Title of Page will be generated by NetObjects Fusion 1&1 Edition. Title of Page will be generated by NetObjects Fusion 1&1 Edition. Title of Page will be generated by NetObjects Fusion 1&1 Edition. Title of Page will be generated by NetObjects Fusion 1&1 Edition. Jerry Hodges' Biography
Jerry Hodges' Biography
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  This is the biography that Jerry Hodges put together for his children and grandchildren. We want to thank Jerry for sharing his story and life in the music of the Texas Panhandle. Jerry was there living the life and has given us a birds eye view. Thanks Jerry for sharing your story and pictures with us. Micheal G. Mullin - Lone Starr Music

As Written by: Jerry Hodges

1956 to 1965

~~~~The Beginning~~~~

   There has to be a beginning. This one begins in the Summer of 1956 when my dad paid my brothers, Dennis, Austin and myself $500.00 each for working the fields that summer. He had an exceptional crop in potatoes and onions and he was rewarding us for our help. The other two boys decided to get musical instruments. Dennis got a Fender Telecaster and Austin got a Fender single neck steel guitar. This was a result of our dad’s love for music and it allowed them to play music with our neighbor, Walker Parris who was their age. 

All That Music & Video


6800 Gateway East, Ste. 1B

El Paso, Texas 79915

(915) 594-9900


~~~ Copy of the Check That Started it All ~~~

   Stan Knox Music was located on Park Ave. in Herford, Texas. There was a man named Travis Venable who would come from Plainview, Texas on Saturdays to give music lessons. This is where Dennis, Austin, and Walker would go to learn how to play and I would go with them. It was decided to fill out the group that I would get  a bass. I got The Kay upright bass for about $300.00 and joined the group. Little did I know this decision would not only effect my life, but my children’s and grandchildren’s.


Two Pictures of my friend, Kay, the first in 1958 and the second “right” before it was traded for a Fender Precision Bass in August 1959

   We continued to practice and take a few more lessons with Travis, Eventually we would play for various events in the area. I remember playing on a flat bed trailer for the grand opening of the Easter Elevator at Easter. We would also play for various functions at the Frio Baptist Church. Walker’s parents and ours were good friends and would follow us wherever we played. The music we played was a combination of country and what was called “rock ‘n roll”. We played a lot of Elvis, Rick Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Buddy Holly.

   We had a small building at the farm that was used as a bird house. My dad fixed it up and we would use it to practice in. Austin also used a snare drum on occasion. I can remember going to play or practice and would have to load the upright bass in the back of a pickup or car. It was a job just hauling it around. I can remember getting blisters on my right hand fingers when I was first learning how to play.

   In the fall of 1958, Dennis and Walker were in high school. This allowed us to play at school functions and talent contest. The first one was a Junior Red Cross talent show. We came in first with our rendition of Rick Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool”. Around this time we went to Walker’s house to practice and his parents had a Magnavox reel to reel tape recorder.  We taped some of the practice.

   We were fortunate that when we got our instruments, that we got quality instruments. Dennis played a 1956 or 1957 Fender Telecaster, while Austin had a Fender steel guitar of the same year. My bass was a Kay, which is still in demand today for bluegrass music as its durability and sound really fit that kind of music. Walker played a Gibson electric. The boys also had Fender amplifiers.       


“Poor Little Fool”


Practice Room at our Home - April, 1958


   We continued to play for school and community functions. The picture to the right was taken at a D. E. Banquet. This was probably in the spring of 1959. Shortly thereafter, I broke my right arm at a track meet in Dimmit, Texas. After surgery, playing the upright bass was very painful and difficult. I borrowed an electric Fender Precision bass from a schoolmate, Buddy Godwin, and used it at the Deaf Smith Co-op Annual meeting. It proved to be a lot better choice for the type of music we were playing and was what was beginning to be popular in the music scene at the time. My dad and I went to Clovis, New Mexico to get one from a music store there.


503 East Park Ave., Hereford, Texas

   This is the building that was Stan Knox Music where we took music lessons. It is also where we met Travis Venable and the Rock ‘N Rollers from Plainview, Texas. I actually worked for Stan the summer before my senior year.


Deaf Smith Electric Co-op Meeting (Note bandage on right elbow.)

Travis Venable had helped a group of young men from Plainview start a band and they would come over to help with the lessons. They were called “The Rock ‘N Rollers”, later to change their name to the “String A Longs” (Wheels, etc...). Their lead singer was named Keith McCormick who later wrote “Sugar Shack” for “Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs”. Travis also started booking us on various shows as we got better. I remember going to Lubbock for a Television appearance on the “Bill Mack Show”. Bill wrote a song for Patsy Cline called “Blue”. She never did record it, but years later a young Texas lady named Leanne Rhymes recorded it at the Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, New Mexico.


