Billy Holcomb and the Bordertown Gospel Band, circa 1984

 

 

We have a new toy at our house.

No longer are all those LP albums gathering dust in the closet. Gradually (when the mood strikes me) they are being put onto CDís that can be played on the modern equipment of today.

We had a turntable a number of years ago and occasionally got out and played two or three favorite records on a slow television night. Well, I goofed and my husband will never let me forget it. The record player only operated by remote control and I put the remote, along with a collection of many other ones that I thought were useless, in a garage sale. The player then became useless. We tried to order a new one to no avail so the records have been sitting in the closet becoming collectorís items.

Then we hit upon the idea of transferring the music to CDs since most of the albums no longer are available. I already had a recorder purchased to transfer cassettes to CDs, so we went shopping for a turntable and a receiver. I wonít get too technical here because I really donít understand how it all happens.

Anyway, with a little help I connected them all together and after ruining a few CDs, a cheer went up with the first successful transfer. Since then, weíre slowly getting them transferred so we can listen to them in the car/truck or wherever we have a CD player.

While going through the albums I was reunited with three that were recorded by an exceptional local friend, Billy Holcomb in 1984, 1985 and 1988. One of the albums, 1988, even had a column on the back that I wrote for The Denison Herald that year about Billy being named to the Texoma Music Associationís Hall of Fame. The by-line photo on the column was a much younger, thinner faced and dark haired person I probably wouldnít have recognized if my name hadnít been beside it. There again, Billy was a much thinner, younger looking musician with a lot more hair at that time too.

The Albums are by Victory Records in Denison and were recorded at Pollaro Studio here. Almost every song on the albums were written by Billy.

 When I mentioned to Billy that I had found the albums, he said he was "sure proud of those because many of the great musicians on the albums are now gone." He added that heís made three CDs since publishing those albums.

One of the albums, "Billy and the Bordertown Boogie Band" contains music by the named group that won the Texoma Music Associationís Award for Super Band of the Year in 1983, 1984 and 1985. Band members were Ben Holcomb, Johnny Means, Judy Lynn, Bobby Connell, Buddy Yockey, Bob Cagle, Jack Brown, Jackie Harmon, Bill DeJarnett and Billy Holcomb. Background vocals were by Jan Matthews and Lonny Terry. Photos on the album were by Pat Welch, long-time Womenís Editor at The Denison Herald, who was a country music fan and a great friend to Billy and to me.

One day while I was working at The Denison Herald, Billy stopped by for a chat. He was a member of the class of 1956 at Denison High School and mentioned that he had just written a song dedicated to his class for its reunion. It was titled "Class of 56 was Special."

At that time the class of 1953 was planning a reunion and I jokingly mentioned the fact and said "Why donít you write a song for us." A few weeks later Billy came by again with a 45 record in hand and it was titled "Class of 53." It still makes me get all melancholy when I hear it and since I now have it on CD, I hear it more often as I travel.

While two albums are by "Billy and the Borderland Boogie Band," the third is by "Billy and the Bordertown Gospel Band" and is titled "America in God We Trust" and features Loretta Fulce as guest vocalist. Pat, whose name was Hamilton when she passed away after a long battle with cancer in October 2003, did photography for this album too. Members of that band were Billy and Ben Holcomb, Johnny Means, Bobby Connell, Bob Cagle and Buddy Yockey.

"The Last Generation" from the LP Bob Geesling & the Country Travelers is included on the album featuring Luther Thompson, Jack Noth, Nita Geesling, Leon Elliott, Bill DeJarnett, Jack Brown, Ben Holcomb and Jackie Harmon. All these were local musicians in 1984.

Billy is still into country music although he no longer has a band. Heís semi-retired and has been putting materials heís collected since he was a western movie loving youngster into scrapbooks. He saved everything. These scrapbooks are in demand by Gene Autry fans.

More recently Billy became well known for his book, "Theater Row, Movie Palaces of Denison, Texas," which was published hardback by Denison Heritage Inc. Billy dedicated his book to the pioneers who erected Denisonís old-time movie palaces and to the managers, including Jimmy Neinast.

Billy has been writing songs since the mid 1960s. One day he sat down and the songs just started coming to him. He began putting them on paper, then started making up tunes to go with the words. He plays the piano and the guitar and maybe some other instruments, and picks out the music to his tunes just as easily as the words comes pouring out.

Billyís collection of cowboy movies from the past is something special. Through the years heís given many of these old movies to the library and to friends who share his interest in the western classics. There are movies about Roy Rogers, who during the 1950s was a frequent visitor to Denison as a co-owner of the Yellow Jacket Boat Company here, Gene Autry, Monte Hale, Wild Bill Elliott, Gabby Hayes, Smiley Burnette and others. His own personal favorite in 1988 was Merle Haggard.

Billy holds a lot of awards dished out by the Texoma Music Association including Mr. Texoma, top songwriter, Band of the Year and Hall of Famer. Some of the awards were given to him more than once.

I almost forgot to mention that as a youngster Billy delivered The Denison Herald and the Sherman Democrat in the afternoon and one of the Dallas papers in the morning to earn money for his movie hobby. - Donna Hunt

 

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