‘King’ of swing
Oklahoma’s music icon Bob Wills began his first radio show 80 years ago on KVOO in Tulsa.
To celebrate the anniversary, Island Grill Media and Entertainment has partnered with the Oklahoma Historical Society to create a documentary film that will explore Wills’ life and music.
The full-length feature documentary, “Still the King, Bob Wills: The Man, The Music,” will celebrate Wills’ success as he earned his way into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.
Wills, known as the “King of Western Swing,” is famous for bringing the musical genre into dance halls across America.
In 1934, Wills and his group, The Texas Playboys, began daily performances on Tulsa’s own KVOO radio station. He even dabbled in the film world, starring in several films before his death in 1975. “Still the King” will profile Wills from his impoverished beginnings to his posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
The documentary project is currently in production under the direction of writer/director Kevin Meyer, whose 25-year career has garnered several international film festival awards. Island Grill Media and Entertainment’s Chris Turner will produce the film. Turner also is an international award-winning filmmaker of the 2013 documentary “Pride.”
The state’s musical history and contributions led Meyer and Turner to the project.
“I wanted the opportunity to make a film that would showcase to America and the world the amazing talent that Oklahoma has produced,” Meyer says. “It’s amazing the talent that has come out of this state.”
“Bob Wills’ legacy can be seen in every genre of American music over the past 70 years,” Turner adds.
The project also is helping promote the Oklahoma Museum of Pop Culture (OKPop), a proposed 75,000-square-foot, four-story building scheduled to be finished in 2018. The museum, which will be located in the Brady Arts District, will be dedicated to the creative influence of Oklahoma artists in film, music, television and more.
As OKPop and the production team of “Still the King” look to the future, the Bob Wills story is only the beginning. According to Meyer, the OKPop Film Series, of which “Still the King” is a part, will cover a variety of famous Oklahomans, including Leon Russell.
The chance to produce a series of national feature documentaries offers numerous opportunities for the team.
“We want to explore the question, ‘Why does an artist create what he creates?’” Meyer says. “And we want young people to understand that much of the music they listen to today came from Bob Wills.”
“Still the King” will be filmed at locations throughout Oklahoma, highlighting Wills’ history with Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa’s KVOO and WKY in Oklahoma City, as well as around the country.
The film is scheduled for completion this summer, and the production team plans to submit the documentary to the 2015 Sundance and South by Southwest film festivals.
For now, Meyer’s bottom line is simple.
“We want to go big with this film,” he says. “Bob Wills deserves it. OKPop deserves it. And the state deserves it.”
The production team of “Still the King” has started an online campaign to fund the film. Contributions to the project are tax deductible and can be made at