Texarkana Gazette

Country music career started early for Grammer

- Doug Davis Columnist

Several profession­al musicians and recording artists discovered early in life that they could make money by performing in public. Billy Grammer was one of those who did just that.

Billy was born into a musical family and said everyone in his family played music and there were always several string instrument­s around his home so he became proficient on banjo, mandolin and guitar and began playing for local dances and other social gatherings at an early age.

Billy was one of 13 children and grew up on a 40-acre farm near Benton, Illinois. His dad was a coalminer who played the fiddle.

Billy kept busy playing for area dances before joining the Army. Following his discharge he landed a job at WARI Radio in Arlington, Virginia, on their “Radio Ranch” program.

In 1955, he joined Jimmy Dean’s daily television show in Washington D.C. The program was picked up for network distributi­on two years later and Monument Records signed him to a recording contract.

“Gotta Travel On” was based on a 19th century British tune which was adapted earlier by a group known as The Weavers.

Grammer’s Monument Records single “Gotta Travel On” came on the country music charts January 5th, 1959 and peaked at No. 5. It was his first charted single and was on the charts for 13 weeks.

The record also peaked at No. 4 on the pop charts on January 12th, 1959. Billy Grammer went on to place 8 songs on the country charts between 1959 and 1969.

Bill joined The Grand Old Opry in 1959 and later designed and marketed his namesake guitar after co-founding a guitar company in Nashville.

Billy was inducted into The Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1990.

He suffered from the degenerati­ve eye disease retinitis pigmentosa and became completely blind. In 2009 he was honored by The Grand Old Opry for his 50 year membership.

Billy Grammer died in August 2011 at age 85.

“Story Behind The Song” is now on 98.7 - Real Country weekdays at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. and “Sunday In The Country,” featuring gospel country airs 6 to 10 a.m. Sundays. To listen online, download the app at Texarkana Radio Center or paste this URL into your browser: https://streamdb3w­eb.securenets­ystems.net/v5/KTFS

 ?? (Photo courtesy Doug Davis) ?? Billy Grammer.
(Photo courtesy Doug Davis) Billy Grammer.
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