You might not expect a local band to dub itself the Oklahoma Twisters, but according to the combo’s founder, rhythm guitarist and vocalist George Welling, there are a few simple reasons for the moniker. Welling “was working in the oil patches of Oklahoma” when he first got hooked on the twangy western swing of Bob Wills, and sometime after Wills’ death, his band, the Texas Playboys, recorded a song Welling came to love, “Oklahoma Twister.” For a strummer who claims to have “read every book I could find about Bob Wills,” the name was perfect.
First formed in the summer of 1995, the six-piece has put on its own monthly dances at the Woman’s Club of Falls Church since April 1996, played Phantasmagoria often, and has even done some weddings. A tribute band of sorts, the cowboy-hatted Twisters specialize in the two-steps, waltzes, and jazz standards that Wills and his band performed. Unconcerned that his own group only plays two band-penned numbers, Welling observes, “We’re doing a lot of stuff that [most people] have never heard before, so I don’t feel pressured to do more originals.”
The swing and Cajun fans who flock to Glen Echo and have begun to support the group “don’t mind either,” he adds, as long as the danceable rhythms are there. And they are, courtesy of Welling and his veteran bandmates’ fiddle, lap steel, acoustic bass, drums, and guitars. Yet Welling’s “not so sure how to get to [contemporary] country dancers. I hope we don’t come across too snobbish, but we don’t do line-dance music.” Neither an alt-country unit nor Squirrel Nut Zipperish appropriationists, the Twisters just spin out unflamboyant “authentic” prairie tunes. Planning to put out a CD in the fall, Welling enthusiastically concludes, “I wanna show this band off.”Steve Kiviat