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Leon McAuliffe


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Leon McAuliffe (January 3, 1917 – August 20, 1988), born William Leon McAuliffe, was an American Western swing musician from Houston, Texas. He is famous for his steel guitar solos with Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, inspiring Wills’s phrase, “Take it away, Leon.”

McAuliffe, at age 16, first played with the Light Crust Doughboys, playing both rhythm guitar and steel guitar. In 1935, at age 18, he went on to play with Bob Wills in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He stayed with Wills until World War II. While with Wills he helped compose “San Antonio Rose”. He is more noted, however, for his most famous composition, “Steel Guitar Rag”, and his playing, along with that of (Milton Brown’s Musical Brownies), that popularized the steel guitar in the United States. His playing (and Dunn’s) is also credited with inspiring the rhythm and blues electric guitar style occurring some twenty years later.
After the war, McAuliffe returned to Tulsa, forming his Western swing band and releasing a number of recordings, including “Panhandle Rag” (Columbia 20546) which reached number six in 1949. McAuliffe soon opened his Cimarron Ballroom in the remodeled Akdar Shrine Mosque in Tulsa. He and his band, Leon McAuliffe and His Cimarron Boys, named for the ballroom, recorded several songs. He also opened a recording studio, Cimarron Records.
In the late 1950s, he appeared on ABC-TV’s Jubilee USA and other broadcasts. McAuliffe funded a music program at Rogers State College in Claremore, Oklahoma, paying for a recording studio and office on campus. It was from this studio and office that Junior Brown taught guitar and met his wife Tanya Rae.

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