Tony R. Douglas

Tony was born in Martins Mill in Van Zandt County in East Texas, as one of five children to Hubert and Artie Jones Douglas. He describes his parents as "both very, very great Christian people". His father, who ran a country store, was kind-hearted. He extended credit to customers and often took groceries to black and white "widow women". Tony also tagged along with his paternal grandfather, a farmer and rancher with "twenty-six sharecrop families on his place". "He had a big commissary back in the old days and I remember the kids just following him around everywhere he went...I thought I just had to be with Grandpa wherever he was." On Saturdays the family went by wagon to nearby Athens to buy groceries. He recalls his wearing overalls with "patches on patches" during the Depression. "We had a pretty tough time but we just had a house full of love," he remarks. By age nine he was working on the family farm helping raise corn, cotton, peas, and watermelon. Tony began his formal education in Martin Mills, taking a school bus, riding a horse, or walking the four miles to the school. Meanwhile he was cultivating a love of music through his mother who "had a beautiful voice." At Hobbs Missionary Baptist Church he led singing even as a boy. He also listened to Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights. "Country music was a big, big part of me, and I had wondered if there was ever some way maybe I could be a small part of country music," he says. "I never dreamed it would ever happen." Besides chores on the farm Tony worked as a welder's helper building a pipeline. He quit Martins Mill High School two weeks before graduation in 1946. (He later earned a GED). He worked as a welder's helper on a pipeline for two years. He began farming and on March 5, 1949 married Mim Reaves. (They would have three children and seven grandchildren.) Drafted into the U.S. Army, he entered service on September 23, 1952. After basic training at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas, he shipped out to Kaiserslautern, Germany. He was placed in a communications section of the 45th Antiaircraft Battalion, located four miles from Landstuhl Air Force Base. There he began singing with a band of soldiers. "I couldn't get over how easy it came to me," he recalls of his first experience on stage. With his group, The 45th Playboys, he played several service clubs in the area. With Mim as his inspiration he wrote Echoes of You. After completing his military obligation in 1954 Tony worked first at Safeway in Athens, then for Lone Star Gas Company, where his supervisor granted him a ten-hour, four-day work week, so he could perform on Friday and Saturday nights. By 1954 he was part of Cowtown Hoedown in Fort Worth. He began recording numbers such as Old Blue Monday, Baby My Sun Goes Down, The World in My Arms, Thunder and Lightning, and The World Keeps Turning and Old Man Love. In 1957 Tillman Franks with Louisiana Hayride invited him onto the show where he was paid union scale of $16 a night. Soon he was performing in Dallas' Big D Jamboree as well as on Louisiana Hayride, where other performers included Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell, Ferlin Husky, Webb Pierce, and Faron Young. Offered a movie screen test, he turned it down. "I just want to sing country music," he says. Unwilling to move to Nashville, he also declined a contract with Grand Ole Opry. Tony continued to perform on Louisiana Hayride until the show closed in 1960. "Rock and roll just took over," he recalls. In August of 1961 he recorded Shrimpin'. After its success his band was called Tony Douglas and The Shrimpers. In October of 1962, His 'n Hers became a crossover hit played on both country and pop stations. "That let me quit Lone Star Gas Company and go into music full time," he recalls. Tony continued to perform throughout the 60s. In September of 1972 he recorded Thank You For Touching My Life. In the 70s he formed Country Music Unlimited, featuring several country music stars, and toured throughout the country. For eleven years he performed at the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival in Meridian, Mississippi. He also played many years at the annual Old Fiddlers Reunion in Athens. In 1990 he recorded Thank You Lord For Making Her Mine. In 1993 he began recording under his own label, Cochise Records. He also opened Papa T's Produce, a store beside his home in Athens. In 2006 he was conducted into the Louisiana Hayride Country Music Hall of Fame. In the first decade of the 21st century his music was being played on satellite radio, including his hit record, More Afraid of Living. It appeared on his CD, Saved the Best for Last.