From Bill Mack Television Show in Lubbock, Texas - August 1959


“Pop” Echols

Business Card

   Another time Travis took us to Clovis, New Mexico to appear on a Saturday morning radio show at KCLV called the “Breakfast Club Show”. The owner of the station was Otis “Pop” Echols. He was famous in the music industry and had gotten Tommy Sands his start. He took us for a tour of his station there and introduced us to Charlie Phillips, who was a DJ there. Charlie had written and recorded a song called “Sugartime”. The song was covered by “The McGuire Sisters” and they had a monster hit on it. I can remember Charlie showing us a check for royalties he had just received.

  Buddy Holly had several big hits and he became our favorite artist. The fact that he was from Lubbock, Texas and had recorded in Clovis, New Mexico made him even more of a favorite to us. We would drive to Clovis and get his new releases when they came out.

  My senior year, we added two more members to our band, Eddie Gallagher and Billy Lytal. Austin was not yet in high school and did not play that much with us anymore. One fond memory is going to Amarillo, Texas to compete in the Coca Cola Talent contest. We performed Buddy Holly’s “Tell Me How”. We lost out to Miss Amarillo Sharon Vinyard.There was also a fellow in the contest named Russell Don Stegall. Our paths would cross again. I also recall playing on Cotton John’s Saturday Farm and Ranch Television Show in Amarillo, Texas on KGNC-TV.


Images from 1960


Off to College

  I graduated from High School and started attending West Texas State College in September of 1960. My first introduction to music there was a freshman mixer where anyone could perform. It was then that I realized that I was the only bass player there. Some of the musicians were very good. Joe Bob Barnhill and his brother Ted were there. Shortly thereafter, Red Stegall asked me to join his band and it did not take me long to say yes. Red did primarily country and western swing as well as many songs that he had written. Since I had been listening to country music all my life it was not hard to adapt.

  The first practice with Red, I met Gerald Hanners who played guitar. He was very good. He also had a piano player at this practice and that was the last time I saw him. The drummer was a young fellow named Johnny Winter. His manager was Joe Peterman and after  couple of weeks, I never heard from him again. One of the first things we did was a show in Red’s hometown of Stanford, Texas. We took Stanley Smith with us to play guitar. Stan became a good friend. He also played in several other bands including “The Sparkles”


Herford Community Center - 1960

Jerry, Red, Drummer, & Gerald


Red Stegall and Stanley Smith

Stanford, Texas

  One of my greatest memories is with Red, Opening at the Amarillo Municipal Auditorium for Jim Reeves. My folks were there because my dad loved Jim Reeves. My biggest shock was when the show started and how professional Red was in front of that large crowd. He and Gerald had worked up some comedy skits and I knew nothing about it. It was a great experience for this small town country boy. Another time we opened for Cajun humorist Justin Wilson. That would not be the last time we opened for Justin Wilson as we also opened for him at Boys Ranch in 1980 with our family band. We would also play a lot of high school dances in the area. In these dances, Red would do more of the songs he had written and types of songs that the teens could relate to. If it was of a cowboy type of gathering, he would revert to the Western Swing style. Towns we played would include Borger, Plainview, Vega and even Hereford at the Community Center as seen here in the photo to the left.

  Playing with Red was a lot of fun. I have always said that he was one of the few musicians I ever met that was truly a good person. He did not have the greatest talent and he really had a hard time with meter, but he loved music and knew what he wanted to do. He asked me to help him and become his business manager. See card on the left.

  Red was the first artist to allow me to experience recording at the Norman Petty Studio In Clovis, New Mexico. In April of 1961, Red took us to the studio to record two songs, “The Dance” and “Once Again”. Both songs were written by Red. Musicians included Stan Smith and Gerald Hanners on guitar, Johnny Winters on drums and myself on bass. Since there was no multi-tracking, Norman would record the basic track on a two track Ampex machine and then play it back and record on a second machine for any overdubs. The vocals and vocal backup were done this way and I do not remember being there, therefore do not know who the backup singers were. I asked Red when I saw him in 2003 and he said that he did not remember either. Several months later Red again went into the studio to record two songs that he had written, “Wonderful Personality” and “Hey Little Cute One”. Musicians were Bobby Hacker on drums, Stanley Smith and Donnie Lanier on guitars and myself on bass. I do remember that Red had a real hard time with meter. Norman gave him a copy of the first track of music to practice with. I kept this tape and the track of “Wonderful Personality”  is all I have of this session. No copies of the finished recordings are available. I do remember Angie (Hughes) Stagle and a friend of hers did the vocal backups.

