The Billy Spears Band
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Spears died Saturday, July 6, 2013, surrounded by his loving
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
*** Billy's 81st
Birthday Party ***
Spears Band promotional 8x10 from 1975, taken in Denver or
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.
Billy Spears Band
was a high-energy dance band led by, of course, Billy
We played bluegrass, both pure and adulterated;
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.
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
by his Uncle
In addition to being a mighty fiddler, Billy sang
and played a Fender electric mandolin ("Mandocaster"),
a real jazzy style.
The use of electric mandolin was popularized by Tiny
Moore as a member of the Bob Wills and His Texas
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.
Billy travelled with some stars, including Ferlin
Husky, Jean Shepard, and T-Texas
Here's a picture of Billy (far
left) in Tyler's band in 1953:
He met his future and only wife,
Doris, at a gig in Western Canada.
They settled in Lawrence, Kansas and raised four
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
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
- Mike Roark, drums - he'd grown up in Lawrence, playing
in rock bands in high school
- Vaclav "Bill" Berosini, bass - from a famous circus
family, the "Flying Berosinis"
- Janet Jameson, vocals and second fiddle - from the KC
area, formerly of Cole Tuckey, with a rock
Case, pedal steel guitar, banjo, and electric guitar -
a Stanford graduate
- Gordon Cleveland, acoustic guitar and vocals - an
aficionado of early "roots" country music
- Carol Spears, Billy's oldest daughter
- Pat Cleveland, vocals - Gordon's wife
Stringer - lead guitar
to listen to some recordings by this band and read more
On January 6, 1975, daughter Sally
murdered by her boyfriend.
Perhaps feeling that life was short and that a person must
Billy quit his job with the KU Student Union and decided to
put everything into his music career.
Through 1974 and into the beginning of 1975 I was
working at the Village Inn Pancake House on Iowa Street in
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
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
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
The band was Billy, Bob, Mike,
myself, a singer/guitar player named Jimmy Ray Law, and some
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:
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.
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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
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.
2006, 2013 by Andy Curry