Local musicians pay homage to musical greats

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By Rebecca Canfield

Great music does something to the soul. It feeds it. It fills it, and it expresses what’s inside of it.

Stevie Wonder explained it best when he said, “Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories of it we have.”

Perhaps this is why Liberty Hill musicians flock to the former VFW hall every second Saturday of the month from 2-6 p.m. to get together and just play. It is an opportunity to remember life as it used to be, to sing Merle Haggard, Ray Price, and Hank Williams songs, and to just take a musical trip down memory lane.

The musicians, many former professionals who have long since given up dusty travel roads for the comforts of home, still enjoy the feel of the instrument and the sound of the strings, and will always have a longing to create music somewhere inside of them.

Andy Lewis, a current member of the Bluebonnet Pickers, is one of the few members who still performs around the county. Next month, his country music group will be performing at the Oatmeal Festival. Lewis says that music is just a part of him, and has been since the first grade when he actually traded a pig for his first guitar many years back.

“My family had a cafe in Burnet, and when the jukebox would play, I would sit on a table and strum my guitar,” Lewis said with a smile.

Bill Coker, who is the oldest member of the group at age 83, has been playing for 70 years. Currently a Dobro player, Coker got his start playing the guitar and mandolin, but switched to the Dobro a while back because it is easier for him to play now. However, for Coker music has been a part of every era of his life. Coker played in swing bands in the 1940’s, played in service bands when he was in the US Air Force in the 1950’s, and has even played with some notable musicians.

One of Coker’s playing partners was Brian Collins, writer of country music hits such as “Urban Cowboy”, and “Hello Texas”. Coker says the pair used to play at supper clubs, wineries and cafes when they were younger.

“I used to play anything with strings,” Coker explained. “But I’m 83, and I’ve slowed down, but I still like to play. I can’t do what I used to do, but we enjoy playing together and if people like to hear us, then I like to play. I’ll keep doing this for as long as I can.”

The group’s coordinator, Billy Evans, says that Fellowship Church still lets the group use their building and it’s free to anyone who wants to come down and listen to the group playing, but they do take donations to cover the snacks they have for everyone to enjoy.

“We’ve all played for pay before, but we are all at the age now where we no longer want to travel, but we just want to get together and play music,” Evans said. “We could always use a couple of more musicians and a half a dozen more people in the audience though.”

The group also gets together over in Pearl, for a bluegrass jam session the first Saturday of every month at the old school building, and in Burnet on the third Saturday of every month at the community center.

Thomas Sandlin, a Liberty Hill resident who doesn’t play any instruments but who just loves to listen to the group says he tries never to miss a session.

“The music is not polished, but it is well-played music played by good musicians, and it is music I know,” Sandlin explained. “They all have a good time and I do, too.”

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