  Red was good friends with Donnie Lanier of “Buddy Knox and the Rhythm Orchids”. Red asked me to help on a session for Donnie.  He recorded two sides, “Gangster of Love” and “I Don’t Think You Love Me Anymore”. Musicians as I remember are Donnie Lanier and Stan Smith on guitar, Bobby Hacker on drums, Bobby Keyes on sax and myself on bass. The harmonica was a black gentleman from Amarillo, Texas that Charlie Phillips had suggested. Again Angie and her friend helped on vocal backup. I think that this is the session that Roy Orbison’s drummer, Larry Parks, attended. These cuts were released on APT # 25073. This was one of my most enjoyable


Russell Don & The Premiers’ Poster - 1961


Norman Petty Studios

With Red in Rockport, Texas - 9-29-1978


May 1974


Red Stegall - 2004


Jerry Hodges - 1961


  When I was asked to play with the Checkmates, I was entering a level of music and showmanship that I had not experienced before. Ray Ruff and The Checkmates had several records out including “Love Made A Fool Of You”. The music was different than what I had grown up on (country), but was more in tune as to what “The Frio Trio” was playing, the current rock ‘n roll. The emphasis was on Buddy Holly and his music and I was familiar with it.

  This band were great musicians as it included Chico Apodacca (Pueblo, Colorado) on drums, Earl Whitt (Amarillo, Texas) on a Fender Stratocaster played upside down and left handed. The piano player named Roger Johnson was from Austin, Minnesota. I found something on the internet that indicated that his name might have been Roger O’Day so I am not sure. The first dance was in Dumas, Texas and this was my roommate Roger Hembree’s home town. As we had no rehearsal time, I was very nervous and the rest of the band members were doing dance steps and this was new to me. I got through it and really enjoyed it and knew I was where I wanted to be.

  We continued to play around the panhandle area and got pretty tight in the music. In about March of 1962, Ray took us to the Norman Petty Studio to record three songs: “My Gift To You” written by Chuck Tharp, “Let Me Tell You About Linda” written by Chuck and Norman Petty, and “The KIXZ Twist” written by a Amarillo, Texas man named Tom Thacker who was the station manager at KIXZ. Note that the vocal backup is by The Checkmates (except me). I can remember going to a local Television station and doing a video of “Let Me Tell You About Linda”. Ray said it was for the Dick Clark Show, but I do not believe it was ever aired.

  As I said, the band was a great bunch of musicians. Chico was a very solid drummer and easy to get along with. The piano player, Roger, was quiet, but very efficient on the keyboards. Earl Whitt was left handed, but played the right handed Stratocaster upside down. It was amazing to figure out the cords he was making. He had a great touch and imagination and was fun to play with. He never said much as he was very shy.

Chuck  Tharp was great to play with. Since he had a hit with “Long Long Ponytail”, I was sure familiar with him. He was a great rhythm guitar player. He Taught me a lot about the guitar. He used to come by my apartment in Canyon to visit and play music. One day I just turned my tape recorder on and he proceeded to play and write as he was singing.

Ray had good friends at radio station KIXZ in Amarillo including Tom Thacker. They put out a weekly music chart. Here is one below that has “The KIXZ Twist” rising on the charts. It Had been their pick hit the week before and the issue on April 15th, 1962 it was listed as #1. Ray’s previous record of “Love Made A Fool Of You” was still on their list.

Ruff 002

Artesia, New Mexico Poster


KIXZ Radio Music Survey (Inside)


The First Tour

  Ray had lined up a tour of the midwest at the end of May, 1962. Ray had connections in radio station KOMA in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and they really promoted our music. Since they were 50,000 watts, they reached the whole western half of the United States and wherever we went, we were well known. The tour was to leave Clovis, New Mexico right after playing an all night Senior party on May 24th, 1962. During the dance, we would play an hour and another band called “The Champs” would play an hour. They had a big hit called “Tequila” and it was about this time that Glen Campbell was playing with them. Due to the arrangement of the dance, we did not get to interact with them. We left the dance at 6:00 a.m. May 25th, 1962 and had a dance that night in Spearfish, South Dakota. Nightly wages were about $20.00.

We barely made Spearfish in time for the dance. When we drove up to the dance hall, which I later learned is typical of the mid-west, it was located in the woods with no visible sight of humanity. Come dance time, the people showed up and we really had a crowd. Set up was no problem as we had no sound equipment in those days, only guitars and amps and Ray would plug his mic into one of the amps.

  We played that night and then the car broke down. Ray had to go back to Clovis to pick up another car. Since it was such a rush trip and I did not have to go home, Chico and I decided to stay in Denver, Colorado. They left us at the motel on Colfax Street. Chico had relatives in town so he would visit them. I would spend the next three days doing nothing but getting lonesome, and homesick, and watching television. All I remember is watching Bandstand on TV and hearing Bobby Vinton singing “Blue Velvet” and thinking about Cheryl. Since this was my first experience by myself, and being in a strange town, I was not crazy about leaving the motel room. I believe this was May 28th, 29th, and 30th, 1962

KIXZ Radio Music Survey (Cover)

  Ray finally arrived with another car and we headed for Minot, North Dakota for a teen dance on June 1st, 1962. The following night we had a two day stand at the Minot Air Force Base. It was at an NCO Club and we were surprised that it was all men. Certainly different but we enjoyed it and so did they. The picture below of The Checkmates was taken by one of the enlisted men at the performance. He gave me this picture a year later when we returned in May 1963.

