TEXAS BILL STRENGTH
This page is not intended to be a biography of Texas Bill, but an attempt to retrace his many steps across America during his short but incredibly action-packed lifetime using the following sources:
- Minneapolis Star and Tribune
- Billboard Magazine
- Ronnie Pugh’s article “Sing, Spin, Stump, Sell: The Forgotten Figure Who Did it All,” written as an entry on TBS for the Country Music Foundation’s encyclopedia. A version was read at the 14th International Country Music Conference on June 6, 1997, in Meridian, Mississippi. (Noted as RP)
- Photos with no credits are from Dale Strength
- Other photos as credited
Corrections, additions, and subtractions are always welcome. Feel free to contact me.
At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries there were many, many Strengths in the State of Alabama, and very few anywhere else. William Thomas Strength, Jr. (TBS) appears to come from a long line of men with the same name. Direct paternal ancestors of TBS are in color below. Each person has his own color.
Census of Free Inhabitants of Western Division, Tallapoosa County, Alabama, taken on August 8, 1860, shows
- William Strength, born in Georgia in 1834
- Wife Sarah, born in 1830 in Georgia
An undated document shows a William Strength in the 34th Alabama Infantry of the Confederate Army.
Tallassee, Elmore County, Alabama
- William T. Strength (spelled “Strinth” by the Census taker) was born in May 1864. Occupation: Farmhand
- Wife Rosa Della McKay or McCay (“Deller”) was born in August 1872. Other information indicates that Rosa:
- Was the daughter of James and Harriet McCay
- Married William Strength on December 14, 1895
- Married Reuben M. Bruner in 1906
- Reuben was born in 1864 in North Carolina
- His parents were from Virginia
- It was the second Marriage for both Della and Reuben
- In 1935 Della was a housekeeper in Birmingham
- In 1940 she lived with a daughter and son James
- She died August 5, 1942, Jefferson County, Alabama
Children of William and Della as of 1900:
- Leener, born January 1889
- Willey, born 1890
- Adie, born May 1893
- Ivie L., born January 1895
- Bill Jr., born May 1897
- Art, born August 1899
Ashhurst Ave., Tallapoosa, Alabama
Reuben M. Bruner, born 1864, North Carolina. Parents from Virginia. Weaver in a cotton mill.
Wife Rosie V. Bruner (Della), Doffer in a cotton mill
Children of Reuben and Della:
- Louie G. Bruner, born 1908
- Rachel A. Bruner, born 1910
Step-Children (Children of Della and William Strength, presumably deceased)
- William T. Strength
- James Solomon Strength, born August 22, 1900. James never went to school and was illiterate – signed his WW I registration with an X. His WW II registration indicated that he lived in Irondale, Alabama, was unemployed, and that his contact person was his mother, R.V. Bruner. James died on June 11, 1963
- Susan Frances “Fannie” Strength, born August 26, 1901.
- Fannie married James Jason Alexander “Shug” Isbell. Shug was born in 1872 and died in 1957. Shug was 46 and Fannie was 18 in 1920. He had daughters aged 18 and 16 at the time. Together they had at least 3 more children. In 1920 they lived in Bold Spring, Alabama. In 1930 he worked at the sawmill on Bessie Ferry Road in Jefferson County, Alabama, near her brother William. Susan died on January 30, 1972. Her obituary in the Mobile Register indicated that her name was Mrs. Susan Frances Pilkington, a native of Montgomery. The obit does not list anyone named Pilkington in the list of survivors.
William T. Strength served in World War I
William T. Strength and Jessie Leon Yielding married in 1918. Jessie’s father was George Yielding, and her mother was Lucy McPherson. Jessie was born on September 30, 1903.
Private Road, Mining Camp, St. Clair County (town of Moody scratched out)
William T. Strength was a coal miner
William and Jessie had one child, Eugene H, born in1920
Living with them was Lige Strength, listed as Brother. Lige was born on August 18, 1891, Tallassee, Alabama. He was inducted into the Army on March 15, 1918, at Ashville, Alabama. At the time he lived in Acmar, Alabama. He was also a coal miner. He married Minnie P. Sullivan on March 7, 1923 in St. Clair County, Alabama. He died on May 19, 1930.
191 Bessie Road, Bessie Town, Jefferson County, Alabama
- Did not live on a farm
- paid $6/month rent
- WT’s brother James lived with them
- WT and James were coal miners
- WT and Jessie’s Children:
- Eugene H, born 1920
- Fred Thomas, born 1/22/1921, died 7/15/1988
- Albert Clark, born 9/12/1922, Acmar, Alabama.
- 1942: Birmingham, Alabama
- May 23, 1951: Married Nellie Florine Alfred in Harris County, Texas
- died 7/22/1993
- Edward W, born 5/22/1923, died 8/30/2002
- James Silas, born 5/4/1926, died 3/21/1992
- W.T. (sic), born August 28, 1928 (TBS)
- Charlie, born 1936, died April 28, 1955 (car accident)
W.T. Strength (Sic), age 40, was convicted of “Distilling” in Jefferson County, Alabama. The notes read, “The Grand Jury charged that subsequent to 11-30-19 (sic) W.T. Strength did and unlawfully mfg, sell give away or have in his possession of a still.” A distilling fee of $50 was paid on May 1, 1937. His sentence began on April 18, 1937. He was sentenced to 1 year and 1 day to 1 year and 7 months. He was paroled on November 2, 1937.
Jessie and William T. Strength
THE PASSING OF TBS’S PARENTS
September 1, 1965: TBS’s mother, Jessie Leon Strength, died at her home in Conroe, Texas of Carcinoma of the Bladder. She was buried at Woodlawn Garden of Memories, Houston. At the time she had been working as a waitress at a drug store soda fountain. Her address was described as “Hollow Road, ½ mile East of Tamina Road, Rt. 1, Box 259 A, Conroe.
February 7, 1966: TBS’s father, W.T. Strength, died at the VA Hospital in Houston.
Immediate Cause: Cachexia, due to Metastatic Carcinoma of Bladder. His occupation was listed as Painter. He was buried on February 9, 1966, at Woodlawn Garden of Memories, Houston.
TEXAS BILL’S EARLY YEARS
August 28, 1928: TBS was born in Jefferson County, Alabama. At the time his father was a coal miner.
In the 1930 Census, TBS was listed as W.T.
At some point the family moved to Houston, but they don’t seem to show up in the 1940 Census.
1944: TBS won an amateur talent contest at the Joy Theater in Houston at the age of 16. It led to a part-time job at station KTHT. (RP)
1945: Worked in St. Joseph, Missouri at radio station KFEQ (RP)
May 1946: While working at station KFEQ in Waterloo, Iowa, he traveled to KXEL to look for a job. Unfortunately the owner of KXEL was a brother of the owner of KFEQ, so KFEQ fired him.
1946: Sioux Falls, KSOO (RP)
July 1946: Denver, KMYR (RP)
September 1946: Working in the Melody Trails Band, Fort Smith, Oklahoma (RP)
October 12, 1946, Billboard: TBS is the emsee and manager of the new show that is proving popular with Fort Smith and Eastern Oklahoma folk song lovers. At present show consists of five pieces, and plans have been made to increase the number soon. Show is called the Melody Trail Riders and includes
- Jack and Audrey Manning
- Rusty Russell
- Jackie Jackson
- Larson Sisters
November 16, 1946, Billboard: TBS, playing the Rainbow Gardens, Memphis, is heard over WHHM
1947-1948 (Implied) (RP)
TBS returned to Houston and signed a two year contract with Foremost Dairies to sing over two stations:
- KLEE (mornings) on a show callled Ranch Roundup
- KATL (evenings) on a show called Texas Music for Texans
He also sang on a third Houston station, KNUZ, and guested on the Houston Hoedown barndance show. (RP)
TBS signed with Cicero Records, recording:
- Little I and Big You – as TBS and his Saddle Ranchers
- Buttons and Bows
- Cowboy’s Sweetheart
- El Rancho Grande
March 13, 1949: TBS married Dorothy “Dottie” Altman in Houston.
July 30, 1949, Billboard: Biff Collie, the “Bellerin’ Bowlegged Boy, who whirls wax at KNUZ, Houston, reports that rustic music is going great guns in his town. Collie, who does five hours of DJ’ing for folk music daily, is working closely with the Hoedown Club, local bistro which features such local and territory names as:
- Floyd Tillman (Columbia)
- Leon Payne (Capitol and Bullet)
- Ben Christian (4Star)
- Benny Louders
- TBS (4 Star)
On Thursday nights, the “Houston Hoedown Dance” brings together all the local band, with over 1,000 dancers attending.
September 1949: TBS and Dottie moved to Alabama. He worked in Birmingham (WRBC) and Greenville (WGYV) on the Alabama Broadcasting System for four months. (RP)
October 1949: TBS released his first recording on 4 Star Records. (RP)
October 31, 1949: Ernest Dale Strength was born in Greenville, Alabama. Dale was named after his father’s hero/mentor/friend, Ernest Tubb.
December 17, 1949: Billboard reviewed TBS’s 4 Star recording No. 1334:
- “If I Could Buy Your Love:” Western string ork [orchestra] setting and a straightforward but not especially strong vocal on a likely pop-Western piece.
- “Please Don’t Ever Forget Me:” Tune is machine-stamped out of a familiar die, with nothing special of its own. Rendition is plodding.
December 17, 1949, Billboard: TBS (4 Star) is doing a DJ shot over at WGYV, Greenville, Alabama. His show includes:
- The Greenville Bucheroos (sic)
- Andy Williams (apparently a Country Andy Williams)
- The Midnight Ramblers
- The Camellia City Ramblers
- Cousin Wilbur
- Charley and Honey Lou
December 24, 1949, Billboard: TBS (4 Star) has joined WGYV, Greenville, Alabama, as a disk jockey. He is personally managed by Rudy Clark, Birmingham.
January 22, 1950: TBS started working for the CIO out of Atlanta station WGST.
March 11, 1950, Billboard: The CIO is using hillbilly music as its major format in a new transcribed radio series thru the South. Since January 22 the CIO has been piping the 15-minute weekly show Sunday afternoons to a network of stations that started with 29 outlets and now is carried commercially by 90 outlets in seven Southern States from South Carolina to Virginia. Emanating from WGST, Atlanta, the program features TBS, 4 Star recording artist. In between songs by Strength, George Baldanzi, organizing committee director and executive v.p. of the Textile Workers’ Union, discusses problems involving the Southern worker. In addition to his e.t. shows, Strength is on the CIO payroll to make appearances at all major meetings and conventions held by the CIO in the seven Southern State territory.
June 3, 1950, Billboard: TBS released “Black Coffee Blues” b/w “Who’s the Lucky Guy” on 4 Star Records (TBS and His Saddle Pals)
July 1, 1950, Billboard: TBS (4 Star) who has been working for the CIO, will entertain at the labor org’s national convention this fall.
December 15, 1950, Billboard: TBS (4 Star) who has been working labor meetings for the CIO during the past 14 months, was featured singer at the CIO’s national convention in Chicago two weeks ago. The labor org intends to cut a six-disk album shortly of labor songs by Strength.
March 17, 1951, Billboard: Ad for 4 Star 1554 recording “Frown on the Moon” b/w “Walking in Heaven.”
April 13, 1951: Robert Wayne Strength born in Atlanta.
TBS with Hubert Humphrey
December 15, 1951, Billboard: TBS, formerly with 4 Star, has moved to Coral, cutting his first session in Nashville recently. (RP says that the three-year contract with Coral was signed in November 1951.)
February 9, 1952, Billboard: Owen Bradley was hired to head up the recording operation of Coral Records, and nine new country artists were added to the roster, including TBS
February 23, 1952, Billboard: TBS, new Coral addition, is now working regularly at WAIM, Anderson, SC, and plans to book more talent into his region. He is contemplating using Ernest Tubb soon.
April 5, 1952, Billboard: TBS (Coral) is still working out of the Atlanta office of the CIO, doing songs at labor gatherings.
April 6, 1952: TBS moved his Atlanta base from WGST to WEAS in Decatur, Georgia. Still working for the CIO, his target audience consisted of the employees of Lockheed. (RP)
April 13, 1952: Sandra Pearl Strength born
June 14, 1952: Billboard reviewed Coral 64133:
- “Paper Boy Boogie” – Material in this one is very strong with a good boogie beat. Fine instrumentation includes a standout honky tonk piano. Vocal by Bill Strength adds to the attractiveness of side. Should pull coin.” (RP says Chet Atkins wwas on this record on guitar.)
- b/w I Was Only Teasin’ You” – “Tune is a switch on the normal weeper. “Texas Bill” warbles it in pleasant style with a fine assist from the sidemen.”
July 26, 1952, Billboard: TBS (Coral) and his frau, Dot, are parents of a daughter, Sandra, born recently. Strength’s e.t. radio show is now heard on 51 Southern stations. He is still touring for the CIO. He will entertain at the CIO national convention in Los Angeles in November.
