t lawrence


Tracy Lawrence

Born in Atlanta, Tracy began performing at 15 and would sign with Atlantic Records Nashville in 1991. He has released a total of 14 studio albums, with Alibis (1993) and Time Marches On (1996) both certified double-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Among his more than 40 songs to hit the Billboard Hot Country charts, eight went to No. 1: Sticks and Stones, Alibis, Can't Break It to My Heart, My Second Home, If the Good Die Young, Texas Tornado, Time Marches on,  and Find Out Who Your Friends Are.

Lawrence's musical style is defined mainly by neotraditional country and honky tonk influences, although he has also recorded country pop, Christmas music, and Christian country music. He won Top New Male Vocalist from Billboard in 1992 and from Academy of Country Music in 1993, and Vocal Event of the Year from the Country Music Association in 2007. 





Mandrell Sisters

Sisters Barbara, Irlene and Louise Mandrell are known individually for their musical talent and together as the stars of a popular NBC variety show.

Their variety show ran for two seasons on the NBC network between November 1980 and June 1982, featuring music and comedy sketches.

Barbara Mandrell is known for six No. 1 singles and 25 Top 10 singles, combining country, R&B and soul influences. Some memorable hits include Tonight My Baby's Coming Home  (1971) and the Midnight Oil (1973). In 1975 she moved to ABC-Dot records and reached her commercial break-through with country-pop singles like Sleeping Single in a Double Bed (1978), (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right (1979),          I Was Country when Country Wasn't Cool, and One of a Kind Pair of Fools.

Among her awards are receiving the Entertainer of the Year accolade from the Country Music Association two years in a row. She was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Louise Mandrell's hits include Some of My Best Friends are Old Songs, Runaway Heart, Save Me and Too Hot to Sleep.  From 1992 to 1994 she headlined at the 4,000 seat Grand Palace Theater in Branson, and then she opened the Louise Mandrell Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee in 1997.

Irlene Mandrell first rose to prominence as a model for CoverGirl and, after the Mandrell variety show ended, joined the cast of Hee Haw as one of the Hee Haw Honeys.







r orbison 

Roy Orbison

Roy Orbison was an American singer, songwriter and guitarist known for songs such as Only the Lonely, Running Scared and Oh, Pretty Woman. From 1960 to 1966, 22 of Orbison's singles reached the Billboard Top 40. He wrote or co-wrote almost all of his own Top 10 hits.

Orbison experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 1980s, and in 1988 he co-founded the Traveling Wilburys supergroup with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. Orbison died of a heart attack at age 52.

He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and five other Grammy Awards.

Rolling Stone placed him at No. 37 on its list of the Greatest Artists of All time and No. 13 on its list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.











c cooperClay Cooper

Clay Cooper already was familiar with the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, having hosted the induction event in recent years. The Carthage audience responded happily to the comedic and musical abilities that Clay brought to the Hall of Fame stage. For 2023, when a Hall of Fame board member suggested Clay be asked to return as emcee, almost immediately it was decided to invite  him as an inductee. Clay Cooper is a born and bred Texas Country entertainer.

Clayton Stephens Cooper was born on May 25, 1970, and he was raised in a musical family in the Collin County town of Wylie, about 20 miiles northeast of Dallas. His father played guitar and performed at local country music events. Clay's grandmother served as pianist of the Wylie Baptist Church, and she provided piano lessons to Wylie children.

Sadly, Clay's mother died of cancer when he was 12. The boy felt lost and aimless, but because of his innate love of music, he gravitated to the Wylie Opry. By the time he was 16, Clay became the oldest member of a youth band, the Texas Gold Minors.

"It was a smokin' little band," related Clay, "and we started playing South Fork Ranch and the State Fair of Texas and places around there. Then within three months, we got a call from Branson that they wanted to audition us. So we came to Branson for the Ozark Jubilee and we were hired."

Clay reflected on his good fortune. "I feel like God put music in me and by joining the Texas Gold Minors, I feel like God gave me a gift and put me on the right track."

Clay worked steadily in and around Branson, including the Country Review Show in Eureka Springs, the Down Home Country Show, the Buck Trent Show, and the Jim Owens Show. He spent nine years as lead vocalist for Country Tonoight. In 2003, Clay joined his friend, Paul Harris, as lead vocalist on Paul Harris Live.

Two years later, Clay and his wife, Tina, opened Clay Cooper's Country Express on Branson's "Strip." A cast of 25 puts on a colorful, high energy show which includes his wife and children, sons Colton and Caden and a daughter from an earlier marriage, Cassity Laine Cooper. Cooper's Country Express emphasizes traditional Country music and patriotic themes. Discounts are provided to service members and Clay cheerfully encourages audience members to carry concealed weapons to enhance security.

When Tommie Ritter Smith called Clay to inform him of his unanimous selection as a 2023 inductee, he modestly thought - despite  his enormous success as a Country performer - "Wow, am I worthy to be in the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame?"

Tommie reassured him, "Clay, you love Texas, you were born and raised in Texas, you have the Texas flag flying off your roof, everything in your theater is Texas themed, and you've been performing music in Branson for 37 years. If you think about it, you've performed in front of probably as many, if  not more than, some of these nationally know artists that have been doing it on the road. They just all come to you. We're tickled to have you."


OslinK.T. Oslin

"80's Ladies" vaulted singer-songwriter K.T. Oslin to stardom at the age of 45. The million-selling hit made K.T. the first female songwriter to win Song of the Year. The talented artist with the dazzling, infectious smile went on to collect four CMA Awards and three Grammys. In 1988 she was named Female Vocalist of the Year and in 2014, K.T. was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Kay Toinette Oslin was born on May 15, 1942 and was raised in Houston. As a young adult, K.T. sang folk music around Houston with trios, but her songwriting efforts sounded more like Country than Folk.

And since childhood her earliest dream had been to act. She took advertising roles on TV and sang jingles for commercials promoting soft drinks and cleaning products and even denture adhesives.

But in 1966 she starred opposite Rudy Vallee in an equity production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. That same year she joined the road company of Hello Dolly, starring Carol Channing. After arriving in New York City, she remained with the popular musical during a Broadway run which featured Betty Grable in the title role.

Settling in Manhattan, K.T. appeared in Promises, Promises and in a Lincoln Center revival of West Side Story. There were other roles in lesser known shows as well.

But she continued to write songs with a Country flavor. K.T. began to make trips to Nashville. She sang backup on recording sessions, and she continued to perform ad jingles. Some of her songs were covered by such stars as Dottie West, The Judds, Sissy Spacek, Dusty Springfield and Lorrie Morgan. Although K.T. had no record deal and no agent, she put together her first album and borrowed money to set up a concert.

Veteran producer Harold Shedd, who had worked with Reba McEntire and Alabama, liked K.T.'s sound, and he produced her debut album, 80's Ladies. The title song resonated with millions of women, and within a year she was touring as a star. On stage she regaled audiences with a breezy sense of humor and down home banter. K.T. had back-to-back No.One hits, "Do Ya" and "I'll Always Come Back," and the next year "Hold Me" reached the top of the charts. In 1990 she again reached No.One as a female vocalist with Alabama on the hit "Face to Face."

The personable actress performed delightful music videos, such as "Bride of Frankenstein," and in 1993 she released her Greatest Hits Album, Songs From an Aging Sex Bomb. She was a welcome guest with TV hosts Johnny Carson, Carol Burnett, Ralph Emery, Joan Rivers, and Oprah Winfrey.

K.T. headlined a TNN special USO Celebrity Tour. She was featured in a concert with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in 1999. She released a disco single of the Rosemary Clooney hit, "Come On'a My House," and she appeared on Austin City Limits.

Her rigorous schedule, however, helped to cause a heart condition, resulting in coronary bypass surgery. After 2005 she cut back on personal appearances. A decade later she was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, and she retired to an assisted living facility where she passed away at the age of 78 on December 21, 2020.

One of her final appearances came in 2013, a celebration of the 20th aniversary of 80's Ladies during a sold-out show of Nashville's Franklin Theater.

"We should have music for all of us," proclaimed K.T. Oslin. "Music isn't just for a 20-year-old."



David Frizzell

David Frizzell lived all over Texas starting in Greenville Texas in the early '40s when his dad went to Europe in World War 2. He had his first radio show at the age of 9 in Kermit, Texas, then on to Sulphur Springs where they lived when brother Lefty got his first number one hit (and younger brother Allen was born). He began touring with his legendary brother, Lefty Frizzell at the age of 12 throughout the 1950s and 60s. After serving in the Air Force for four years, Frizzell signed with Columbia Records in 1970 and charted his first Billboard single with “L.A. International Airport” and then a Top 40 with “I Just Can’t Help Believing.”

During the 1970s, Frizzell appeared regularly on Buck Owens' All American TV Show and began recording for Capitol Records. In 1981, he recorded his first number one country hit, "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma," a duet with Shelly West. The song won the Country Music Association's Song of the Year and Vocal Duet of the Year awards in 1981, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and was featured in Clint Eastwood's film ‘Any Which Way You Can.’ Frizzell and West also won the Academy of Country Music award for Vocal Duo of the Year in 1981 and 1982.

In 1982, Frizzell released “I’m Gonna Hire A Wino To Decorate Our Home,” which made its way to number one.

In recent years, Frizzell created his label Nashville America Records and has released several albums including Frizzell Friends: This Is Our Time which includes a bonus track, written in honor of Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, and traditional music in general. “Lefty, Merle & Me” features David with Marty Haggard.

David also penned a biography of his older brother: I Love You a Thousand Ways: The Lefty Frizzell Story. The book features a foreword by Merle Haggard, and it has been made into an audio book. the Lefty Frizzell Story was named by CMT as one of the Best Music Books of the Year. David Frizzell also has continued an active touring career. A tireless entertainer, David is thrilled to join his brother, Lefty, who was also  inducted into the TCMHOF in 2003. 





The Texas Tenors

John Hagen, JC Fisher, Marcus Collins

In 1990 the Three Tenors - Luciano Pavorotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras - collaborated at the ancient baths of Caracalla in Rome for a performance on the eve of the World Cup Finals. An enormous worldwide television audience was enraptured, and the recording of this debut concert became the best-selling classical album of all time. Other performance variations of The Three Tenors were organized, such as The Irish Tenors. But for the Lone Star State, nothing surpasses The Texas Tenors.

The Texas Tenors are a vocal group formed in 2009 by country singer J.C. Fisher, classical singer Marcus Collins, and opera singer John Hagen. Fisher, founder of the Tenors, is headquartered in Katy, Texas. Instead of tuxedos and tails, The Texas Tenors often are attired in dark suits with black Stetson hats. The trio auditioned for America's Got Talent in 2009 anda also debuted their first album that contains all four songs performed on the AGT show. A second studio album was released in 2013, and a third album in 2017 debuted at Number One on the Classic Albums Chart and Number Five on the Top Country Albums Chart.

The Texas Tenors have amassed a huge fan base worldwide with over half a million followers on social media and more than 20 million views on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. They are Billboard Magazine's #10 Classical Artist in the World for 2019. With impressive live ticket sales tracked by PollStar, they are considered the most successful touring group in the history of America's Got Talent. The group also performs regularly at the Mickey Gilley Grand Shanghai Theater in Branson, Missouri.

The Texas Tenors have released a total of five studio albums, along with two PBS Specials, four DVDs, multiple singles, and two children's books, Ruckus on the Ranch, and Moon's on Fire. Recognition has included three Emmy Awards. Their most recent albums, Outside the Lines, Rise, and A Collection of Broadway and American Classics - all debuted as Number One on the Billboard charts.

As consummate professionals, these three friends with a simple All-American dream have proven their impact will be long lasting as their popularity continues to grow. They have performed more than 1400 live concerts in just the last 10 years.  With concerts at performing arts centers, casinos, symphony halls, outdoor festivals and major corporate events, The Texas Tenors have shown they truly possess that rare, ever-sought-after quality - mass appeal. 


b holly

Buddy Holly

Charles Hardin Holley (September 7, 1936 - February 3, 1959), known as Buddy Holly, was an American singer and songwriter who was a central and pioneering figure of mid-1950s rock and roll. He was born in Lubbock, Texas, to a musical family during the Great Depression, and learned to play guitar and sing alongside his siblings. His style was influenced by gospel music, country music, and rhythem and blues acts, which he performed in Lubbock with his friends from high school. 

"Peggy Sue." "That'll Be the Day." "Rave On." "Oh Boy!" "The Crickets." "The Day the Music Died."

These phrases and song titles immediately conjure up Buddy Holly. The Daily Telegraph called Holly "a pioneer and a revolutionary - a multidimensional talent", and AllMusic defined Buddy as "the single most creative force in early rock and roll." But the multidimensional talents of Buddy Holly first were expressed in country and western music, and the strains of country could be heard in his greatest hits. 

Charles Hardin Holley became known as "Buddy," and "Holly" came from a misspelled record label. At 11 Buddy took piano lessons for awhile, before switching to guitar. Raised in West Texas and in a Baptist church, his early music was influenced by country and by gospel. Buddy and his schoolmates played  music together, and in 1952, Buddy and a small band made their first appearance on a Lubbock TV station. Buddy's style began to change from country and western to rock and roll in 1955. He heard Elvis Presley in a concert in Lubbock and soon Buddy opened three Elvis shows. Buddy began to record with a little group called "The Crickets."

In 1956 Buddy saw the classic Western movie, The Searchers. The hard-bitten hero, played by John Wayne, repeated the line, "That'll be the day," during the film, and the line resonated with Buddy the songwriter. "That'll Be the Day" was released early in 1957, and later in the year "Peggy Sue" also became a hit recording. Buddy Holly suddenly became known to the public.

Buddy Holly and the Crickets began touring in New York  City and other eastern cities. There were two live appearances on the nationally popular Ed Sullivan Show, as well as American Bandstand. Buddy toured Hawaii and Australia and England, where a talented group on the rise named themselves "The Beatles," in honor of Holly's "Crickets." Captivated by the music scene in New York City, Buddy recorded so prolifically that for 10 years following his death, there were regular releases of his music. Buddy recorded and toured with fellow West Texas musician and DJ, Waylon Jennings.

While visiting a New York City music office, Buddy met Maria Elena Santiago. He hasked her for a date, and on that first date Buddy proposed marriage. After they married, she traveled with him as the band's "secretary" to avoid upsetting Buddy's legion of female fans. Early in 1959 Buddy and other artists launched a "Winter Dance Party" tour in northern states. Following a concert in Mason City, Iowa, a private plane was chartered to avoid an arduous bus journey. Holly, J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) and Richie Valens squeezed into the Beechcraft Bonanza with the pilot. But shortly after takeoff the plane crashed, killing all four men. February 3, 1959: "The Day the Music Died."

Buddy Holly was 22. The funeral was held at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Lubbock, and Buddy was interred in the City of Lubbock Cemetery. There is an impressive Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock. Numerous TV documentaries have been made, and in 1978 Gary Busey was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal as Holly in The Buddy Holly Story. 













Jeannie C. Riley

 Best known for her international crossover hit “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” Jeannie C. Riley was born Jeanne Carolyn Stephenson on October 19, 1945 in Anson, Texas where she fell in love with country music. Jeannie made her public debut as a teenager on her uncle Johnny Moore’s local jamboree show.

Not long after graduating from high school, Jeannie married Mickey Riley. After the birth of her daughter Kim Michelle Riley on January 11, 1966, the Riley family moved to Nashville so Jeanne could pursue becoming a professional musician. Jeannie worked as a secretary at Passkey Records while recording demos on the side.

In 1967, Jeannie’s manager Paul Perry hooked Riley up with producer Shelby Singleton, with whom she recorded Tom T. Hall's composition of "Harper Valley P.T.A." The song became a huge crossover success, peaking on both the pop and country charts, on the Nielson Top 40, that Casey Kasem counted down, on radio stations all across North America, alike at #1, thus making Jeannie the first female country singer to have a hit single simultaneously soar to the #1 spot on both the Nielson pop & country charts. Riley not only won the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance (she was also nominated for Grammys as "Best New Artist" & "Record of the Year"), Harper Valley P.T.A. also won the Single of the Year from the Country Music Association. In addition, the song inspired a 1969 TV musical variety program with Riley as the host, a 1978 film adaptation starring Barbara Eden, & an early 80's spin-off sitcom that also starred Eden. In 1968, Riley debuted on The Grand Ole Opry and released "The Girl Most Likely," which reached number six on the country charts. During the early '70s, she had five other Top Ten singles, including "Country Girl," "Oh, Singer," and "Good Enough to Be Your Wife." Around 1974, Riley became a born-again Christian and formed a new band, Red River Symphony, which had a hit in 1976, "The Best I've Ever Had." Following its release, Riley founded and began recording on the God's Country label. In 1981, she recorded the gospel album From Harper Valley to the Mountain Top. Throughout the '80s and '90s, she continued to be a popular contemporary Christian recording and performing artist.


r crowellRodney Crowell


Crowell has written 15 #1 songs on the Country music charts and has won two Grammys. His critically-acclaimed last album, Close Ties, garnered a Grammy nomination. Throughout his career, Crowell has also won six Americana Music Awards, including the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting, and is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. His songs have been recorded by country legends (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, George Strait), to current country chart toppers (Tim McGraw, Keith Urban) to blues icons (Etta James), and rock and roll legends (Van Morrison, Bob Seger). Crowell received the ASCAP Founders Awards in 2017. The Founders Award is one of ASCAP’s highest honors and is presented to songwriters and composers who have made pioneering contributions to music by inspiring and influencing their fellow music creators. Previous recipients include George Strait, Alan Jackson, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Neil Young.

