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 Texas : Features : Columns : Bob Bowman's East Texas

Music in an old gym

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

On weekend nights at Lovelady, a small town south of Crockett in Houston County, it’s not unusual to hear country music wafting through the rafters of an old school gymnasium.

About eighteen years ago, Norma Dell Jones, the valedictorian of Lovelady High School in 1952, learned that the old gym she knew so well was likely to be torn down.

She rallied others who loved the old gym and put together a restoration effort that led to the gym becoming the center of Lovelady community events and a popular country music venue in East Texas.

Norma Dell, a former school teacher at Lovelady, Porter Springs and Crockett, has helped bring to Lovelady, a town of about 600 people, such country music notables as Noel Lee Haggard, Casey Rivers, Carl Acuff, Jr., Hank Thompson, Tommy Horton, Johnny Rodriquez and Branson, Missouri, star Moe Bandy, who has played at the gym five times.

“It’s a wonderful place to play,” said Bandy, “the folks are enthusiastic and you always leave with a wonderful feeling in your heart.”

Bandy was playing on the night we visited the gym. So was Jaye Kelley, a Houston police office who has appeared with ZZ Tops. Kelley belted out Patsy Cline songs as well as Patsy did in her heyday.

Mason Roach, an eight-year-old guitar picker who never had a lesson in music, also performed, playing “The House of the Rising Sun.”

Visiting the gym on Saturday nights is like going a friend’s home. People in Lovelady are likely to show up with cakes, pies and other food for the visiting bands. The food is also for the show crowds, but at a small cost.

Gene Watson, a country legend with a golden voice, will perform on Friday night, October 16, Watson is a down-to-earth East Texan who was born at Palestine and grew up at Paris.

The Diamond Back Band will appear on Saturday, November 21, and the Quebe Sisters will perform on Saturday, December 12.

Down the calendar will be performances by Tommy Horton with Box Car Bob, Cactus Willie and the Drifters. And Moe Bandy will be back on Saturday, August 20, 2010.

But the gym is also used for weddings, church events, class and family reunions. Davy Crockett’s descendants will show up for a reunion next June.

But even with the music performances and family reunions, the Lovelady gym still has the feeling of a gym. The gym’s old score clock still hangs on the wall--quietly waiting for a basketball team to show up.



Bob Bowman's East Texas
September 13, 2009 Column
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
Copyright Bob Bowman

(Bob Bowman is the author of more than 40 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)

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