September 27, 1952: Billboard reviewed Coral 64139:
- “I Found My Love” – The chanter has a fine country tune here and he gives it a sympathetic reading. Tho Strength’s piping is not very powerful, he projects with a good deal of warmth.”
- b/w “It’s a Shame” – “Routine rural weeper is read with the proper pleading quality by Texas Bill. Might do okay in the more rustic areas.”
October 25, 1952, Billboard: TBS (Coral) has released his second song folio and may guest at the national CIO convention in Los Angeles in mid-November.
February 7, 1953, Billboard: TBS (Coral) is renting his home in Atlanta to move permanently to Columbia, SC, where he’ll do his radio shows for the CIO.”
April 4, 1953, Billboard: TBS is on the charts with Coral release “Rain or Shine” (“Bouncy ditty is sung nicely by Strength with his strong voice. Strong band gives good support.”) b/w “Heart, Don’t Complain” (“Melancholy oatune is warbled with feeling by Strength. He’s trying to tell his heart that he tried his best.”)
May 2, 1953, Billboard: TBS writes from Atlanta that he’s now with that city’s Radio Station WEAS.
May 23, 1953, Billboard: Added to the staff of WEAS, Decatur, Georgia, as a guitar strumming deejay, is TBS, Coral Records country artist.
June 6, 1953, Billboard: TBS, Coral recording star, has started a talent quest show over radio Station WEAS, Atlanta, “Young American Club Broadcast,” from 9 to 10 am each Saturday. Youngsters perform either hillbilly, pop or jazz.
1953: TBS and his band paid a visit to the grave of Country Music legend Hank Williams in Montgomery, Alabama. Williams died on January 1, 1953.
September 12, 1953, Billboard: TBS working in Atlanta’s Coral distributor’s office with John Thompson (formerly Cincinnati) in charge.
October 3, 1953, Billboard: TBS and Leon Beaver set for new Coral session immediately under direction of Johnny Thompson, who also handles diskery’s Atlanta office.
October 24, 1953, Billboard: Atlanta’s new Trailways Bus terminal opened on October 15 with festivities headed by
- Boots Woodall
- Smith Brothers
- Paul Rice
- Pat Patterson
- Cotton Carrier
Ex-Governor Jimmy Davis was guest of Georgia Governor Herman Talmadge for the occasion.
November 14, 1953, Billboard: TBS promoted an all-star country jamboree in Atlanta recently, with
- Little Rita Fay
- Curtis Gordon
- Faron Young
- Smiley Wilson
- Kenny Lee
- Kitty Carson
- David Bucie and his boys headlining the bill
November 21, 1953, Billboard: Homer and Jethro headline the bill at the big jamboree at Atlanta’s Municipal Auditorium November 22. Also featured are
- Max Wiseman
- Bonnie Love
- Jimmy Skinner
- Tom Gibson
- Warren Roberts
- Latter is promoting the bill.
December 5, 1953, Billboard: TBS had a capacity turnout recently at the “Hillbilly Jamboree” staged at Atlanta’s Municipal Auditorium …
December 5, 1953, Billboard:
TEXAS BILL STRENGTH
Radio Affiliation, Live Show: WEAS, Atlanta; As DJ: Same
Instrument Played: Guitar
Personal Manager: Bill Keller, 217 West Ponce De Leon Ave., Decatur, Georgia
Booking Office: Stars, Inc., Candler Bldg., Atlanta
Favorite Record, Own: “It’s a Shame;” Other: “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You”
No. Personal Appearances per Month: 12
December 5, 1953, Billboard: Coral Records is entering the country and western field with a regular release schedule. Initially, releases will be pushed out at the rate of three and four records per month, according to A&R topper Bob Thiele … Thiele has appointed Johnny Thompson to head up the Coral C&W operation in Nashville… Thompson opened Coral’s Cincinnati and Atlanta branches. He has pruned Coral’s C&W roster to three artists – Tommy Sosebee, TBS and Tabby West. He is negotiating with two name artists.
December 26, 1953, Billboard: Coral Records announced its intention to issue fewer recordings in 1954 and promote the fewer releases more.
January 9, 1954, Billboard: Tom Gibson and the Cin Street Cowhands from WATL, Atlanta, played a benefit show for the National Association of Handicapped at the Sports Arena, Atlanta, recently with
- Romeo Brinkley
- Slick and Greasy
- Armand Herron
- Leon Beavers
- Kenny Lee
Prizes donated by Atlanta merchants were distributed, with the shindig drawing to a close with a dance by Ray Rice and His Rhythm Aces.
January 9, 1954, Billboard: Hillbilly Ball at Atlanta’s Municipal Auditorium last week went on til “Milkin’ time” with
- Jack and Frances Holden
- Boots Woodall
- Smith Brothers
- Kenny Lee
- Jimmy Smith
- Peachtree Cowboy
- Uncle Eb Brown
- Tom Gibson
- Leon Beavers
- Warren Roberts
- David Jones
- Tom Lowe
- Tom Noland, and
- Cuzzin’ Lem featured
January 16, 1954, Billboard: WEAS, Decatur, Georgia, is going to 50,000-watt strength in February, with TBS and Jack Holden handling the disk jockey chores.
February 6, 1954, Billboard: Folk talent galore played host to the March of Dimes at Atlanta’s Tower Theater last week. Among those participating were:
- The Smith Brothers
- Boots Woodall
- Pat Patterson
- Little Brenda Tarpley
- Jon Farmer
- Bill Lowery
- John Carroll and Little Donny
- Bobby and Mack Atchinson
- Jerry Howell
- The LaFatterairs
- Jack Holden
- Kenny Lee
- Tom Gibson
- Romeo Brinkley
February 6, 1954, Billboard: Coral 64171 “Country Love” – “Here’s a real cute country item, combining novelty appeal with solid rural sentiment. The ditty is Ernest Tubb’s, and TBS gives it a solid vocal.” b/w “Alone” – A rural ditty full of sadness and pitched in a minor key. TBS does the vocal with heart.”
March 6, 1954, Billboard: TBS guested on Marty Roberts’ WCKY, Cincinnati, show recently.
June 12, 1954, Billboard: Jimmie Skinner’s one-nighter at La Grange, Georgia, featured TBS from Atlanta.
July 3, 1954: Billboard reviewed Coral No. 64177:
- “Let’s Make Love or Go Home” – Tabby West and TBS team up for a saucy reading of a happy novelty effort. Side is cheery, and it could get spins.
- b/w “You Can’t Have My Love” – Old-fashioned opus is sparked by the vocal of the thrush and the sweet-talk of chanter Bill Strength.
(RP says these sides were cut on April 8, 1954)
July 17, 1954, Billboard: TBS played a string of 10 dates in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana with Jimmy Skinner recently.
July 24, 1954, Billboard: Hank Snow, the Smith Brothers, and TBS played to 15,000 music and baseball fans in Atlanta last week.
August 21, 1954, Billboard: George Riddle, 18-year-old country DJ at WMRI, Marion, Indiana, had TBS and Lonzo and Oscar as guests recently.
August 28, 1954, Billboard: TBS, WEAS, Decatur, Georgia, continues with his name act policy at his Silver Slipper there.
September 1954: TBS was moved to Memphis where WEAS had a sister station, KWEM, in West Memphis, Arkansas. He formed a new band, the Swingsters, and played two nights a week in a club at 5100 Summer Ave. in Memphis. (RP)
September 4, 1954, Billboard: TBS will be Mr. Disk Jockey on the September 10 show from WSM, Nashville.
September 11, 1954, Billboard: Marty Roberts, platter spinner at WCKY, hopped into Atlanta for an appearance at TBS’s Silver Slipper Club.
September 17, 1954: TBS played Sleepy-Eyed John’s Eagles Nest with Webb Pierce and the Wilburn Brothers. (Reported by Billboard October 2, 1954)
September 20-21, 1954, marked the observance of Hank Williams Memorial Day in Montgomery, Alabama, with more than 200 C&W DJs and performers participating. The event was sponsored by the Alcazar Temple of the Shrine. On the morning of Tuesday, the 21st, delegates journeyed to Oakwood Annex Cemetery to place a wreath on Williams’s grave. There was a huge parade featuring Governor-Elect Big Jim Folsom, witnessed by an estimated 60,000 people. Climaxing the event was the headliner show at the Cramton Bowl. Tennessee Governor Frank Clement was the principal speaker. TBS was listed as one of the C&W artists present for the occasion. (reported in Billboard on October 2, 1954) (RP says this was the second annual)
September 25, 1954: TBS did a “Youth for Christ” charity show with Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and the Sons of the Pioneers. (Reported by Billboard October 2, 1954)
October 2, 1954, Billboard: TBS, who recently transferred from WEAS, Atlanta, to KWEM, Memphis, is doing a three-hour deejay stint daily plus a 15-minute live show.
October 9, 1954, Billboard: TBS will appear at his own nitery, the Silver Slipper, Atlanta, on October 9 with his Melody Ranch Boys.
October 23, 1954, Billboard: Elvis Presley, … with his guitar and bassmen, Scotty and Bill, made an appearance recently at TBS’s nitery in Atlanta …
October 30, 1954, Billboard: TBS, still featured on KWEM, Memphis, played his own Silver Slipper nitery, Atlanta (reported in Billboard on November 13, 1954) and then embarked on a string of personals that will keep him busy for some time.
November 6, 1954: TBS played the “Barnyard Frolic,” Little Rock, with Sammy Barnhart (Okeh). (reported in Billboard on November 13, 1954)
November 13, 1954: TBS plays Birmingham. (reported in Billboard on November 13, 1954) While in Birmingham, TBS guested with Joe Rumore and Dan Brennan at WVOK, Buddy Starcher at WLBS, and Uncle Jim Atkins at WBRC (Billboard November 27, 1954)
November 13, 1954: Billboard reviewed Coral No. 61284:
- “Nice to be Living,” – A jaunty-paced vocal on a happy little ditty
- b/w “Nobody Knows This More Than Me” – A plaintive weeper about a man who couldn’t buy love, sung with sincerity and feeling.
November 13, 1954, Billboard: Billboard polled C&W artists to determine which disk jockeys were doing the best job promoting their music. TBS was tied with four others at Number 50 out of 55; his station was listed as KWEM.
November 15, 1954: TBS is in Sheffield, Alabama with Webb Pierce and Red Sovine. (reported in Billboard on November 13, 1954)
November 16: TBS, Webb Pierce, and Red Sovine appear at Ripley, Mississippi (reported in Billboard on November 13, 1954)
November 17, 1954: TBS, Webb Pierce, and Red Sovine appear in Clarksdale, Mississippi. (reported in Billboard on November 13, 1954) This show may have been shifted to Helena, Arkansas, according to Billboard on November 27, 1954.
November 1954: TBS hops to Nashville for the deejay conclave. (reported in Billboard on November 13, 1954)
Late November 1954: TBS plays the Roosevelt Lounge, Detroit. (reported in Billboard on November 13, 1954)
December 23-25, 1954: TBS played Houston and then hopped back to Memphis to resume his chores at KWEM there. Reported in Billboard on January 8, 1955.
TBS is set to play a string of dates with Jim Edward and Maxine Brown and Elvis Presley after the first of the year – reported in Billboard on January 8, 1955
January 29, 1955: TBS was a guest on “Grand Ole Opry” with Faron Young. Reported in Billboard, February 12, 1955.
February 5, 1955: TBS appeared on the “Ernest Tubb Jamboree” on WSM, Nashville. Reported in Billboard, February 12, 1955.
TBS was the feature on “Barnyard Frolic” over KLRA, Little Rock. Reported in Billboard, February 12, 1955.
April 2, 1955, Billboard: TBS visited the country deejays in Birmingham and Atlanta last week after winding up on a chain of 14 theaters in Arkansas and Mississippi. He is set for a 14-day tour of one-nighters thru Texas, Colorado and California, beginning May 13. The trek forced Strength to miss the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Day celebration in Meridian, Mississippi, May 25-26.
May 1, 1955: TBS flew to Houston to attend the funeral of his 19-year-old brother Charlie who was killed in an auto accident on April 28, 1955. The tragedy forced him to cancel several bookings. (Billboard, May 14, 1955)
May 16, 1955: TBS appeared with Curly Fox and Biff Collie over KPRC-TV, Houston – reported in Billboard May 21, 1955
May 19-24, 1955: TBS set on swing that’ll carry him from Port Isabell, Texas, to Mexico City – reported in Billboard May 21, 1955.
May 21, 1955, Billboard: TBS was on KWEM, West Memphis, Arkansas. He had recently been signed to Capitol Records in Hollywood. He also signed with Hollywood agent Bobbie Bennett.
May 25-26, 1955: TBS will be in Meridian, Mississippi, for the Jimmie Rodgers celebration – reported in Billboard May 21, 1955.