Rodney Crowell was born on August 7, 1950 in Crosby, Texas to James Walter Crowell and Addie Cauzette Willoughby.


claude gray

Claude Gray

Singer-songwriter and guitar picker Claude Gray stands 6'5" and is frequently called "the Tall Texan." Best known for his1960 hit "Family Bible," Claude Gray was born January 26, 1932 in Henderson, Texas.

Gray started his singing career while attending High School in his hometown of Henderson, Texas and served in the United States Navy from 1950 to 1954. Upon his return home, he worked as a salesman then began his recording career in 1959, after working as a radio announcer in Kilgore, Texas, and performing as a disc jockey in Meridian, Mississippi. His first single, "I'm Not Supposed," was recorded for Pappy Daily's D Records and made the Cashbox country charts.

The following year, Gray and two friends purchased the song "Family Bible" from Willie Nelson for $100. Gray recorded the song, and released it as a single where it peaked at No. 10 on the country charts. In 1961, "I'll Just Have a Cup of Coffee (Then I'll Go)," was released, which peaked at No. 4, and was followed by the biggest hit of Gray's career, the No. 3 "My Ears Should Burn (When Fools Are Talked About)," which was penned by Roger Miller. Gray's final top ten hit came in 1967 with "I Never Had the One I Wanted." Gray's singles began to appear steadily on the charts from the mid-'60s through the early '70s including "I Never Had the One I Wanted," "How Fast Them Trucks Can Go" and "Woman Ease My Mind," in 1973. Gray also scored a hit in 1986 with his version of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline."

Today, Gray continues to tour with The Claude Gray Roadshow, performing shows throughout North America and Europe, where classic country music remains popular. Most recently, Gray has appeared in Branson and is also a performer on the RFD-TV cable television Network.





Leon Rausch


Known as "The Voice" of "Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys", Rausch was Bob's lead vocalist beginning in 1958. After Wills died in 1975, he continued Bob Willls' legacy recording and touring with the original Texas Playboys. In 2011, the Texas Legislature adopted a resolution designating Western Swing as the official "State Music of Texas". Rausch made a memorable appearance as a band singer in the 1998 Stephen Frears film The Hi-Lo Country, in a scene featuring one of the film's highlights - Don Walder's rendition of I'll Hold You In My Heart." He still performs each year at the bob Wills Day Festival the last weekend of April in turkey, Texas. Leon will be backed by the Jason Roberts Band.


The Chuck Wagon Gang

chuckwagonThe original Chck Wagon Gang began putting it all out there over 80 years ago in November 1936. They made their first recordings in San Antonio for Columbia Records. When they found the majority of their mail requested Gospel numbers, they gradually changed from Country-Western to Gospel music. For years they have toured across the length and breadth of the USA and played to vast crowds at major venues such as the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, Carnegie Hall in New York, and also on Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. They also appeared in films and at one time hosted a television show called Gospel Round Up. Their beautiful four-part harmony singing to simple guitar accompaniement made them internationally known. The current group still tours all over the world. The owner, manager and also singer, Shaye Smith, is the granddaughter of the Gang's original alto, Anna Carter Gordon Davis and Howard Davis, their guitarist.





Kenny Rogers

Kenny Rogers

Born in Houston, Texas, in 1938, Kenny Rogers is the 50th inductee into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. Rogers has enjoyed tremendous success during a storied career spanning nearly six decades. The Grammy Award winning performance of Lucille in 1977 propelled him to superstardom along with other smash hits The Gambler, and Lady, the biggest song of his career.

The enduring superstar has endeared music lovers around the world with his amazing songs, distinctive voice, heartfelt performances, gift for storytelling and universal appeal and in 2016, Rogers embarked on his final world tour, a show to celebrate his musical legacy: The Gambler’s Last Deal.

Remaining a popular entertainer around the world, Rogers still loves touring and recording new music. Even so, Rogers came to a conclusion that family is more important than touring at this stage in his career, once he’s played the final date of his last world tour. “I’ve been so lucky to have enjoyed such a long career and to have such amazing support from my fans and all who have helped me along the way, but there comes a time when I need to focus on spending time with my family. My life is about my wife and my 11-year-old twin boys right now. There are a lot of things I want to do together with them to create some special memories. I don’t have a bucket list of my own...I have a bucket list of things I want to do with them.” 

Official Kenny Rogers Website


Bobby Nelson

Bobbie Lee NelsonBobbie Lee Nelson - Born in Abbott, Texas in 1931, Bobbie Lee Nelson, is an American pianist and singer.  She is the sister of previous TCMHOF Inductee Willie Nelson, and is a member of his band Willie Nelson and Family. In 2008 Bobbie released her debut solo album Audiobiography and 7 years later recorded the album December Day with brother Willie.

Official Facebook - Bobbie Lee Nelson


"I really don't want to conform to what other people think I should be doing with my music," explains Country superstar Clint Black. "Instead, I'll take my chances just being me."

By "just being me," Clint Black has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide, including 3 Top Ten hits and 22 Number One smash hits. The future award-winning singer-songwriter was born in 1962 and raised in Katy, a suburb of Houston. In his early teens, Clint taught himself to play the guitar, harmonica, and bass, and he joined the band of his older brother, Kevin. Later Clint performed for several years on the Houston nightclub circuit, while exercising his considerable gifts as a successful songwriter.

By late 1988 Clint had a contract with RCA Nashville. Early the next year his first single, A Better Man soared to Number One. Clint Black was the first new male Country artist in a decade and a half to have a Number One hit with his debut single. His first album, Killin' Time, soon followed and sold two million copies. Every song on the album was entirely, or at least partially, written by Black, and five straight singles from the album reached Number One. By the end of 1989, Clint Black was showered with awards for Best Male Vocalist, Best New Male Vocalist, and Songwriter/Artist of the Year.

Black began to make TV appearances in various capacities, and his television roles have continued on occasion through the current season. In 1996 he became only the fourth Country Music singer to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Clint married fellow Houstonian and successful TV actress Lisa Hartman in 1991. Their daughter, Lily Pearl Black, was born in 2001, and Clint put his career on hold for three years to be with his daughter. Clint allowed that if the sabbatical was not the best career move, "it was a real smart dad move."

Lisa Hartman Black, a beautiful actress, also recorded songs. In 1999 she and Clint recorded a duet, When I Say I Do that reached Number One and was nominated for a Grammy Award. Indeed, during this period, Clint Black enjoyed numerous hits, most of his own composition.

"To me, a song is more than just something to learn," he reflected. "It's somebody else's true feeling. I'm always trying to get at the meaning."

For Clint Black fans, the star finds the true feeling in one hit after another.

Special Guests

Neal McCoy
Dallas Wayne
Billy Dean
Barbara Fairchild
Holly Tucker


Tracy Byrd

"I'd never been in a studio until I cut a record and got a record deal," reflected Tracy Byrd about the course of his career. "I was a live performer. That's what I am and where I came from and what I still love to do."

Life as a Country Music performer was far from the mind of young Tracy Byrd as he grew up in Vidor, Texas. When he was a little boy his grandmother began taking him fishing, and when he was six she bought him his first shotgun. Tracy's love for the outdoors has persisted throughout his life. Indeed, his passion for hunting and fishing, along with widespread popularity as a performer, has placed him today as a host of two shows on The Outdoor Channel.

As a youngster, Tracy learned to play the guitar and he enjoyed singing, but shyness kept him from performing. He pursued college coursework at Southwest Texas State (now Texas State University) in San Marcos, and at nearby Lamar University in Beaumont. But when he sang Your Cheatin' Heart at a shopping mall "recording studio", the manager was impressed and persuaded Tracy to perform at a local talent show. He was so impressive playing and singing Folsom Prison Blues and Weary Blues from Waiting that he received a standing ovation. The enthusiastic applause was decisive.

"All of a sudden they couldn't get me off," he laughed. "That's all I wanted to do."

Tracy soon caught on with Beaumont native Mark Chesnutt, who was headlining at Cutters nightclub in Beaumont. As his star rose, Chesnutt began touring, whereupon Tracy Byrd formed his own band and started at Cutters. Within a year Byrd explored Nashville, and on his second trip in 1992, he signed with MCA and recorded an album, Tracy Byrd. His second album, No Ordinary Man, was released to wide acclaim in 1993. Several singles from these albums charted, including Holdin' Heaven, which reached No. 1. Tracy Byrd was certified gold, No Ordinary Man was certified double platinum, and his next three albums all reached gold status.

Byrd promptly began touring, determined to build a fan base. "We toured from day one and never stopped," he explained. "We worked. Building a fan base like that in an old fashioned grassroots kind of way has really been a big reason for us staying around."

Another reason has been Tracy's versatility in turning his rich voice and expressive phrasing to different styles. "I've been versatile and I've not been trying to conform to any one thing."

From a shy youngster, Tracy Byrd has become a consummate, highly popular entertainer. "The payoff was and always will be that couple of hours on stage every night. I still love making live music, and working with my band. I still love working up a show and rehearsing."

Tracy and his wife, Michelle, make their home in Beaumont with two sons and a daughter. Tracy is a devoted family man, and he is active in charity events. "But I feel I still have a lot to offer in music."

So do his fans.

Dallas Wayne

A decade ago Dallas Wayne, noted DJ and veteran C&W performer, brought his talents to KHYI 95.3 FM in Dallas, Texas. In 2006 the Academy of Western artists presented him with a Will Rogers Award for Classic Country Major Market DJ of the Year.

The following year Dallas moved to SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio, where he may be heard on the air in Outlaw Country and at Willie's Roadhouse, the Texas-based honky-tonk channel. In 2009 Dallas was awarded a second Will Rogers Award for DJ of the Year. He performs as part of the honky-tonk group Heybale.

Dallas Wayne's most recent honor is a warm welcome into the Disc Jockey wing of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.


Duane Allen - The Oak Ridge Boys

Elvira, Y'All Come Back Salon, Bobbie Sue, You're the One, Fancy Free, American Made - These and other sensational hits established the Oak Ridge Boys as one of the most famous and accomplished groups in the history of Country Music. This notable group had its origin in 1945 at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Oak Ridge was a key location for research and development of the atomic bomb during World War II. There were 75,000 men and women at Oak Ridge working on this top secret "Manhattan Project," and movies and live entertainment were brought into this confined community.

Gospel music was popular at Oak Ridge, and one of the acts began to call themselves the Oak Ridge Quartet. In 1961 the gospel group changed its name to the Oak Ridge Boys. Baritone William Lee Golden, from rural Alabama, joined the quartet in 1964, and the next year Texan Duane Allen became a member. During the early 1970s Golden and Allen were joined by tenor Joe Bonsall, from Philadelphia, and by bass Richard Sterban, a New Jersey native. With this core lineup--Allen, Golden, Bonsall, and Sterban--the Oak Ridge Boys became a top gospel group. But in 1977, producer Jim Halsey convinced them that the Oak Ridge Boys could reach a far larger audience with Country Music. Halsey booked them into a Las Vegas revue, where they performed 70% Country songs and 30% Gospel.

In 1977 the hit singles, Y'All Come Back Saloon and You're the One vaulted the Oaks to prominence in Country Music. During the next eight years the Oak Ridge Boys had 25 consecutive Top Ten singles including 13 #1 hits. Album after album sold one million, two million copies. The Oak Ridge Boys scored their biggest hit in 1981 with Elvira. Number One in the Country Charts, Elvira was a crossover #1 in the Pop Charts.

The Oak Ridge Boys scored five Grammy Awards, four Country Music Awards, two Academy of Country Music Awards, and eight Gospel Music Association Dove Awards. These honors ranged from Vocal Group of the Year to Single of the Year to Album of the Year.

"I've always believed in the philosophy that any two, three, or four can be bigger or better than any one," states lead singer Duane Allen. Duane is from rural Taylortown in Lamar County. He attended Paris Junior College and earned a music degree from Texas A&M University in Commerce. He received a Distinguished Alumni Award from both institutions, and he was awarded an honorary doctorate from a Christian college. An antique car buff, he has more than two dozen classics in his museum, Ace on Wheels.

Baritone William Lee Golden was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. A gifted painter, he has created the William Lee Golden Collection.

"I go out there and try to sing the best I can and give them physically and mentally every single thing I've got." In addition to being a high-energy performer, tenor Joe Bonsall is a songwriter and the author of inspirational and children's books.

Bass Richard Sterban for years was part-owner of the Nashville Sounds Triple-A baseball club. He stores a bicycle in a bay beneath the tour bus, carries a bike in a case on plane trips, and takes long-distance rides to stay fit on the road.

"I wanted to be in the best vocal group in the world," said Sterban about his goal in life. Fans of the Oak Ridge Boys would agree that he achieved that goal.


Mickey Gilley

"Room Full of Roses," Stand By Me," "City Lights," "She's Pulling Me Back Again," "Lonely Nights," "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "Don't the Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time." All of these memorable songs and many more were No. 1 hits for Mickey Gilley. During a 10-year period, 1974-1983, Gilley recorded 17 No. 1 releases, including six in a row in 1980 and 1981. Several of these hits crossed over to the pop charts, making Mickey a leader of the "Countrypolitan" genre. And throughout this period of superstardom, the award-winning pianist-singer presided over "The World's Biggest Honky Tonk," Gilley's, in Pasadena, Texas.   Mickey Leroy Gilley was born on March 9, 1936, in Natchez, Mississippi. The family home was across the Mississippi River in Ferriday, Louisiana. Mickey grew up playing the piano with his cousins Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart. The three cousins played boogie woogie in high school and gospel music at Ferriday's Assembly of God Church. At the age of 17 Mickey left school to move to Houston and find construction work. But when his cousin, Jerry Lee Lewis, scored a hit with his first recording, "Crazy Arms," Mickey decided to pursue a music career. He made a few recordings, played clubs in Louisiana and Mississippi, and returned to Houston for construction jobs.

In the early 1960s Gilley began performing regularly at a Houston club. He built an enthusiastic local following, and in 1970, with a partner, he opened Gilley's Club in Pasadena. Gilley's became enormously popular, and in 1974 Mickey recorded his first No. 1 hit, "Room Full of Roses." The Academy of Country Music voted Mickey Most Promising Vocalist, and as one hit followed another, Billboard named him Top New Country Artist in 1975. The next year ACM chose "Don't The Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time" as Song of the Year, while Gilley was named Male Vocalist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year.

In 1979 The World's Biggest Honky Tonk was designated ACM's Nightclub of the Year, an honor that was repeated in 1981, 1983 and 1984. An Esquire magazine article about Gilley's led to a Hollywood script and the 1980 movie "Urban Cowboy,"--starring John Travolta and Debra Winger and Gilley's mechanical bull. Mickey himself made an onscreen appearance, and "Urban Cowboy" triggered a nationwide pop culture craze. Mickey was given cameo roles in such TV series as "Dukes of Hazzard," "Murder She Wrote," "Fall Guy," and "Fantasy Island." In 1984 he was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. in 1980 Gilley's Club burned. Soon Mickey became one of the first country performers to build a theater in Branson, giving new life to his fabled career. 

Moe Bandy

"If I'd done all the things I sing about, I'd be dead." Moe Bandy achieved stardom in the 1970s and 1980s by singing about cheatin' and drinkin' and other hardcore country subjects. His first hit, which charted No. 17 in 1974, was "I Just Started Hatin' Cheatin' Songs Today," followed quickly by  "Honky Tonk Amnesia," "It Was Always So Easy (To Find an Unhappy Woman)," and "Don't Anyone Make Love at Home Anymore." In 1975 "Hank Williams Wrote My Life" soared to No. 2. The next year Moe scored No. 11 with "Here I Am Drunk Again." A 1978 duet with Janie Frickie, "It's a Cheating Situation," reached No. 1, and so did a 1979 solo, "I Cheated Me Right Out of You." "She's Not Really Cheatin' (She's Just Getting Even)" reached No. 2 in 1982. Other hard country hits included, "It Took a Lot of Drinkin' (To Get That Woman Over Me)" and "Barroom Roses."

