Morally, there is no question that artists such as Charley Pride or Dick Justice would have the edge on Buster Coward. The bandleader whose surname is at perverse odds with the entire cowboy or country & western milieu seemed to want to draw attention to himself in the way a coward would not, often leading his Tune Wranglers in directions no other bandleader dared to go. Coward and his fellow musicians, including fiddler and singer Charlie Gregg and banjoists Eddie Fielding and Joe Barnes, who used the primarily colorful stage name of Red Brown, all came out of the Texas honky tonk scene of the '30s. While San Antonio later became one of the nation's heavy metal capitals, at this stage of the game musicians had to keep their hands in some other sort of pursuit in order to finance anything other than beans in their tacos. It has been reported that at least half of the Tune Wranglers also worked as cowboys; it would seem appropriate that the frontman would be too much of a Coward, but actually the opposite was true.

Not that this matters. It has long been established that just dressing as a cowboy is good enough for folks in this genre. While that might not have been the case in the early days of Western swing, the Tune Wranglers seemed to have had little problem establishing a regional following, lassoing record executives into releasing some 80 sides. The bilingual discography of the later all-star Texas Tornados was foreshadowed by Coward's ease working in Spanish, on recordings as well as in live shows. Due to broadcasts over border radio, the Tune Wranglers began to create a buzz in Mexico, then became enormously popular after releasing a Bluebird side entitled "El Rancho Grande." The label was so delighted with the success of this record that it began promoting appropriate recordings by the band under the name of Tono Hombres. By the end of the group's recording career it was also trying out Hawaiian music. While many groups of this period presented novelty and pop material, the Tune Wranglers were one of the few that made the connection with hokum and jug band styles.

Vocal chores were passed around among members of the band, by the mid-'30s, including steel guitar hot shot Tommy Duncan. Coward sang cowboy songs, blues, and traditional old-time country music, as well as his own material. "Texas Sand" is considered his most famous song, part of the tradition of this state's artists immortalizing their home turf with balladry. All in all, a good showing for a fellow named Coward in a state known for stringing them up from trees. This name has also made inroads into the military, as well as country music. Of particular note is an incident in the late '70s when a nuclear submarine under the command of one John "Buster" Coward suffered an engineering mishap close to the coast of Syria. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi

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