Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Cleburne

June 27, 2011

Making music

Bailey upholds family’s legacy

Most know Rick Bailey as the Johnson County commissioner representing Rio Vista, the western part of Cleburne and part of Godley.

Others know him as a businessman.

But a few others know him as a musician.

It’s a family tradition.

And for Bailey, that family tradition started for him thanks to the good folks at the local S&H Green Stamps store, where trading stamps, especially popular from the 1960s through the 1980s that were distributed by supermarkets, department stores and gas stations, could be redeemed for merchandise.

“My youth was spent in East Texas in a community below Center called Shelbyville. We didn’t have a whole lot but we had a big front porch and lot of musicians in the family,” Bailey said. “My first memory of ever joining in with my dad was with a small guitar my mom got at S&H Green Stamps. I had already broken all the strings by the time of the first gathering. It was the first air guitar I ever played because I had already broken all the strings on my little S&H Green Stamps guitar.”

Bailey’s dad, Allan, who was a well-known musician in the ’60s and early ’70s, picked up and moved the family to the Dallas area.

“In Grand Prairie, if you were a headliner, that’s where you entertained — the Longhorn Ballroom, Panther Hall and those old places. My dad worked with some of the old timers that no body probably remembers like Jackie Grubbs and Willie Swanson and some of those guys of the era,” he said. “There were cover bands that basically opened for the headliners — Silver Saddle, Sadie Hawkins and all these old places around Grand Prairie, and, of course, Dallas. I was exposed to that environment early on. If only I had the foresight then to have a Polaroid Instamatic to take pictures of all the entertainers I got to see. They were just people to me. I was already used to that.”

There were also the greats that Bailey was exposed to during that time — Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn.

“It inspired me, not only for country music, but as I grew older, I grew up with Creedence Clearwater Revival and then there was Jimi Hendrix,” he said. “If it was good, I liked it.”

Now with that S&H Green Stamps guitar in the past and with a 1976 Les Paul Custom Cherry Sunburst, Bailey set out on his own, but not for long.

“I started working around the Dallas scene, got to meet a lot of influential people and got to work with some great guitarists. I married early and my focus became on the family and on business, but I always have had the gift of music to fall back on or just to enjoy,” he said. “I’d just assume sit around with a group of people and friends and everyone pass the guitar around and sing a song or two and just be exposed to that as I would be on a stage somewhere.”

Bailey still gets around for some gigs when time allows, especially outdoor venues which is his preference, but he has no regrets about music being a part-time hobby.

“With the last band I was with which I put together, the Benji Allen Band, we did a lot of local things here from rodeo and Caddo Street to the grand opening of Rowlett Hardware. We were travelling around East Texas — Malakoff, Cedar Creek and that area — and some venues around here. I enjoyed that but I never was one to chase that rainbow as Alan Jackson sings it, but I just enjoyed the music. I enjoyed the camaraderie with great musicians,” he said. “My focus has always been business and I looked at that as, ‘This is a great business,’ but I’ve been on the bus and it’s not a good life.

“A lot of people choose that path and that’s where great musicians come from, but it wasn’t for me. I’ve always enjoyed my privacy or to take a vacation or ride motorcycles for a couple of days. I never just gave it 100 percent that this is going to be my bread and butter.”

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