These and similar songs celebrated the rowdy lifestyle that Moe happily sang about but largely avoided himself. "I really think my songs are about life," he explained. "There's cheating, drinking, and divorcing everywhere and that's what hardcore country music is all about." Marion Franklin Bandy, Jr. was born on February 12, 1944, in Meridian, Mississippi, hometown of the legendary Jimmie Rodgers. The little boy was nicknamed Moe by his father who moved his family to San Antonio in 1950. Moe was taught to play the guitar by his father, and his mother played piano and sang. Moe occasionally played with his father's band, the Mission City Playboys.

But Moe's greatest interest as a teenager was rodeo. He was a bronc buster and a bull rider, and he rodeoed all over Texas. Moe's brother Mike was a six-time National  Finals Rodeo bull riding qualifier, and in 2007, the Bandy brothers were inducted into the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame. Moe's bruises and broken bones added up, however, and at 18 he left rodeo and formed a country band, Moe and the Mavericks. He played throughout the San Antonio area and, with the Mavericks, backed such performers as Loretta Lynn and Bob Wills. Moe married and raised three children, and for 12 years, he toiled as a sheet metal worker during the day to make ends meet. He borrowed money to finance recording sessions, and in 1973, Moe began to score hits. By the late 1970s he was a country chart regular.

In 1979 Bandy teamed with Joe Stampley to form the Good Ol' Boys, Moe and Joe. Immensely popular, Moe and Joe were named Duo of the Year in 1980 and 1981 by the Academy of Country Music. Moe and Joe recorded seven albums, while Moe has released 35 solo albums during his career. Moe opened the Moe Bandy American Theater in 1991 in Branson, Missouri.


Goerge Jones "Ol' Possum"

The famed Country artist nicknamed "Ol' Possum" also is known within the industry as the "Rolls Royce of Country Singers." Gary Hartman, author of The History of Texas Music, states that George Jones "is famous for his unique vocal style, which features an emotional depth and resonance rarely matched by other country singers."

The country roots of George Jones run deep. He was born in a rural log cabin near Saratoga on September 12, 1931. His father played guitar and his mother was a pianist, and George was given a guitar when he was nine. The boy liked church music, but soon was drawn to Country sounds. As a teenager, George performed on radio stations in Jasper and Beaumont. He married at 19, divorced a year later, then enlisted in the Marine Corps. Stationed in California, Jones played and sang in bars when he was off-duty. Following his discharge in 1953, George returned to Texas. He soon began a stellar recording career that has produced 13 No. 1 hits, 30 Top 5 songs, and scores of other recordings that have placed high on the Country Charts. His first hit came in 1955, "Why Baby Why," which he co-wrote.

That year he joined the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, co-billing with young Elvis Presley. In 1956 he was invited to join the cast of the Grand Ole Opry, and later that year the first of nearly 90 albums appeared. His first No. 1 was "White Lightning," which was released in 1959 and crossed over to the Pop Charts. Other classic hits included "The Race Is On," "She Thinks I Still Care," "He Stopped Loving Her Today," and a parade of others. Along with his parade of hits, George Jones earned a parade of awards. In 1956 he was voted Most Promising New Country Vocalist. He was named Male Vocalist of the Year in 1962, 1963, 1980 and 1981, in each year by multiple groups, such as CMA, Cash Box, and Billboard. He won a Grammy in 1980 for "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and in 1992 Ol' Possum was elected to Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame. Among a host of other awards were Top Vocal Duo wins in 1972, 1973, and 1976, all with Tammy Wynette.

George married Tammy in 1968. In 1973 their duet, "We're Gonna Hold On," went to No. 1 and in 1976 they had two No. 1s, "Golden Ring" and "Near You." They enjoyed many  other duet hits, but George was spiraling out of control. In one year he missed 54 dates, and for a few years he was called "No Show" Jones. His weight dropped from 150 to 100 pounds. But in 1983 he married Nancy Sepulvado, who helped him regain his health and his Hall of Fame career. Goerge Jones website

 Al Dexter "Pistol Packin' Mama"

"How would you talk to a woman with a gun?" mused Al Dexter after seeing a gun-toting waitress give chase to her husband's girlfriend, "and I thought, 'lay that pistol down, babe, lay that pistol down.'" With this incident and lyric phrase in mind, songwriter-musician Al Dexter created "Pistol Packin' Mama," one of the biggest honky tonk hits of all time. Dexter already was an experienced performing and recording artist, and "Pistol Packin' Mama" launched a five-year period of phenomenal success for the East Texan.

Clarence Albert Poindexter was born on May 4, 1902, in Jacksonville. As a boy he became an adept musician, learning to play the guitar, banjo, organ, fiddle, and mouth harp, while also singing and writing songs. Beginning with local parties and barn dances during the 1920s, he moved to dance halls in Longview during the oil boom of the 1930s. Along the way he shortened his name to "Al Dexter." Dexter formed a band, the Texas Troopers, and opened the Round-Up Club at Turnertown, located in the midst of the booming East Texas Oil Field. Al and his Texas Troopers began recording in 1934, often his own compositions. In 1937 he introduced the term "honky tonk" with his song  "Honky Tonk Blues."

At his own honky tonk tavern he witnessed one of his waitresses produce a pistol and chase her husband's girlfriend through a barbed wire fence. Al recorded "Pistol Packin' Mama" in 1943, and during the next 22 months it sold three million singles, as well as 200,000 copies of the sheet music. Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters scored a hit with the catchy tune, which was covered by many other artists. By 1944 "Pistol Packin' Mama" had crossed over to the top of the Pop Charts. In 1944 Al and the Texas Troopers hit No. 1 with "Rosalita." The next year "I'm Losing My Mind Over You" spent seven weeks atop the Country Charts. In 1946 Al moved from the Okeh label to Columbia Records. "Guitar Polka" was No. 1 for 16 weeks and crossed over to the Pop Charts, while "Wine, Women and Song" topped the Country Charts for five weeks.

During the period 1943-1948 Al Dexter received 12 Gold Records for million sellers, and in 1946 he was voted Leading Artist by the jukebox Operations of America. Lefty Frizzell and Merle Haggard were among the young artists who were influenced by Al and his honky tonk style. Al opened the Bridgeport Club in Dallas, where he performed until he retired. In 1971 he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Al's finest composition was "Going Home to Glory," which he did at 81 on January 28, 1984. 

Ray Winkler "Welcome to My World"

Ray was looking forward to the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame inaugural induction show in August 1998 which would honor his dear friend, Jim Reeves, and had given his blessing for the opening notes of "Welcome to My World" to be used in the logo. However, his attendance was not to be, as he passed away in May, 1998. Winkler, in collaboration with John Hathcock, wrote "Welcome to My World" for Reeves in 1961. Winkler and Hathcock wrote hundreds of songs together, and many have been recorded. But "Welcome to My World" was their masterpiece, a classic that would be recorded by more than 140 artists, and a standard that would provide definition for Jim Reeves.

Rayburn Franklin Winkler was born in Bonham on October 13, 1920. After high school he moved to Dallas to pursue a business education and a career in radio broadcasting. In 1942 he married the love of his life, Libby Carmical, and soon entered the U.S. Navy, working as a recruiter and on a public radio show in Little Rock, Arkansas. After World War II, Winkler moved to sports broadcasting and announced professional league baseball games. He then had an opportunity to become General Manager of the Lubbock Hubbers and became President of the West Texas-New Mexico Pro Baseball League.

In 1955, Ray was fortunate to get back into radio with ownership of a new radio station, KZIP in Amarillo. John Hathcock came to watch at KZIP, sharing a gift for songwriting with Winkler. One regular visitor of KZIP was Jim Reeves. Jim, like many other country artists, stopped by KZIP when they were in Amarillo for personal appearances. As a former disk jockey and minor league baseball player, he had a lot in common with Ray Winkler. Ray had hoped to write a song for Gentleman Jim, and he and Hathcock tested songs on Reeves every time he appeared in Amarillo. "You're getting better," responded Reeves.

Reeves liked the sound of "Welcome to My World," with lyrics by Winkler and music by Hathcock. Jim took the original demo by Dean Kelley to sing it on his tour bus, while playing golf and even while getting a haircut. Gentleman Jim released the first recording in 1962. Immediately popular with the public, "Welcome to My World" became a mainstay of Jim's live performances.  Other artists found it irresistible. Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Mel Tillis, Ray Price, Eddy Arnold, and more than 135 other performers covered the song, and tourists to Graceland are welcomed at the entrance by Elvis' version. It has been used in movies, TV shows, commercials, plays, and countless Ringtones. Most recent recordings include Raul Malo, Steve Wariner and several Thomson Travel commercials in London showcasing the original recording by Jim Reeves. But "Welcome to My World" belongs first and foremost to Gentleman Jim Reeves, which was the original intention of the composers. Ray fondly wrote and recorded a recitation entitled "My Tribute to Jim Reeves" which depicts the life of his dear friend. Ray Winkler website


Linda Davis "Song Stylist"

"Linda Davis is absolutely one of the best singers in the business," says Country superstar Kenny Rogers. "In this business, there are people who can sing and there are singers," explained Rogers. "She is the best."

Grammy-winning singer Linda Davis is a Panola County native who began her performing career as a child. Born in the rural community of Dotson, Linda was singing in church by the age of six. She performed on the Gary Jamboree and later, the Louisiana Hayride. The popular blonde beauty was a cheerleader at Carthage High School, and she sang in the CHS choir. At Panola College in Carthage, Linda was a choir member and performed in The Pipers, a singing and dancing group which toured for the college. Utilizing her singing gifts in the talent contest, Linda was voted Miss Panola County as part of the Miss Texas Pageant.

In 1982, at the age of twenty, Linda moved to Nashville to pursue a career in Country Music. She sang in piano bars and recorded ad jingles for Dr. Pepper and Kentucky Fried Chicken. With male/female duos popular, Linda and Skip Eaton performed and recorded as "Skip and Linda." They scored three minor hits in 1982. In later years, as a solo artist, she recorded a few more marginal hits. But despite Linda's popularity with everyone in the business in Nashville, a break-through proved elusive. "Emotionally, it was like a rollercoaster," recalled Linda. "We would just get on a little wave, and I'd think, 'Okay, this is going to do it.' Then it would peter out and we'd sit there and scratch our heads and go 'why didn't this work out?'"

Finally, in 1989, Linda caught the attention of another superstar, Reba McEntire. "I was listening to songs for my next album," reminisced McEntire. "I kept hearing this one particular female vocalist on the demos that just blew me away. It had been a long time since a voice had moved me that way, and I just had to find out who she was." Reba enlisted Linda Davis for her tour show. In 1993, Reba and Linda recorded Does He Love You and filmed a dramatic video version of the song. Does He Love You soared to No. 1 and earned Reba and Linda the 1993 Grammy Award for the Best Country Vocal Collaboration. Linda's 1996 single, Some Things Are Meant to Be, rose to No. 13 on the Country charts.

Linda and her husband, Country singer Lang Scott, are the parents of Hillary Scott. Following in the footsteps of her mother, Hillary is the lead singer in the rising group, Lady Antebellum. A highlight of Linda's stage show comes when she selects a young fan from the audience to perform with her the torchy duet, Does He Love You. Linda Davis website

Michael Martin Murphey "Singing Cowboy Poet"

In the same way that Singing Cowboy Tex Ritter emphasized the WESTERN in Country and Western, Michael Martin Murphey - the "Singing Cowboy Poet" - writes and sings about cowboys and gunfighters. Early in his career Murphey was known as the "Cosmic Cowboy," and later he founded the annual WestFest, a three-day festival celebrating Western Americana.

Michael Martin Murphey was born in Oak Cliff, Texas, on March 13, 1945. As a boy he wrote cowboy poetry and learned to play a ukulele. He began absorbing the cowboy culture while working on family ranches. At the Sky Ranch at Lewisville, north of Dallas, young Murphey sang cowboy songs for campfire gatherings. In high school, as half of the Texas Twosome, Murphey played clubs and coffee houses around Dallas. Attending North Texas State College, he formed a band and built a strong following around Denton and Dallas. Soon Murphey moved to Los Angeles to study poetry and writing at the University of California. A few months later he signed a songwriting contract with Sparrow Music, and he played and sang with Folk bands. Although Murphey enjoyed a Top 40 Pop hit with I Feel Good, I Feel Bad, he decided to retreat from Los Angeles to the Mojave Desert. He experienced a creative surge, writing songs that were recorded by Roger Miller, Bobbie Gentry, Flatt & Scruggs, and the Monkees.

Murphey moved back to Texas in 1971. Settling in Austin, he became friends with Willie Nelson and formed a band which played at the popular Armadillo World Headquarters club. He signed a new contract with A&M Records. In 1974, Murphey moved to Colorado, writing, recording and studying the heritage of the West. His 1975 album, Blue Sky - Nigh Thunder, went Gold, and a single from this album, the haunting Wildfire, became a No. 3 Pop hit. In 1981, he wrote the screenplay for and appeared in the motion picture Hard Country with Kim Basinger and Jan-Michael Vincent.

In 1982, What's Forever For became his first No. 1 Country hit, and the next year he was named "Best New Male Vocalist" by the Academy of Country Music. There were numerous other hits, and in 1987 he returned to No. 1 with A Long Line of Love. During the 1990s Murphey focused on the music of the West. He began staging the WestFest at locations in Colorado, Texas and New Mexico. Murphey's 1990 album, Cowboy Songs, went Gold and earned the first of his six Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Cowboy Christmas and Cowboy Songs II were released the next year, and Cowboy Songs III, was produced in 1993. Two years later Murphey, performing with the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, released Sagebrush Symphony. Cowboy Songs IV and Cowboy Christmas II and III have followed, along with other popular albums. A member of the Western Music Association Hall of Fame, Michael Martin Murphey truly has earned his nickname--the Singing Cowboy Poet.

Michael Martin Murphey Website

Neal McCoy "The Entertainer"

Dynamic. Exciting. Lively. Crowd Pleaser. These words describe the electrifying stage presence of a born entertainer. Neal McCoy entered the world at Jacksonville, Texas, on July 30, 1958. His actual birth name was Hubert Neal McGaughey, Jr. Early in his performing career Neal simplified the spelling of his last name to McGoy (same pronunciation), and there was a later change to McCoy. As a schoolboy, Neal eagerly performed at any opportunity, in school programs and musicals, in church choirs, and Gospel quartets. In addition to Country and Gospel, he absorbed elements of Jazz and Rock.

After finishing junior college, McCoy moved with his dad to nearby Longview, where he landed his first professional gig, as lead singer in an (almost) all-black Kool & the Gang-style dance band, playing "tiny little clubs." Before long, he left that gig for a better one - singing supper club-style standards. While he was growing as a singer and expanding his songbook, McCoy's natural performing skills and uncanny way with an audience became more apparent with every passing night. He won a nightclub talent contest hosted by Janie Fricke, who at that time was the opening act for Charley Pride. Janie introduced McCoy to Charley Pride's agent. When she departed to pursue a solo career, Neal McCoy became Charley Pride's opening act. Onstage McCoy delivered a high energy, non-stop performance that made him a crowd favorite. For seven years he toured with Charley Pride, performing in almost every state in the U.S., along with Canada, England, Australia, and New Zealand.

With broad touring experience and a growing fan base, McCoy finally left the Pride tour to build his own solo career. His first album, At This Moment, was released in 1991, and the next year Where Forever Begins became his second album. His third album, 1994's No Doubt About It, produced his first two No. 1 hits, the title song and Wink. The title of his next album - Neal McCoy - attested to his growing fame and recognition. In 1997 Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye was named Video of the Year at the TNN/Music City News Country Awards. For the next two years, 1998 and 1999, McCoy earned Entertain of the Year honors.

In 2001, Wayne Newton contacted McCoy about being an act in the USO Tour. McCoy, along with stars like Jessica Simpson, Kid Rock and Shaggy, traveled to Bosnia and Italy in 2001, and the singer gained a new perspective and forged a strong bond with the Las Vegas veteran. "Wayne and I really hit it off and just had this mutual respect for each other," McCoy says. "We are so much alike, not just onstage but offstage in the way we treat people. We laugh about how we could entertain anybody, anytime, anywhere." Next thing he knew he was off with Newton and the USO again, along with Drew Carey and a bevy of Dallas Cheerleaders, landing in hot spots like Iraq and Afghanistan to entertain the troops. To date, McCoy has done 13 USO tours, both domestic and overseas.

McCoy's USO tours have been life changing experiences, but his determination to leverage his celebrity status to benefit worthy causes goes way back. In 1995, McCoy and his wife, Melinda, established the East Texas Angel Network. Through fundraising activities, the organization has raised over five million dollars for medical treatments and related costs for children of East Texas with terminal or life-threatening diseases. McCoy's good works haven't gone unheralded. In May of 2005, he won the Academy of Country Music's Home Depot Humanitarian Award for his extensive work with the USO and the East Texas Angel Network. He was honored again in 2006 at the 37th Annual Country Radio Seminar in Nashville with the Country Radio Broadcasters' Artist Humanitarian of the Year Award. And in 2007, the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas honored the singer with the W. B. and Brandon Carrell Humanitarian Award, the highest honor given to a non-Mason.  

