Leonard Seago

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With a last name that sounds like a pigeon English description of a day at the shore, Leonard Seago was an important part of an early generation of Texas musicians whose music was nothing if not a foreign…
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With a last name that sounds like a pigeon English description of a day at the shore, Leonard Seago was an important part of an early generation of Texas musicians whose music was nothing if not a foreign melting pot. There were not only Mexican but Bavarian and Eastern European influences in the music played by groups such as the Texas Playboys, the Tune Wranglers, the Sons of the West, Revard's Playboys, Adolph Hofner & the San Antonians, and Ted Daffan's Texans. Seago performed in all these bands, his fiddle virtuosity just part of a musical picture that also included vocalizing and occasional rhythm guitar. Listeners sniffing through collections of vintage discographical laundry left behind from the '30s and '40s will quickly get a whiff of Seago, whose playing on one the first recordings of fiddle classics, "Cotton Eyed Joe," is in itself a major coup.

Seago was not a founding member of the innovative San Antonio Tune Wranglers, but fiddled around between this band and the competing Revard's Playboys during the late '30s, when both groups were well-established and gigging mightily. A typical weekend might involve not only hundreds of miles of driving, perhaps across the Mexican border, but a decision to wander from one band to another. At one point Seago wrangled to the Revard outfit, replacing fiddler Ben McKay. In 1938 Seago was part of the Tune Wranglers' lineup at a session where a decision was made to go Hawaiian. Traveling on this "Hawaiian Honeymoon" with Seago were some stalwarts of the developing Western swing sound, such as steel guitarist Eddie Duncan and reed player Beal Ruff. Noah Hatley was also one of Seago's regular partners in crime in the classic Western swing caper known as "dueling fiddles."

Adolph Hofner & All the Boys were also a popular group in south Texas in the late '30s, but the name quickly evolved into Adolph Hofner & the Texans, then Adolph Hofner & the San Antonians as the growing Texas music audience began drawing lines in the sand. Seago shows up on recording sessions by this outfit from early 1940, including the huge hit "Maria Elena." Hot fiddler J.R. Chatwell eventually replaced Seago in this group, leaving the latter man free to hitch a ride with Ted Daffan, a steel guitar-picking bandleader with a new vision of country & western music for truckers. This updating of cowboy music, since truckers are a sort of contemporary cowboy, would eventually be established as a kind of golden trust within the genre, an audience that performers can always fall back on when all else fails. Daffan was ahead of his time, and hopefully the highway patrol as well, with his "Truck Driver's Blues" in 1939. Seago both sings and plays on sides Daffan cut in California a few years later, and coincidentally so does the madcap bandleader Spike Jones, working as a session man.