Tommy Duncan 100th birthday

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I was able to arrange my travel schedule to spend an hour or so in Whitney, Texas, for the 100th birthday celebration of native son Tommy Duncan, who won fame as the vocalist for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.

The plan was to have a parade just before noon, followed by a classic car show in the afternoon, and a gala banquet and dance featuring Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition. But weather more appropriate to Wales than Whitney -- a cold, steady drizzle -- put a damper on the parade. Instead, the crowd gathered in Texas Mint and Mercantile, the headquarters of the celebration and home to the nascent Tommy Duncan Museum. There I had the opportunity to meet and visit with Tommy's brother Glynn Duncan, Glynn's wife Hazel, and several other members of the Duncan family; Pam Townley, who organized the event, the museum, and the fan club; Nashville musician Carolyn Martin, actor Guich Koock (who bought and restored Luckenbach, Texas, with Hondo Crouch in 1970); Billy Mata and Texas Tradition drummer Rocco Fortunato.


I also spoke with filmmaker and Baylor professor Curtis Callaway, who is working on a documentary on the life of Tommy Duncan. Curtis and some of his Baylor students were there snapping photos and taking video for the documentary, which is about a year from completion. Here's the trailer:

"In the Shadow of a King - The Tommy Duncan Story" from Curtis Callaway on Vimeo.

Glynn Duncan is a western swing artist in his own right, a bassist with Luke Wills and His Rhythm Busters and brother Tommy's Western All-Stars, and a vocalist for Bob Wills. Glynn supplied the vocals for the unreleased 1971 Texas Playboys reunion session at Merle Haggard's house. Here's a photo of the Western All-Stars from 1949, the band Tommy formed after Bob Wills fired him in 1948. The group featured the heart of the mid-1940s Texas Playboys -- Noel Boggs on steel, Jimmy Wyble and Cameron Hill on guitar, Joe Holley and Ocie Stockard on fiddle, Millard Kelso on piano, plus Dave Coleman on drums and Glynn Duncan on bass.


I had a few minutes to browse through scrapbooks that Glynn and Hazel Duncan had provided to the museum. There were a couple of photos from Tommy's childhood, the 1930s and 1940s with the Texas Playboys, publicity photos from the '50s and '60s. The photos and other materials are being digitally archived at Baylor University. I snapped a few rather grainy pictures of the pictures.

This is an interesting artifact: A poster for a 1964 performance featuring Tommy Duncan with the Texas Playboys with Leon Rausch; Bob Wills had sold the Playboys earlier in the year, continuing to perform and record thereafter as a solo artist.


Here's Bob Wills, Tommy Duncan, and horses, probably from the early '40s:


I wasn't able to stick around until that evening's dance, but I'm glad I had the chance to be part of the celebration.


A few more photos of the Tommy Duncan 100 celebration on Flickr.

1993 interview with Casey Dickens and Glynn Duncan.

Mandy and Erica's Western Swing Journey: A blog by a couple of the Baylor students working on the documentary

Rich Kienzle's Southwest Shuffle has a chapter devoted to Tommy Duncan.

Tommy Duncan Fan Club on Facebook

Whitney, Texas, has its own indie coffee house, just down the block from the Tommy Duncan Museum -- Neutral Grounds.


Here's Tommy Duncan's discography, post 1948. (It's got one mistake -- Tommy wasn't involved in Bob Wills's May 1963 Liberty session.)

Whitney's local paper, the Lakelander covered the Tommy Duncan 100 event in its news pages and has posted a bunch of photos of the Tommy Duncan 100 celebration. I wish I could have stayed around to hear Glynn sing.

MORE PHOTOS (update 2013/08/08):

This Picasa album, belonging to Nancy Carroll, contains scans of photos collected by Tommy Duncan's niece Jerri Duncan, including publicity photos going back to 1933 in Waco, pictures of Tommy's ranch in the late '60s, and a 20-page "song and picture folio" from 1952.

Another Nancy Carroll album features present-day photos of Tommy Duncan's Singing D ranch near Mariposa, California, now known as Butterfly Creek Winery.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 19, 2011 1:27 PM.

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