Bobby Hacker's Biography
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Bobby Hacker 2

As Written by: Bobby Hacker

Bobby Hacker 3

   I was born in Sherman, Texas on January 3rd, 1941. My family moved to Canyon, Texas (seventeen miles south of Amarillo, Texas), about 1944. My dad was a traveling salesman and my mother was a homemaker during the time I was growing up. My sister was three years older and this completed the family.

   When I was about five , my mother started my sister and me taking piano lessons. I seemed to have a natural talent for music from the start. my sister soon lost interest in it, but I continued on playing because I liked the praise and apparently was pretty good at it. When I was about eleven or so I started playing the ukulele and singing popular songs of the times. One, I remember, was “Half As Much”. I recall performing at West Texas College during a music camp. The people really had a fit over me and I was proud of myself. Later I performed at my school’s assembly but the reaction wasn’t as good.

Bobby Hacker & Dee Zane

  In junior high I started playing the coronet in the band and I really liked it. I did advance to first chair. About the time of the eight grade, I quit playing the piano. I just grew tired of the recitals and practicing all the time. While a freshman at Canyon High School, I switched from coronet to baritone horn

   About this time (1955) some of the guys in the school band decided to form a dance band. They needed a drummer and I volunteered. I had no drums but used the schools. We rehearsed and played a dance in Umbarger, Texas (a small town west of Canyon). Rock and Roll music was really getting popular at this time and there was a dance called “The Dirty Bop”. I played drums by ear and started beating out a solo after one of our songs. There was this girl who had a not so good reputation that could really dance provocatively. The crowd circled around her and clapped, and my drum playing really got her motor running.

   Shortly after  this  I  was contacted by  a  guy from  West Texas State  named

Bobby Hacker

Playing the Ukulele with my best friend: Dee Zane Pond

Buddy Knox. Buddy wanted me to accompany him and his band, “The Rhythm Orchids” (with Don Lanier and Jimmy Bowen), for an audition for the head of a record label of Roy Orbinson. I believe it was called Jewel Label. We played in a band room at West Texas State College and I don’t recall how it turned out. Not long after that my family moved to Amarillo, Texas. I went from a high school of 250 students to a high school of over 3000. Buddy Knox and The Rhythm Orchids became very famous and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, Steve Allen Show and American Bandstand. I Tried to tell my friends at school that I had played behind them but I dont think anyone believed me.

Bobby Hacker practicing

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   Amarillo High School was quite larger and more talented than Canyon High, but I did manage to move up to second chair in the considerably larger baritone horn section. I continued my drum playing on my own with a record player. I started working with different musicians and singers. Larry Trider was one of the first. Eugene Brown, Jon Sisco, and I formed ”The Electras” using different bass players. We had a battle of the bands with, Joe Bob Barnhill, Earl Whitt, Steve Dodge, and Gary Lee Swafford (“The Fayros”). We were blown away by sheer volume. Gary Lee Swafford also was a drum soloist and I was not that good at solos at that time. We learned a lot from that experience, However.

Electras

“The Electras”, left to right: Hubert Heatherly, Bobby Hacker, Eugene Brown, and  Jon Sisco

The Chips - 1960

“The Chips”  -  1960 with Eugene Brown, Tom Ewton, Don Carpenter and Bobby Hacker

   The next band I was in was called “The Chips” with Eugene Brown, Tommy Ewton, Don Carpenter and myself. Don Later quit and was replaced by Chet Calcote on bass. Gary Harwood, who played alto-sax, was added later on. About 1960 Don Lanier returned and several musicians, including myself started recording at a local studio with Tom Thacker, a local disc-jockey, doing the engineering. We started traveling to Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, New Mexico to record masters. I personally backed Don Lanier, Red Stegall, and The Jon Sisco Quartet on drums in this venture.

The Checkmates

“The Checmates”, left to right: Eugene Brown Chuck Tharpe, Tom Beck, and Bobby Hacker on the Marty Robin’s Show. Notice “The String-A-long’s” drums in the background

   Later on I met a Buddy Holly look-alike named Ray Ruffin. This was in 1961. He was a big fan of Buddy’s and he tried to mimic his voice with little success. Ray was a great promoter and I went on the road with him in April of 1961. We formed a band called “The Checkmates” with Chuck Tharpe, Charlie McClure, Tom Beck and myself. Ray changed his last name from Ruffin to Ruff and we traveled all through the mid-west and up into Canada. We also did quite a bit of recording at Norman Petty’s and in St. Louis, Mo. No big sellers, but we did get some air time at the locations on tour. It was a “chicken or feathers” tour, but I got to see a lot of the country and meet some rock ‘n’ stars,  like Bobby Vee and Gene Pitney. It was great being treated like a star and signing autographs, but I got tired of the road returned home to go back to College

   Returning to college, I played with a number of different bands and singers. I played on “The Marty Robbins Show” and later “The Jim Reeves Show”. I met both and found Marty Robbins to be very friendly and open.