May 28, 1955: TBS appears with “Big D Jamboree” in Dallas – reported in Billboard May 21, 1955. (With Slim Whitman, as reported in Billboard on May 28, 1955) (With Arlie Duff, as reported in Billboard on June 4, 1955)
June 11, 1955, Billboard: TBS, following the Jimmie Rodgers Celebration in Meridian, Mississippi, headed back home to Memphis to reload another suitcase and then hit out for the West Coast and a Capitol Records session.
June 14, 1955: TBS pulled a packed house to the Ritz Theater, Parkin, Arkansas, with the result that he was held over the following night. Reported in Billboard July 1, 1955.
June 18, 1955: TBS tentatively set to appear with Red Foley’s TV network show – reported in Billboard May 21, 1955 (moved to July 23)
June 23, 1955: TBS set for a recording session for 1960 in Hollywood – reported in Billboard, May 21, 1955.
June 24, 1955: TBS appears with Spade Cooley in Hollywood – reported in Billboard May 21, 1955.
June 25, 1955: TBS does a stint on Cliffie Stone’s “Hometown Jamboree” in Hollywood – reported in Billboard May 21, 1955.
July 4, 1955: TBS booked to emcee the “Grand Ole Opry” package to be presented at Russwood Ball Park, Memphis, sponsored by the local chapter of the Cerebral Palsy Fund. The lineup included:
- Ernest Tubb
- Goldie Hill
- Faron Young
- Wilburn Brothers
- Marty Robbins
- Carter Sisters
- Rod Brasfield
- Minnie Pearl
- Sleepy-Eye John of WHHM
Reported in Billboard on May 21, 1955
July 22, 1955: TBS (Capitol) had an engagement at the Coldwater Theater, Coldwater, Mississippi – Reported in Billboard July 30, 1955. Afterwards he headed for the West Coast, where he’s booked thru August 1 by the Bobby Bennett Agency, Hollywood.
July 23, 1955: TBS has had his guest appearance on Red Foley’s “Ozark Jubilee” ABC-TV network show shifted to July 23 – reported in Billboard July 2, 1955. The show was taped in Springfield, Missouri, on his way to the West Coast.
TBS drove 135 miles between Tulsa and Oklahoma City to visit Hank Thompson. (RP)
TBS drove the rest of the way to Hollywood across the desert with the top down. (RP)
When he first hit Hollywood he played such venues as Town Hall Party and the Riverside Rancho (RP)
July 29, 1955: TBS had his first Capitol recording session (RP). He was hoping to reap some rewards on the hit “Cry, Cry, Cry,” but it was Johnny Cash that the people wanted to hear. Fortunately, the DJs flipped the record over and it got plays with “Yellow Rose of Texas.”
July 30, 1955, Billboard: TBS appeared on Spade Cooley’s TV show from the Coast. Bill has just taken delivery on a new 45-foot, air-conditioned house trailer, a new ’55 benzine buggy.
During his recent trek to Hollywood for the Capitol session, Strength made a successful screen test, with negotiations under way to spot him in a Western feature soon. Reported in Billboard August 20, 1955
On the Coast, TBS: (Reported in Billboard August 27, 1955)
- Visited with Tex Ritter and Wade and Stuart Hamblen
- Appeared on “Town Hall Party” with Ritter, Johnny Bond, Wesley and Marilyn Tutt and Freddie Hart
- Appeared with Jolly Joe Nixon and Cliffie Stone over KXLA, Pasadena
- Appeared with Hank Penny and Sue Thompson at Riverside Rancho
- Appeared on the Spade Cooley TV Show
August 5, 1955: TBS appeared on Bob Neal’s “Anniversary Jamboree” at Overton Park, Memphis, with:
- Webb Pierce
- Elvis Presley
- Red Sovine
- Wanda Jackson
- Sonny James
- Jim Wilson
- Reported on Billboard on August 20, 1955
August 6, 1955, Billboard: Capitol Records inked TBS to a record contract for the firm’s C&W roster. His first release was:
- Yellow Rose of Texas b/w
- Cry, Cry, Cry. Wikipedia reports that Johnny Cash was signed to Sun Records in 1954 and brought Sam Phillips the song “Hey Porter,” which he had written while in the Air Force. He was told to come back with a more commercial song, and overnight he wrote “Cry! Cry! Cry!” His first record featured “Hey Porter” as the A side and “Cry! Cry! Cry!” as the B side. The latter entered the Country charts at No. 14. It was standard at the time for other artists to immediately cover songs.
August 6, 1955: TBS did a stint on the “Grand Ole Opry” in Nashville, and the Ernest Tubb “Midnight Jamboree” over WSM. Reported in Billboard on August 20, 1955.
August 7, 1955: TBS appeared as a guest at Roy Acuff’s Dunbar Cave, Clarksville, Tennessee, with Faron Young, the Wilburn Brothers, and Eddie Hill. Reported in Billboard on August 20, 1955.
August 13, 1955, Billboard: TBS due in Cincinnati for a visit with local disk jockeys and other friends. He has just returned from the West Coast, where he cut his first session for Capitol.
August 14, 1955: TBS left Memphis for a two-week promotional tour in the interest of his initial Capitol release, “Yellow Rose of Texas,” b/w “Cry, Cry, Cry.” He has stop-offs skedded for Louisville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Washington and other Eastern cities. Reported in Billboard August 20, 1955.
August 27, 1955, Billboard: TBS is back in Columbia, Tennessee, after a jaunt to the West Coast that offered him the opportunity “of guesting on a number of shows and visiting with folk artist friends.”
September 10, 1955: TBS played the “Barnyard Frolic” at Robinson Auditorium, Little Rock. Show is emseed by Sammy Barnhart (Decca) and airs over KLRA.
September 13, 1955, Billboard: TBS was a visitor at the home office of The Billboard last week while inn Cincinnati to promote his initial Capitol release, “Yellow Rose of Texas” b/w “Cry, Cry, Cry.” He also guested with various local deejays during his Cincy stay.
September 17, 1955, Billboard: TBS had been a recent visitor to DJ Thom Hall at WKYW in Louisville.
September 17, 1955: TBS played the National Guard Armory Birmingham – Reported in Billboard September 24, 1955.
September 18, 1955: TBS appeared at the Atlanta Crackers Ball Park, Atlanta, with:
- Ferlin Huskey
- Martha Carson
- George and Earl
- The Carlisles
- Kenny Lee
- Bill Lowery
Strength says reports have been good on his first Capitol release, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” b/w “Cry, Cry, Cry,” with the latter getting the most play. Reported in Billboard September 24, 1955.
September 17, 1955, Billboard: (Date of show not reported) Dick Stuart, WMPS Memphis, writes, “The biggest country show ever to play Memphis pulled a record-breaking crowd of over 4,000 people to the Bob Neal ‘Eight Anniversary Jamboree’ recently at Overton Park Shell.
- Webb Pierce
- Elvis Presley
- Jim Wilson
- Sonny James
- Bud Deckleman
- Red Sovine
- Wanda Jackson
- Charlie Feathers
- TBS and
- Johnny Cash
The performers “kept the crowd on the edge of their seats for well over three hours, despite threatening skies. On the Neal anniversary one year ago, Elvis Presley made his debut, and was a sensation. This year Johnny Cash broke thru as the outstanding new act in Memphis. I’m handling him.”
September 27, 1955: While in the Cincinnati area on personals, TBS visited Cincy C&W deejays and music men to plug his new Capitol release, “Yellow Rose of Texas” b/w “Cry, Cry, Cry.” He flew out that night for Memphis. Reported in Billboard October 8, 1955.
October 22, 1955, Billboard: TBS’s recording of “Yellow Rose of Texas” was No. 4 in the Cincinnati C&W market.
October 22, 1955, Billboard: Johnny Cash’s version of “Cry, Cry, Cry” is only now beginning to shape up as a left-field threat. Starting off nicely in the Nashville and Memphis trade areas, it has continued to grow there and has begun to spread. Richmond, Dallas, New Orleans and Little Rock are other territories where Cash has now established himself. TBS’s version is also a good seller in a number of key spots.
October 23, 1955: “Grand Ole Opry TV Stars” gave two performances to good houses at Memphis Auditorium. Packaged by Hubert Long, the show featured:
- Jimmy Dickens
- Moon Mullican
- Rod Brasfield
- Jean Sheppard
- The Wiburn Brothers
- Hawkshaw Hawkins
- Eddie Bond
- Ray Price and the Western Cherokees, who replaced the ailing Faron Young
Reported in Billboard October 29, 1955.
October 28, 1955: TBS plays Carrollton, Kentucky, with Jimmie Skinner and Hylo Brown. Reported in Billboard October 22, 1955.
October 29, 1955: TBS makes a return stand with “Circle Theater Jamboree,” Cleveland. Reported in Billboard October 22, 1955.
October 30, 1955: TBS appears with Ferlin Huskey, Martha Carson, and the Carlisles for Dick Blake at the Lyric Theater, Indianapolis. Reported in Billboard October 22, 1955.
November 5, 1955, Billboard: TBS appears on the Pee Wee King TV show over WBBM, Chicago.
November 6, 1955: Betty Foley (Decca), TBS (Capitol) and Natchee, the Indian trick fiddler, have been added to the C&W talent contingent being presented by Jimmy Skinner and Lou Epstein at Emery Auditorium, Cincinnati. Others already engaged for the date include:
- Pee Wee King and Band
- Bonnie Sloan (Columbia)
- Fiddlin’ Red Herron (King)
- Neal Burris (Columbia)
- Little Eller Long
- Red Murphy
- The Stanley Brothers (Mercury)
- Hylo Brown (Capitol)
- Jimmy Williams (MGM)
- Ray Lunsford (Excellent)
Jimmie Skinner will emsee. The big show is being touted via five Cincy radio and TV outlets. It marks the first C&W talent brigade to play a Cincinnati theater in many years. Reported in Billboard November 5, 1955. On November 19, Billboard reported that 4,800 ducats were sold for the 2,200-seat auditorium. SRO business was the order at both performances, with several hundred turned away at the matinee showing. The show got heavy promotion via five local radio and TV stations.
November 12, 1955, Billboard: The 1955 Billboard C&W Disk Jockey Poll put TBS at Number 26. He was identified as working for KWEM.
November 12, 1955: Billboard reviewed TBS’s Capitol record 3282:
- “Turn Around” – “A strong country ballad with a good melody line and effective lyrics. Texas Bill gives a fine performance. Will get strong deejay action.”
- b/w “When Love Comes Knockin’” – “Fine country rhythm side, belted out in great fashion by Texas Bill, to a lively backing featuring strings and honky tonk piano. Watch it.”
November 12, 1955: TBS put an ad in Billboard, with a picture of himself and text that read (vertically – punctuation added) “THANKS Dee-Jays for every spin you gave me on Cry Cry Cry b/w Yellow Rose of Texas. Your Grateful Buddy, Texas Bill Strength, exclusively on Capitol Records. Hope you like my brand new release, “Turn Around” b/w “When Love Comes Knockin’” Congratulations, WSM, on your 30th Anniversary. Glad to be here. Texas Bill Strength, Station KWEM, Memphis, Tenn. Phone Mutual 5-8606. Member CMDJ. Represented by Miss Bobbie Bennett, 763 Gower Ave., Hollywood, Calif. Hollywood 9-5891.
November 13, 1955: TBS made his final appearance in Memphis at the Ellis Auditorium. Performers were
- Hank Thompson
- Charlene Arthur
- Elvis Presley
- Carl Smith
November 14, 1955: The Memphis show from the night before was repeated in Forrest City, Arkansas. Both shows were promoted by Bob Neal, Presley’s personal manager. Strength, has just given up his deejay chores at KWEM, Memphis. Reported in Billboard on November 6, 1955.
November 29-30, 1955: TBS will guestar with “hometown Jamboree,” Houston. Reported in Billboard November 12, 1955.
November 22, 1955, Strib: In his column, Cedric Adams announced:
Radio Station KEYD will change its policy greatly starting this Saturday [November 26]. The station will move into complete programming of nothing but western and country music. Two of its regular disc jockeys have been dismissed and will be replaced by imports, Texas Bill Strength and Johnny T from Tennessee.
November 22, 1955, Strib: TBS’s arrival was also announced in an ad entitled “On the Route with ‘Sunny Jim’ the Golden Guernsey Kid.” Sunny Jim (apparently a baby milkman) mentions the Sonny James show, KEYD’s new manager, Mac Lester, and KEYD’s new disk jockeys.
Starting Saturday all day long the disc jockeys are going to spin the cowboy and country records – and they got two famous cowboy singers coming to work at KEYD. One’s “Texas” Bill Strength, whose two current Capitol Record hits are “The Yellow Rose of Texas” and “Cry, Cry, Cry.” The other one’s the famous Johnny “T” From Tennessee, whose recordings are real popular. They’ll be at the Auditorium, too, along with our own favorite Slim Jim. Then all of the Grand Ole Opry people, “Texas” Bill, Johnny “T” and Slim Jim will have an all day long festival on KEYD Saturday. KEYD’s new slogan is “The Country-Western Station at the Top of the Nation.” Better turn your ear to 1440 on your radio Saturday and hear the fun.
