He was a fiddler and mandolin player born in Tyler, Texas, to a family where his brothers were also musicians.
Learning to play when he was young he became a member of a band with four of his brothers when he was 12 years old and two of them, Jerry and George, joined him in the trio The Blues Rustlers, who were often heard on local radio and in venues throughout South Texas. He then relocated to Corpus Christi and became a member of The Roberts Brothers & The Rhythmaires. He moved to Louisiana to work with the singer and later politician, Jimmy Davis and appear in shows with The Shelton Brothers before going into service in the military.
Towards the end of the 1940s he became a member of the Texas Playboys who accompanied Bob Wills and it was then that he became recognised for playing a five-string fiddle and also the electric mandolin. He did break out from the Texas Playboys in 1951 to establish a group of his own which would perform in Bob Will’s club, but in 1953 he returned to them and stayed for the next ten years or so. He did try his hand at working in a hospital and at a barber’s in the years between 1963 and 1969, but returning to music, he went back to recording with Bob Wills.
This would be when he would firmly establish himself as a busy session musician and was called on to appear on recordings and sometimes tour by artists that include Merle Haggard, Jimmy Buffett, Sir Paul McCartney & Wings, Willie Nelson and Mark O’Connor to name a few.
He began to record as a solo artist in 1974 and from that time had ten solo albums released which include Fiddlin’ Around, A Case of The “X” in Texas, Under the Gimbles and Playboys II. He also appeared on Last of the Breed with Willie Nelson, Ray Price & Merle Haggard, Merry Texas Christmas Y’All by Asleep At The Wheel, Strait Out Of The Box and Ocean Front Property by George Strait , Nashville Rebel by Waylon Jennings, Greatest Hits (& Some That Will Be) by Willie Nelson, Honky Tonk Girl by Loretta Lynn, My Very Special Guests by George Jones, Heartaches & Harmonies by The Everly Brothers, Life’s Like Poetry by Lefty Frizzell, Singing Ranger Vol. 3 by Hank Snow, Land of Many Strangers by Merle Haggard & The Strangers, A White Sport Coat & A Pink Crustacean and Havana Daydreamin’ by Jimmy Buffett , Faded Love 1947-1973 by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys and Wings At The Speed of Sound by Wings .
He achieved a country radio chart hit in 1983 when he put together a group with the singer Ray Price and they released “One Fiddle, Two Fiddle”, which would also feature in the movie Honky Tonk Man.
Winning many awards for his performances, the Academy of Country Music named him “Best Fiddle Player” eight times, he won “Best Instrumentalist” five times at the Country Music Awards and he received a Grammy nomination for his work on the album Heroes by Mark O’Connor in 1993.
He performed in his eighties, being seen on television programmes such as Austin City Limits, appearing with his group Playboys II and being heard with many of today’s country groups and singers.
He suffered several strokes in his final years which left with come resultant complications and he passed away in 2015 in Dripping Springs, Texas, when he was 88 years old.
Here he is performing “Panhandle Rag”….