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The Billy Spears Band

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Billy Spears died Saturday, July 6, 2013, surrounded by his loving family.
Rest in peace, Billy,
but make heaven dance.

Billy was inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame
on March 7, 2009, at Liberty Hall in Lawrence. 
All the people you see in this picture played in that ceremony.

***  Billy's 81st Birthday Party ***

BS Band publicity shot 1
.A Billy Spears Band promotional 8x10 from 1975, taken in Denver or Boulder. 
Steve Dahl, who had booked the Penetrations, was with Stone County, our booking agency, at the time.
From left:  Bob Case, Billy Spears, Bud Pettit, Andy Curry, Jimmy Ray Law. 
Carol Spears is seated on my bass.

The Billy Spears Band
was a high-energy dance band led by, of course, Billy Spears.
We played bluegrass, both pure and adulterated;
Western swing;
straight country;
hippie country;
and, a little bit of blues and rock and roll.
In the years from 1975 to 1978, we travelled
from the State of Washington to the State of Kentucky,
from Texas to Michigan.

In the beginning.

Billy Spears, through 1974.
Billy Spears, a member of a musical family from Hartshorne, Oklahoma, was taught to fiddle, in the bluesy style native to Oklahoma and Texas,
by his Uncle Earl Spears.  


In addition to being a mighty fiddler, Billy sang and played a Fender electric mandolin ("Mandocaster"), in a real jazzy style. 
The use of electric mandolin was popularized by Tiny Moore as a member of the Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys
It is pretty natural for a fiddler to play mandolin as well, as the tuning is the same for both instruments.

Billy began playing professionally in the early 1950s.

in a
Billy travelled with some stars, including
Ferlin Husky, Jean Shepard, and T-Texas Tyler.  
Here's a picture of Billy (far left)  in Tyler's band in 1953:

Billy in T-Texas Tyler's band

He met his future and only wife, Doris, at a gig in Western Canada. 
billy and

They settled in Lawrence, Kansas and raised four daughters:  Carol, Lawna, Sally, and Lisa. 

Billy's day job was Food-Service Supervisor at the Kansas University Student Union, but he played in local bands throughout the 1960s,
notably the Kaw Valley Stump Jumpers and Country Strings and Brass.

In the early 1970s, Billy formed the Billy Spears Band.
 In addition to Billy, some of the people who were in the band during those years were:
It was a very eclectic bunch, both personally and musically.   I never got to hear this band in person before they eventually broke up in 1974.  
Click here to listen to some recordings by this band and read more information.

On January 6, 1975, daughter Sally was murdered by her boyfriend. 

billy and baby sally

Perhaps feeling that life was short and that a person must follow his dream,
Billy quit his job with the KU Student Union and decided to put everything into his music career.

The band reforms.
Through 1974 and into the beginning of 1975 I was working at the Village Inn Pancake House on Iowa Street in Lawrence.  Management sent me to the home office in Fort Collins to learn how to be a Village Inn kitchen manager, and while I was there I got down to Denver to see Bobby "Blue" Bland one evening, and Fats Domino another.  But I digress.

Bob Case and Mike Roark, from the earlier B.S. Band, were playing for Dwane Richardson (the Richmen Express), and they called me to join them as bassist/singer.  I remember playing quite a bit at the Golden Horseshoe in Topeka, for not much money.   I guess I proved my worth, as Bob and Mike asked me to join the next incarnation of the Spears band with them, and I said yes. 

The band was Billy, Bob, Mike, myself, a singer/guitar player named Jimmy Ray Law, and some of the time, Carol Spears, singing and playing second fiddle. 

In these earliest days, we practiced in a house where Bob and Dwight lived, south of Lawrence in the Wakarusa valley. 

Here's a picture of an early band practice in that house: 

Early band practice
From left:  Mike Roark, Andy Curry, Billy Spears, Jim Ray Law, and Bob Case.
The guy in the foreground, under the cymbal, is Ned Nelson, Mike's housemate.  The dog is Rush, the Spearses' runt boxer.

The other person involved in the band - and he was just as important as any of the rest of us, if not more so - was Dwight Haldeman, the band's manager.  Dwight kept us as organized as possible, ran sound and lights, talked to agents and club owners, took care of the equipment, wrote the checks... you get the idea.  We would never have gotten off the ground without Dwight.

The picture of Dwight in the tux was taken at his wedding in Summer 2006!  He looks a lot more respectable now than he did at the Oklahoma border in 1977 (he's a financial advisor for Edward Jones in Nashville now). 
But then, so do I.

Dwight Haldeman

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Copyright 2006, 2013 by Andy Curry