  Staying in a motel with nothing to do was pretty boring. This is the bad side of touring. You live to play. Most of the time we would just watch TV. I do remember finding a bowling alley in Minot and the boys went bowling. I could not because of my bad elbow. One of the bad sides of “being famous” is that some of the locals wanted to befriend you. One time a group of teenagers broke into a railroad  car and stole some beer and brought it to the motel for us. We were not interested as all we wanted was to get some rest but we tried not to hurt their feelings.

About this time a band called Billy Joe and The Checkmates had a record out called “Percolator Twist”. Chuck called a radio station and said that was our song. We laughed about it and then we had to learn the song. Our version sounded a lot different than the record. Ray used the confusion to his advantage.

  After we left Minot, we went into Minnesota for for a few days. I remember a place called New Munich. It was obvious that the majority of the people of this area were of German ancestry. They were mostly not very attractive and the only good looking women were either Indian or from Texas.

19620525 P1120046

Spearfish Poster

Minot AFB Mess Card

Ruff 001

left to right: Earl, Chico, Chuck, & Jerry - The Checkmates - June 2& 3 1962

Minot Air Force Base - Minot, North Dakota


Artesia Poster - June 15th, 1962

  During August Ray wanted to take a quick tour back to Minot to play a dance to promote the current record on the way. We had picked up a guitar player named Larry Marcum and we used Bobby Hacker on drums. We stopped at various radio stations to promote the record. I especially  remember a station in Denver. It was great to be “Stars”. I remember this tour because it was not rushed and we seemed to enjoy it more. We seemed to have more time to get to know people. However it was a game that we never used our real names. I think my name was Jerry Newton. Again KOMA was playing our records so wherever we went, we were famous.


Letter to Cheryl

  I believe that we returned to Minot for a few days and then had to head back to New Mexico for dates in Artisea and Roswell on June 15th and June 16th. That was one long trip back and a motel bed had never looked better as it took about two days.

  I remember somewhere in this area while traveling that Ray saw a drive in movie featuring Audie Murphy. Since he was such a fan, we had to stop and go to the show. Remember this was six men in a car pulling a trailer with instruments in it.

  When we finished in New Mexico, Ray said that part of the tour had been canceled and that we were going home for a few days before we continued. Chuck had a sister in Roswell so we took the trailer there and left it. It was great to be going home, even if it was for only a few days. The first thing my dad did was tell me to go to town and get a haircut.

  After being home several days, Ray called and said the tour had been canceled. He would have to let us know later what the schedule was. Cheryl and I left one morning to go to Roswell  to pick up my instruments.

  During the last days of the tour, Chuck had borrowed one of my shirts and my watch so he could tell when it was break time. When we saw his sister, we got the instruments, but she said that he had pawned my watch. We found the pawn shop, we got it out. I was sure disappointed in Chuck and glad he did not pawn the instruments.


Minot Poster

  Ray decided to stay around the Texas Panhandle and play local dances, however the band as we knew it was no more. Earl went back to playing in local bands in Amarillo, and I had no idea where Chico and Roger went and I never heard of them again. We Had to start over on a band and used several local musicians to help out. During this time, Ray got where he depended a lot more on me to help him as I was the only one left. During  the later part of the summer we went back into the studio and recorded what I feel is some of the best recordings that Ray made. Using Vi Petty on piano, George Tomasco on guitar and I believe Bobby Hacker on drums. we recorded “Love”, “Lonely Hours”, and “Cruel Love”. Vocal backup on the first two cuts were the Kimberleys, who would later become the Country Music Vocal Group of the year in 1970 and 1971. Walker Parris also played rhythm guitar on the first two tracks. Larry Triader played rhythm guitar and sang backup on “Cruel Love”. John Holcomb, a friend of mine played sax on some of these also. “Love” was written by Odem and Reed and had sent a tape to Ray. I remember playing the tape and working out an arrangement on it. I believe the session was September 26th, 1962.

  In late fall of 1962, we were playing a dance in Borger, Texas. Ray came up with a drummer who was a sophomore at Tascosa High School. His Name was John David Souther. He and I immediately got along, even though he was a bit cocky. On the way to a dance, we stopped to get a 1/2 pint of gin to keep us warm in the car after the dance. John David did not have enough money so he borrowed a dollar from me and then wrote me an IOU. I treasure this note to this day. J. D. Souther later went to California and was instrumental in working with the “Eagles” and “Linda Ronstat” He also had a hit with “When Your Only Lonely”. Contrary to what Ray says, this was the only time he ever played with us.. 