"I like to entertain and have a good time with the folks," asserts McCoy. Three platinum albums, one gold album, and a sensational performing career proclaim the truth of this statement.

 Some information courtesy of Neal McCoy Website


Buck Owens

For many fans the principal identity of Buck Owens is the overall-clad hillbilly who co-hosted Hee Haw with Roy Clark. But during the 1960s and 1970s Buck soared to a level of success and influence that has been enjoyed by few other Country stars. Alvis Edgar Owens was born into a family of sharecroppers on August 12, 1929, at Sherman, Texas. Always called "Buck," the towheaded little boy moved with his family to Mesa, Arizona, during the Great Depression. Growing up during hard times, Buck dropped out of school in the ninth grade to work on the farm. But like many other children of the Depression, he was fiercely ambitious.

Keenly interested in music, Buck learned to play the guitar, later picking up the trumpet and saxophone. While still in his teens he began to perform in Phoenix clubs and honky tonks, as well as on local radio. At nineteen Buck married fellow Country singer Bonnie Owens. The couple had two sons, and although Buck and Bonnie later divorced, they amicably shared the raising of their boys. Buck would marry three more times including a final happy union to Jennifer Smith. In 1951, Buck, Bonnie, and their sons moved to Bakersfield, California, where Buck performed regularly in local clubs. He spent several years playing guitar during recording sessions at Capitol Records. In 1958 Buck's cover of "Second Fiddle" reached No. 24 on the Country charts, but he had little confidence in his future as a recording artist.

In 1958 Buck moved to Tacoma, Washington, where he played clubs in the area and hosted a live radio show (one of his guests was young Loretta Lynn). Buck met musician Don Rich, who became his partner and band member. Another band member, bassist and future superstar Merle Haggard, named Buck's band "The Buckaroos." Late in 1959 "Under Your Spell Again" reached No. 4, beginning a nearly uninterrupted string of Top 10 hits that continued into the 1970s. The first of more than thirty albums was released in 1961. Buck's first No. 1 single "Act Naturally" appeared in 1963 and began 15 consecutive No. 1 hits, including "I've Got a Tiger By the Tail" in 1965. Buck performed before a capacity crowd at Carnegie Hall in New York City on March 25, 1966. On tour he commanded top concert fees and he appeared in two motion pictures. Buck, Merle Haggard, and other artists produced the Bakersfield Sound, a hard-country honky tonk sound that contrasted with the smooth Nashville music of the era. The Bakersfield King built a state-of-the-art recording studio in the community that sometimes was called "Buckersfield."

From 1966 through 1973 the half-hour Buck Owens Ranch TV Show aired over as many as 100 stations. in 1969 Hee Haw premiered over CBS-TV and enjoyed immense popularity on the network and in syndication. Although Buck cut back on performing, in 1988 Buck and Dwight Yoakum released a duet, "Streets of Bakersfield," which was Buck's first No. 1 since 1972. Among a host of awards for the Bakersfield King was induction into Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996. Buck passed away in Bakersfield on March 25, 2006.

The Whites

The Whites originated with the musically gifted H.S. "Buck" White. Born in 1930 in Oklahoma, Buck was raised in Wichita Falls. As a boy he learned to play the piano, and later he added the mandolin, guitar, banjo, fiddle and harmonica to his performance repertoire. Forming a small band in high school, Buck increasingly focused on mandolin and piano, while learning from the music of Bob Wills, Bill Monroe, and the Callahan Brothers. With a growing reputation as an instrumentalist, Buck often was called in to man the piano when such stars as Lefty Frizzell and Hank Snow performed in the area. Buck played on a radio station out of Vernon before moving to Abilene.

While playing a show in Abilene, Buck met singer Pat Goza. Buck and Pat married in 1950 and made their home in Abilene. Daughters Sharon and Cheryl were born in 1953 and 1955 in Abilene, where younger daughters Melissa and Rosanne were born. The growing White family moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas, in 1962. Buck and Pat teamed with Arnold and Peggy Johnston as the Down Home Folks. Four years later Sharon and Cheryl, along with Teddie and Eddie Johnson, became the Down Home Kids. Sharon played guitar and Cheryl was on bass.

In 1971 the Whites moved to Nashville, calling themselves Buck and the Down Home Folks. The next year the first of more than a dozen albums appeared, and touring schedules took the group as far as Japan. Pat retired in 1973 to focus on family life, and Sharon married Bluegrass star Ricky Skaggs in 1981. Sharon and Ricky have three children. Ricky often performed with the Whites and Rosanne White filled in while Sharon Skaggs took maternity leave. Top 10 hits for the Whites during the 1980s included "You Put the Blue in Me," "Hangin' Around," "I Wonder Who's Holding My Baby Tonight," and "Pins and Needles." Audiences always respond enthusiastically to Gospel and Bluegrass numbers of The Whites. Sharon looked back over four decades of performing with the Down Home Kids and the Buck White family and The Whites, "There's nothing like music to bring a family together."

Mickey Newbury

Mickey Newbury was only forty when he was voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. "I learned more about songwriting from Mickey than I did any other single human being," declared Kris Kristofferson, a 2007 inductee of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. "To me he was a songbird. He comes out with amazing words and music," added Kristofferson. "He was my hero and still is."

Milton Sims Newbury, Jr. was born in Houston on May 19, 1940. In high school Mickey learned to play a guitar, formed a band, and began writing songs. He also wrote poetry, which he read in Houston to coffee house crowds. He frequented Houston's black music scene, hanging out in blues clubs, where Gatemouth Brown nicknamed him "The Little White Wolf." Mickey and his band performed at Texas military bases, and in 1959 he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. While in uniform Mickey continued to write songs, and soon after his four-year hitch ended he gravitated to Nashville, becoming a songwriter with Acuff-Rose Music. Mickey became friends with such other newcomers as Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, and Tom T. Hall. These gifted artists were instrumental in revolutionizing Country Music, introducing greater emotional depth and new musical influences.

Newbury authority Kurt Wolff stated that Mickey "infused his country music with haunting beauty and spiritual melancholy, creating an impressive collection of introspective, emotionally complex songs." Over the next three decades Mickey recorded fifteen albums in "his soft, beautiful tenor voice," although other artists would enjoy greater success on the charts with his material. Don Gibson enjoyed a Top 10 Country hit in 1966 with "Funny, Familiar, Forgotten Feelings," and the next year the song became a Pop hit from Tom Jones. In 1968 Mickey's boyhood friend, Kenny Rogers, scored a Top 5 single with "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)." That same year Eddie Arnold reached the Top 5 with "Here Comes the Rain, Baby." Another 1968 success was "Sweet Memories," recorded by Andy Williams. This Pop hit was covered the following year by Dottie West and Don Gibson, who placed "Sweet Memories" on the Country chart.

Other recording artists who covered Newbury songs included Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Joan Baez, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, and the Everly Brothers. Mickey's moving arrangement of three songs, "Dixie," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and "All My Trials," became the compilation "American Trilogy." Elvis Presley enjoyed a major hit with "American Trilogy," which became a standard in his act. Mickey left the Nashville spotlight when he moved to Eugene, Oregon with his wife Susan. The father of five children, Mickey continued to compose and occasionally to record. But by 2002 he had contracted a lung ailment. The acclaimed songwriter died at the age of 62 on September 29, 2002.


Bob Luman

Bobby Glenn Luman was born in Nacogdoches on April 15, 1937. Throughout his boyhood he was fascinated by sports and he excelled as a baseball player. But music also exerted a deep appeal for Bobby Glenn. His father was an accomplished musician who taught Bobby Glenn to play several stringed instruments, including guitar. Impressed by Country stars of the day, he modeled his singing style after his special friend, Lefty Frizzell. The family moved to Kilgore, where Bobby Glenn became a star on the KHS Bulldog baseball team. The young athlete attracted the attention of pro scouts, but he could not resist the pull of music. Attending a country music package show, Bobby Glenn was profoundly affected by the wild performance of young Elvis Presley. Girls in the audience were driven into frenzies by the gyrations and rockabilly sounds of Elvis. "That was the last time I tried to sound like Left Frizzell," recalled Luman.

Bobby Glenn formed a band and, strongly influenced by rockabilly, began playing at school dances and in nearby clubs. After winning a talent contest, he was booked onto the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. Doors opened rapidly for the handsome Texan with the rich, velvety voice. Bob Luman became a regular member of the Louisiana Hayride. He went to Hollywood for a small part in the 1957 motion picture, Carnival Park. In Las Vegas he performed at the Showboat Hotel on a show with Tex Ritter and Johnny Cash. Despite these successes, a recording contract with a major label failed to produce any hits. Frustrated, Luman announced onstage at a performance that he had decided to leave country music and sign a minor league baseball contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Fortunately, the popular Everly Brothers were in the audience. They persuaded Luman to give country music one more try with Let's Think About Living--which sold one million copies.

After a 2-year stint in the military, Bob Luman toured the United States as well as in Europe and Japan. But Luman's heavy schedule eroded his health. In 1975, he had a heart attack and spent 5 months recuperating at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. He was released and resumed touring and recording, but he contracted pneumonia and died on December 27, 1978 at the age of 41.

Red Steagall

Long known as the Cowboy Poet of Texas, Red became the first cowboy poet to be designated as the state's poet Laureate. Russell Steagall was born on December 22, 1937, in Gainesville, Texas. The family moved to West Texas, settling in the ranching community of Sanford. Fascinated by cowboys and rodeos, Red became a bull rider as a teenager. But when he was 15, he was stricken with polio. To rehabilitate his left arm and hand, Red began playing the guitar and mandolin, quickly demonstrating talent as a performer and composer.

Red enrolled at the university now known as West Texas A&M, and he organized a country band to help pay college expenses. Graduating with a degree in animal science and agronomy, he took a job selling agro-chemicals. But at night and on weekends he continued to perform, and in the mid-60s he moved to Los Angeles to focus on a music career. Red performed at clubs in the LA area and wrote songs. In 1967 Ray Charles scored a hit with Red's Here We Go Again, which also was covered two years later by Nancy Sinatra.

Through the years more than 200 of Red's songs have been recorded by such big name artists as Dean Martin, Roy Clark and Johnny Duncan. While performing at the 1974 National Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma City, Red discovered Reba McEntire. He brought her to Nashville, introducing her to friends and helping record her first demo tape. Red plays as many as 100 rodeos per year. Touring at least 200 days annually for the past 30 years, Red has appeared in Europe, the Far East, South America, and the Middle East. In 1983 he performed for President Ronald Reagan in the White House.

Johnny Rodriguez

Johnny Rodriguez burst onto the music scene during the 1970s as the first Chicano Country artist and remains the greatest and most memorable Chicano Country singer of all time. Juan Raoul Davis Rodriguez was born on December 10, 1951, in Sabinal, in South Texas. He was the second youngest of ten children. The family had lived in a four-room house, and Johnny was an altar boy. When Johnny was seven, his older brother, Andres, bought him a guitar. Johnny became a fine performer and formed a band when he turned 16. But that same year his father died of cancer and the next year Andres was killed in an auto crash.

Although Johnny was a letterman on his high school football team, the loss of his father and brother sent him spiraling into trouble. Jailed four times by the age of 18, Johnny was overheard singing in his cell by famed Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson. Captain Jackson intervened on Johnny's behalf with Happy Shahan, who had built Alamo Village in Bracketville for John Wayne's movie, The Alamo. Shahan operated Alamo Village as a popular tourist attraction, and he hired 19-year-old Rodriguez as a singer and stagecoach driver.

In 1971, his act was heard by Tom T. Hall and Bobby Bare, who were on tour in the area. Hall and Bare brought Johnny to Nashville, where he became a lead guitarist in Tom's band. Hall helped Johnny sign a recording contract. After his first single, Pass Me By, reached the Top 10, the Academy of Country Music voted him "Most Promising Vocalist." In 1973, all three of his releases soared to number 1: You Always Come Back, Ridin' My Thumb to Mexico, and That's the Way Love Goes. In 1975, all three of Johnny's releases hit No. 1: I Just Can't Get Her Out of My Mind, Just Get Up and Close the Door, and Love Put a Song in My Heart. During the early 1980s Johnny suffered severe injuries in a karate accident, problems with his vocal cords, and the personal trauma of a marriage breakup. But he struggled through these troubles and again began producing hits. He has recorded 26 hits.


The Gatlin Brothers - Larry, Steve, Rudy

Six year old Larry Wayne Gatlin was scheduled to sing at the 1955 Cavalcade of Talent held in Abilene, Texas. Larry's sister, LaDonna, had heard him singing with their little brothers and she persuaded their mother to put all three brothers onstage. Larry was joined by four-year-old Steve and two-year-old Rudy in the first public performance of the Gatlin Brothers. The next year the Gatlin Brothers won the Cavalcade of Talent--the beginning of a lifetime of triumphs of the musically gifted trio. The Gatlins were West Texans. Larry was born in Seminole on May 2, 1948. Steven Daryl and Rudy Michael both were born in Olney, on April 4, 1951, and August 20, 1952. The brothers grew up with church music, while their father, an oil driller, frequently took their family to gospel "sings." The Gatlins admired the close harmony of the gospel groups. At church events, Larry sang the lead while his brothers harmonized behind him, and in time each brother would take the lead. Throughout boyhood the Gatlin brothers sang at churches and on local radio and television shows.

As teenagers they recorded a religious album for an independent label. A star athlete in high school, Larry won a football scholarship to the University of Houston. He majored in English, which aided his growing ability as a songwriter. After college Larry joined the Imperials, a group which featured gospel music and which had backed Elvis Presley. The Imperials now worked with Jimmy Dean's Las Vegas show and in Vegas Larry met Dottie West. After Larry sent her a tape with eight of his original songs, Dottie responded with a plane ticket to Nashville. In Nashville Larry sang backup on Kris Kristofferson recordings, Dottie West recorded two of his songs and Kristofferson also covered his material. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Barbra Streisand and Tom Jones are among the artists who would record Larry Gatlin songs.

While Larry was launching his music career, Steve and Rudy were earning degrees at Texas Tech. Steve took a B.S. in elementary education and Rudy graduated with a B.A. in business administration. Steve and Rudy teamed up with their sister, LaDonna, and her husband, Tim, forming a group called Young Country. For a year Young Country toured with Tammy Wynette, opening and singing backup for the C&W superstar. Meanwhile, Kris Kristofferson helped Larry land a recording contract with Monument Records in 1973. Larry brought in Steve and Rudy to record with him. The debut album, The Pilgrim, was released early in 1974. The third album, Larry Gatlin and Friends, featured "Broke Lady" which won a Grammy for Best Country Song in 1976. In 1979 the brothers became known as Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers Band. Larry played guitar, Steve handled the bass guitar and Rudy played acoustic guitar. "All the Gold in California," soared to No. 1 and was named Song of the Year for 1979 by the Academy of Country Music. Other top hits include, "Houston (Means One Day Closer to You)," What Are We Doin' Lonesome," "Take Me to Your Lovin' Place," "Sure Feels Like Love," "She Used to be Somebody's Baby," "Talkin' to the Moon," and "Love of a Lifetime."

Billy Joe Shaver - Honky Tonk Hero

"To me, the song is poetry," reflected songwriter-performer Billy Joe Shaver. "It's the way I describe the world around me, make sense of it. When I lost my fingers, Jesus made it clear to me that writing songs is my mission in life. I've stayed true to that ever since, and I always will. I believe my songs will live long after I'm gone." Shaver's songs have been recorded by an impressive array of artists, including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Elvis Presley, Patty Loveless, the Oak Ridge Boys, Tom T. Hall, and Bob Dylan. "He's as real a writer as Hemingway," said Kris Kristofferson. "He's timeless." 

Born in Corsicana on September 15, 1941, he was abandoned by his father before his birth. As an infant Billy Joe was left with his impoverished grandmother when his mother moved to Waco. He spend boyhood summers chopping cotton on farms outside Corsicana. Billy Joe's grandmother died when he was twelve. He moved to his mother's home near Waco, but clashed with her new husband. The unhappy youngster spent a great deal of time away from home at the honky tonk where his mother worked or at a nearby hobo camp. Billy Joe picked up rough habits and was often in trouble for fighting. He quit school in the eighth grade, but not before impressing an English teacher with his talent for writing verse. He never forgot her encouragement. "As long as you are honest with what you write, you will always have something special to say."

At seventeen he enlisted in the US Navy. Following his discharge, he returned to Waco and soon met Brenda Tindell. They married and had a son, Eddy.  Billy Joe worked at a sawmill and cowboyed on the ranch of his father-in-law. Although an accident at the sawmill cost him parts of three fingers on  his right hand, he continued to play guitar.  Shaver played and sang in honky tonks, and several times he traveled to Nashville to try to sell the songs he was writing. His marriage became strained, and Billy Joe and Brenda divorced, then remarried, divorced, and remarried again. Shaver drank heavily and abused drugs. But his personal travails provided heartfelt material for his songs, which rang true for country music fans. Willie Nelson described his gifted friend: "Billy Joe Shaver may be the best songwriter alive today."


