A dominant figure in southern California’s wartime dance halls, fiddler Donnell 'Spade' Cooley (1910-1969) defined West Coast western swing with a slick, uptown sound. An Oklahoma native raised in Oregon, Cooley rose to prominence in 1942 when he became bandleader at the Venice Pier Ballroom in Santa Monica, California. Thousands of patrons danced to Cooley’s three-fiddle front line, augmented with flashy steel and lead guitar leads, a jazzy accordion, a classical harp and Tex Williams’ engaging baritone vocals. In 1944, Cooley scored a major hit with his first record, 'Shame on You.'
In May and June 1946, the band began recording instrumentals for an album project. Shortly after the second session, Cooley learned that Capitol Records offered Williams a contract. Outraged, he immediately fired the singer, leading most of his musicians to walk out in support. Cooley quickly replaced them with a brass section and adopted a more mainstream pop sound.
Released in May 1949, Sagebrush Swing collected all seven of Cooley’s recorded instrumentals along with the juke-box hit 'Shame on You.'
Although he remained a fixture in southern California dance halls and on local television throughout the following decade, Cooley never regained the artistic or commercial success he achieved during his mid-forties peak. His career ended tragically in April 1961 when he brutally killed his wife during an alcohol-fueled rage.
01 Devil's Dream Spade Cooley
02 Yodeling Polka Spade Cooley
03 Steel Guitar Rag Spade Cooley
04 Cow Bell Polka Spade Cooley
05 Oklahoma Stomp Spade Cooley
06 Shame On You Spade Cooley
07 Spadella Spade Cooley
08 Three Way Boogie Spade Cooley