November 25, 1955, Strib: Sonny James, the tall folk-singer guitarist, has joined a troupe of country and folk artists to decorate the stage of Minneapolis auditorium Friday at 8 pm. The Grand Ole Opry show will also feature:
- Ernest Tubb
- The Wilburn Brothers
- Mitchell Torok
- Wanda Jackson
- Arlie Duff
- Ray Price
- Al Terry
- Texas Bill Strength
- Rusty Gabbard
- Billy Byrd
- The Texas Troubadors
Reported by Bob Murphy in the Minneapolis Star/Tribune on November 20, 1955.
November 26, 1955, Billboard: On November 28, TBS begins his duties at the turntables at KEYD, Minneapolis, where he’ll also do a daily TV show. He asks all record companies to send releases to him at KEYD, Foshay Tower, Minneapolis, effective immediately. Dick Stuart took over the afternoon shift at KWEM.
November 26, 1955: KEYD went all-Country, the first station in the Upper Midwest to do so. The move was made by Nashville-based Robert M. Purcess and promoter A.V. Bamford. Although Strength had never performed in the area (he called it “Paul Bunyan Country,”) he knew that there was an audience for Country music. Ever the entrepreneur, he set his sights on not only becoming a DJ, but opening a club (as he had done with the Silver Slipper in Atlanta) and a record store.
December 1, 1955, Strib: An ad for KEYD announced, “Now All Day – Country Western Music” and announced DJs “Texas” Bill Strength and Johnny “T” from Tennessee, and Slim Jim.
Billed as Family Broadcasting, KEYD first signed on in 1948. In 1953-55 announcers included Howard Viken, Don Riley, Harry Zimmerman, Slim Jim Iverson, and Slim Jim’s brother the Vagabond Kid. Those last three had a show called “Record Rodeo.” The format included several types of shows, including country, Top 10, Gospel, and others.
Bill’s personal appearances began right away. This one is from December 22, 1955:
December 31, 1955: Faron Young will resume activity, following his lengthy illness, with an A.V. Bamford “Grand Ole Opry” package at the St. Paul and Minneapolis auditoriums. Others on the bill were:
- The Wilburn Brothers
- Porter Waggoner
- Marvin Rainwater
- Jim Edwards and Maxine Brown
- Texas Bill Strength, emsee
Reported by Billboard December 24, 1955
The Strib also listed:
- Johnnie Talley
- Bobby Lord
- The Wagon Masters Trio
December 31, 1955, Billboard: TBS is listed as one of many C&W DJs who double as Wax Artists. His label is Capitol and his station KEYD, Minneapolis. The most successful C&W deejay operating in the personal management field, of course, is Bob Neal, WMPS, Memphis, who manages Elvis Presley.
January 21, 1956, Billboard: Jimmy and Ardis Wells and Their Dakota Round-Up, along with the Royal Rangers, are holding forth nightly at the Flame Supper Club, Minneapolis. Appearing with them each Wednesday night is TBS, who now spins the country wax on KEYD, Minneapolis.
January 29, 1956: TBS guested on “Grand Ole Opry” with Faron Young and also appeared on the “Ernest Tubb Jamboree” over WSM, Nashville. Billboard, February 11, 1956.
January 29, 1956, Strib: A wealth of information was provided through the years in the daily “After Last Night” column of Will Jones in the Minneapolis Tribune. Jones wrote about the arrival of TBS and Johnny T. in this fanciful article:
“Transcribbled” Music Makes KEYD Hillbilly Dream Land
One of my favorite outdoor sports, when driving in places like Tennessee and Oklahoma, is to turn on the car radio and listen to the local radio stations.
Thanks to KEYD radio’s new staff of imported hillbillies, the long drive is no longer necessary. It’s almost as good as a winter vacation to drive through the Twin Cities’ slush with the car radio tuned to 1440.
Practically any time of day you can pick up the whining git-tars, the insistent beat, the mush-mouthed announcer that go with an all-out hillbilly station.
A man named Texas Bill Strength (pronounced strenth) plays and exclaims over the national anthem (“The Yellow Rose of Texas”). A man named Johnny T. from Tennessee carries on endlessly over the delights of corn bread & pot likker, soppin’ gravy & biskits.
“I don’t say y’all don’t have gewid kewiks up north here,” says Johnny T. the other day. “Lots of southern ladies have moved up north.”
These new citizens of the Twin Cities are learning their way around fast. Their first week on the air, they complained about frozen ears.
A batch of assorted earmuffs promptly came in the mail.
Other staff members at KEYD – old-timers – looked on enviously and reported: “These guys weren’t on the air two days before listeners started sending them big, beautifully-decorated cakes.
Texas Bill plays a record for Mrs. Harry B. out in Balloominton” and then asks: “Whar’s Balloominton?” He has a sponsor whose address is 1201 Hormone place.
Texas Bill is also a philosopher, reciting lines like: Blessed are they that walk around in circles, for they shall become Big Wheels.”
The world Texas Bill and Johnny T. dwell in is filled with titles like “You Clobbered Me,” “Ink Dries Quicker Than Tears,” and “Lie Detector,” and tenderly sentimental lines like, “Take your cotton-pickin’ hands off my girl.”
It is a world populated largely by broken-hearted lovers and cheatin’ husbands and wives. It is also a world of gang love, with three girls pining in harmony for three lovers – I think I’ve got the names straight – Jack, Johnny and Jonas.
These tunes are neither recorded nor transcribed. In the words of Johnny T., they are “reseeded and transcribbled.”
The man who brought all this salt port and greens to the Twin Cities is Robert Purcell, a towering, dignified, gray crewcut Madison avenue type by way of Hollywood.
He’s never run a hillbilly station in his life, and, except for playing an expensive guitar as a hobby, knew nothing about the music until a few weeks ago. His label for it – the music trade label – is country-and-western, frequently abbreviated these days to C. & W.
Purcell was brought here last year to inject new life into KEYD.
“For a while we considered going top-10-tunes kind of operation,” said Purcell, and competing with the stations that are already doing that. We already had a little top-10, plus a little classical, and a little semi-classical, and a little religion, and a little bit of everything. A friend of mine came to town, a man who books country-western shows like Grand Ole Opry for auditoriums. He takes these shows all over the country. He told me this was his second-best territory. Denver, I believe, was first. If it was such good territory for him, I reasoned that a country-western station should do well too. To do it right, we brought in a couple of top country-western personalities. Getting Texas Bill and Johnny T. to play country-western is about on a par with getting Frankie Laine and Rosemary Clooney as disk jockeys for the top-10 market.
“So far it’s been very successful, and we’ve found out something else: this kind of programming is more compatible with religious programming. Or at least, the people who listen to one kind of program are less offended by the other.”
February 1, 1956, Strib: Cedric Adams wrote:
Western music has spread out a good deal in the last few years and now it takes over a Minneapolis theater café. The Flame at Sixteenth and Nicollet experimented with a western band for a couple of nights and found the customers liked it, so now makes it regular policy. Johnny T and the Tennesseans, one of the top country and western bands, moves into the place tonight and square dancing and other hoppity steps are the rule. The Flame goes whole hog on the theme, using the Dakota Roundup troupe in the lounge, with special Wednesday night appearances by Texas Bill Strength, the hillbilly singer. Any square dance group, incidentally, can bring its own caller along, so you may hear some verbal improvisations.
February 2, 1956, Will Jones also noted the Western trend:
Western music has been a feature of the front bar [of the Flame] for a number of years, but it didn’t invade the big back room until last week. The management tried out Johnny T. and his Tennesseans, liked them, and hired them as an every-night attraction.
The Dakota Roundup continues in the front bar, with Texas Bill Strength as a regular Wednesday night guest.
The Gay Nineties has also gone western, with Dave Dudley’s band every night and Texas Bill as a guest Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
TBS was listed on the weekly ads for the Flame almost every week from May 16, 1956, until the end of the year. Here is one example of an ad for a show that also features the World’s Only Square Dance Rollerskaters!
February 5, 1956, Billboard: TBS was the feature on “Barnyard Frolic” over KLRA, Little Rock.
February 11, 1956: TBS played a repeat on the Pee Wee King show over WBBM, Chicago. Billboard February 18, 1956
February 11, 1956, Billboard: Dave Dudley (King) and His Country Caravan have moved into the Gay 90’s, Minneapolis, for an indefinite stand. Guesting there each Tuesday night is TBS, who’s now spinning the country wax over a local station.
THE MINNIE AWARDS
The annual Minnie Awards took place on February 15, 1956. These TV and Radio awards were sponsored by the local chapter of AFTRA and the Advertising Club of Minneapolis, and probably morphed into the local Emmy awards. TBS won one of the five categories for “Hillbilly” performers – best male singer on the TV side, representing KEYD-TV. Slim Jim won best hillbilly-western personality (KEYD-TV), Harry Siles won best farm show personality (WCCO-TV), and Hall Garven won best hillbilly-western personality (WCCO radio). Will Jones reported:
When TBS was proclaimed best male singer, there were a few raised eyebrows around the Minnesota Terrace and a number of people asking “Who’s he?” (A Twin Cities newcomer, Strength could refer them to Capitol records for some answers. They credit him with five top-selling national record hits, including “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”)
February 16, 1956, Strib: The Grand Ole Opry came to the Twin Cities several times in 1956. The TV show was sponsored by Pillsbury, and shown on 120 stations around the country. The TV show’s contract required that a troupe visit each of the 120 communities that gets the show on TV at least twice per year. The four troupes were headed by Roy Acuff, Webb Pierce, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb and Faron Young. (That’s five but that’s what Will Jones said.)
The February 16, 1956 show featured:
- Hank Snow
- Jean Shepard
- Little Jimmy Dickens
- Lonzo and Oscar
- Hawkshaw Hawkins
- Tommy Warren
TBS and Johnny T shared emcee duties
February 18, 1956, Billboard: This weekend TBS hops to Hollywood for a week of personals and another Capitol session under Ken Nelson, the label’s Country A&R chief.
March 5, 1956, Strib: In Radio News, the headline was “Texas Bill Warbles in Color”
KEYD’s “Texas Bill” Strength appeared in a color telecast while he was in California cutting records.
March 17, 1956, Billboard: Jimmy and Ardis Wells and their Dakota Round-Up continue to old forth at the Flame Supper Club, Minneapolis, where Johnny T. and His Crazy Tennesseeans carry on it the club’s rear room each Friday and Saturday night. TBS, now spinning the country wax over a Minneapolis station, appears as guest with Jimmy and Ardis each Wednesday night. The Flame devotes two nights a week to country music exclusively.
April 6, 1956, Strib:
April 14, 1956, Billboard: Ardis Wells and her all-girl band, the Rhythm Ranch Queens, has opened in the front room of the Flame, Minneapolis, with Jimmy Wells and the Dakota Round-Up Gang holding forth in the Flame’s rear room. TBS (Capitol) is a nightly guest at the spot.
April 14, 1956, Billboard: Capitol 3394 “When the Bright Lights Grow Dim” – “A moving reading by Strength on a plaintive weeper with effective lyrics.” b/w “It Ain’t Much But It’s Home” – “A strong vocal job on an appealing up-tempo tune with clever lyrics.”
A rare promotional ad in Billboard, April 4, 1956
April 17, 1956, Strib: The endorsements and appearances continued – this one for King Dodge:
April 29, 1956, Billboard: TBS (Capitol) emseed the “Grand Ole Opry” package, at the St. Paul Auditorium. The show featured:
- Webb Pierce
- Jim Reeves
- Hank Locklin
- Charlene Arthur
- Farmer Boys
Bill says he’s working a seven-day-a-week schedule, but will take time out to greet his friends at the MOA convention in Chicago, May 6-8, and the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Celebration in Meridian, Mississippi, May 25-26.
May 10, 1956: Will Jones announced the addition of national western stars to the Flame:
Tex Ritter, singing cowboy, will be the first of a string of western names to be booked into the Flame Café. He will appear there next Wednesday night.
On later Wednesday nights the spot will offer Tabby West, Betty Foley, Marvin Rainwater and Bobby Lord – all of whom I have been assured are big names in the western music field. (Ritter I’m sure of, largely because of “High Noon.”)
On nights other than Wednesday, the Flame is still all-western, with Ardis Wells and the Rhythm Ranch girls in the front bar, and Jimmy Wells and the Dakota Roundup in the back room.
REUNION WITH ELVIS
May 13, 1956: Elvis was in town for concerts in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and was less than well received – opener Augie Garcia whipped up the audience so much than an apoplectic Tom Parker had him kicked off the stage. But TBS was glad to see his old friend.
May 1956: TBS was featured on the cover of Cowboy Songs.