Roger Miller

Roger Dean Miller was born in Fort Worth on January 2, 1936. During his boyhood, his father died and the family split up. Roger was sent to the Oklahoma cotton farm of an uncle. Musically gifted, young Roger learned to play the guitar, fiddle and drums. As a teenager he hooked up with various bands and played honky tonks in Oklahoma and Texas. Drafted into the Army, he soon was assigned to a hillbilly band by a Special Forces officer. While in the Army he met Bill Anderson and a brother of performer Jethro Burns. Roger was encouraged to go to Nashville where  his career soared.

A gifted, imaginative songwriter who wrote most of his hits as a performer, Roger Miller's songs also have been recorded by such stars as Jim Reeves, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Jimmy Dean, Ernest Tubb, Andy Williams, Jan Howard, Rex Allen, Faron Young, Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson and David Frizzell and Shelly West. Roger became a superstar during the 1960s. At the 1964 Grammy Awards, he collected five Grammies: Best New Country & Western Artist, Best Country & Western Album, Best Country & Western Single, Best Country & Western Song, ("Dang Me") and Best Country & Western Performance, Male.

The next year Roger collected an unprecedented six Grammies. King of the Road triggered five awards: Best Country & Western Single, Best Contemporary Single, Best Country & Western Song, Best Country & Western Performance, Male,  Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, and Best Country & Western Album ("The Return of Roger Miller").

During the 1980's this multifaceted artist turned his talents to Broadway. In eighteen months he created the musical Big River, based on Mark Twain's classic American novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Opening on Broadway in 1985, Big River collected seven Tony Awards and represented the crowning achievement of Roger's career.

Married three times and the father of seven children, Roger contracted throat cancer in 1991. His third wife, Mary, provided staunch companionship until he died, October 25, 1992, at the age of fifty-six.

Jimmy Dean

Born near Plainview, Texas on August 10, 1928, Jimmy Dean worked on neighboring farms to add a little income to the family purse. His mother taught him to play the piano when he was ten, and the boy soon began learning the accordion, guitar and harmonica. As a teenager, Jimmy joined the Merchant Marines, and following a two-year hitch, he enlisted in the Air Force. He enjoyed entertaining his buddies, and while stationed at Bolling Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., he joined a band, the Tennessee Haymakers. He became a popular attraction at service and civilian clubs, and after his discharge he stayed in the D.C. area, forming another band, the Texas Wildcats.

"I dreamt of havin' a beautiful home, a nice car, and nice clothes," reminisced Jimmy Dean to a TV Guide reporter, referring to his poverty-stricken boyhood in West Texas. "I wanted to be somebody." To countless television and C&W fans, the West Texas farmboy became the "Dean of Country Music" in the wake of his 1961 mega-hit, Big Bad John. Dean wrote the ballad while flying from New York to Nashville. His recording sold more than eight million copies and led to TV stardom and to other hits. After the success of Big Bad John, Jimmy recorded other narrative ballads, of which the most popular was PT 109, about President Kennedy's naval exploits in World War II. By 1966, when he switched labels from Columbia to RCA, Jimmy had capitalized on his recording success to launch a career in network television.

From 1963 to 1966 The Jimmy Dean Show aired on Thursday evenings over ABC-TV. Turning to acting, Jimmy played a recurring role, Josh Clements, on the hit TV series, Daniel Boone, from 1967 to 1970. In 1971, he played opposite Sean Connery in a James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever. Jimmy became the first Country artist to play the Las Vegas strip. At the height of his popularity, in 1968, he founded the Jimmy Dean Meat Company in Plainview, and from his appearances in commercials, he became known as "The Sausage King." Jimmy has two sons and a daughter from his first marriage, and in 1991, he wed Donna Meade, a former recording artist and songwriter. Last year Jimmy and Donna collaborated on his autobiography, Thirty Years of Sausage, Fifty Years of Ham.

Johnny Gimble

Born in Tyler on May 20, 1926, Johnny and his four brothers were raised in East Texas' Rose City. The five musical brothers - Johnny, Gene, Jerry, Jack and Bill--played a variety of local gigs. Johnny mastered the fiddle, along with the mandolin and banjo, and sometimes he sang. While still a student at Tyler High School, Johnny organized the Rose City Swingsters with two of his brothers and a friend. The Swingsters played in KGKB Radio in Tyler, and in 1943 Johnny went to Shreveport to play over KWKH, accompanying Governor Jimmie Davis with his campaign band. At the end of World War II Johnny joined the U.S. Army. After his discharge he returned to Texas and in 1949, Johnny married Barbara Kemp. The couple has three children, a son and twin daughters, and four grandchildren.

Legendary fiddler Johnny Gimble played with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys and with Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis. An elite sideman in Nashville during the 1960's and 1970's, he was named CMA Instrumentalist of the Year five times and Fiddler of the Year by the Academy of Country Music eight times. Not content to master the standard four-string fiddle, he also decided to employ a five-string fiddle, naming his instruments "Ole Red" and "Five." Johnny  played and recorded with Bob Wills off and on for nearly a decade. When Wills died in 1975 Johnny played at the funeral. Later Johnny was co-leader of a Wills revival band, Playboys II, and in 1982 portrayed Bob in the Clint Eastwood motion picture, Honky Tonk Man.

In 1968 Johnny moved to Nashville and became a top session player, playing on countless recordings. His fiddle and mandolin backed Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Porter Waggoner and Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, George Strait, and even Paul McCartney and Joan Baez. He made numerous appearances on TV as a staff fiddler on Grand Old Nashville Music, as a member of the Hee Haw "Million Dollar Band," and as a performer on Nashville Now, Prime Time Country, and Austin City Limits. A member of Willie Nelson's touring band from 1979-1981, he also appeared with Willie in the 1980 movie, Honeysuckle Rose. In 1995 Johnny was declared a national treasure by the National Endowment for the Arts. He overcame a series of strokes late in 1999 to resume his artistry on the fiddle, and still plays in his eightieth year.

Glenn Sutton

Royce Glenn Sutton was born on September 28, 1937, in Hodge, Louisiana, but the family soon moved to East Texas. Glenn began writing his first songs as a fourth grader while attending school in Carthage. He began high school in Henderson, but graduated after the family moved to Jackson, Mississippi. By this time Glenn had become adept at a number of instruments, including the guitar, mandolin, drums, piano, trumpet, bass, and steel guitar. Selling insurance by day, after dark he played clubs in and around Jackson. Glenn's first recordings were cut in Tyler at Robin Hood Brian's Recording Studio, and they were brought to the attention of Merle Kilgore in Nashville. By 1964 Glenn was sufficiently encouraged to try his luck in Nashville as a songwriter. Almost immediately he scored a hit when Hank Williams, Jr., covered Guess What, That's Right, She's Gone.

Also in 1964 Glenn began a songwriting partnership with Billy Sherrill that produced an impressive string of hits during the 1960s and 1970s. Merle Kilgore signed the team to Al Gallico Music in 1966, and Charlie Walker promptly scored a Top 40 single, followed by David Houston who provided Glenn and Billy with their first No. One for Almost Persuaded. The team then won a 1966 Grammy for "Best Country & Western Song."

In 1968 Glenn married his first wife, singer Lynn Anderson, and they would have a daughter, Lisa Lynn. By this time Glenn had begun producing recording sessions, and in 1970 he took over production duties for his wife. During the next few years, Lynn recorded a number of her husband's songs, hitting No. One in 1971 with You're My Man and in 1973 with Keep Me in Mind. Numerous other artists, from George Jones to Charlie Rich, from Merle Haggard to Glen Campbell, also recorded Sutton hits. Glenn received a total of 27 BMI Awards, including Producer of the Year. He also wrote the theme and background music for the Benny Hill TV show, as well as music for the movie soundtrack Thelma and Louise.


Mac Davis

Scott "Mac" Davis was born in Lubbock on January 21, 1942. Musically inclined, "I was probably making up melodies when I was only five or six years old." Mac sang in the church choir, and he learned to play the blues harp, bongo drums and guitar. Like countless other teenagers during the 1950s, Mac was strongly influenced by Elvis Presley.

"When I was growing up in West Texas, we didn't have rock-and-roll stations," stated Lubbock native Mac Davis, reflecting on his long and varied career. "I'd always listened to country music. In fact, that's my roots. I never heard anything but country music--Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, and Ernest Tubb--until I was thirteen or so.   In addition to widespread recognition as a country artist-songwriter, Mac Davis also has enjoyed success in pop music, on Broadway, and in movies and television. But through all of his entertainment activities, Mac's country roots consistently are reflected in his soft West Texas twang.

Mac's breakthrough as a songwriter came in 1968, when Elvis Presley recorded A Little Less Conversation. Elvis wanted more Davis songs, and during the next couple of years, Presley scored hits with Memories, In the Ghetto, and Don't Cry Daddy.  Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, and numerous other artists eagerly recorded Mac Davis songs. Mac's sentimental songs about his little boy, Watching Scotty Grow and Daddy's Little Man, were hits for Bobby Goldsboro.

Mac signed with Columbia Records as an artist in 1970, and two years later he recorded a number one pop hit with Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me. He charted repeatedly during the 1970s and 1980s. Two memorable hits of 1980 were It's Hard to Be Humble and Texas in My Rearview Mirror. In 1991 Mac's Greatest Hits album went gold.

From 1974-76 Mac hosted a TV variety show, and in 1974 he was named AMC Entertainer of the Year. In 1979 he played a Dallas Cowboy quarterback based on Don Meredith in North Dallas Forty, and four years later, he again was featured on big screens in The Sting II, with Jackie Gleason. Along with other Hollywood and TV movies, he starred in Broadway in The Will Rogers Follies.

Johnny Lee

Johnny Lee was born John Lee Ham in Texas City on July 3, 1946. While growing up on a dairy farm near Alta Loma, he organized "Johnny Lee and the Roadrunners." Johnny Lee's musical career took a back seat for four years during the 1960s after he joined the Navy, serving aboard a guided missile cruiser in Vietnamese waters.  "I love a good country song," declared singer Johnny Lee, a Texas farm boy during the 1950s, "but I can get sentimental about some of the old fifties stuff."

Following his discharge, Johnny joined Mickey Gilley's band as a singer and trumpet player. With the opening of Gilley's Club in Pasadena in 1971, Johnny headlined the band when Mickey was on tour. Launching a recording career in the mid-1970s, he occasionally made the country charts with such singles as Red Sails in the Sunset, Ramblin' Rose, and Country Party. Tall and handsome, Johnny landed a role in a 1979 TV movie. He followed up the next year with a small role in John Travolta's Hollywood hit, Urban Cowboy. While the soundtrack album soared to Triple Platinum, Johnny's single release, Lookin' for Love climbed to Number One and also was certified Platinum. An album of the same title was certified Gold and produced another Number One single, One in a Million.

In 1981 Johnny released his second album, Bet Your Heart on Me, and the title song hit Number One. He reached the Top Three with Pickin' Up Strangers and Prisoner of Hope. Johnny received the 1981 Best New Male Vocalist Award, and he left Gilley's to form the Western Union Band. He installed his new group in his Pasadena club, Johnny Lee's. He also established the Johnny Lee Pro-Am Golf Tournament to aid the mentally handicapped through the Home of Guiding Hands.

Although it was impossible to sustain the level of success he enjoyed during the 1980s, in 1996 Johnny was named Veteran Music Singer of the Year for his gospel recording, He Could Have Walked On By.

J. P. Richardson (The Big Bopper)

"Hellooo...Baby!" The deep, rich voice that uttered the opening line to Chantilly Lace belonged to Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr., known to his fans as The Big Bopper. But The Big Bopper's meteoric rise to fame was cut short by one of the most stunning tragedies ever to strike the music world.

Born in Sabine Pass on October 24, 1930, the husky youngster moved with his family and played football at Beaumont High School. After high school graduation in 1949, he served a stint in the army and earned a diploma from a technical school in radio and TV broadcasting. In 1955 Richardson became a deejay at KTRM in Beaumont, a station where he had worked before joining the army. On the air he was a sild man, and "The Big Bopper Shop" attracted a strong fan base, while providing Richardson with a popular stage name. In May 1957 he set a world record for continuous broadcasting with his "Discathon," remaining on the air for six straight days and spinning 1,821 records.

But success as a deejay did not satisfy the musical ambitions of The Big Bopper. Influenced by Country and Western Music, he began writing songs, then shifted toward the new sound of Rockabilly. During an abbreviated career as a songwriter, he composed about thirty-eight tunes, and recorded over twenty of them. Among his recordings were Crazy Blues and Beggar to a King, which later was a hit for Hank Snow. Richardson's Running Bear would become a hit for Johnny Preton.

Chantilly Lace was released on Mercury Records in the summer of 1958 and soared to Number Six on the pop charts. Suddenly The Big Bopper--"Hellooo...Baby!"-- was known nationwide, and he intended to capitalize on the opportunity. The Big Bopper took a leave of absence from KTRM to go on tour. His stage performances were flamboyant, featuring zoot suits and a prop phone for Chantilly Lace.

Early in 1959 he joined The Winter Tour, with Buddy Holly as headliner for a three-week series of appearances in the Upper Midwest. But the bus developed engine trouble and the heater stopped working, and under the frigid temperatures The Big Bopper fell ill. On the night of February 2, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper played the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. Holly chartered a three-passenger plane to avoid a long bus ride to North Dakota. The Big Bopper, hoping to have time to see a doctor, persuaded Holly's sideman, Waylon Jennings, to give up his seat on the plane.

An hour after midnight the plane took off, but immediately crashed and cartwheeled. The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the pilot died instantly. Only twenty-eight, The Big Bopper was flown back to Beaumont for funeral services. At his death, The Big Bopper's Wedding was climbing the charts. Richardson had married Adrian Joy Fryon in 1952. They had a daughter, Deborah, and Adrian was pregnant when the Big Bopper was killed. Jay P. Richardson never knew his father, but for the past several years has recreated the performance of the Big Bopper on television and in live appearances.


Kris Kristofferson

Movie Star. Groundbreaking songwriter. Grammy-winning recording artist. Few Texans of any generation have exhibited the multiple talents of Kris Kristofferson.

The son of a U.S. Air Force major general, Kris was born in Brownsville, Texas on June 22, 1936. In school he was an excellent student and athlete. Kris boxed and played football at California's Pomona College where he majored in creative writing and published award-winning short stories in the prestigious Atlantic Monthly. After graduation in 1958, he won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in England, earning a Master's Degree in English. Obtaining an Army commission, Kris attended ranger school, jump school and flight school. He served in Germany as a helicopter pilot, was appointed to the English faculty at West Point, and left the Army in 1965 as a captain.

While studying at Oxford, Kris had written rock 'n roll songs for an English producer. He continued to write after leaving the Army, and in 1969 Roger Miller recorded a number of his songs, including Me and Bobby McGee.  When Janis Joplin covered this song, it sold a million copies. In 1970 Ray Price scored a Number One hit and won a Grammy with For the Good Times, and Johnny Cash turned Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down into a Number One smash. The next year Sammi Smith brought Help Me Make it Through the Night to the top of the charts. The CMA voted it Single of the Year, and Kris won his first Grammy Award for Best Country Song. In 1973 Ronnie Milsap recorded a Number One hit with Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends.

A popular live performer, in 1973 Kris enjoyed a Number One hit as a solo artist with Why Me. That same year his albums, The Silver Tongued Devil and I, and Jesus was a Capricorn were certified Gold. In 1974 his album, Me and Bobby McGee, went Gold. In 1978 his compilation album, Songs of Kristofferson, also went Gold.

Kris married pop singer Rita Coolidge in 1973, and the couple recorded several albums. Their debut album, Full Moon, was certified Gold in 1975. In 1973 and 1975 they earned Grammys for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group: From the Bottle to the Bottom and two years later, Lover Please.

Kris sang backup to Willie Nelson during the 1979 recording sessions which produced the album Willie Nelson Sings Kristofferson. In 1984 Kris and Willie recorded the album Music From 'Songwriter.' The next year Kris, Willie, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash formed a superstar quartet to record Highwayman, an album which went Gold in 1986. 

With his rugged good looks, lean physique and gravel voice, Kris was a natural for the movies. His film debut came in 1971, in Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie, and he went on to star in more than twenty motion pictures. He played a famous outlaw in Pat Garrett and Bill the Kid (1973).  When he co-starred with Barbra Streisand in a remake of A Star is Born (1976), Kris provided the soundtrack music. The soundtrack album went Gold that year and Platinum the next, eventually selling more than four million copies. Married three times, Kris is the father of eight children. He makes his home in Southern California and continues to practice his exceptional gifts as a musician and actor.

