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