Note from Ray


Herford Community Center - Checkmates 1963


IOU from J. D. Souther

  The back of the IOU that J. D. had written tells a lot about Ray Ruff. He was going to let us know what dances he had lined up in the future and going to quote a small figure that he could afford to pay all of the  musicians. His  statement was, “you figure $20.00 for yourself on anything I say”. You might say he was a bit shady.

  As I said, many musicians helped as Checkmates from the fall of 1962 until I left Ray in 1963. This picture on the left was taken at the Hereford Community Center and included Ray (hidden), Walker Parris, and and Eddie Gallagher on piano. I cannot remember who the drummer was. Note the dance steps that band performed as they played.

   As you you can see from the article in the West Texas State “Prairie”, we got  plenty of publicity in the area. The problem is that a lot of what Ray said was exaggerated. One of the individuals who played with with the Checkmates was Price Pritchett from Floydada, Texas. To my knowledge he only played one time. Price now lives Dallas and has done very well for himself, an authority on business and writes books and gives seminars. His brother Jimmy and I would hook up later. He states that Jon David Souther was a band member and he and he only played that one time. The travel is exaggerated also. I think it is interesting that he states that he started with Norman Petty around 1960 which is in direct contradiction to what he states on his web page today.

It was also during this time that Ray would spend a lot of time at my apartment. We would plan future projects and write songs. Some of the other musicians like Jerry Sparks would also join in. Below written in my hand are notes on the song and the chords to “Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles”, the efforts of to write a song on one of those visits.

Don't Tell Me Your Troubles

  One of the dances we played on January 19th, 1963, was in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Following the air play we were getting on “Love” we were in demand in the midwest and Ray wanted to go. I do remember that he was the only one because it was a one night stand and the weather was bad. This was before Merle Haggard made it a famous town. The one thing I do remember was how the kids were so quiet and really different from what we were used to in Texas, but it was a good experience and we did promote the record at radio stations in the area.


  During a recording session in Clovis we were surprised to see an elderly couple walk in. Norman introduced them to us and when the lady met me she said that she had heard of me. She was probable trying to be nice. They were Mr. and Mrs. L. O. Holley, Buddy’s parents. What a thrill it was to meet them. Ray had said that he wanted to go to Lubbock and visit them someday. I told him that if he ever went that  I  sure wanted  to go.  One day he 


Holley Home

called and said that we were going to Lubbock, so February 19th, 1963 we headed south to Lubbock and arrived around late morning.

When we drove in, we went to the Great Plains Building to meet Mr. Holley. I remember walking down a hallway to a coffee shop and passing radio station KLLL studios and seeing a large picture of Buddy Holly on the wall. Mr. Holley was a very nice man and we had a great conversation over coffee. At one point he pulled his watch off and showed it to us. He said that it was Buddy’s. That a farmer had found it at the plane crash site and sent it to him. You could tell he was very proud of it.

  We left the coffee shop and went to the Holly home. There we met his mom. She was a very sweet person and was very open to talk about Buddy. We sat on their couch and talked and then she got a guitar that belonged to Buddy and handed it to me, It was the Gibson with the hand carved leather cover that Buddy had made. I got the impression that she wanted to share her memories  with  others  and  it  certainly  thrilled  me  to  play  on  it.   They  then talked about the


Relaxing at Home - 1963

“apartment tapes” and played some of it for us. I wish the time had not erased the memory of everything that we discussed as we now know what a special time that was.

Laying on the coffee table in front of me was a tabloid magazine from England called “New Record MIrror”. It contained an article about Buddy and I wrote their address down. When I returned home , I wrote to the magazine requesting a copy of the Issue. To the right is the reply from the editor, Mr. J. H. Watson. It is obvious how they felt about Buddy in Britain and a shame that it took many years for his popularity to reach the same peak over here. Again, people were very willing to share information when it came to Buddy Holly.

record mirror
J. H. Watson card

  In the winter of 1963, Jerry Lee Lewis came to West Texas State University for a concert. During a break, Ray and I went over to visit him. The thing I remember most was the size of his hands and the fact that he said his favorite music was jazz. The picture on the left comes from the West Texas annual. Note that he was using two drummers.

  The following months were busy with playing dances and recording. Ray had a friend named Jackie Allen and Ray was helping with his career. On about February 25th, 1963, we went to the Petty studio to cut two songs for Jackie. The songs were “Willow Tree’ and “Rita”. Both were written by Jackie Allen. On the session, we used Bobby Hacker on drums, Eddie Gallagher on piano, Larry Marcum on guitar, and myself on bass. For vocal backup we used Ray’s cousins, the Seymour Sisters, and would use them in future sessions. These songs were released on the Felsted label.