May 1956: Rival country station WCOW was renamed WISK and the format changed from full-time Country & Western to a combination of Lombardo/Welk/etc. and an occasional Top 10 tune. This left KEYD as the only full time C&W station.
May 16, 1956, was the first time we see TBS in an ad for the Flame Cafe. The headliner, Tex Ritter, kicked off the Country/Western phase of the Flame that night. He was on most/all of the Flame ads for 1956.
June 9, 1956, Billboard: TBS and Johnny T are still flipping C&W platters weekdays over KEYD, Minneapolis, with Vern Weegeman gaining in recognition with his country shows over the same station on Saturdays.
June 1956: KEYD was sold, changed its call letters to KEVE, and played full time Country and Western – one of the first in the country to do so. The format changed to classical music in 1961.
COUNTRY MUSIC DISK JOCKEY CONVENTION
June 14 – 16, 1956: TBS participated in the first C&W Deejay Convention in Springfield, Missouri, hosted by the C&W Music Disk Jockey Association. An article in Billboard dated October 16, 1971, explained that the CMDJA was chartered on November 21, 1953 with 76 charter members. By April 1, 1956, the list had grown to 150, and included TBS, a “giant in the industry today.” “By 1958 it was apparent that there was a need for an all-industry association, in which the disk jockey would be an integral part, and the Country Music Association was born.”
The purpose of the 1956 gathering was to further public acceptance of country music. The highlight was a show held at the Jewell Theater – a “corker,” with some 1,200 in the audience. The four-hour show was emceed by Red Foley and Sonny James and featured:
- Bill Wimberly’s Band
- Nelson King
- The Bonn Sisters
- Brenda Lee
- Uncle Cy Brasfield
- Johnny Horton
- The Philharmonicas
- Lebby Horne
- Pete Stamper
- Jim Edward, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown
- Billy Walker
- The Carlisles
- Johnny Cash
- Smiley Burnette
- The Foggy River Boys
- Red and Betty Foley
- The Belew Twins
- Chet Atkins
- Janis Martin
- Audrey Williams
- Chuck Bowers
- Earl Bowers
- Bonny Gan
- Roy Drusky
- Jerry Reed
- Slim Wilson
- The Westport Kids
- Junior Haworth
- Shirley Caudel
- Warren Smith
- The Ferguson Sisters
June 20, 1956: Kenny Roberts, whose TV show is now on four days a week over WHIO, Dayton, Ohio, played the Flame Supper Club with TBS and group. Reported in Billboard on June 2, 1956
June 21, 1956, Strib: Another personal appearance and remote broadcast, this time with a Plymouth dealer:
June 23, 1956, Billboard: TBS urged record companies to send new releases to the new KEVE call letters. He says he’s now booking talent into the Flame.
July 1956: TBS was featured on the cover of Country & Western Jamboree Magazine.
July 14, 1956: Billboard reviewed Capitol No. 3477:
- “Where Did My Heart Go?” – Sincere warbling on a moving ballad with effective lyrics.
- b/w “Gotta Lotta Love” – Up-tempo tune is wrapped up in a strong vocal stint and a good beat.
July 21, 1956, Billboard: TBS’s latest on the Capitol label, out last week, is “Gotta Lot of Love, a bouncer, and “Where Did My Heart Go?,” a ballad.
TBS shared the stage with Joe Carson and His Southernaires at the Flame the week of July 22, 1956. Carson subbed for Jimmy and Ardis Wells who took a vacation.
July 28, 1956: TBS appeared on Red Foley’s Ozark Jubilee out of Springfield, Missouri, which was broadcast nationwide on the ABC network. Other performers on the show were Cannonball (Dub) Taylor and Red Garrett.
August 4, 1956, Billboard: Verne Lotz writes from Minneapolis: “I’m now with KEVE, the Twin Cities’ and Minnesota’s only all-country & western station. TBS (Capitol) and Johnny T. Talley, newly signed with Mercury, are spinning ‘em here also …
August 11, 1956, Billboard: TBS, now working on a heavy schedule twirling the C&W biscuits at WEVE, Minneapolis, was in Hollywood last weekend to cut his third session for Capitol.
Yodeler Kenny Roberts opened at the Flame on September 12, 1956, sharing the bill with TBS and Jimmy Wells and Ardis Wells. Kenny was famous for leaping into the air while playing guitar and harmonica at the same time, which gave him the nickname “The Jumping Cowboy.”
September 13, 1956: Still trying to keep his family fed, TBS appears at a grocery store in Oxboro, south of Bloomington. Also appearing are Steve Cannon as Johnny .44 and Clellan Card as Axel.
September 20, 1956: One of four traveling Grand Ole Opry Troupes came to the Minneapolis Auditorium, with David Stone of the KSTP Barn Dance as emcee. Along with TBS, performers were:
- Roy Acuff
- Ernest Tubb
- Kitty Wells
- Johnny and Jack
- George Jones
- Jimmy Newman
- Tommy Collins
- Hank Locklin
- Betty Foley
September 26, 1956, Strib: “The Flame Books 2 Special Stars”
Two special attractions will come to the Flame café … Thursday [September 27] to perform with regular entertainers in the cast.
Marvin Rainwater, star of the Ozark Jubilee air show, and Mimi Roman, Decca recording star, will be on the bill for the one night.
Appearing also will be Cowboy Copas, Grand Ole Opry performer who is playing Wednesday through Saturday [September 26 – 29], and Texas Bill Strength and the Jimmy Wells and Ardis musical groups, regular entertainers.
BOOKING THE FLAME
By October 1956 TBS had become a booking agent and emcee for the Flame and brought in major Country acts. (RP)
Early October, 1956: Tex Carman (Sage & Sand) and Freddie Hart (Columbia) have been set by TBS for a week’s stand. (Billboard September 1, 1956)
October 14, 1956: Bob Murphy described Mimi Roman (from the aforementioned Flame show) as a “looker” and reported that she went over so well on the September 27 show that they were bringing her back for a four-day run on October 17-20. “On the bill also are the regulars, Texas Bill Strength, and Jimmy Wells and Ardis and their groups.”
October 20, 1956, Billboard: TBS took a few days off from his platter spinning at KEVE last week for a bit of bear hunting in Montana. Johnny T and Verne Sheppard spelled him during his absence.
November 3, 1956: Billboard reviewed Capitol No. 3568:
- “But Do You Think I’m Happy?” – Strength sells with sock songmanship on an amusing rhythm-novelty by Justin Tubb, with good punch-line lyrics.”
- b/w “North Wind” – Appealing vocal treatment of a haunting ballad with sensitive lyric line.
November 10, 1956, Billboard: The 1956 Billboard C&W Disk Jockey Poll placed TBS at Number 20. His affiliation was listed as KEVE KEYD.
November 10, 1956, Billboard: TBS placed an ad thanking his friends in the business. His affiliations were KEVE Radio, KMGM-TV, Capitol Records.
THE TBS RECORD SHOP
December 1, 1956: TBS celebrated the opening of the Minneapolis record shop bearing his name with a two-hour remote broadcast featuring talent from the Twin Cities area. Bill asks artist to send him autographed photos for the sshop. His address is KEVE Radio, 806 North Lilac Drive, Minneapolis The shop was located at 1003 Marquette Ave. in downtown Minneapolis. Reported in Billboard December 8, 1956.
Someone only identified as “Pee Dee” wrote in to describe his experience as a teenage gofer for TBS:
My days at the TBS Record Store were not the most auspicious, and my experiences with TBS himself less than complimentary…to either him or me. I was a 16-year-old “go-fer” who shuttled him and his out-of-town Opry guests around town. In spite of still being in school I did night duty as his driver (he would imbibe…) to places like the auditorium and the Flame (on Nicollet, if I recall). I’d pick up folks like Marty Robbins, Hank Snow and the like at the airport and take them to a hotel or the auditorium downtown. I was also a bit infatuated with Wanda Jackson who drove her own three-toned Dodge La Femme convertible to the ‘Cities and let me chauffeur her around in it, and I chored for a very accomplished fiddle player named Benny Martin who had me shagging across the street to the drug store opposite the shop about twice daily to pick up “cough medicine” — turpin hydrate and codeine with a good percent of alcohol — when he came to town. For his (ahem) cough…back then they’d sell that stuff to anyone including a 16-year-old kid.
I have no idea what [the story] about him being wounded in the thigh was all about. But I do recall that once when he played his cowboy role complete with nickel-plated revolvers — on one particular evening at the Flame all three were loaded but the latter two with blanks, thank heaven — that he got into a difference of opinion with Marvin Rainwater, pulled out one of those things, stuck it in Marvin’s stomach and blew a big black hole in Marvin’s trademark buckskin jacket.
Of course, the unmistakable sound of a shot sent the place into a panic. Fit to be tied, Marvin virtually lifted Bill up by the collar of his prize Nudie-made sequin-spangled jacket and slammed him up against the wall, proceeding with a string of epithets that stopped only when he heard the sirens out front as the cops showed up. Not one for drinking, Marvin got a grip on himself, loosened his on Bill who was pretty much out of it. He instructed me to go get Bill’s shop station wagon and to bring it to the back stage entrance, which I did.
In an abundance of caution, Marvin relieved Bill of his six-shooters and threw them under the front seat. We then stuffed him into the passenger side and I drove him home to his trailer(?) outside of Minneapolis. I then took the station wagon home, back to Clumsy Heights just about in time to turn around and drive to school the next morning.
That morning, I proudly showed up at school in the station wagon which I parked conspicuously right out front…and by doing so I guess I slammed on the brakes a bit too hard because two six-shooters came sliding out from under the seat against my feet! Not too intrigued with showing them to classmates, I pushed them back and left them there until the evening when I brought the station wagon back to Bill at the shop.
Imagine that happening today…
Live performance at TBS Record Shop with TBS, Ardis Wells, North Sisters, Fern Dale, 1957
TBS Record Shop Live Performance, 1958
At some point the shop moved to 202 So. 10th Street in Minneapolis, as evidenced by this card found in the archives of the Manske Sisters:
The record shop was “disposed of” in April 1958. The Marquette location became a Hilton hotel in 1992, and as of 2018 the 10th Street location is vacant land.
A New Year’s Eve 1956 show at the St. Paul Auditorium starred:
- Ray Price
- Ferlin Husky
- Martha Carson
- Autry Inman
- Simon Crum
- Porter Waggoner
- Mitchell Torok
- Texas Bill Strength
January 1, 1957: TBS began hosting the TV show Adventure Time on KMGM-TV, which was Channel 9 at the time. The program aired from 6 to 6:30pm. He showed Western serials and sang Western songs. On March 23, 1957, Billboard published a list of Local Live Country and Western TV Shows. TBS was listed as the producer of his show, the only one in Minnesota. The show had 14,000 loyal followers (RP).
January 13 – 19, 1957, was the last time TBS was listed on the weekly Flame ad. It is presumed that he continued his hosting role off and on, as he reportedly resigned that job at the end of March, 1958, replaced by Dave Dudley.
January 26, 1957, Billboard: TBS has quit his deejay chores at KEVE to devote more time to his record shop, which is proving fairly successful. Bill also will give more time to promoting himself as an artist. Strength has just kicked off an hour-long TV show, seven days a week, over KMGM, titled “Adventure Time With Texas Bill.”
February 15, 1957: TBS leaves on a two-week tour, which will include a double session for Capitol in Hollywood, several West Coast dates for Americana Corporation. Billboard January 26, 1957
February 16, 1957: TBS appears on the “Big D Jamboree” in Dallas. Other guests were the Five Strings and the Rangers Quartet. Billboard January 26 and February 23, 1957
February 25, 1957: TBS made his last recordings for Capitol.
March 2, 1957: TBS makes his fourth guest shot on “Ozark Jubilee” in Springfield, Missouri. Billboard January 26, 1957
April 6, 1957, Billboard: Speaking of Minneapolis, what has happened to our good friend, TBS?
April 13, 1957, Billboard: TBS has settled down to his usual activities in Minneapolis after a two-week sojourn on the West Coast. In addition to his daily show over KMGM-TV, “Adventure Time With Texas Bill,” Strength has resumed former duties of spinning C&W platters five hours a day over KEVE. Bill also reports success with his recently opened record shop, which is devoted to C&W music exclusively. His newest Capitol release is “The Six Fools.” Any deejay wanting an extra copy may write to him at either of the above stations.
MORE RADIO ROULETTE
April 18, 1957, Minneapolis Star:
District Judge John A. Weeks today signed an order to show cause, to be heard before him April 23, by which radio station WISK seeks to prevent William (Texas Bill) Strength, cowboy singer and disk jockey, from continuing to work for radio station KEVE.
WISK claims that Strength signed a 90-day contract March 30 which would move his services to WISK, but has continued to work for KEVE. The contract, it was reported, had options exercisable for the rest of the year, and was effective April 15, but Strength failed to make the change.
The photo below, from the files of the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting, is identified as TBS in 1957, but no station is evident.
