Western swing has become the traditional music of Oklahoma. While it was "born in Texas," it was Tulsa where it matured, and one of the major figures in its development- Johnnie Lee Wills- still lives in Tulsa and continues to play dances there. And the man who took western swing from the Southwest to the nation and to international audiences_- Hank Thompson - lives near and works out of Tulsa.
A cultural blend of musical styles, western swing has one primary characteristic- a danceable beat. While country and bluegrass music primarily emerged as listening traditions, the principal audience for western swing is a dancing crowd. If the listeners on a Saturday night outnumber the dancers, the band has failed at playing good western swing.
Cowboys loved to dance; if women were not available, they danced with each other, calling it a "stag dance." In the late 19th century, as the range cattle industry moved northward and the cotton industry moved westward, the cowboys' music and passion for dancing began to blend with the Black blues brought from the cotton fields. The blend effected a change in fiddle styles, the fiddler adopting a slower "long bow" technique and adding blues improvisations. Also, the fiddler became sufficiently versatile to accompany any popular style of dancing.