2014 - June 2019

Hollywood - December 4, 1944
H 1157 Forgive Me One More Time Okeh 6746 - Columbia 37046
H 1158 Shame On You Okeh 6731 - Columbia 37057
H 1159 I Guess I've Been Dreaming Again Columbia 38054
H 1160 I've Taken All I'm Gonna Take From You Okeh 6746 - Columbia 37046
H 1161 A Pair Of Broken Hearts Okeh 6731 - Columbia 37057
Hollywood - July 24, 1945
H 1486 Troubled Over You Columbia 37937 (an alternate take was released on FC 37467 in 1982)
H 1487 You'll Rue The Day Columbia 20490
H 1488 You Can't Break My Heart Columbia 36935
Hollywood - January 3, 1946
HCO 1638 Detour Columbia 36935
HCO 1639 Crazy 'Cause I Love You Columbia 37058
HCO 1640 Hide Your Face Columbia 20431
Hollywood - 1946 - Backing session for Dinah Shore
HCO 1777 Doin' What Comes Natur'lly Columbia 36976
Hollywood - May 3, 1946
HCO 1816 I Can't Help The Way You Feel Columbia FC 37467 (issued for the first time on this '82 CBS LP)
HCO 1817 Three-Way Boogie Columbia 37058
HCO 1818 Oklahoma Stomp Columbia 37237
HCO 1819 Cow Bell Polka Columbia 37937 - Columbia 20572
HCO 1820 Steel Guitar Rag Columbia 38054 - Columbia 20572
Hollywood - June 6, 1946
HCO 1870 You Better Do It Now Columbia 37237
HCO 1871 You Never Miss The Water Columbia 37585
HCO 1872 Spadella Columbia 37585
HCO 1873 Devil's Dream Columbia 20490
HCO 1874 Yodeling Polka Columbia 20431
Two records by SPENCE BARE from 1946 should also be mentioned because they feature songs written or
co-written by Spade Cooley whose orchestra might probably provide the accompaniment ; these are :
Rhapsody 117/118 - 'I Can't Forgive Myself For Not Forgiving You' c/w 'Saving My Tears For A Rainy Day'
Rhapsody 119/120 - 'Heartaches, Sadness & Tears' c/w 'Put-Ti-Pu-Ti Polka'.
They both were re-released the following year on United Artist (UA-101 and UA-102 respectively).
Rather ironically, the song 'Heartaches, Sadness & Tears' was co-written with his wife, Ella Mae.