Billy Spears Band
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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.
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;
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
Billy Spears, through 1974.
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 sings and plays a Fender electric mandolin ("Mandocaster"), in a real
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.
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:
He met his future and only wife,
Doris, at a gig in Western Canada.
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
before they eventually broke up in 1974.
- 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
- Bob 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
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.
Perhaps feeling that life was short and that a person must follow his
Billy quit his job with the KU Student Union and decided to put
everything into his music career.
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
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
Here's a picture of an early band practice in that house:
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 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.
2006 by Andy Curry