Our Way: The Music of
Bill Dowdy and Paul Schlesinger
This CD is our statement that guitar and fiddle instrumentals can be smooth and easy on the ear. If you're looking for ringing Martin guitars, contest fiddlin', or the bluegrass sound, you're not going to find it here! We don't play hot jazz, either. This is our own Central Texas style music, which owes its roots to the Texas dance bands and western swing musicians of the 1930s through the 1960s, and one man in particular - Bill Dowdy. Although the fiddle is the featured lead instrument, the real "star" of our CD is Bill's distinctive six-string, progressive, barre chord rhythm. We think our sound is unique, and we wanted to preserve a small sample of our music for posterity.
In addition to the tunes, the CD comes with an 8-page book filled with historical notes about each song, photos, and biographies of the musicians. Details about Bill's war-time Epiphone guitar are presented, as well as the history of Paul's fiddle, which belonged to Arlie Carter, the co-author of the country music standard "Wild Side of Life."
For you Jimmy Heap and Perk Williams fans out there, we've inlcuded an updated version of "Always In My Dreams," a tune Bill Dowdy cut with Heap in 1950 on the extremely rare Empire label. And since Perk gave Paul Schlesinger his first fiddle lesson, a new version of Perk's tune "Long John" is performed in his honor.
Western Swing fans should also be pleased with songs out of Bob Wills' and Milton Brown's catalogs: A Maiden's Prayer, An Old Water Mill, etc.
If any of this sounds interesting, here are a couple of excerpts from the book...
William H. "Bill" Dowdy lives in Lexington, Texas. Bill's playing style finds him at home with traditional country, western swing, and classic pop tunes. Following "New York, New York" with "Don't Be Angry" might be unorthodox, but well within Bill's repertoire. He currently plays with various western swing revival groups, notably the Texas Pioneers and the Little River Playboys, as well as the pop-influenced Jim Siegeler Orchestra. He is also a staff musician at the Giddings and Thorndale oprys. At age 82, a week doesn't go by that Bill is not playing a dance, a show, or working the occasional recording session.
Bill began his musical career at age 12, playing house dances and backing the older fiddlers in the Lexington, TX area. He attended college in San Marcos, but spent more time studying guitar chords. WWII took Bill from college and put him in the Navy. Stationed at Pearl Harbor, Bill learned his swing-band rhythm style while playing with the 5th CB Hepcats, a servicemen's musical group featuring several musicians from Charlie Spivak's orchestra.
After his discharge in 1945, Bill returned to Texas and became a full-time musician, singing and playing rhythm guitar with various bands in the corridor between Austin and Houston. He made his first commercial recordings as a vocalist in 1949/50 with the Tommy Thompson band from Rockdale, which were released on the national 4-Star record label. In the 1950s he recorded with Jimmy Heap and the Melody Masters, Howard Wusterhausen and his Lone Star Ramblers, as well as Clarence Schoppe and the Gypsum Tune Wranglers. While working with Jesse Lee and the Texas Valley Boys of the LaGrange area, Bill became proficient on bass.
In 2003, Bill's accomplishments were officially recognized when he was inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame in San Marcos.
Paul Houston Schlesinger lives in Taylor, Texas. In addition to playing the fiddle, Paul is a degreed photojournalist, freelance writer, and Texas music historian - concentrating on Texas swing and honky-tonk music of the 1930s - 1960s. He plays with several bands in the Central Texas area, including the Texas Pioneers, Little River Playboys, and the Joe Boyd Reynolds band. He also serves as staff fiddler for the Cameron and Thorndale oprys.
Born September 1970, Paul's interest in playing the fiddle came about in 1993 as a result of his interest in the Jimmy Heap band of Taylor. This pursuit introduced Paul to many of the musicians of the vintage Texas western swing era, including Bill Dowdy. He received his first fiddle lesson at age 23 from Perk Williams, the fiddler and vocalist on Jimmy Heap's 1954 hit recording of Release Me.
Paul's musical career began in earnest in the fall of 1997 when he began playing with Bill Dowdy in Lexington. With Bill's influence, Paul started picking up work with other area bands. In 2000, he was invited to play twin fiddles with Ray Tesmer, fiddler and guitarist with the King of Swing, a well-established, Central Texas western swing band. Paul became a charter member of the Texas Pioneers in 2001, and later the Little River Playboys. Both groups emphasize twin fiddles and the traditional Texas dance hall sound.
Paul considers himself fortunate to be friends and bandmates with his musical heroes. He counts the late Perk Williams, the late Arlie Carter, Bill Dessens of Houston, Tony Sepolio of Katy, and Ray Tesmer of Round Rock - all professional fiddlers - as his teachers. Naturally, he considers Bill Dowdy to be the most influential instructor of them all.