Lefty Frizzell

William Orville R.C. Firzzell was born on March 31, 1928, in Corsicana, Texas, the first of eight children. His father, Naaman Orville R.C. Frizzell, was an oil field worker who moved his growing family to El Dorado, Arkansas when his oldest boy, "Sonny," was fourteen. Soon goaded into a schoolyard fight, the new kid beat his opponent with a devastating left hand, and Sonny Frizzell acquired the nickname "Lefty."

By this time the teenager, attracted to country music by the Jimmie Rodgers records of his parents, was singing professionally. Lefty landed a radio job at KELD in El Dorado, and when the family moved back to Texas, he took a similar gig on KPLT in Paris. Lefty regularly played dances and nightclubs, and he began appearing on KGFL in Roswell, New Mexico. But his promising musical career was interrupted by a run-in with the law, and Lefty went to work with his father in the oil fields. Soon he gravitated back to music, by 1950 settling in at the Ace of Clubs in San Angelo, where he developed an enthusiastic fan base.

During 1950 Lefty signed with Columbia Records. His first session produced, If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time and I Love You a Thousand Ways. Both sides of this first record reached Number One, and Lefty's career soared meteorically. In 1951 he organized a backup group, the Western Cherokees. For a time Lefty had four recordings in the Top Ten, a feat that has never been surpassed. I Want to Be with You Always on this third record, spent eleven weeks at Number One, and his next release Always Late (With Your Kisses) was at Number One for twelve weeks.

Moving to Los Angeles, he became a regular on Tex Ritter's television show, Town Hall Party. Lefty's younger brother, David, hitchhiked to California. Lefty hired him and arranged a recording contract with Columbia, and eventually David Frizzell became a star in his own right. Lefty composed 300 songs, but few of his recordings were hits after 1952. Although still immensely popular on the road, he spent money as rapidly as he earned it. Lefty and his wife, Alice, had four children.  Not long after Town Hall Party ended in 1960, Lefty moved his family to Nashville. Even though his career lacked direction, Saginaw, Michigan spent four weeks at Number One in 1964. It was Lefty's last big hit. In addition to a drinking problem, he developed high blood pressure. But he refused to take blood pressure medicine and on July 19, 1975, he died of a stroke in Nashville at the age of forty-seven.

"Lefty Frizzell was the definitive honky tonk singer, the vocalist that set the style for generations of vocalists that followed him," according to Stephen Thomas Erlewine in All Music Guide to Country. "Frizzell smoothed out the rough edges of honky tonk by singing longer, flowing phrases - essentially, he made honky tonk more acceptable for the mainstream without losing its gritty bar-room roots...Frizzell's singing became the foundation of how hard country should be sung."

Johnny Bush

"If I wasn't getting paid for this, I'd be doing it anyway," stated singer-songwriter-instrumentalist Johnny Bush. "It's what I do." He began doing it as a boy. Born John Bush Shin, III in Houston on February 17, 1935, he grew up listening to his father and other relatives and friends make music in the Shin home. They sang and played guitars and fiddles, and Johnny avidly listened to country music over the radio. "I would go to the movies on Saturdays and hear Roy Rogers sing," reminisced Johnny, "and I thought, that's me boy."

Johnny's father taught him guitar chords when he was ten, and within two years he was singing and playing in public. In 1952, when Johnny was seventeen, he landed a gig performing with The Texas Star Playboys every weekend at The Texas Star Inn in San Antonio and on a local country television show. One night the drummer failed to show up and Johnny was pressed into service. He quickly took to the drum set. "I found out there was a shortage of drummers," explained Johnny. "Everybody sang and played guitar. But a drummer could work."

Soon the band hired a young guitarist named Willie Nelson, and Johnny and Willie became lifelong friends. Johnny went on to play and sing with Texas legends Bob Wills and Lefty Frizzell, working barrooms and dancehalls and honky tonks. When Willie Nelson formed his first band, The Offenders, Johnny came aboard as his drummer. Johnny gravitated to Nashville and joined Ray Price's band, the Cherokee Cowboys. Working closely with Price for three years, he was strongly influenced by Ray's singing style. Indeed, when Johnny tried to land a recording contract, one label after another felt that he sounded too much like Price.

But Willie Nelson financed Johnny's first album, Sound of a Heartache. In 1967 Johnny enjoyed his first hit, You Oughta Hear Me Cry. There were three hits the next year, including Undo the Right, which broke the Top Ten. After reaching the Top Twenty in 1972 with I'll Be There, Johnny signed a recording contract with RCA. The powerhouse label intended to showcase the promising vocalist who was nicknamed "The Country Caruso." Asked to provide songs for his first album with RCA, Johnny was returning to Texas from Nashville in his tour bus. Awakening in Texarkana, the lines of Whiskey River began to run through his mind. His recording broke the Top Ten in 1972. Willie Nelson later adopted Whiskey River as his theme song, making more than twenty different recordings.

But in 1972, on the verge of stardom, Johnny was stricken with a mysterious, debilitating condition that produced spasms in his vocal cords. Johnny consulted numerous specialists, even seeing a psychiatrist and a chiropractor, but his voice rapidly worsened. He could speak only in a strangled whisper. RCA dropped him from their label. Finally, after several nightmarish years, a San Antonio speech therapist diagnosed his affliction as Spasmodic Dysponia, a rare neurological condition which causes the vocal cords to short circuit. Although told that there was no cure, in 1985 Johnny began to work with Gary Catona, a University of Texas vocal teacher. Employing a variety of innovative techniques, Catona produced dramatic improvement in Johnny's vocal capabilities. Based on this success, Catona went on to work with a parade of famous clients: Liza Minelli, Tony Bennett, Paula Abdul, Brian Wilson, Andy Williams, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Klugman, Kevin Spacey and Mohammed Ali.

Regaining perhaps 80 percent of his previous vocal abilities, Johnny eagerly resumed his performing and recording career and began earning a variety of comeback awards. "I think that God put this on me for a reason, and I think that reason is to help others." Having picked up a career that seemed lost, Johnny bristles when asked about retirement. "Retire from what? Breathing? People only retire from jobs they hate. Performing is not a job. It's what I do."


Tanya Tucker

A high-energy performer nicknamed "The Texas Tornado," Tanya Denise Tucker was blessed with precocious vocal talents as a child. The youngest of three children, she was born on October 10, 1958, in Seminole, Texas. Tanya's parents, Beau and Juanita Tucker, were dogged by poverty. Beau moved the family around as he searched for construction work.

Settling in Wilcox, Arizona, for several years, Beau strongly encouraged the musical gifts of his daughters, LaCosta, and Tanya. The girls were taken to the performances of touring country artists, and Beau frequently arranged for little Tanya to come onstage and sing. Tanya, LaCosta, and three Wilcox boys formed a group The Country Westerners. The family moved to Phoenix when Tanya was eight, and she became a regular on The Lew King Ranger Show on local television. Soon the family moved to Utah where Tanya landed a non-speaking part in Jeremiah Johnson, filmed in 1971 and starring Robert Redford. After another move to Las Vegas, Beau scraped together enough money for a demo tape. A few years earlier Beau had unsuccessfully peddled a crude demo around Nashville, but this time Tanya's tape caught the attention of the right people.

Thirteen-year-old Tanya Tucker signed a contract with Columbia. She turned down The Happiest Girl in the U.S.A. in favor of Delta Dawn, recorded in her first Columbia session. In 1972, Delta Dawn reached the Top 10, and that same year Tanya made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry. She was named the New Female Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Country Music, and in 1973 she had two No. 1 hits, What's Your Mama's Name and Blood Red and Goin' Down.

In 1974 Beau negotiated a $1.5 million contract with a new label, MCA. The contract was signed on Tanya's sixteenth birthday at a gala party arranged by MCA at a Little Rock amusement park. In 1975 Lizzie and the Rainman and San Antonio Stroll soared to No. 1, while Don't Believe My Heart Can Stand Another You reached the Top 5. During the 70's Tanya appeared in motion pictures such as Hard Country with Kim Basinger and Jan-Michael Vincent and in the TV movies Amateur Night with Dennis Quaid, The Rebels, starring Don Johnson, and Hard Country.

A tumultuous romance with Glen Campbell, who was at the height of stardom, gained considerable notoriety. Other romances also were publicized, and her bouts with alcohol and cocaine led to a 1988 stay at the Betty Ford Center for rehabilitation. In 1986 Tanya signed with Capitol Records and produced several No. 1 hits: Just Another Love, I Won't Take Less Than Your Love, If It Don't Come Easy, and Strong Enough to Bend. In 1991 the Country Music Association voted Tanya Female Vocalist of the Year. In 1992 she was awarded ACM's Video of the Year for Two Sparrows in a Hurricane, and in 1991 Tanya, an avid horsewoman, won the Celebrity Cutting Horse Championship in Fort Worth.

"She's going to be the next Elvis Presley." Tanya was still a teenager when Elvis Presley caught her show in Denver, and she treasured his remark. "I'd stack any awards in the world up against that one comment," stated Tanya in her 1997 autobiography, Nickel Dreams.

Gene Watson

"The world stops spinning when he sings," declared Robert K. Oermann, dean of Country Music critics. "In his voice is all the ache of existence." The expressive tenor voice of Gene Watson has generated admiration from such stars as George Strait, Marty Robbins, George Jones, and Randy Travis. He is widely regarded as a singer's singer.

Gary Gene Watson was born on October 11, 1943, in Palestine, Texas. His father was a sawmill worker and farm laborer. For the first several years of Gene's life, he rambled around with his parents and six brothers and sisters in an old school bus as his father sought work. Often the entire family toiled together in harvesting crops. Finally the Watsons settled in Paris in northeast Texas. Gene's father was an instrumentalist who liked to play the Blues, and the boy quickly developed a feel for music. The family attended Pentecostal church services, and like so many budding country artists, young Gene began singing gospel music. Feeling the need to support his family, Gene dropped out of school in the ninth grade and found employment as an auto repairman where he developed a passion for cars. Indeed, Gene still tinkers happily at The Toy Shop, an auto shop he set up for his personal use.

Beginning in 1965, Gene and his band recorded for various independent labels. Nearly a decade passed, however, before Gene finally scored a hit. In 1974 the provocative Love in the Afternoon was picked up by Capitol Records, and the song reached the Top 3 in 1975. Capitol signed Gene, and with the backing of a major label, he recorded a succession of hits, regularly cracking the Top 20 during the next five years.

Where Love Begins made the Top 5 in 1976, and the next year Paper Rosie hit the Top 3. I Don't Need a Thing at All reached the top 10 at the end of 1977, and a year later One Sided Conversation also made the Top 10. In 1979 Pick the Wildwood Flower hit the Top 5, while Should I Go Home (Or Should I Go Crazy) reached the Top 3. But Gene's favorite hit of 1979 was Farewell Party. A moving tale of suicide, Farewell Party became Gene's signature song, and he named his band after the Top 3 hit.

His first MCA release, Between This Time and the Next Time, made the Top 20 in 1981, and before the year ended, MCA released Gene's biggest hit, Fourteen Carat Mind, which reached No. 1. During the next three years Gene enjoyed five Top 10 hits, a Top 5, and a Top 3. He moved to Epic Records in 1985 and immediately reached the Top 5 with Memories to Burn. But there was not as much success during the next few years, and by 1988 Gene was considering retirement from the music industry. Then Gene's career was revived by a new manager, Lib Hatcher, who also managed Randy Travis. Lib arranged a contract with Warner Brother's Records. Almost immediately Gene recorded a Top 5 hit, Don't Waste It on the Blues. Gene also began touring with Randy Travis, who was enjoying the peak of his popularity.

Nat Stuckey

When Ann Stuckey took charge of her husband's fan club, she happily distributed badges which declared that the wearer was "Stuck on Stuckey." Indeed, fans were "Stuck on Stuckey" because of Nat's enormous versatility. During a career which spanned more than three decades, Nat Stuckey was a singer, songwriter, deejay, record producer, music publisher, owner of a booking agency and the voice of hundreds of commercials.

This versatile Texas was born in Cass County on December 17, 1933. Nathan Wright Stuckey, II was raised in Atlanta, where he learned to play the guitar and developed a deep interest in music. After high school he attended Arlington State College where he studied speech and radio-TV. Returning to Atlanta he became a radio announcer at KALT. After two years, Nat entered the Army, working with Armed Services Radio and TV in Korea and New York City. Following his discharge, Nat came back to Atlanta and KALT.

Then he moved to KWKH in Shreveport, home of the Louisiana Hayride. Nat worked as a deejay at KWKH for the next eight years at the same time expanding into other areas of music. In 1957 and 1958 he performed with an eight-piece jazz band. Then Nat formed a country group, The Corn Huskers, and a year later he became leader of the Louisiana Hayride. Nat Stuckey was the last major artist developed by the Hayride.

Nat began recording in 1964, and by this time he was writing songs. In 1966 Sweet Thang made the Top 5, and Loretta Lynn and Ernest Tubb recorded a hit version of the song. Nat wrote Waitin' in the Welfare Line for Buck Owens, and the recording spent seven weeks at No. 1. In 1967 Jim Ed Brown took Nat's Pop-a-Top to the Top 3. Nat recorded several songs which hit the charts, and in 1967 he formed a backing band called the Sweet Thangs. In 1969 he reached the Top 10 with Sweet Thang and Cisco. Twice he recorded his duets with Connie Smith, Young Love and If God is Dead (Who's that Living in my Soul), and the duo also recorded two albums.

Nat enjoyed a banner year in 1973. Got Leaving on Her Mind reached the top 15, Take Time to Love Her made the Top 10, and I Used It All on You hit the Top 3. For a time Nat's opening act was a fast-rising teenaged singer named Tanya Tucker. During the 1970s Nat began announcing and singing commercials, eventually recording hundreds of regional and national media ads. He wrote two Coca Cola jingles, recorded twenty-two McDonald's spots, and became the singing voice of Budweiser commercials.

After Nat and Ann moved to Nashville, they established a booking agency, Music Row Talent, Inc. Nat also bought and sold land in Tennessee and Texas through his Texas Promised Land Development Company. Despite the demands of his businesses, touring schedule, recording sessions, and songwriting, Nat found time to pursue a variety of personal interests. He rode motorcycles and was a bass fisherman of sufficient skill to be invited to Bass Master Tournaments. A dog lover, Nat sometimes was allowed to assist in veterinary surgery (the vet was a business partner). His carpentry skills inspired him to start a woodworking and furniture-making enterprise at his home on Center Hill Lake. But his latest venture was cut short by the discovery of lung cancer. Within two months of diagnosis the fifty-four-year-old entertainer died on August 24, 1988. His ashes were scattered over Center Hill Lake.


Ray Price

From 1952 through 1982 the velvet voice of Ray Price recorded more than eighty hits that soared into the Country Music Top Forty, along with numerous crossover hits. The memorable artistry of Price has included notable innovations, and when he was voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996, there was widespread feeling that the honor was long overdue.

Ray Noble Price was born in East Texas, at little Perryville, southeast of Winnsboro, on January 12, 1926. When he was four his parents divorced and his mother moved with little Ray to Dallas. When Ray graduated from Adamson High School in Dallas, World War II was raging. The eighteen-year-old enlisted in the U.S. Marines in 1944, serving in the Pacific. Discharged in 1946, he enrolled in a Dallas-area college, intending to become a veterinarian. But his musical talents led to college gigs and other local dates. By 1948, billing himself as "The Cherokee Kid" (soon changed to the "Cherokee Cowboy"), Ray joined Abilene's Hillbilly Jamboree, broadcast over KRBC Radio. The next year he moved to the Big D Jamboree, which was nationally telecast over Dallas' CBS affiliate. Ray made his first recordings over the Dallas-based Bullet label, but he signed with Columbia in 1951.

By this time he had become close friends with his idol, Hank Williams, who wrote a song, "Weary Blues," for Ray. This connection with Hank Williams was instrumental in Ray's invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry in 1952, the year his recordings began to reach the charts. After Hank's death early in 1953, his Drifting Cowboys became Ray's backup band, and the young artist patterned himself stylistically after Williams. But one night an audience member told him, "Ray, you sound more like ol' Hank every time I hear you." Ray realized he needed to find his own sound, and the rest of his career would be a musical adventure. Dismissing the Drifting Cowboys, he formed a new band, the Cherokee Cowboys. Notable artists who, at one time or another, were members of the Cherokee Cowboys have included Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, and Johnny Paycheck.

Within a year Ray added a drum set to the Cherokee Cowboys. Although Bob Wills used drums with his famous dance band, country bands of the era did not include drums, "and certainly not on the Grand Ole Opry," recalled Price. But by introducing drums, his band was able to emphasize the "Ray Price Beat," a distinctive shuffle-beat that quickly spread throughout Country Music. Country Music fans thought that Ray Price and his band were becoming Rockabilly, like Elvis and Carl Perkins. But in 1956, Ray's "Crazy Arms" spent forty-five weeks on the Country charts, including twenty weeks at Number One. As he reeled off one hit after another, the "Ray Price Beat" became the standard country sound.