   This was in the fall of 1961 and I recall these names during that period: “The Cinders” with Charlie Bates, Steve Dodge, Charlie Phillips and “The Sugartimers”, Kenneth Trent and his band. Also I worked with Don Caldwell who played a great saxophone. In May of 1962 Steve Mathews and I traveled to Dallas to play in a band there. We stayed that summer and returned in the fall to return to West Texas State University. I also played in the band with Jerry Sparks, Jay Turnbull, and Dave McDonald. Jimmy George was starting to develop into a pretty good singer and I worked with him on occasion. In February 1963 I returned to Dallas to play with the same band I had before. I also did some recording at that time in Dallas. When I returned to Amarillo after a couple of months, I traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to play  behind a country singer named Tony Douglas. On returning from there, I continued to play with different bands and return to West Texas State University in the fall of 1963.

Bill (Smitty) Smith, Jay TurnBull, Dave Campbell, & Bobby Hacker

   In 1964 I played with a road band formed for Booker T. and The M. G.’s. We traveled throughout Texas and New Mexico. The musicians were Bill “Smitty” Smith, Jay Turnbull, Dave Campbell and myself. We played a wicked version of “Green Onions”.

   In May 1964 I went into active Army training for six months for the National Guard. After release from active Army I started playing in a band “The Barons” with Gary Ruitz, Nelson Wirtman, and Ted Barnhill. Going into 1965 I started playing with another band which included Michael Ballew, Steve Mathews and myself. We later cut a couple of masters at Norman Petty Studios, but didn’t get them released on a label.

Hacker

   Later on in 1966 I started playing with “The Smitty Trio”, which included Bill “Smitty” Smith, Larry Marcum and myself. In 1967 I joined another group with Bob Finnecum fronting the band with singing and dancing. It was a five or six piece band and because Bob Finnecum  was  a  drummer  there  were some songs that I actually played trombone on. Having played Baritone horn, all I had to do was find the correct position for the trombone and I could play  the  notes,   I also went into partnership

Bill “Smitty” Smith, Jay Turnbull, Dave Campbell, and Bobby Hacker

with the band’s manager into a private club, “The Beachcomber”. I took care of the entertainment and Johnny Hargraves took care of the bartenders, bar maids and cook. This lasted about eight months and I sold my half to a lawyer friend of mine, Robert McClendon.

Some time during this period, Ray Ruff booked Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon to a dance here in Amarillo. I along with Larry Marcum and some other musicians, backed him. He seemed pleased with our backing and I enjoyed visiting with him. Some of his hits of the time were “Palisades Park”, Tallahassee Lassie”, and “Way Down Yonder In New Orleans”.

“The Smitty Trio” with Bill “Smitty Smith, Larry Marcum, and Bobby Hacker

   In December of 1967 I broke my wrist at a National Guard meeting. I was in a cast for five and one-half months. The bone I broke was slow to heal. During this time Billy Dee and his band needed a drummer and I would have played with them in Las Vegas, Nevada had my wrist not been broken. In May 1968 my wrist finally healed but I was hospitalized for alcohol. After about a month in the hospital I stayed with my parents for another three months until another band from Lubbock asked me to play with them at a night club there in Lubbock, Texas. The only name I can remember in the band is Turnbull because the bass man indicated he was Jay Turnbull’s brother, This did not work out and I returned to Amarillo.

In the summer of 1969 I started back playing with Jerry Sparks and his band. We played on weekends at a club in Borger, Texas. This lasted about three months and I was back to drinking alcohol again. I decided at that point I had better get out of the music business altogether if I wanted to live. I’ve had no regrets about that decision as I married a wonderful gal, raised two great kids, and had various jobs that enabled me to make a good living. I worked at Levi Strauss Distribution Center for fourteen years, tried sales for a couple of years, then worked for Iowa Beef Processors (now Tyson Fresh Meats) and retired after eighteen years in the security department.

Bobby Hacker's Discography:

1. "Love Made A Fool Of You"- Ray Ruff- Clovis- Norman Petty's Studio - Norman Label
2. "My Wish Is You"- " " " "
3. "Well... All Right"- " " " "
4. "Angel Blue"- " " " "
5. "Love"- " " " "
6. "Lonely Hours"- " " " "
7. "Gabriel, Blow Your Horn, Part 1-Gabriel & Checkmates - St. Louis, Mo.-Norman Label
8. "Gabriel, Blow Your Horn, Part 2- " " " "
9. "Conquest" - Jon Sisco Quartet- Clovis-Norman Petty's Studio - Jamie Label
10. "Gangster Of Love"- Don La Near (Lanier)- Clovis - Norman Petty's Studio - Apt Label
11. "I Don't Think You Love Me Anymore" - Don La Near - Clovis - Norman Petty's Studio - Apt Label
12. "Don't Run Me Off" - Michael Ballew - Norman Petty's Studio - Not released-CD
13. "Such A Long Time Ago" - Michael Ballew - Norman Petty's Studio - Not released-CD

* Even though these last two songs were not released, I just had to include them as they should have been placed on a label but Norman Petty didn't promote them at all, at the time.
Also, I backed Red Steagal on two songs recorded in Clovis that I am fairly certain were released but don't recall the names. Also I backed Chuck Tharp on two songs that was recorded in St. Louis that I'm not sure if they were released or not.

 

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