Charlie Gregg

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Charlie Gregg was a historic figure in the development of the Western swing style, and had the instrumental virtuosity to sit in any of the chairs on the bandstand. Although he is best-known as a fiddler,…
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Charlie Gregg was a historic figure in the development of the Western swing style, and had the instrumental virtuosity to sit in any of the chairs on the bandstand. Although he is best-known as a fiddler, Gregg also played banjo, guitar, bass, and baritone sax. He was one of the three founding members of the Tune Wranglers, a group whose musical contribution to the state of Texas was enormously greater than any return in terms of either cash money or recognition. The group began in 1935 with leader, singer, and songwriter Buster Coward bravely fronting a lineup that also included Gregg on bass, fiddler Tom Dickey, and banjoist Eddie Fielding. Throughout the band's career, it had the distinction of being one of the few ensembles in so-called cowboy music that were actually cowboys.

Later members included a banjo virtuoso named Joe Barnes who went by the stage name of Red Brown, pianist Eddie Whitley, and steel guitarist and vocalist Eddie Duncan, the latter man eventually to become associated with the much better-known Western swing outfit of Bob Wills. Gregg toured with the band regionally, at first mostly around the northeast of the state. Eventually, the band's touring routes would involve thousands of miles of travel. In 1936, the Tune Wranglers began recording for Bluebird, resulting in a catalog of recordings that included the hit "Texas Sand," probably something someone named Coward will want to hide one's head in, but that was hardly Gregg's problem. The Tune Wranglers went on to record numbers sung in Spanish, as well as Hawaiian music, and performed a stage repertoire of hokum and old-time music that went well beyond the jaw-dropping eclecticism that was so much a part of the Western swing philosophy.

The last recording session of the Tune Wranglers took place in 1938, and as a touring outfit, the band was defunct by the start of the second World War. Gregg remained active in the late '40s on the radio station KTSA as part of a group of house performers that also included country & western protégé Tommy Hill, comedian Clarence Chesseman, and singer-guitarist Lou Pickens. By this time, Gregg was being referred to as a "veteran" performer and was playing mostly fiddle. He was reported to have died in the early '50s.