Veteran performers warming up for reunion

April 30, 2017

Brian Collins is perhaps best known for “Statue of a Fool,” a hit for him and other country singers, but he left his mark on Deer Park High School with “Hello Texas.”

The Texas City native co-wrote “Hello, Texas,” which Jimmy Buffett recorded for the soundtrack of “Urban Cowboy,” the 1980 movie that set a love triangle in Gilley’s Club in Pasadena.

For 36 years, the song has opened the annual, multinight variety show, “Hello Texas,” at Deer Park High.

Collins learned about the variety show when a friend told him, “Go on YouTube. Look what they’re doing in Deer Park.”

“It was very humbling,” said Collins, who is 66 and lives in Conroe.

Now he’s getting ready to perform at Tony Booth Day, the 10th annual tribute to Manvel’s popular traditional country artist on May 6 at Billy’s Hall, 4070 Wells Drive, Pearland. The day before, a May 5 reunion of the Alvin Opry is set at the same site.

“We will get to see a lot of old friends, share our war stories and entertain folks again,” Collins said.

Tony Booth Day is held each year as an opportunity to entertain country music purists who crave sounds they don’t hear on contemporary radio, explained Booth’s manager, Lynn Brown of Pearland.

Joining Booth, Collins and Turner on the May 6 lineup will be Deer Park singer Jerry Locke, who will make his third appearance at a Tony Booth Day show.

“I will probably sing ‘Heart Over Mind,’ ” said Locke, who grew up in a section of Pasadena that was called Genoa.

He graduated from South Houston High School in 1965.

“In high school, I rodeoed,” he said. “I got on bulls and bucking horses. I was a steer wrestler.”

In 1966, after breaking an ankle, Locke attended a rodeo where “they forgot to hire an announcer.”

Locke, who’s now 70, stepped in, and was invited back for the next five weeks.

“I figured out that I could go to rodeos and I was not going to get hurt.”

Country singer Johnny Bush, who will headline the May 6 show with Booth, “was the first person to let me get on stage and sing,” said Locke, who has become a sought-after master of ceremonies, singer and “straight man” for country comics.

Also scheduled to perform on Tony Booth Day are Dallas Wayne, Randy Cornor, Justin Trevino, Dottie Jack, Doug Boggs, Robin Booth, Tommy Reed of Alvin, Buddy Hrabel, Matt Reed and Harris Kubos.

A number of them will also perform at the May 5 reunion of Alvin Opry stars.

The Alvin Opry was launched 25 years ago by Gene and Sue Hofford of Rosharon/Manvel, said Brown.

Almost 300 fans would crowd into the venue on the corner of Eighth and Sealy streets in Alvin, some years on Friday nights, some years on both Fridays and Saturday nights, Brown said.

“It depended on how you stacked ’em in.”

The Opry closed five years ago.

Its reunion will feature Booth, Collins, Lauretta Turner, John Mark Davis, Miranda Diede, Kim Lanier, Missy Brown, Rhonda Walters, Sylvia Riggs, Shalene, Shawn Johnson, Jim Beaumont, Mary Dooley, Arnold Parker, Royce Melton and the Texas Express Band, including Tommy Reed, Louis Fournerat, Matt Reed, Wayne Turner and Pat Matula.

The past year, Locke has performed steadily with a five-member group called Hat Creek Cowboys.

“My specialty is ‘The Auctioneer’ song,′ ” Locke said. It was first recorded in 1956 by Leroy Van Dyke.

Locke was divorced when he met his current wife, Kathy, and took her on their first date to a Johnny Bush concert. He met the former barrel racer when she worked at Cavender’s Boot City in Pasadena.

Collins is engaged to singer Lauretta Turner, a crowd favorite at Dance Town USA, a nightclub on Houston’s northside that’s now a bingo hall.

Turner was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas and raised in a family that loved music.

She has appeared with such artists as Conway Twitty, Mel Tillis, Johnny Bush and Gene Watson, and she co-hosted “The Mickey Gilley Show” on television.

Collins was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He and his family headed southwest when he was young, and he spent much of his youth in Texas City.

“It was like Mayberry,” he said.

In Texas City, he performed in a rock ‘n’ roll band called the Nomads, and he got his big break when Dolly Parton saw him and encouraged him to take a shot at a career in Nashville.

Later, she would take to a No. 1 song he recorded, “Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You).”

One tale Collins tells is how “Statue of a Fool” was originally titled “Name it After Me,” but Country Music Hall of Fame producer Owen Bradley objected.

“He was not nuts about the title,” said Collins, “so, they changed it.”

The song envisions a stone “image of a man who let love slip through his hand.” Collins sings, “Inscribe ‘The World’s Greatest Fool’ and name it after me.”

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net