  The next session at Norman’s was for Ray. He and I had written a couple of songs called “I Qualified” and “A Dream”. These were written in my apartment when Ray would come over. We went in the studio around March 12th, 1963. Chuck Tharp went with us and in a typical Norman suggestion, played the back of a guitar, slapping it with his fingers. On the guitar was Larry Marcum, The new drummer was Chino, Eddie Gallagher played piano and a friend I had met in college, John Holcomb, played sax. The Seymour sisters again did the vocal backup. These two songs were released on Norman’ Records.

  It was at this session that my brother Austin, brought my camera and captures the session. I wish that this had happened other times.


Seymour Sisters


Seymour Sisters


Seymour Sisters


Jerry Hodges and Ray Ruff


John Holcomb & Seymour Sisters


Larry Marcum, Chino, & Seymour Sister


Ray Ruff


Seymour Sisters

  Ray wanted to go back north in May, 1963 to promote the latest record. I wasn’t to crazy about it because I had to miss some classes, but after checking with my professors, I agreed to go. The band that we took was Chino and Larry Marcum. I remember this trip because it was the most pleasant one we took. We had a good vehicle, it was spring time and it was just a more relaxed time for us. When we hit the Black Hills, it was beautiful weather. We had time, so we got out of the car and just enjoyed the scenery.

You will note on the poster (to the left) that I came home with that they were provided by the promoter based on the previous year. The songs listed were some of the original releases and songs by Chuck Tharp. This particular poster was picked up in Spearfish, South Dakota and I believe we also played Minot again.


Checkmate Rubber Stamp


Larry Marcum & Seymour Sisters


Ray Ruff, Jerry Hodges, Norman Petty, Ed Gallagher


Norman Petty


Chino, Larry Marcum, & Lee Jackson


John Holcomb & Seymour Sister


Ray Ruff & Chino


Jerry Hodges


Seymour & Eddie


Jerry Hodges & Eddie Gallagher


Spearfish, South Dakota - 1963

  Here is a good example of how song writing worked back then. As I previously mentioned, Ray and I had written two songs which we recorded at the Petty Studio. As you can see from the Standard Songwriters Contract dated June 25th, 1963 for the songs “I’m Qualified” and “A Dream”, the writers credits do not reflect who wrote it. It shows that Lee Jackson wrote the majority of the song. I have no idea why Ray would let him have that percentage and I do not ever remember Ray explaining it to me. I just know that it was good to be in the “business” and we never asked too many Questions. The contract for “I’m Qualified” and the note from Norman Wienstoer is included here.


  From the beginning of my being involved in music, I have been very close to Walker Parris. We started out together and when I went to college he was still in high school. When he graduated, he went to school in Abilene. We continued to stay in touch and during the spring and summer of 1963 he wrote about trying to record and continue his career. Sometime after he wrote the letter, I arranged for him to visit Norman Petty. We went over and he sang a few songs for Norman. Norman mentioned that he reminded him of Buddy Knox. Norman suggested that Walker rewrite two of the songs and come back for a session.

Walker Parris

Walker Parris

Envelope from Walker Parris

Envelope from Walker

  Walker and I came back to Herford, and immediately rewrote “Think Of Me” and “Dreams Of You”. We scheduled a session shortly after. Think of me was oroginally called “Oh Yess I Love You”.

Letter from Walker Parris

Letter from Walker Parris

  The session cost $300.00 for two songs which was standard for Norman. Walker had a friend from Friona, Reggie Hayes, who had helped him write the original songs and was a drummer so we used him for the session. We decided to use George Tomasco on lead guitar and Eddie Gallagher on keyboards. The backup singers would be the Seymour Sisters, I would play bass and Walker would play rhythm guitar.

  When the session started, Norman put Walker out in the lobby to play and sing. He put a microphone on his electric guitar strings to pickup the pick on the strings when he does “Think Of Me”. Eddie got to play the Celeste which Vi Petty used on Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” on both songs. One thing that Norman did was to overdub Walker when we did the vocal backup. This gives the vocal a little thicker sound, kind of double voiced. it was great to work with George Tomasco, who is the lead guitar for the Fireballs who we had listened to for years. Norman took the publishing through his Dundee Publishing. He tried to place the masters, but had no success, therefore the two songs were never released. These songs remain as two of my favorites that I was ever involved in at Norman Petty Studios.

  Walker and I continued to work together and even wrote a song that Ray would record in a couple of months. Walker even played a couple of times with the Checkmates that summer, however he could not tour with us as his parents would not agree to it. Just about every time we would get together for about twenty five years, we would record Walker, therefore there are many recordings that have been saved of his many talents.