By the 1960s Ray began slipping strings into such country hits as "Make the World Go Away" and "Burning Memories." In 1967 he was backed by forty-seven pieces when he recorded "Danny Boy." Although some country deejays boycotted him, "Danny Boy" broke the Top Ten. In 1970 there were more strings when Ray covered Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times," which reached Number One and also hit the Pop charts. Now in his 80's, this innovative stylist still leaves his East Texas ranch and wife of three decades to record and to perform 100 dates per year.

Billy Walker

In 1942, thirteen-year-old farmboy Billy Walker picked more than 320 pounds of cotton in one grueling day. Rewarded by his father with a quarter, Billy treated himself to a Gene Autry movie, Cowboy Serenade. "That movie hooked me on show business," reminisced Billy half a century later. "That's where I wanted to be."

Show business offered escape from a difficult upbringing. Billy Marvin Walker was born on a West Texas farm near Ralls on January 14, 1929. Billy was one of eight children, but when he was four his mother died while trying to give birth to a ninth baby. It was the heart of the Great Depression, and Billy's father was forced to place his three youngest children--Jerry, Billy and Delmar--in a Methodist orphanage in Waco. Billy hated life in an orphanage dormitory. "It was like being in prison." After a few years the family was reunited, but life on a West Texas cotton farm was hard. "I made spending money by plucking turkeys for between three and eight cents a bird," he recalled. After seeing Cowboy Serenade, Billy saved enough money to buy a guitar for $3.25 and an instruction book for another quarter. "From then on, I practiced and worked on songs every spare minute."

When he was fifteen, Billy won a talent competition in Ralls. He was awarded three dollars and a chocolate cake--and a fifteen-minute show on Saturday mornings at a New Mexico radio station. There was no pay, only exposure and experience, but Billy eagerly hitch-hiked eighty miles each way on Saturdays. After high school, Billy advanced quickly, soon forming his own trio. "When I was nineteen," he related, "Hank Thompson hired me as his opening act, which led to a Capitol Records recording contract."

Billing himself as "The Traveling Texan," he joined the Big D Jamboree from KRLD Radio in Dallas. Topping out at six foot-three, he also would be known as "The Tall Texan," and eventually Billy would develop a Tall Texan record label. From 1952 through 1955 he was a member of Shreveport's prestigious Louisiana Hayride, touring with such Hayride stars as Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, and Faron Young. Billy was part of the last tour with Williams before Hank died, and he was present when young Elvis Presley debuted with the Hayride.

Billy first hit the charts in 1954, and through the years he enjoyed thirty-four Top Ten Hits. In 1962 his single, "Charlie's Shoes," reached Number One and stayed on the charts for five months. He was voted by Billboard as one of the Top Twenty most played artists during the period 1950-1970. In 1960 Billy became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, remaining one of its most loyal participants. Three years later, because of a family emergency, Billy and Hawkshaw Hawkins traded flights. Billy flew safely to Nashville, but a few hours later the small plane carrying Hawkshaw, Cowboy Copas, and Patsy Cline crashed, killing all aboard.

In the 1970s Billy, backed by his group the Tennessee Walkers, headlined his own television show, Country Music Carousel. He appeared on the Jimmy Dean Show, The Statler Brothers Show, Hee Haw, and many other TV shows. Billy is the father of six daughters and is happily married to Bettie Walker who runs Billy Walker Enterprises from their suburban home near Nashville.

Stuart Hamblen

"When you see me fall asleep, say amen but don't you weep. I've got so many million years that I can't count them." This expression of deep religious belief came from an East Texas preacher's son who, as a Hollywood performer, strayed far from his boyhood faith, then returned. Carl Stuart Hamblen was born at Kellyville, west of Jefferson, Texas, on October 20, 1908. His father was an itinerant preacher, and Stuart learned to love outdoor life while traveling with him. Enrolling at a Methodist institution in Abilene, McMurry College, Stuart soon became a singing cowboy on KAYO Radio in Abilene. Three years later, in 1929 he won a talent contest in Dallas.

With his $100 cash prize, Stuart traveled to the East Coast, recording four songs for the forerunner of RCA Victor. Then he ventured across the country to Hollywood, where he became a member of the early Western singing group, the Beverly Hill Billies. Soon he became a West Coast radio star, headlining such programs as Stuart Hamblen and His Lucky Stars, Covered Wagon Jubilee, and His Woolly West Review. During the 1930s and 1940s he appeared in Western movies with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Wild Bill Elliott, and Don "Red" Barry. In 1945 he joined the cast of Flame of the Barbary Coast, starring John Wayne.

Although he married in 1933, Stuart drank, gambled, brawled, and wrote such songs as, "I Won't Go Huntin' With Ya, Jake, But I'll Go Chasin' Women." His lovely and devoted wife, Suzy, prayed fervently for him, and Stuart finally experienced a religious conversion at the Canvas Cathedral in Los Angeles, during the 1949 crusade which brought evangelist Billy Graham nationwide fame. This spiritual turnaround was instrumental in his growing success. Stuart stopped drinking and ran for president of the Prohibition Party in 1952. He began writing gospel songs and starred in a Sunday morning radio show, Cowboy Church of the Air. When Stuart encountered John Wayne on the street, the movie star asked, "What's this I hear about you, Stuart?" "Well, Duke," answered the transformed Hamblen, "I guess it's no secret what God can do." Wayne commented, "Sounds like a song."

John Wayne's casual remark was a creative inspiration for Hamblen, who composed a Gospel classic, "It Is No Secret." Stuart wrote more than 225 other songs, including such hits as "Remember Me," "I'm the One Who Loves you," "Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sunshine In," and "Teach Me, Lord, To Wait." His songs were recorded by such artists as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Pat Boone, Eddy Arnold, Hank Snow, and Ernest Tubb. His biggest hit was "This Ole House." Recorded by Rosemary Clooney, it was Number One simultaneously in seven different countries, and was voted the 1954 Song of the Year.

In 1970 Stuart was inducted as a charter member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. The next year the Academy of Country and Western Music honored him with its Pioneer Award for being the "first singing Country and Western Cowboy in the history of broadcasting." In 1976 he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame, and in 1988 he received a Golden Boot Award for his work in motion pictures. Stuart and Suzy made their family home at a horse ranch just outside Los Angeles. He died at the age of eighty on March 8, 1989.


Dale Evans

During the 1940s Dale Evans, a beautiful and talented singer-actress from Texas, established herself as Hollywood's most renowned Western leading lady. Co-starring opposite Roy Rogers, the phenomenally popular "King of the Cowboy," Dale earned international fame as the "Queen of the West." She was born Frances Octavia Smith in Uvalde, Texas, on October 31, 1912. Her father was a cotton farmer, and she also spent considerable time at the rural home of her grandparents at Italy, south of Fort Worth. When Frances was a child, she dreamed of marrying Western movie star Tom Mix. "We would have six children together," she reminisced, "then gallop our horses through the sagebrush..." She had the script right, but she would have to cast a different cowboy star as her leading man.

Frances loved to sing and dance and play the piano, and she dreamed of becoming an actress. But after the Smith family moved to a farm in Arkansas, young Frances impulsively married another teenager. Although she later gave birth to a son, Tom, the marriage soon ended. The single mother returned to her parents, who had moved to Memphis. Frances took a secretarial job with an insurance company.

Overhearing Frances singing at work, her boss arranged for her to perform on a Memphis radio show sponsored by the company. Her talents brought her rapid success as a radio singer, and soon she was hired in larger markets in Dallas and Chicago. At KHAS in Louisville, the station manager changed her name to Dale Evans. Beckoned to Hollywood, she took screen tests and was featured on a number of network radio programs. After the outbreak of World War II, Dale recorded for overseas broadcasts and performed more than 500 USO shows at Army and Navy bases in California and surrounding states.

At Republic Studios Dale began to appear in musicals and melodramas, along with a John Wayne Western. In 1944 she was assigned to a Roy Rogers film, Cowboy and the Senorita. Roy and Dale had an obvious on-screen chemistry, and fan mail poured in praising his lovely new leading lady. Dale would co-star in 28 Roy Rogers movies, and in 1947 she made the first of four appearances on the Top Ten List of Money-Making Cowboy Stars. Roy reigned as Number One for 12 years, and in the 19 years that this list existed, Dale was the only female ever named to the Top Ten.

In 1946 Roy's wife died after giving birth to their third child. Roy and Dale married on the last day of 1947, and eventually added four more children--three by adoption--to their large family. Sadly, three of their nine children died, by illness or accident. Roy and Dale increasingly relied upon their Christian beliefs and Dale became an important inspirational author and speaker. From 1951 through 1956 Roy and Dale co-starred on a popular television series, The Roy Rogers Show, and her most famous composition, "Happy Trails," became the show's theme song. After more than 50 years of marriage, Roy died in 1998 and Dale died in 2001.

Charlie Walker

During his long and varied career, Charlie Walker has been a recording star, noted deejay, championship golfer, golfing broadcaster, and Las Vegas emcee. As a young serviceman, Charlie even introduced Country Music to Japan. Charlie Walker's country roots are authentic. Born on November 2, 1926, he was brought up on a Collin County cotton farm near Nevada, north of Dallas. Encouraged by his father to pursue a musical career, Charlie sang and played guitar. As a teenager he began working with Bill Boyd and His Cowboy Ramblers. Then, in 1943, he took a deejay job with KIOX Radio in Bay City.

After being discharged from the Army, Charlie resumed his deejay career with KMAC Radio in San Antonio. His deep understanding of music led him to be listed for ten years by Billboard as one of the Top Ten Country deejays in the United States. But he continued to perform, and in 1956 his Decca recording of "Only You, Only You" made it to the Top Ten on the Country chart. Soon signed to a Columbia contract, he responded with his biggest hit, "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down." Charlie became a popular member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1967. His Las Vegas performances were so well-received that the Golden Nugget engaged him as an emcee-performer for twenty-five weeks a year during the mid-1960s. An avid golfer, he regularly finished near the leaders in the Las Vegas Sahara Invitation, and in 1966 he won Nashville's Music City Pro-Celebrity Tournament.

With a friendly and easy-going temperament, Charlie long has been a favorite of his fellow performers, as well as a crowd-pleaser, whether the crowd has been radio listeners or a golf gallery or a Las Vegas audience.

Bob Wills

"The Texas Playboys are on the air!" A generation of Country Music fans welcomed this radio announcement into their homes, knowing that soon they would hear such standards as "San Antonio Rose" or "Faded Love" or "Bubbles In My Beer." And if they were able to see the Texas Playboys in person, they could scarcely keep their eyes off the energetic band leader. Wearing a big white hat and chomping on a cigar, fiddle-playing Bob Wills strutted in front of his band, grinning and shouting, "Ah, Ha!" and pointing to musicians for their instrumental breaks. Dominating every performance, Bob Wills proved over and over that he was the "King of Western Swing."

James Robert Wills was born on a farm near Kosse, Texas, on March 6, 1905. "Jim Rob" was the first of ten children, and in 1931 his parents moved their growing family to a cotton farm near Memphis in West Texas. His father, John Wills, was a country fiddler, and there were other fiddlers on both sides of the family. Jim Rob began playing as a boy, and for years he and his father were in great demand around West. Texas

In 1929 young Bob Wills moved to Ft. Worth, began calling himself "Bob," and hooked on with a medicine show. A natural leader, he soon organized the Wills' Fiddle Band, then the Alladin Laddies. In 1931 they were hired by W. Lee O'Daniel, manager of Burris Mill (and future Texas governor), to advertise Light Crust Flour over WBAP Radio. Changing the group's name to the Light Crust Doughboys, they appeared over a growing number of stations and began to record for Victor. But O'Daniel prohibited the band from playing for dances, beginning a series of clashes with Wills. Bob left the Doughboys in 1933, taking vocalist Tommy Duncan and organizing the Playboys. His new band played over WACO in Waco for a time, then moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Broadcasting over KVOO as "Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys," the group enjoyed soaring popularity. An excellent judge of talent, Bob enlisted gifted musicians, then extracted innovative performances from them. It was the Big Band era of popular music, when Dixieland jazz evolved into the larger sound of "Swing." Wills added reeds and drums to his band, blending jazz and country into the lively sounds of "Western Swing." By 1940 Wills had expanded the Texas Playboys to 18 pieces and had begun to record a string of legendary hits. In that same year singing cowboy star Tex Ritter persuaded Bob to appear with him in Take Me Back to Oklahoma, the first of several film appearances. He often collaborated with gifted songwriter and fellow Texan, Cindy Walker.

Bob's enormous success was diluted by personal difficulties. He struggled with a drinking problem and with seven marriages, and after a series of strokes, he died on May 3, 1975. But his latter years were highlighted by a series of honors, and he realized that he was widely appreciated. When he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame to 1968, for the first time in his long career Bob Wills doffed his white hat to an audience.


Ernest Tubb

Ernest Dale Tubb was born in 1914 on a farm in Ellis County, Texas. Captivated by the recordings of Jimmie Rodgers, he learned to play guitar, met Jimmie's widow, and yodeled and sang like the "Singing Brakeman." But the Jimmie Rodgers style did not suit ET, and when he had his tonsils removed in 1939 he could no longer yodel. As his voice changed, he developed a nasal, twangy singing style that would be distinctively Ernest Tubb. By 1940 ET's personal appearances were increasingly popular, he had a radio show on a Fort Worth station, and he was recording for Decca.

In 1941 ET enjoyed an enormous hit, "Walking the Floor Over You," which eventually sold more than a million copies. ET moved to Nashville in 1941 as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He became the first entertainer to use an electric guitar on the Opry. Now known as the "Texas Troubadour," ET used his growing popularity to shift the emphasis on C&W from Hillbilly to Western. In 1947 ET opened the Ernest Tubb Record Shop around the corner from the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry. A live broadcast, the Midnight Jamboree Radio Show, emanated from ET's shop after each Saturday night Opry show. Also in 1947, ET became the first Country artist to play New York's Carnegie Hall.

Tubb and his band, the Texas Troubadours, recorded one hit after another. Of 54 singles recorded in the 15 years after 1944, only four failed to crack the Top Ten, and these four made the Top Fifteen. "Have You Ever Been Lonely" was one of the thirteen hit singles in 1949. His favorite song, "Waltz Across Texas," was recorded in 1964.  The Texas Troubadour was elected to the CMA Hall of Fame in 1965, and later he was inducted into the CMA and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Even after contracting emphysema, he continued to make over 200 personal appearances a year, carrying an oxygen tank on his bus. After each performance the Texas Troubadour was the last person to leave the auditorium, shaking hands and signing autographs with every fan who wanted to stay. Health problems finally halted his performances in 1982, and he died two years later.

Hank Thompson

Hank Thompson was born in 1925 beside the Brazos River in Waco. He grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry and to country artists on 78 records. As a boy he won talent contests with his harmonica. But after watching a Gene Autry movie, he yearned to play the guitar. His parents bought a second-hand guitar for four dollars as a Christmas present.

"A lot of people heard Hank Thompson for the first time on ships," he reminisced. "They didn't have much choice unless they wanted to jump overboard." After the war Hank used the GI Bill to attend Princeton, SMU and the University of Texas. When he returned to Waco, he landed a noontime radio show, then organized a band, The Brazos Valley Boys. Tex Ritter, at the height of his popularity, heard Hank and the Brazos Valley Boys and arranged a contract with Capitol Records. Hank immediately recorded hits with "Humpty-Dumpty Heart" and "Today." Hank would chart hits in five different decades, including "The Wild Side of Life," "Rub-a-Dub," "Smokey the Bear," "The Older the Violin, the Sweeter the Music," and "A Six Pack to Go." Hank would eventually sell over 60 million records.

From 1953 to 1965, for thirteen consecutive years, Billboard magazine voted The Brazos Valley Boys the Number One Country Western Band. As a result of his electronics experience in the Navy, Hank and The Brazos Valley Boys were the first music act to tour with a sound and lighting system. Hank was the first Country music artist to play Las Vegas, and his Live at the Golden Nugget was the first "live" Country album ever recorded. When Hank turned to television, The Hank Thompson Show was the first color telecast of a variety show. Although Hank broke away from The Grand Ole Opry in the early 1950s, he was a 1989 inductee into the CMA Hall of Fame.

Waylon Jennings

"My music ain't no Nashville sound. It's my kind of country. It's not Western. It's Waylon." Waylon has sold more than 40 million records worldwide. His powerful voice and personality have put a strong stamp on Country music, which owes much of its broad appeal and rugged individualism to the artist often called "Hoss." Throughout the highs and lows of a long career, Waylon has remained true to himself and his musical vision.