On April 20, 1957 (probably Will Jones): A big western and country music bash is on tap at 8 pm Saturday in the Minneapolis Auditorium, put on by radio station KEVE. Plunking, twanging and drawling will be:
- Sonny James
- Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two
- Jerry Lee Lewis
- Gene Stewart
- The Country Gentlemen
Texas Bill Strength, who bunks in the Twin Cities, will be master of ceremonies. KEVE says the show is aimed at popular, as well as western, music fans.
April 27, 1957: Billboard reviewed Capitol No. 3701:
- “I Wanna Ride, Ride, Ride On Your Merry-Go-Round” – A slick bit of rhythmic wax with a story that has certain touches of double entendre. A happy and well handled version that could easily generate some jock and juke box action.
- b/w “Six Fools” – An unusual piece of material rendered in a minor key. Fancy banjo plucking backs the chanting. Side rates attention and could compete with the flip for plays.
FRONT PAGE NEWS
On May 5, 1957, the front page of the TV Tab entertainment supplement of the St. Paul Sunday Pioneer Press was dedicated to TBS, with a big picture of him captioned “KMGM’s Texas Bill Strength.” The headline was “Movie Stardom is Texas Bill’s Aim,” subtitled “Singer is Host for Westerns.” Staff writer Howard Ryan lists TBS’s many enterprises:
- Host of “Adventure Time with Texas Bill” on Channel 9 from 6 to 6:30 M-F
- Disc jockey on KEVE from 10 am to noon and 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm, M-F and 10:30 am to 3 pm on Saturdays
- Owner of his own record shop
- Five personal appearances on average each week
- Occasional appearances on “Grand Ole Opry unit guest appearances”
- Music publishing firm in partnership with Tex Ritter
He reported that he was leaving on May 19 for about 10 days to do some personal appearances with Ritter and work with him in a couple of films in California. His biggest ambition was to be a Western movie star. “I’ve had some real good encouragement from producers and directors in Hollywood,” he said. Although he had no formal acting training, he expressed his belief that “I’ve got a natural ability for Western parts.
As for his musical career, he had had 18 releases with Capitol Records at that point, but his goal was to hit with a million seller.
TBS professed his love for the Twin Cities, which was the Number 2 market for Country music behind Nashville, he said. “Unlike most Texans, I prefer the colder weather – I feel better.” I love the people here, too. They have more or less accepted a ‘foreigner’ and made me feel welcome.
The Pioneer Press article reported that TBS lived with his family in a “large trailer home at Medicine Lake,” and although he had been promising himself a two-week mountain vacation with his family for five years, he always wound up making personal appearances instead.
Sometime between May 1957 and 1958, Dorothy left TBS and took the kids back to Houston. Bill later abducted the boys and they stayed with the family of “Ma and Pa Norrbom,” whose daughter Mary was the manager of the Flame. They lived on a farm in Eagan.
May 26, 1957, Will Jones: Texas Bill Strength, the KEVE disc jockey and record artist, went to Hollywood a few weeks ago and landed himself a part in a new western movie. The film will star Webb Pierce and Red Barry. Strength will go back sometime this summer to make the film.
June 10, 1957, Billboard: While in Hollywood recently for a two-day guest shot on “Town Hall Party,” TBS was called in on a session that may net him a movie shot soon. Bill’s newest on the Capitol label is “Six Fools,” aimed at both the pop and country trade. Deejays may obtain a copy by writing to him at his record shop, 1003 Marquette, Minneapolis.
July 21, 1957: Red Foley and the Ozark Jubilee cast came to Minneapolis for a big country show at Metropolitan Stadium. Other performers included:
- Marvin Rainwater
- Foggy River Boys
- Shisk & Whistler
- Bill Wimberly’s band
Local entertainers included:
- David Stone, KSTP-TV
- TBS, KEVE
- Johnny T, WISK
July 28-30, 1957: TBS participated in a Rodeo at Met Stadium.
August 17, 1957: TBS played Tiny Tillman’s Happy Hollow Lake, Independence, Missouri. Billboard August 19, 1957
August 30, 1957: Before the Minnesota Twins played Omaha on Appreciation Night at Met Stadium, a softball game between the Celebrities (managed by sportscaster Frank Buetel) played the Minutemen. Buetel vowed to beat the Minutemen’s two-platoon system with brute strength, so he promptly named TBS as his leadoff batter. The Celebrity lineup was:
- Bill Strength, 3b
- Roy Drusky, ss
- John Kundla, 1b
- George Mikan, cf
- Frank Buetel, p
- Wally Karbo, lf
- Dennis Stecher, rf
- Dick Nesbitt, sf
September 7, 1957: TBS and his new all-girl unit, the Westernettes, play the County Fair at Madison, Minnesota along with Tex Ritter and Smiley Burnette. Billboard September 2, 1957
September 9, 1957, Billboard: TBS recently shared the bill with Ernest Tubb and His Texas Troubadors at the Stillwater Speed Bowl, Stillwater, Minnesota. He invites all C&W artists passing thru the Twin Cities to visit him at his record shop at 202 South 10th Street, Minneapolis, and to appear with him on KEVE radio. Strength recently left the Capitol label and is reported dickering with Decca and Columbia.
September 30, 1957, Billboard: Mary Moore, 112-A Peak Tops (U.S.N.S.), Green Cove Springs, Florida, is the new president of the TBS Fans’ Club, succeeding Dixie Ann Brown, who has been forced to resign due to illness.
November 4, 1957, Billboard: TBS, in addition to his daily deejay and TV shows over KEVE, is appearing five nights a week at the Flame. He’s again doing the booking there. Bill says he’s all set for the big blowout in Nashville.
December 23, 1957, Billboard: TBS, entertainer-deejay, who still holds forth at KEVE, typewrites that he was all set to fly into Nashville for the recent deejay conclave, when he was brought down with the flu.
February 3, 1958, Billboard: TBS, entertainer-deejay at KEVE, has been ordered by his doctor to take four-week vacation, due to physical and mental exhaustion which the doc described as the first stages of a breakdown. Now recuperating in Texas and Mexico, Texas Bill plans to resume his KEVE duties around February 15.
February 28, 1958: Ever the pitchman, TBS is seen in an ad for dog food.
DISENCHANTMENT WITH MINNEAPOLIS
In his April 2, 1958, column, Will Jones reported:
This has been a week of sudden departures in the radio business. Texas Bill Strength left KEVE and the country-western Flame Cafe after a flareup, and was replaced Monday [March 31] at both places by Dave Dudley, country-western singer and disk jockey from Duluth (by way of Chicago and Nashville, Tenn.)
April 21, 1958, Billboard: TBS has set it down at the Vasser Grove Trailer Park, Hopkins, after taking departure from Minneapolis, where he resigned his deejay post at KEVE and his emsee job at the Flame. Texas Bill says his Minneapolis exodus was not due to a flare-up or conflict as one of the columnists there state, but rather due to health reasons. Strength says he also has disposed of his record shop in Minneapolis and that he is contemplating a change of scenery and atmosphere. Says he has been planning getting out of the disk jockey business for some time in an effort to build his status as a C&W artist. Bill put in most of last week in Chicago, while playing a Calumet City, Illinois, nitery. He reports that he cut a session recently, with the release due soon on either Columbia or Decca.
May and June, 1958: TBS played a series of week stand in Midwest niteries. (Billboard June 30, 1958)
Late June, 1958: TBS has planted roots at KISD, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he’s doing three and a half hours of C&W music a night. He asks that artists and record companies take note of his new location. (Billboard June 30, 1958)
June 29, 1958: TBS appeared at the World’s Championship Rodeo at Crystal Springs Ranch, Clear Lake, South Dakota, along with Smiley Burnett, Johnny White, and the Sons of the West, of WELO-TV, Sioux Falls. (Billboard June 30, 1958)
August 2, 1958: TBS appeared on “Big D Jamboree” in Dallas, sharing the spotlight with:
- Martha Carson
- Wally Fowler
- The Johnson Sisters
- Roy Carter
While in the Western Country, Texas Bill visited with Mac Sanders and Hiram Higsley at KSIR, Witchita. He also visited Hank and Dorothy Thompson at their home in Oklahoma City. As reported in Billboard on August 11, 1958
August 11, 1958, Billboard: TBS has been roamin’ the country far and wide on personals since leaving his deejay chores at KEVE several months ago.
September 27, 1958: TBS played “Louisiana Hayride” in Shreveport, Louisiana. Billboard, October 13, 1958
October 11, 1958: TBS did a guest stint on Red Foley’s “Jubilee U.S.A.” at Springfield, Missouri, which goes out over the TV lanes on October 13. Billboard, October 13, 1958
October 13, 1958, Billboard: TBS scribbles that he’s been constantly on the go the last several months, trying to beat the depression. He says he’s a sure shot to make the big C&W deejay convention in Nashville November 21-22.
Late 1958: TBS made the move to California, living in Long Beach and working for KFOX, “the Only 100 Percent Country-Western Music Station in Southern California.” He kept an office at 5927 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. (RP)
December 1958: TBS, the “Denver Dragon,” spent the holidays with the home folks in Houston. Billboard January 5, 1959.
March 5, 1959: TBS played the Manger Club, El Monte, California.
March 8, 1959: TBS did a live broadcast at Riverside Rancho, Hollywood, with the Squeekin’ Deacon Moore show over KXLA.
March 9, 1959: TBS showed his wares at the Crow’s Nest, Oxnard, California.
March 13, 1959: TBS played Laramie, Wyoming.
March 16, 1959, Billboard: TBS, who has been hopping hither and yon for the last 10 months, reports from Hollywood that the breaks are finally coming his way, with MGM slates to issue its first release on him almost any day now. He recently appeared with Hank Penny and Wade Ray’s band at the Goden Nugget, Las Vegas. Today he begins a six-week stand at Brady’s, Minneapolis nitery.
April 13, 1959, Cedric Adams, Strib: “Brady’s on 6th is still pitching western with the Rhythm Rangers quartet plus TBS, whose first Capitol recording of “Yellow Rose of Texas” became a national hit. Strength was also one of the popular stars on Grand Ole Opry.”
May 1959: TBS worked three dates with George Jones and Wanda Jackson in Minnesota Territory.
May 23, 1959: TBS hopped into Houston for a guest shot on the new “Texas Jamboree.”
May 24, 1959: TBS made an appearance at Magnolia Gardens in Houston. He then jumped from Houston to the West Coast, where he’ll work out a string of dates before heading back to his Minneapolis headquarters.
First week in June, 1959: TBS hops to Alaska for a 10-day trek. Billboard March 16, 1959.
June 20, 1959: TBS Married Jackie Young in San Diego. Jackie was from Houston an was a former secretary for the George Jones Fan Club. She left for Houston in the fall. (RP)
June 22, 1959, Billboard: TBS is currently filling some dates for Steve Stebbins, of Americana Corporation, Woodland Hills, California, and plans to remain on the West Coast for some time.
June 29, 1959, Billboard: TBS typewrites from Hollywood that he’s set on a long string of club dates up and down the Coast by Steve Stebbins and that he plans to remain in that area indefinitely.
December 31, 1959: TBS was back in Minneapolis, at least for New Year’s Eve, as he hosted a huge New Year’s Eve show featuring:
- Jimmie Rodgers
- Porter Wagoner
- Johnny Horton
- George Morgan
- Anita Carter
- Bobby Lord
- Don Davis
1960 (no date): An ad in the 1960 Country Music Who’s Who claimed that he was “soon to be heard on Challenge Records,” but that never panned out. (RP)
January 25, 1960, Billboard: TBS has transferred his activity from KFOX, Long Beach, to KIKK, Bakersfield, where he is serving as program director and deejay. In addition, Texas Bill does a daily stint with Cousin Herb Henson on KERO-TV in the same city. Strength asks that artists and diskeries put him on the list for samples of new releases.
March 28, 1960, Billboard: TBS, now on the staff of KUZZ, Bakersfield, requests that artists send him station breaks and their new records.
May 8, 1960: There was an open house at the Kaehn household, for TBS who was visiting in the area. He was on a personal appearance tour, and stopped off here, and rejoined the tour on the 9th in Texas. (Manske Sisters newsletter, May 22, 1960)
May 9, 1960, Billboard: TBS was a guest on KCUL, Fort Worth, recently, en route from California to Minneapolis.
August 22, 1960, Billboard: TBS is back in Hollywood after a jaunt that took him to Chicago, Minneapolis, Houston, and, most recently, Memphis, where he signed a recording pact with Sun Records. His first release for Sun is due out in two weeks. Meanwhile, he is plugging a new release on the Toppa Records label, of Covina, California, coupling “Watching the World Go By” and “Picture of My Heart.” Deejays needing copies of the latter platter may write to Bill at 5927 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood 28. Strength will work club dates on the Coast until Nashville convention time in November, after which he plans to return to Minneapolis.”