  The next session that we did was to record Jackie Allen again at the Petty Studios. While practicing at Ray’s house, Jackie asked me to help him with one of the songs, “I’ll Still Love You”. The song had no bridge in it so I wrote it for him. The other song he was to do was the first song I ever helped record with Red Stegall, “The Dance”. Red had written it and it was a good song, so Jackie wanted to record it. The session was around the middle of May, 1963. The Checkmate band backed him up, Larry Marcum on lead guitar, Chino on drums, Eddie Gallagher on piano and the Seymour Sisters on backup vocals. When we got to the studio, we made some changes. Larry played bass, and I played rhythm guitar, which I really enjoyed for a change. Larry played the bass on one of the songs more like a lead, with more treble than I would play. These songs were released on Felsted # 8678.

It was about this time I became engaged to Cheryl. I knew that I wanted to change my relationship with Ray because I did not feel comfortable with his schedule as it kept me away from Cheryl more than I was comfortable with. Since I was living back on the farm for the summer, he would write to me letting me know what was coming up.

Walker and I were both home and would get together to play, record and write. One time, setting in front of Ray’s house, we wrote a song called “A Fool Again”. When we played it for Ray, he said that he wanted to record it. That was certainly ok with us, so around the first of July, 1963 we headed to Clovis. The musicians on the session were again, Larry Marcum, Chino, Eddie Gallagher, the Seymour Sisters and myself. The other song to record was an older song which had previously been a hit called “Pledge Of Love”. When we had recorded the track and Ray was to sing, he pulled out words that he had written so he could get credit for the song. I refused and I believe that Norman backed me up. He said that the song should be recorded the way it was originally written. Since the track was already recorded, Ray had no choice. A few weeks later, Eddie helped us write down the song score and we mailed it to ourselves so we could document it just in case Ray Tried anything

  After we had recorded “Pledge Of Love” the band went to a hangout called the Busy Bee for a break and I wanted to hang with Norman. While playing the song back, Norman realized that during the instrumental break, Eddie was suppose to be turned up for the lead and Norman failed to do so.


Dundee Contract

Letter from Ray
Fool Again lead sheet

Lead Sheet to “A Fool Again”

A Fool Again words

Words to “A Fool Again”

  Norman wanted me to record the instrumental in a staccato fashion on the guitar. I was scared, but had it all worked out and was ready to record when Eddie came back in and was able to overdub the lead on the Celeste. I missed my chance to be a lead guitarist.

  This record was released on Bolo #741. Ray Ray wanted wanted to give part of the writing of “A Fool Again” to Lee Jackson and we compromised and let him have it. Year later I got a letter from Lee explaining his position. He explained that it was not his idea, Ray’s.


Letter from Ray Ruff ~ Late June 1963

Ray Letter 2
Ray Letter 1
Ray Letter 3
Ray Letter 4

Ray Ruff’s Song Writing

Ruff writings 2
Ruff writings 1
Ruff writings 4
Ruff Writings 3

A New Beginning

  For the rest of the summer of 1963, we continued to play some as the Checkmates. At one point, we put together a band with Walker, Eddie, Gerald Hanners, and Tommy Weems on drums and played a dance at the Hereford Community Center. This was great fun as it was with people that I had played with before and were great friends.

  On September 7th, 1963 Cheryl and I were married in Amarillo and after a honeymoon in Platoro, Colorado, we moved into an apartment in Canyon. There I would enter my Senior year at West Texas State University. The address was 605 21st Street and it would not only be our home, but our place of practice with the band. As you can see in the picture below, the house is very small which made it cramped and loud for practices.


605 21st Street - Canyon, Texas


Eddie  ~  Jerry  ~   Walker  ~   Gerald  ~   Tommy

  I believe that the last dance I played as a Checkmate was shortly after Cheryl and I were married. Ray knew that I did not want to continue the pace now that I was married so he started looking for my replacement. The last dance was in Borger, Texas at the Hotel Borger for a high school dance. I remember because when I returned home, I could not find my wedding ring. I had taken it off because it kept hitting the bottom string on the bass and must have lost it at the dance. Telephone calls to the Hotel did not turn it up. Cheryl was very understanding. Since I was married and we had to have additional income, we knew that I would continue to play music, but not with Ray. With as many musicians that I had met, I knew that we would be able to form another band without the touring hassles.

  After we got settled in to married life in Canyon, I continued efforts to see how Norman was doing in placing Walker’s masters. One day Cheryl and I went to Clovis to visit with him at the studio. Cheryl stayed in the car while I visited with Norman. When we had finished, I started to leave and he said he had something he wanted to play for me, He stated that he had just finished an overdub of Buddy Holly singing “Dearest” with the Fireballs. Before he played it, I got Cheryl so she could hear it also. It was quite a thrill and honor to be the first to hear this classic by one of my musical heros.

  It became apparent that Norman was not going to have any luck in placing Walker’s master. At one point ha said that he had some interest from Buena Vista Records of the Walt Disney company, but nothing happened. He was reluctant to give us a copy of it, but finally agreed to.He mailed the 1/4 inch copy of the master and a letter to me at my address in Canyon. A copy of the letter below.


