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This Week in Texas Music History: Jesse Ashlock

Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll resin up the bow with one of Western swing’s jazziest fiddlers.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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Jesse Ashlock was born on Feb. 22, 1915, in Walker County, Texas. As a teenager, Ashlock attended dances at Fort Worth’s Crystal Springs Dance Pavilion, where he saw Western swing pioneer Bob Wills perform. In 1935, Ashlock joined Wills’ band and would play fiddle with the Texas Playboys for the next four decades. Strongly influenced by jazz violinist Joe Venuti, Jesse Ashlock’s hot fiddle solos helped set the standard for virtually all Western swing fiddlers who followed.

In 1975, Jesse Ashlock settled in Austin, where he mentored a new generation of Western swing musicians, including Asleep at the Wheel and Alvin Crow. On August 6, 1976, Ashlock gave his last live performance at Austin’s Broken Spoke dance hall. He died only three days later.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll recall when a superstar illuminated the Astrodome.