August 22, 1960, Billboard: Toppa 1021 “Watching the World Go By” – “The Texas singer handles this country novelty in good fashion as he explains that he’s lonesome.” b/w “Picture of My Heart” – “On this weeper the singer comes thru with a warm vocal, aided by good backing. Listenable waxing.”
September 1960: TBS Registered as a Democrat in Orange County. His address was 7681 El Monte Drive, Buena Park.
October 3, 1960: Billboard reviewed TBS’s Sun Record No.346:
- “Guess I’d Better Go” – TBS has a strong side here. It’s in the best weeper tradition, with a country-oriented performance which can nevertheless go to pop.”
- b/w “Senorita” – “A bouncy side, with a Tex-Mex flavor. Contrasts sharply with the flip.”
October 24, 1960, Billboard: TBS spent four days in the San Francisco sector last week, playing dates for Blackjack Wayne and making radio and TV personals on KNBA, Vallejo, California. Bill, who is presently kicking up dust with his new Sun release, “Guess I Better Go,” will make the country music festival in Nashville November 4-5, after which he plays dates in Tucson and Phoenix with Merle Travis, booked by Raymac Enterprises, Anaheim, which also handles Skeets McDonald, Joe Maphis, Eddie Dean, Johnny Bond, Bonnie Sloan and Rose Maddox.
October 31, 1960, Billboard: Skeets McDonald placed an ad thanking (disk jockeys?) for putting his song “This Old Heart” on the charts. “also my deepest thanks for your help on “Guess I’d Better Go” TBS (Sun Records).” This is curious, since they were on two different labels and McDonald wasn’t a writer of the song.
January 23, 1961, Billboard: TBS departed Anchorage, Alaska, January 16 for Memphis to cut another session for Sun Records. Texas Bill, together with Bonnie Sloan, played the Montana Club in Anchorage, with appearances on KENI-TV, KFOD and KBYR. The Montana Club is located at 222 Fourth Avenue, Anchorage. The Sun Records firm, which recently knocked the “Texas” off of Bill Strength’s name, will revert to the Texas Bill billing when they spring with his new release.
April 22, 1961: TBS worked the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. As reported in the May 15, 1961, issue of Billboard.
April 29, 1961: TBS worked the Big D Jamboree in Dallas. As reported in the May 15, 1961, issue of Billboard.
May 6, 1961: TBS worked the Cowtown Jubilee in Fort Worth. As reported in the May 15, 1961, issue of Billboard.
May 15, 1961, Billboard: Bill Strength has just finished another session for Sam Phillips’s Sun Records, with release due any day now.
June 12, 1961, Billboard: TBS landed in Chicago last week after playing a string of engagements in and around his native Houston. En route to the Windy City, Bill stopped off in Tucson for a stand at Tucson Gardens and appearances over KUUN-TV and KMOP Radio.
BACK TO MINNESOTA
November 7-12, 1961: Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart were featured at a new C&W club, the Loon, which has made its bow at 2935 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, with TBS as permanent emsee. Owned by the operator of the present Torch Club there, the Loon operates nightly, Tuesday through Sunday, with Sunday shows starting at 4 pm. As reported in the November 20, 1961, issue of Billboard. Ad below from the Strib.
November 13, 1961, Billboard: Jimmy Simpson, of Radio Alaska, Anchorage, reports that Lefty Frizzell and TBS are scoring handsomely on personals in the Anchorage area. Jimmy had them as recent visitors on his air show.
November 14-19, 1961: Lonzo and Oscar were featured at the Loon, with TBS as emsee. As reported in the November 20, 1961, issue of Billboard. Ad below from the Strib.
November 15, 1961, Strib
December 1961: The Torch was at 607 W. Lake Street – now the site of Dulono’s Pizza
March 13-17, 1962: TBS appeared at the CC Tap Bar.
March 24, 1962, Billboard: A column by Bill Sachs headed “Folk Talent & Tunes” had a lot of news about TBS:
- He recently returned from his third jaunt to Alaska, where he played the U.S. Air Force bases in Kodiak and Anchorage and appeared with Paul Harper and His Western Combo at Anchorage’s Alibi Club.
- He is currently heading his own Western combo at the CC Tap at 26th and Lyndale.
- He has been engaged to twirl the C&W platters on KTCR, new all-country and western station in the Twin Cities which takes to the air late this month. He says he needs programming material from the artists and diskeries to bring KTCR’s library up to date.
- He recently stopped off in Memphis to cut six more sides for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records and says he has an album coming up on the sable early in the summer.
April 5, 1962: KTCR signed on as a Country station in Minneapolis.
May 7, 1962, Strib, George Grimm:
On extension 345 came a voice with a drawl so musical you expected the guitar to start its accompaniment.
“This is TBS,” the southwest-flavored words said. “You know anybody who’d like about 300 old law books? I got ‘em from Mister Eaton who runs Eaton’s ranch south of town here. Figured I’d do a little law book readin’. But I never got to it. Had a couple of attorney friends look the books over. They said they’re useful, but a little outdated. Like I have a complete set of ‘Corpus Juris’ but now there’s a ‘Corpus Juris, Secundus’ that took over. Anyway, maybe one of your readers would like those 300 law books. All he has to do is to drive out to my house and pick them up.”
Texas Bill – with that drawl what else could you want to call him – says please don’t phone. Just arrive with your transportation and take the books with you. His address: 2514 So. 15th Ave.
Even when that fellow talks about law books, it sounds like the verse of a song about somebody’s true, true love!
June 16, 1962, Billboard: TBS, in addition to his deejay chores at KTCR, and working area dates with his own band, is handling bookings for a nearby club using acts Thursdays through Sundays.
August 1962: TBS made appearances at Twin City Speedway
THE 1962 SHOOTING
August 23, 1962: “Disk Jockey Critically Shot in Scuffle in Apartment:” TBS was described as a disk jockey and a singer at Triviski’s Bar, 678 Selby Ave. in St. Paul. He and a friend, Donald “Duke” Larson, met two young ladies, Barbara Lindberg, 20, and Rose Kasown, 19. (TBS was 34) They all went to the girls’ first floor apartment at 2437 Elliott Ave. So. At 2:30 am, the upstairs neighbor, Marcus J. Styer, 26, got fed up with the noise and called the police, but the four went out to eat and were gone when police arrived. The four came back to the girls’ apartment at 3:15 am, and continued for about an hour. Finally Styer, who had been in a mental institution in 1957 and 1958, had had enough. He grabbed his shotgun and headed downstairs. There accounts differ as to whether Styer burst in shooting or whether TBS grabbed the gun and it went off accidentally. Either way, it blew a big hole in his right thigh, and Styer said that he used his belt as a tourniquet while Barbara called the police.
Styer was arrested and held for second degree assault. TBS was taken to General Hospital in critical condition, but improved to serious condition the next day. One article described the wound as in the.
September 9, 1962: Some musician friends held a benefit for TBS, who was still in the hospital. It was scheduled to take place at the Hitching Post on Highway 61 in Forest Lake, from 1pm to 1am. Ten bands and 20 acts were scheduled to perform.
November 15, 1962: Styer’s trial opened in Hennepin County District Court. Barbara admitted that there had been some noise at about 2 am that night, when she and rose were throwing a baseball around with a dog and the ball broke a window. Just before the shooting, she said that she knocked an ironing board into a tin cabinet while going to let the dog out. This time she said that she was the one who applied a tourniquet. She also testified that he kept saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t know where the noise was.” He pleaded with them to tell police that TBS had grabbed the gun, she said.
November 19, 1962: Styer took the stand, testifying that he heard “repeated outcries of a woman’s voice” and took his shotgun downstairs to frighten the noisemakers, not checking to see if it was loaded. He denied the allegation that he “burst in,” saying that he and TBS engaged in conversation for several minutes. Styer told him to quit making a disturbance and get out, and TBS mumbed several times “I’ll go,” but then TBS grabbed the end of the gun, which was pointed in the air, and brought it down. This caused Styer’s finger to brush the trigger, and the gun discharged.
November 21, 1962: After deliberating only two hours, the jury found Styer not guilty of the charges. The jury did not believe the “burst in” story (or apparently the wrestling with the gun theory) in light of the contention of the State that the X-ray pattern of the gunshot wound showed that he was a good eight feet away from Styer at the time of the shooting.
September 1, 1962, Billboard: TBS made the New York scene last week, calling on deejays and other trade folk.
At the end of 1962, TBS did a series of appearances for Atlantic Mills Department Store.
May 16, 1963: Rex Allen was in town for a stint at the Flame, and Will Jones relayed this story:
Like all true night club performers, he even enjoys zinging an inside joke. TBS, who was involved in a shooting scrape not long ago, was in the audience the other night. During a bit in which Allen showed off his cross-draw 45s, he looked over at Strength’s table and said: “Y’don’t hafta worry, Bill, they’s blanks in these.”
On June 8, 1963, KTCR presented the Grand Ole Opry at Met Stadium. Headliners were:
- Claude King
- Skeeter Davis
- Don Gibson
- Merle Travis
- Tex Ritter
- Marvin Rainwater (who was robbed of $650 from his suitcase at the Leamington Hotel)
- Roy Drusky
- Bobby Hankins
- Texas Bill Strength, emcee
July 21, 1963: TBS and his Troubadors appeared at the Hot Rod Races at Twin City Speedway.
November 10, 1963: Minneapolis was in the middle of a huge folk music craze, and Hootenanny was the word of the hour. Apparently the organizers of this event thought that folk music consisted of C&W and polka. Hopefully WDGY brought some Kingston Trio records.
December 7, 1963::
On February 15, 1964, there was a Grand Ole Opry Show, Blockbuster Number 3, at the Minneapolis Auditorium. These Grand Ole Opry shows were booked by a DJ named Smokey Smith from Iowa. This show featured:
- Faron Young
- Webb Pierce
- Lefty Frizzell
- Earnest Ashworth
- Sonny James
- Elton Britt
- Jan Moore
- Texas Bill Strength
Billboard (February 29, 1964) reported that this show Number 3 played to 7,308 paid admissions, grossing over $16,700 – a record gross for promoter Smokey Smith in the three years he has been promoting country shows at the Minneapolis Auditorium.
April 18, 1964, Billboard: Spinning the country platters on KTCR Jay Jenson, Vern Arthur, TBS, and Johnny Long.
June 25, 1964: TBS, along with the Minnesota Twins, appears at Midway Ford.
July11, 1964: The Marty Robbins Show came to town, sponsored by KTCR. Other performers were:
- Red Foley
- Bobby Lord
- Melba Montgomery
- The Canadian Sweethearts
- Skeets MacDonald
- Grandpa Jones
- Sheb Wooley
- Johnny Bond
- Mac Wiseman
- Johnny & Jonie Mosby
- Joe Maphis & Rose Lee
- Pete Nolan of “Rawhide”
The description of the show in the July 11, 1964, edition of Billboard calls it “KTCR’s First Annual Country & Western Music Spectacular,” and only lists Marty Robbins at the top of the list of stars, not the namesake of the show. Plans were for it to start with an hour-long parade through downtown Minneapolis starting at 2 pm. Next was a chuck wagon dinner from 6 to 8 pm, and then the three-hour show. Climaxing the event will be the First Annual Minnesota Square Dance Festival, running from 11 pm to 2 am. KTCR’s signal reached 70 counties in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota; the show was expected to bring in more than 20,000 spectators.
February 11, 1965: TBS appeared at the premiere of “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” the story of Hank Williams.
Starting on St. Patrick’s Day and lasting until at least October 1965, TBS performed on and off at the Excuse Club at Cedar/Riverside. One of his fellow performers were the Polecats, led by Larry LaPole. Larry wrote many of the surf songs recorded by the Trashmen!
April 19-24, 1965: TBS was back at the Flame as the headliner:
May 22, 1965: The 9th Grand Ole Opry Show came to town, and TBS was on the bill, along with:
- Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three
- Tex Ritter
- The Willis Brothers
- June Carter
- Bob Luman
- The Statler Brothers
July 3, 1965, Billboard: TBS was named music director of KTCR. He was in charge of reviewing new records and making up the KTCR Top 50 Chart. Billboard rated the station as “being tops in influencing the sale of country records and Strength as top DJ in the market in influencing the sale of country records.”
July 5, 1965, Strib: A blurb announced TBS’s move to WMIN radio to host a noon to 3 pm record show.
July 10, 1965, Billboard: TBS was still identified as working for KTCR. He had 78 percent of the audience, with two other jocks at KTCR and one from WMIN sharing the other 22 percent of the country DJ ratings.
August 2, 1965, Strib: Another blurb repeated TBS’s move to WMIN.
August 2, 1965: The ad below mentions both stations, none directly associated with TBS:
August 5, 1965, Strib: The ad below makes the move to WMIN official. The black eyes refer to a cigarette ad campaign, “I’d rather fight than switch,” no doubt.
