Who was/is Billy Gray & Western Okies ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
Billy Gray & Western Okies
BILLY GRAY was born in Paris, Texas in 1924. He learned to play guitar at 15 and appeared on local radio stations in his late teens. He organized his own band in 1943 and played over KPLT in Paris for three years.
During the late '40s Gray moved to Dallas and joined Bob Manning's Riders Of The Silver Sage. Gray sang on Manning's 1948 recordings for Dude including Reading Your Letter With Tears In My Eyes, Old Folks Boogie and Green Light, the original version of a song which Hank Thompson recorded for Capitol.
In 1950 Gray became a fixture of Hank Thompson's Brazos Valley Boys. He also managed the band, co-wrote many of their songs and ran Thompson's publishing companies, Brazos Valley Music (BMI) and Texoma Music (ASCAP). In 1954, Gray cut You Can't Have My Love for Decca with Thompson's 16 year old singer, Wanda Jackson. The record went to Top Ten C&W.
In 1955, Gray premiered his own seven-piece danceband, the Western Okies, at Oklahoma City's legendary Trianon Ballroom where Thompson held court during 1952-54. The band, including Texas Playboy Bobby Koefer on steel, made fine records but with the national acceptance of rock'n'roll, Gray's brand of Western swing took a nosedive and the group soon broke up. Their leader remained with Decca long enough to record with Mimi Roman and to cut this cover of Marty Robbins's Tennessee Toddy, a classic tale of honky tonk violence.
Gray's other records appeared on Monument (1959) and Longhorn (1960), Vandan and Liberty (1963).
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