Waylon Jennings was born in 1937 in Littlefield in West Texas. He learned to play the guitar by the age of eight. At twelve, he organized his first band, and at fourteen he became a disc jockey in Littlefield. Waylon met Buddy Holly and became bass player for the Crickets a few months before Buddy's death. Indeed, Waylon was scheduled to fly with Buddy on the fatal 1959 flight, but the Big Bopper persuaded Waylon to give up his seat on the doomed plane. Badly shaken by Buddy's death, Waylon returned to Lubbock to work as a DJ. "Mainly what I learned from Buddy was an attitude," recalled Waylon. "He loved music, and he taught me that it shouldn't have any barriers to it."

During the early 1960s Waylon pursued a performing career in Phoenix, then Los Angeles, and finally Nashville. In Nashville he moved in with another struggling performer, Johnny Cash. Waylon recorded several songs by an aspiring songwriter named Kris Kristofferson and he collaborated with Willie Nelson. But even as he began to experience success, Waylon felt confined by the Nashville Sound. "Every business has a system that works for 80 percent of the people who are in it," explained Waylon, "but there's always that other 20 percent who just don't fit in. "That's what happened to me, and it happened to Willie Nelson. We just couldn't do it the way it was set up. It wasn't until I started producing my own records and using my own musicians and working with people who understood what I was about that I first started having any real success."

Waylon's success was explosive. Recording with his own band and producing his own records, he moved outside the Nashville Sound ("outlaw music") and developed muscular Country music with deep appeal. Along with his wife Jessi Colter, and Willie Nelson, Waylon teamed up for "Wanted: The Outlaw"--the first platinum album ever recorded in Nashville. A string of Number One singles included "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" and "Luckenbach, Texas." In 1975 Waylon was named CMA Male Vocalist of the Year.

Through the years there have been thirteen gold albums, including eight in a row. "'Ol Waylon," released in 1977, became the first Country album by a solo artist to go platinum. His "Greatest Hits," two years later, entered new territory by going quadruple platinum.


Tex Ritter

Though born in rural East Texas, and though his early musical influences were rural and southern rather than purely western, Woodward Maurice "Tex" Ritter was identified early in his career with the Texas cowboy image. That is not, however, how he started out. Ritter's skills as a public speaker and his intellect first became apparent when he attended school in Nederland, where the Ritter family had moved. Though he loved cowboy songs, he decided on a law career and in 1922 began attending The University of Texas at Austin. Active in music and theater there, he soon found two professors at The University doing a serious study of cowboy songs, and learned much from them.

In 1928 he traveled to New York City just before graduation and wound up getting a minor role in a Broadway show. After a final stab at finishing law school, he returned to New York in 1931 and landed a featured role in the Broadway play, Green Grow the Lilacs. The cast began to call him "Tex" because of his accent and the name stuck with him. That led to other Broadway parts and radio programs and, in 1932, his first recording session for the American Recording Company.

Following Gene Autry's success, Hollywood sought other singing cowboys, and in 1936, Tex landed a Hollywood movie contract. He was on the way to stardom by 1937 and made 85 films through 1945. Ritter married one of his co-stars, Dorothy Fay Southworth, making her his "leading lady for life."

Though he recorded for ARC and for Decca without success, he became the first country and western singer signed to the brand new Capitol label in 1942 and immediately found success with Jingle, Jangle, Jingle. He had a string of hit records in the 40's with I'm Wastin' My Tears On You, There's a New Moon Over My Shoulder, You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often, You Will Have to Pay, Christmas Carols by The Old Corral, Rye Whiskey and Deck of Cards. In 1953, his version of Do Not Forsake Me, the theme from the classic 1942 Gary Cooper film High Noon, became a pop hit. This movie won the Academy Award and Ritter performed the song on the first televised broadcast of the awards ceremony in 1953.  By 1952 he'd become host of the popular Southern California country music TV show, Town Hall Party, and also its national syndicated counterpart, Ranch Party. In 1961 he had a final big hit with I Dreamed of a Hillbilly Heaven. Ritter was named a founding member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1964.

Ritter's interest in law sparked once again and in 1970, he ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator. His son, John Ritter, became a highly successful actor after Tex's death.

Jim Reeves

James Travis Reeves was born in Galloway, Texas. His father died within a year of his birth, and he was raised, along with five other children, by his mother, Beulah. Jim Reeves, not surprisingly, was an early hero, but baseball became his obsession. A baseball scholarship took him to The University of Texas at Austin in 1942, but he quit to work the shipyards of Houston, then took to the minor leagues. He stayed there until he was injured. In 1947 he married Mary White, who would play an important role in his future musical career.

He first moved into music as a disc jockey at KGRI in Henderson, Texas. Feeling that his own voice equaled or surpassed that of Ernest Tub or Lefty Frizzell, he decided to take a serious stab at recording. In 1949 he cut his first records for a tiny local label in Houston, but they went nowhere. His big break came in April 1953, when Mexican Joe, a song he'd recorded for Abbott Records, became his first Number One record. He was working as an announcer on Shreveport's Louisiana Hayride at the time. Fearing they'd lost him as their emcee, the Hayride management insisted that Billy Walker - not Reeves - sing the song on the show. One night Reeves had to fill in as a singer anyway, and the management's injunction went by the boards. He sang Mexican Joe and wound up with six encores, at which point Hayride staffer Horace Logan forbade any more kudos, lest Reeves beat Hank Williams' previously set record for encores. That was the end of his announcing and the beginning of his two-year stint as a Hayride star, as he followed up Mexican Joe with Bimbo, another unvarnished country hit, which hit Number Two.

In 1955 Reeves bought back his Abbott contract and moved on to RCA Victor. Without a hit for two years, he soon came up with three in a row--Yonder Comes a Sucker, My Lips are Sealed, and According to My Heart, all Top Ten, all in one year and all straight country. However, in the wake of Elvis' success, it looked like audiences were beginning to tire, at least for the moment, of the fiddle and steel style that had held sway for over a decade. Desperate to counteract declining record sales, RCA's Chet Atkins, Decca's Owen Bradley and Columbia's Don Law began trying new ideas in the studio. One particularly popular experiment was to strip off the fiddle and steel, introduce a more neutral rhythm section and use background voices to sing the fiddle/steel fill-ins. Reeves tried this and also lowered the volume of his voice, singing close to the microphone.

Then early in 1957, Reeves, much to Chet Atkins' surprise, selected a ballad called Four Walls for his next session. Atkins had thought of the song as a woman's number, but trusting Reeves' intuition, he went with it. RCA released it in March; it hit Number Two on Billboard's country charts in April and Number Eleven on their pop charts in May. Suddenly Reeves was doing American Bandstand. When Blue Boy hit Number Four in 1958, Reeves renamed his band The Blue Boys and dropped his fiddler and steel player for good. In December of 1959 he crossed over in a big way once again: He'll Have to Go cut as the B-side of a single, hit Number One country and Number Two pop. It sold more than three million records.

His domestic popularity was obvious; abroad, his fame was towering. It probably had something to do with the State Department asking Reeves to serve as a government representative and good will ambassador to Kenya for an independent celebration. His foreign popularity centered in England, Germany and Africa. He won gold record awards in each country.

He was planning to study acting and was trying to reduce his touring in order to work on investments. A land deal took him via private plane to Batesville, Arkansas, on July 30, 1964, with pianist Dean Manuel. On July 31, while approaching Nashville on his return, the plane ran into a rainstorm and disappeared from radar. Outside his Brentwood home, Marty Robbins heard something crash. It took two days to locate the wreckage and the bodies. On August 4, after funeral services in Nashville, Reeves' body was returned to Carthage, Texas. Jim Reeves' records still sell, three decades after his death; he remains a legend.

Willie Nelson

Few country music stars have engendered as much good will as Willie Nelson, despite his label as one of the original Outlaws. It is also safe to say he is one of the most durable artists and one-of-a-kind personalities to ever come rolling down the country music turnpike.

Born in the tiny hamlet of Abbott, Texas, Nelson was raised by his grandparents. He and his sister, Bobbie Lee, both loved music. In 1939, at age six, Nelson's grandfather gave him a guitar and taught him some chords. After his grandfather's death, the family went through a tough economic period. Willie continued his musical obsession when the family got a radio. Not only did he love the sounds of the Grand Ole Opry, he loved Southwestern acts like Bob Wills and Ernest Tubb.  He started writing his own songs, and, at age 10, started playing guitar with a local band, John Raycjeck's Bohemian Polka Band. After Bobbie married musician Bud Fletcher, Willie joined his brother-in-law's Western swing band, The Texans.

He met Martha Matthews, who became his first wife in 1952. A year later they left Abbott for San Antonio, where Willie worked in a band until they moved on. At radio stations in Pleasanton and Fort Worth, Willie worked as a DJ, playing music on the side. After years in radio work, Nelson met songwriter Hank Cochran at the legendary Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. Cochran helped Nelson obtain a contract with Pamper Music where he wrote "Hello Walls," which became a huge Number One record for Faron Young. Billie Walker had a hit with Willie's "Funny How Time Slips Away." As Willie's songwriting gained him notice, Liberty Records signed him as an artist. His first hit record in 1962 was "Willingly," a duet with Shirley Collie, followed by "Touch Me," a Willie solo recording that went Top Ten that same year. Nelson joined Ray Price's Cherokee Cowboys as bass player and singer, and in 1963 Patsy Cline recorded Nelson's "Crazy," making it a Number Two country single.

After Willie finally gained creative control on Columbia, he produced his first album, Red Headed Stranger, for the label and the hit single, Fred Rose's old song, "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," became his first Number One hit. In 1977, Willie decided to do an album of classic American pop songs by George and Ira Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael, and Irving Berlin. The result was Stardust, released in 1978. It remained on Billboard's Top Album charts for over two years and was certified quadruple platinum. Three songs, including "Georgia on My Mind," "Blue Skies," and "All of Me," became country hits, the first two going Number One.

In 1979 his film career began with a starring role with Robert Redford in the film The Electric Horseman, which yielded his 1980 hit, "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys." Also in 1979 the Country Music Association honored him as Entertainer of the Year. In 1982, "Always on My My Mind" became a triple platinum album. Fame, including sold-out concerts and record sales gave Willie wealth, but never diminished his social consciousness. His support of the embattled family farmer has never ended since he began his star-studded Farm Aid in 1985 to raise money to assist them.

Gene Autry

Texas-born Gene Autry has sold more than 65 million records with the 635 recordings he made in his career. Among them was 1931's "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine" which was the first gold record in history. He was born September 29, 1907 on a tenant farm near Tioga, Texas. Early in his life, the Autrys moved from northeast Texas to Oklahoma. His father ran a ranch near Achille, Oklahoma, and Autry often drove cattle to the railroad station for shipment.

He was encouraged by legendary Oklahoma humorist Will Rogers, who met young Autry, then a telegraph operator, in his telegraph shack by the side of the railroad. Art Satherley of the American Recording Company signed Autry in 1929. Easily-recognizable Autry hits were, "Have I Stayed Away Too Long," "Mexacali Rose," "Back in the Saddle Again," "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," "Roly Poly," "You Are My Sunshine," "Goodbye, Little Darling," "Angels in the Sky," "You're the Only Star in My Blue Heaven" (Autry wrote this), "Here Comes Santa Claus," "Frosty the Snowman" and "Peter Cottontail." In 1949 he recorded "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," which has maintained its position near the top of the all-time greatest selling singles, second only to Bing Crosby's "White Christmas."

He was the first super hero at the movies who never lost his hat while capturing train robbers, cattle rustlers and other all-around bad guys. In 1940, he was named the No. 4 box-office draw.

Autry used his influence to fight racial and religious intolerance and to promote virtues like honesty and kindness. Countless children pledged to uphold their hero's cowboy code which was penned in 1940. One of those child fans grew up to pitch for Autry's baseball team, the California Angels. The player's name was Nolan Ryan. His advice about getting an agent apparently helped a young actor named Ronal Reagan. Autry boasts that fifty years later, he commended the newly-elected president for getting such a good agent.

Autry proved that his first concern was patriotism when his career came to a halt, along with the rest of the nation on December 7, 1941. He kissed his wife, Ina Spivey Autry, goodbye and was inducted into the Army at the age of 35. He quickly became a tech sergeant in the Army Air Corps, then a flight commander and first pilot with the Air Transport Command. Autry ferried planes, cargo and supplies to India, North Africa and Burma.

When he returned to California, Autry plunged into a multi-faceted business career. He built an empire in broadcasting and real estate. Outside the limelight, he was most endeared for his generosity of time and treasure. When on tour, he took time to sing to hospitalized children. His philanthropy is widely noted.

Cindy Walker

It was master songwriter Harlan Howard who described Cindy Walker as the "greatest living songwriter of Country music." This was no idle flattery. Cindy Walker has, for more than 50 years, been a writer whose songs not just country artists want to record. By the time she was 16, Walker was dancing at Billy Rose's Casa De Manana in Fort Worth. She had begun writing and she wrote "Casa De Manana" as the theme for the show. It was then played by celebrated band leader Paul Whitman on a nationwide radio show.

In 1941 she traveled with her father, a cotton buyer, to Los Angeles on a business trip. Cindy had written a song called "Lone Star Trail" and was determined that she was going to pitch it while in L.A. They were about to drive past Bing Crosby's office when she marched in and against all odds saw Larry Crosby, Bing's brother. He listened to her sing the song, accompanied by her piano-playing mother, Oree, and asked Cindy to demo it. Bing recorded the song. While demoing the song, Dave Kapp of Decca Records heard Cindy singing and signed her to a recording contract. She made a one-week visit to the country charts at No. 5 with the single "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again," which strangely was not one of her songs.

That same year she started a close working relationship with Bob Wills. It was determination that got her together with Wills. She had seen his bus in Hollywood, and painstakingly contacted all the hotels in town to find the "King of Western Swing." A week after meeting her, Wills recorded five of her songs, including "You're From Texas, "Cherokee Maiden," "Don't Count Your Chickens," and "Dusty Skies." Her relationship with Wills would go on for many years. In all she wrote some fifty songs for Wills, often with Wills himself, including thirty-nine for his movies. Wills' songs by Walker included "Can It Be Wrong", "Sugar Moon," "Bubbles in My Beer," "New Playboy Rag," "Warm Red Wine," "It's the Bottle Talkin'," "Born to Love You," and "It's a Good World."

During the 50's, Walker continued in the same feverish level with one of her classic songs, "Take Me in Your Arms and Love Me," which became a No. 1 Country hit for Eddy Arnold.  The song would later be recorded by many artists which included Les Paul and Mary Ford, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Jim Reeves. Walker songs continued to be used for major covers throughout the 60's and 70's. Roy Orbison had a Top 5 Pop hit with the Cindy Walker classic song, "Dream Baby." Jerry Wallace's 1964 Top 20 Pop hit, "In the Misty Moonlight," and "This Is It," Jim Reeves' 1965 posthumous No. 1 added more feathers in Walker's cap. In 1970, Walker became a charter inductee to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Mickey Gilley took "You Don't Know Me," which already had two chart versions, and turned it into a No. 1 hit in 1981. The following year, Ricky Skaggs also topped the charts with "I Don't Care," which had already enjoyed a No. 1 slot through Webb Pierce.  Walker's contributions on the spiritual level included a hymn book titled Of Thee We Sing and the theme songs for the Billy Graham motion pictures, Mr. Texas and Oil Town, USA. Walker has made her home in Mexia since 1964.

Joe Allison

Allison is well-known in Nashville for his multi-faceted career as DJ, producer, and television show host. Born in McKinney, Texas. Allison worked as a commercial artist before embarking on a career in the entertainment industry, first as a disc jockey on a Paris, Texas radio station. In 1945, after a few years on radio, Allison took a job as the emcee for the North American tour of country music singing star Tex Ritter. While working on tour, he offered Ritter a song he had written called When You Leave, Don't Slam the Door, which the singer turned into a No. 1 hit on the country music charts. This success ultimately led to Allison moving to a radio station in Nashville, Tennessee where he remained until accepting an offer from a station in Pasadena, California.

While working on radio and television on the West Coast, Allison continued writing music, many of which were co-authored with his first wife, Audrey. He scored a success with a song recorded by country singer Faron Young and a major hit when teen idol Tommy Sands recorded his song, Teen Age Crush. In 1959, Joe and Audrey Allison wrote their most famous song, He'll Have to Go, which was initially recorded by Billy Brown. A subsequent version by Jim Reeves become a platinum record, and the song would be recorded successfully by more than one hundred other artists including Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Tom Jones, Eddy Arnold and even big band leader Guy Lombardo. That same year, Allison was hired by Liberty Records to create their country music department. At Liberty he signed Willie Nelson to his first recording contract. During his time in the music business, Joe Allison won seven ASCAP awards for record producing and five BMI performance awards. In 1976, he was elected to the Disc Jockey Hall of Fame and two years later was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. An active promoter of the industry, Joe Allison was a founding member of the Country Music Association and served as President of the Nashville Songwriters Association International.

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