August 14, 1965, Billboard: TBS has joined countrified WMIN, St. Paul. He was with KTCR there. In Biff Collie’s “West Coast Ramblings” column in the same edition of Billboard, it says that TBS has been upped to program director at KTCR. (Billboard was a weekly, so it must have been difficult for them to keep up.)
A TIME OF TROUBLES
September 1, 1965: TBS’s mother, Jessie Leon Strength, died at her home in Conroe, Texas.
September 3 and 4, 1965: The ad below indicates that TBS was scheduled to play the Excuse Club.
September 23-25, 1965: TBS was scheduled to make a personal appearance.
September 24: Ad in the Strib:
October 8 and 9, 1965: TBS was back at the Excuse Club:
December 11, 1965, Billboard: Jackie Young, ex-wife of TBS, was found murdered in the back seat of her sports car in Houston recently. Strength made the trip to Houston from St. Paul to aid the sheriff’s department in solving the mystery. At this writing, the murder remains unsolved. On the night she was killed, Miss Young had attended a dance at which George Jones and band were featured. The Jones band members, who were among the last to see Miss Young alive, were questioned and released. Strength is now in his tenth year in the Minneapolis-St. Paul sector, currently at WMIN, St. Paul. He reports that he and Miss Young had set a date to be remarried on February 20 of next year.
February 7, 1966: TBS’s father, died at the VA Hospital in Houston. On the same day, TBS was stricken ill and was a patient in two hospitals. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic detected a spot of cancer on his left lung and a case of cirrhosis of the liver. Strength, who has in recent years been featured on several local radio stations with his own country platter show, will be forced out of action for some six weeks. As reported in the March 26, 1966, issue of Billboard.
March 17, 1966: TBS, veteran country music entertainer and deejay who was forced to relinquish his deejay post on February 7 due to illness, informed Billboard that he is well on the way to recovery and hopes to be back in harness soon. Writing under date of March 17, Strength says, “I was in Mayo Clinic for 14 days. They thought I had a touch of lung cancer but got it cleared up in time by giving me pulmonary dilating treatments and oxygen four times daily. They also discovered I have a 40 per cent portion of my liver chewed up, but I’m recovering real well.” Friends may write to Texas Bill at 2600 East Medicine Lake Boulevard, Minneapolis, 55427. This address appears to be in Plymouth, although the house at that address wasn’t built yet. Perhaps it was the one next door, which was built in 1920. As reported in Billboard, April 2, 1966
March 27, 1966: A benefit show will be held at the Medina Ballroom. More than 17 area bands, as well as local deejays and radio and TV personalities, have donated their services for the benefit show. Merle Travis has been busy lining up other acts. Mail will reach Strength in care of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Rundquist, 1490 64th Avenue NE, Minneapolis. The closest this address computes today may be where Highways 100 and 694 meet in Brooklyn Center. Benefit show reported in Billboard on March 26, 1966.
June 1966: TBS, forced to relinquish his deejay chores recently on a Minneapolis station due to illness, which laid him low for several months, has recovered and will henceforth work as a country music single. Strength says he has given up the deejay business, at least temporarily. He arrived in Nashville recently to scout for a potential hit song and a recording session. As reported in Billboard, July 9, 1966
June 24, 1966: TBS appeared on Bobby Lord’s TV show in Nashville. As reported in Billboard, July 9, 1966
June 25, 1966: TBS appeared on Ernie Tubb’s Midnight Jamboree TV show. As reported in Billboard, July 9, 1966
June 28, 1966: TBS appeared on Ralph Emery’s early-morning TV show. As reported in Billboard, July 9, 1966
July 9, 1966, Billboard: Strength left Nashville late this week for Fort Lauderdale for a five-week club date.
August 14-16, 1966: TBS filmed the Bill Anderson TV show in Charlotte, NC. He will return to Nashville. As reported in Billboard, July 9, 1966
October 29, 1966, Billboard: TBS was included on a list of Top Country Artists. He was on Starday Records, represented by the Wil-Helm Agency.
December 17, 1966: James W. Rieck, 25, was arrested and held for investigation in connection with an assault of TBS while he was loading instruments into his car, which was parked in an alley behind Mr. Lucky’s. Rieck’s car pulled up, and argument ensued, and Rieck pulled a gun.
A 1967 Talent Directory published in Billboard listed TBS as being on Starday Records and represented by the Wil-Helm Agency.
March 18, 1967, Billboard: TBS, C&W entertainer and deejay who was forced to vacate the local radio scene more than a year ago due to ill health, has rejoined WMIN, Minnesota’s only 24-hour country music station. Strength was in Houston recently to attend the trial of the man arrested in the murder of his former wife Jackie nearly two years ago. The 22-year-old youth was found guilty, Strength reports, and given a life sentence.
May 27, 1967:
March 8, 1968, Will Jones: TBS, back on WMIN, phone-interviews top country-western stars in Nashville and Hollywood daily. He has recorded a new “Texas Bill Strength’s Greatest Hits” album in Nashville.
April 27, 1968, Billboard: After a brief fling at a Fort Lauderdale radio station following the country music convention in October, TBS has again settled in Atlanta, where he’s doing a daily platter show over WTJH Radio. He’ll spend his free time playing club and show dates in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas. Strength also plans to record for his old friend, Bill Lowery. Texas Bill reports that he’ll be married to a Minnesota girl in June.
March 2, 1969: Radio station WTJH, East Point, Georgia, will sponsor a country music show at the city auditorium honoring the “old timers” of the industry, reported Billboard the day before. Governor Lester Maddox proclaimed Sunday as “Old Timers Day in Georgia.” The line-up of talent included:
- David Rodgers, Columbia Records
- Penny Linsey, Galaxy Records
- Clayton Read, Master Records
- George Read & His Blue Ridge Mountain Boys
- Jack Holden & Frances Kay
- WTJH Ranch Hands
- The Wranglers
- Don Echols
- Hoyt Bruitt
- Freddie Cole
- Jimmy Myers
- Billy Willson
- Bud, Dannie and Mote
- Skillit Likkers and Band
- Spero Patterson
- Riley Puckett
- Slim Spewman
- Debbie and Ronnie Ruggles
- Billy Goldman
- Sylvia Eason
- Billy Dillsworth
Emcees were WTJH announcers:
- Buzz Walker
- Country Jim
- Ned Lukens
Discouraged with the state of Country music, TBS tried to quit performing and sell insurance.
April 13, 1970, Will Jones: “Texas Bill” is Back in Town
The often-shot-at TBS is back among us, after having spent the past three years in Atlanta and Birmingham, and touring with Grand Ole Opry units in the South.
He no longer has the metallic-purple, gold-wheeled ’29 Model A Ford that he used to sport around here. During a visit to Nashville he sold it to Johnny Cash, who intends to use it on a TV show.
Strength opened over the weekend at the Casino Royale, a storefront in the Shorewood shopping center that operated for a couple of years as a teen club and is now going the country-western route. Strength is there Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, zinging in his own creations such as “Hillbilly Hell,” a takeoff on “Hillbilly Heaven,” among the country-western standards.
He’s also returning to the disc-jockey scene here, and will launch a show on KTCR in a couple of weeks.
April 23, 1970, Will Jones: “Revised Report on Texas Bill”
TBS, who used to be a disk jockey at KTCR, came back to town and told me he was going back to work there, and I printed it. Now here’s a letter from Robert J. Rock, general manager of KTCR and KTCR-FM: “I do the hiring and firing of personnel at these stations. For your correct information, Strength has not been offered any position at these stations. And furthermore, he will NOT be offered a position here, now or in the future.” I sense a problem there.
July – October 1970: TBS had a string of appearances at the Flame:
- June 15 – 10 with the Tiny Harris Country Band
- June 22 – 27 with the Tiny Harris Country Band and Justin Tubb
- June 29 – July 4 with the Tiny Harris Country Band
- July 6 – 11 with Jean Shepard and Warren Robb
- July 20 – 25 with Carl and Pearl Butler and Warren Robb
- July 27 – August 1 with Warren Robb
- August 3 – 8 with Liz Anderson and the Willis Wade Country Band
- August 17 – 22 with Willis Wade and Johnny Darrell
- September 28 – October 3 with Jerry Naylor and Clyde Owens Band
- October 12 – 17 with Billy Maphis and Rose Lee plus Billy James
- October 26 – 31 with the Cantrells and George Deaton Country Kings
September 26, 1970, Billboard: TBS, where are you? I was just listening to one of your old Sun Records tunes that Shelby Singleton has repackaged on a variety LP. Great.
March 13, 1971, Billboard: TBS spent two days in Cincinnati last week, plugging his new Starday release, a parody of one of Tex Ritter’s big ones of a few seasons back. Strength stopped here en route from Nashville to Minneapolis, where he continues to spin country platters while appearing as a regular at the Flame.
March 28, 1971, Billboard: TBS’s new single on Starday is titled “Hillbilly Hades,” a parody of Tex Ritter’s big click of a few years back, “Hillbilly Heaven.”
April 3, 1971, Billboard: TBS is alive and well in Minneapolis. He wrote Paul Ackerman, music editor of Billboard, a letter about a new Starday Records single called “Hillbilly Hades,” which is a parody of the old “Hillbilly Heaven” country disk. For those of you who don’t know, Texas Bill one of the great country air personalities.
February 22 to 27, 1972: TBS had a stand at the Mermaid Supper Club, which featured Country music.
March 10, 1973: After discontinuing its country format a year ago, the Flame reverted to form and began bringing in big name country performers again. There are now two full-time country house bands: TBS and his group in the front lounge and the Chill Hilman Country Show in the main room. Part of the renewed interest can be attributed to the addition of an all-night country show on KTCR-FM with Gregg Elsworth. KSTP AM also has a midnight to 6am country show directed specifically at truck drivers and other night people, hosted by Al Carlson.
May 12, 1973, Billboard: TBS, still active with radio and television in the Minneapolis area, has signed with Brite Star Records.
THE DEATH OF TEXAS BILL
August 5, 1973: While riding in the back of his car, asleep, on the way home from a singing job in Fargo, TBS’s car, driven by a friend, left the road and flipped over several times. He was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital in Fargo, and later transferred to Ramsey Hospital (now Regions) in St. Paul. Doctors told him he would never walk again. One arm broken in three places. Jaw wired, breathes through a trachea tube.
August 18 and 25, 1973, Billboard: At this writing, TBS was in poor condition at St. Luke’s Hospital, in Fargo following an auto accident. Bill records for Brite Star in Nashville.
Despite his injuries, TBS wrote an article for the October 1973 issue of the Upper Midwest Country & Western News Scene magazine called “Down Memory Lane.” He expressed his determination to follow through on his plans to lead a bus tour to Nashville. He dedicated the article to his idol and friend, Ernest Tubb, noting that he held Tubb in such high regard that he named his eldest son after him.
Unfortunately, as the issue went to press, the Editor reported that on September 15, 1973, TBS had gone into respiratory arrest. As he went without oxygen for some time, he went into a coma. At the age of 23, son (Ernest) Dale held the responsibility of reporting on his father’s condition.
September 25, 1973: Eldest son Dale went on “Midday” at noon on Channel 4, presumably to report on his father’s condition.
September 30, 1973: Friends of TBS sponsored a benefit at the Medina Ballroom from noon to midnight.
October 1, 1973: TBS died at St. Paul-Ramsey Hospital.
October 6, 1973: Services for TBS were held at Fourth Baptist Church at 11 am, with burial at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. Memorials were preferred to the Country Entertainers Association’s Trust Fund.
October 20, 1973, Billboard: Funeral services were held last week for TBS, at Minneapolis. He died there of injuries suffered in an auto accident several weeks ago.
October 6, 1973: KTCR honored TBS on its Country 9 + 20 Survey (under KTCR Pick-Album)
January, 1974: In the wake of the passing of Tex Ritter on January 2, 1974, TBS’s son Dale wrote to his father’s friends in the C&W community to collect their memories.
January 26, 1974: Boudleaux and Felice Bryant placed a multi-page ad in Billboard with the text, “We hate to think of what the past twenty five years would have been for us without you, the artists who have recorded our songs. Thanks forever.” Several hundred artists, including TBS, were listed alphabetically, followed by a list of songs the pair had written.
September 6, 1975, Billboard: Friends of the Grand Ole Opry published a list of the artists who had appeared on the show over the years, either as members or guests. TBS was listed as William T. Strength.
October 19, 1978: TBS was nominated posthumously to the Disk Jockey Hall of Fame, awarded by the Federation of International Country Air Personalities at their third [fourth] annual banquet, held in conjunction with Country Music Week in Nashville.
October 12, 1979: TBS was again nominated to the Country Music Disk Jockey Hall of Fame.
1990: TBS was inducted into the Country Music Disk Jockey Hall of Fame.
May 22, 2004: TBS was given a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award in the Minnesota Rock & Country Hall of Fame.
2006: TBS was inducted into the Minnesota Rock & Country Hall of Fame.
2013: TBS was inducted into the Legends of South Dakota Country Music and Museum.