By HAP MANSFIELD
A few short profiles of musicians you will see at Natural Fest/Western Swing Hall of Fame in San Marcos on May 17.
Meshawaka, Indiana’s favorite son, Herb Remington, is the definition of the phrase “living legend.” In addition to being one of the most accomplished steel guitarists in the country, his internationally known Remington Steel guitars are lovingly-built pieces of superb craftsmanship. Many a steel guitarist would love to get his hands on a “Remy.”
Remington joined Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys after his discharge from the military in 1946. During his four years with Wills, he wrote ”Bootheel Drag,” a steel guitar piece recorded and released on the flip side of the Wills hit “Faded Love.” Many who listened to the Wills hit fell in love with the steel guitar after playing “Bootheel” on their record players.
Remington was one of a select group of musicians who made up the house band for the Starday record label. That may be Remington on your George Jones records. He also worked with Merle Haggard and still plays with the River Road Boys.
Remington is a gifted Hawaiian steel player, as well, and he often can be seen at many a sunny, flowered-shirted gig in the land of the hula. He’ll be in the Playboys II in the park in San Marcos.
If your heart has ever been moved by Brady Bowen’s version of “Search My Heart,” then you’ve been touched by the vocal expertise of Leon Rausch (You can hear it for yourself at Joe Baker’s Backforty Bunkhouse archives on the web).
Rausch started working with Wills in 1955 and is one of the rapidly dwindling cadre of living “voices” of the Playboys. Leon’s silky, smooth delivery has made him a favorite of swing fans wherever he sings.
The list of notables he has appeared with is a “who’s who” of country music: Glenn Campbell, Roy Clark. Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, George Strait, Jim Reeves, the Sons of the Pioneers, Ernest Tubb, Patsy Cline, Mel Tillis, and Roy Acuff, just to name a few. And you can bet that all those artists list meeting Leon Rausch as one of the highlights of their careers.
If you see a highway sign outside of Billings, Missouri, proclaiming that it is the home of “Leon Rauch, the voice of Western Country Swing music,” it’s not a typo. Rausch put the “s” in his name because he thought it had more of a ring to it.
Leave it to Rausch to always be thinking of the lyrics. He will be part of the Texas Playboys show at Natural Fest.
Even though Boatright got his bachelor’s degree in Mathematics at Midwestern University in Wichita Falls, he was already infected by the algebraic syncopations of music as a youth.
Boatright played the fiddle professionally when he was just a lad, keeping up a hectic schedule of two television shows a week, plus dance and stage shows five to six nights a week, traveling throughout Texas and Oklahoma. Mozart didn’t have such a tight schedule.
Boatright has worked with Leon Rausch (and guitarist/producer Tommy Allsup) and the Texas Playboys for more than 34 years. After Paul McCartney saw them on Nashville Now, he invited the group to play at Soldier Field in Chicago for his “End of the World” Tour.
McCartney may have been wrong about the world ending, but you might possibly feel like you died and went to heaven when you hear Boatright play “Lone Star Rag.” You’ll be among the luckiest of swing fans when you see him at Natural Fest.
In addition to playing with the Playboys II, Howser is an inductee to the Western Swing Hall of Fame on Saturday May 17 in San Marcos. One of the founding members (with Clyde Brewer) of the River Road Boys, Howser keeps a beat throughout their varied styles of music which run from polkas to Western Swing to waltzes.
Howser always marched to the beat of his own drum. Born in San Antonio, he started out in a rock band, J.J. and the Del Tones. Then he switched tempo and carried a beat as a policeman for several years. When he moved to Houston, he spent some time with Jim Kinner’s Country Rhythm Masters and Frankie Vee and the Village Boys before founding the River Road Boys.
Acknowledged as one of the country’s best Western Swing Drummers, he’s had a career that makes his induction into the Hall of Fame a no-brainer. If you’d like to see his induction, remember to reserve your seat for the catfish dinner and presentation as soon as possible because seating is limited.
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