  One of the people that I had played with was Price Pritchett. His brother was now attending West Texas State and he was a great guitar player. We added John Holcomb on sax and Jo Ed Campbell on drums and we had a band. We would usually practice at our house on 21st Street. I also did several recordings there when Stanley Smith or Jimmy Prichett would come by. The band began to shape up quickly. John could play bass and when he did, I would switch to rhythm guitar. This would give us more flexibility. One of the first dances we played is when a snow storm shut the college down. We set up in the Sub and played and had a great crowd because the students didn’t have to go to class. It sure helped making extra money.

  For the first few months at the house, we did not have a telephone. One day Ray got in touch with me and said that Buddy Knox was coming to play at the college and that his bass player could not be there when the dance started and wanted me to play. I was excited to play because I had listened to Buddy’s music ever since I had started to play. He had his first big hit with “Party Dolls” and then “Hula Love”. One of my favorites was “Rock Your Little Baby To Sleep”. When it came time for the dance, I went to the Sub and got set up. Buddy was very nice but I was pretty apprehensive since we did not get to practice. I had intended to read his cords but he played mostly bar cords and I just had to bluff it most of the way. His bass player showed up later in the dance and took over. One of my biggest disappointments was when the annual came out with pictures of the dance, they had cut me out of the picture. I was located just on Buddy’s right next to the sax player, Bobby Keyes who later played with the Rolling Stones. If you look at the picture to the left, that is where they cropped me out. After this experience, Cheryl and I decided to get a telephone so we would not miss any opportunities.

  During the winter, we continued to play dances when available as we could always use the income. There was a promoter named Howard Ragland who helped book dances and was a friend of Ray’s. He was involved with The Sparkles and he asked me to play with them some. I remember especially one snowy night going to Leveland to play and really getting home late because of the road conditions, That was when I realized how much it must have hurt Cheryl to be left alone in town where she knew no one. I really tried to never let that happen again. Most of the time I was playing with Jimmy, Jo Ed, Jerry and John in the immediate area.  


  I continued to stay in contact with Ray. One time after i left the band, he wanted to rent my Fender Bassman amp. since he had a bass player with no amp. When he returned it, instead of paying me the money, he gave me about 25 copied of “I’m Qualified” and “A Dream”. Years later I sold them for good money. It just took me forty years to collect my rent.

  Throughout the fall of winter and spring of 1964, we continued to play with our new band and we made quite a name for ourselves locally. Occasionally, John could not make it to play the sax and bass and we would play with just Jimmy on guitar, Jo Ed on drums and myself on bass. Even though it was a three piece band we knew how to fill out the sound and please the crowds.

  We kept up with Ray during this time and would occasionally drop by to see him. He started a recording studio and continued to play and record. His studio was on the north side of Amarillo, near where he lived. Sometime in late 1964 or early 1965, Ray and Buddy Knox got together and Ray recorded him. The record was released on Ray’s label. Ray printed up some promotional material on his and Buddy’s release. Ray gave me several copies one day when we went by his studio.


Jimmy Pritchett, Price Pritchett, Jo Ed Campbell, & Jerry Hodges


When I went back to school in the fall of 1964, I had only one semester before graduating. I found it to be my toughest semester and really had to study hard. This is the point where I really began to phase out my music. By the time I graduated in January of 1965, it was time to move back to Hereford and start a new life. The last dance I played was right before my first son, Roger, was born. I decided that it was not the kind of life I wanted as a family man. I remember that Larry Trider called me to play with him on a continuing basis in Lubock and I politely said no. Years later I found an album of Larry’s and it showed that Jimmy Pritchett was his guitar player. Small world!

  After I quit playing, Jimmy called me and wanted to borrow my bass amplifier since his bass player had none. I loaned it to him and when they left the dance, they left the head on the ground. When they missed it, they went back, but never found it. Jimmy paid me about $250.00 for the head.


Picture of the back of Larry Trider’s Album

  Being in the music business to me was more about playing than anything else. The arranging of the music was creative and the recording was very special to me. Another aspect was the writing of the song. I certainly enjoyed it and to see the song actually recorded was a thrill. The idea of actually making money off the writing was certainly secondary and something that I never really thought about.

  In march of 1985 Lee Jackson and I made contact. I had been looking for the sheet music to “A Fool Again” and he had copies. He also explained his side of the story as how he got writing credit on the song. He also talked about a song he had written called “I Named My Little Girl Holly” and that he and Buddy Knox were were recorded He sent me copies of his and Buddy’s version later that summed.


Bill Griggs “Reminiscing” talking about Lee Jackson song


A AP news article about Lee Jackson. It goes into detail about the song and Lee’s relation with Ray Ruff

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