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Legends of Western Swing Music Festival

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Gloria Miers Productions will be producing a show that appeals to many in the 32nd Annual Legends of Western Swing Music Festival from June 20th to the 22nd. The twist on this production is that Gloria Miers, affectionately call the “Grand Dame of Western Swing Music”, will be 93 years old in April and is still going strong just like the music that she loves.
“Western Swing music was originated by Bob Wills in 1938. He played the fiddle, and his grandfather and father played the fiddle, and they all played country music. Bob was a country boy and in the cotton fields when he heard the black workers singing and fell in love with their rhythm and the sound of their music,” Gloria explained. “So, he began to try to put that with what he had been taught, which was country music. But it changed the rhythm and the beat to a different sound, and he called it western swing.”
The first Legends of Western Swing Music Festival started in Canton, Texas and was a huge success. “The people came out in droves,” Gloria said. “Because people like us didn’t want to go to honky-tonks or night clubs anymore and there was no place to dance or enjoy the music. People came from all over the United States. There was a tiny little stage, and they didn’t even have a dressing room for the musicians, and it grew and grew. People were hungry for the music, and that’s how we began.”
The festival was under the trees in June, and the crowd had to deal with rain one year and temperatures at “108 in the shade” another year, so they moved it for a few years around Texas until they discovered Wichita Falls and the MPEC. The tenth year of the show was in our fair city and it has been here ever since.
Gloria and her husband, Dewey, became partners with Chuck Woods in the festival in 1990 and she went “kicking and screaming”. I knew my husband would be sitting on the front row tapping his foot while I did all the work. Which is exactly how it turned out to be,” she said with a laugh. But Gloria’s love of this music didn’t come naturally. In fact, Bob Wills was her father’s favorite, and she was force fed that music as a child. “But I learned that God has a sense of humor because I married a man that put Bob Wills right up there equal to Jesus,” she recalled with a grin. “And I either had to learn to like it or move out. But the first time I heard those live bands in person, it was an immediate change, and I fell in love with it. I sold tickets and took care of the vendors and various things, and I seldom ever got to be on that front row with my husband. I was doing work.”
Gloria’s husband died in 2000, but that didn’t slow her down. She and her business partner didn’t see eye to eye and one day she suggested that either he take it or she. Gloria was surprised when he said for her to do the job on her own, so she has been the sole proprietor since that day. “There is a lot of work, and I live in Plano, Texas. I have to come to Wichita Falls to do everything. I have to organize it and find sponsors. I always need sponsors. You can’t sell enough tickets to pay for the bands,” she said.
Gloria has had headliners such as Ray Price and Mel Tillis, and this year they will not disappoint with 9 great bands. Three will play on Thursday: Jody Nix, Jake Hooker and the Outsiders, and Shoot Low Sheriff. On Friday, Dave Alexander and His Big Texas Swing Band, Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition, and Coby Carter will take the stage. On Saturday, Bobby Flores and the Yellow Rose Band, and Jason Roberts. That night, Jeff Woolsey and the Dancehall Kings will close out the weekend. There is usually a waiting line of bands that want to get on her stage. The bands start playing every day at noon and play until 5:00 p.m. when a catered dinner is served. The bands start back up at 7:00 p.m. and play until 11:00, and the dancers don’t stop until the last song has been sung.
“We don’t have alcohol, drugs, or smoking. It is held at the MPEC, which is a nice air conditioned building with comfortable seating and two big dance floors. Most of the couples never sit down. They dance the whole time, but it is the best dance music ever,” Gloria said. “We are very proud that it is a good, clean, wholesome show. We don’t have alcohol simply because we encourage people to bring their children and grandchildren to learn what the western swing music is about. If you come one time, you will fall in love with it. I guarantee.”
At one point there is a salute to veterans, in which 20 airmen come to the stage and honor veterans in the audience by holding a salute the entire time that the band plays an appropriate song in dedication to the veterans. Gloria said, “If you come, believe me you will shed a tear. And those airmen all get a chance to dance, too. I have to say that we have people come from as far away as England, Germany, Japan, Australia, and Canada. They travel long distances because they can’t hear western swing anywhere else,” she said proudly. She wishes that more people from Wichita Falls would come to enjoy the show also. Many of the dancers are older, but Gloria would like for the younger people to learn about the western swing music. However, I have been told that some of the older couples will hobble out to the dance floor, and when the music starts they take off like teenagers, and that half of the show is watching the dancers.
Gloria has been such a mover and shaker in the music scene that she has been inducted into three halls of fame in Seattle, Oklahoma, and Texas. “I have been fortunate in receiving a number of awards over the years, but I guess the biggest one was in 2015 in Austin, Texas. They have the Ameripolitan Music award which is very prestigious. (It bills itself as “Music with prominent roots with influences in outlaw, western swing, rockabilly and honky-tonk music). You are nominated by the bands, but there was a lot of good competition. There was a festival in Japan, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. I knew I had no chance to win, but I wanted to go check it out. It was just like the Oscars. When they said, ‘The Legends of Western Swing Music Festival,’ I nearly passed out. I don’t even remember my acceptance speech. I told them how excited I was, and I got a standing ovation. It was very exciting,” she said nostalgically.
She has been a huge contributor in making western swing the official music of Texas, and also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Western Artists. Gloria now produces with the help of her family. “It is a family affair,” she said, but she is quick to point out who is really in charge. “Let me say very emphatically, I could have never done what I have done or succeeded in the way we have succeeded without the Lord helping me. He is the biggest part of my show.”
For more information about the Legends of Western Swing Music Festival check out their website at

-Cindy Kahler Thomas