About The Artist
Daniel Leroy (Roy) Honeycutt was born on June 3rd 1920 in Broken Arrow Oklahoma to Sam and Sarah (Graham) Honeycutt. He was the youngest of seven children (Brothers Walter, William, Charley, Matt and sisters Hazel and Edith). He was the third generation of self taught musicians. He started playing the guitar at 6 years of age. When he was 10 years old, he was playing the steel guitar and fiddle.
Back in those days times are hard and children had to grow up fast before he could learn to read and write he had to quit school to help support the family.
Roy and his four older brothers were all musically talented. For money they would often play at get together's and other events around town.
When the southwest suffered from the great depression in 1929, (which affected the world worldwide economy all through the 1930's and the drought in 1934 that caused the dust bowl of 1935-1938), Roy and his family like so many others, living in poverty, left Oklahoma and came to California in search of work and a better life.
Roy and his wife Dorothy moved to Campbell, California, while the rest of Roy's family settled in Turlock, California.
They found work picking fruit and working in the cotton fields and the workers and their families lived in small cabins on the farm. In the evenings Roy performed at the local nightclubs around the Santa Clara Valley.
His talent and skill were quickly recognized by many of the musicians and bands that were currently working the clubs. He soon landed a job with Tex Randall band working five nights a week at The Sequoia Club in Sunnyvale, California and The Tracy Gardens in San Jose, California (on Stevens Creek Road - where Valley Fair Mall is currently located).
Roy's wife Dot, worked with and soon became friends with the parents of young Pee Wee Whitewing who lived in the same work camp with his family. In a conversation I had with him over the telephone, Pee Wee said that he found his own interest in music and the steel guitar when he was just a boy. He told me that his first steel guitar was given to him by my father, Roy Honeycutt. That he was fascinated by Roy's playing and considered him to be a tremendous influence on him starting his own musical career as a steel guitarist. Elsewhere, it has been reported that first lap steel was a chrome Rickenbacker that he played in his Pentecostal church choir. Pee Wee made his professional debut with Tex Randall on Tex's show on KEEN in San Jose.
Roy must of saw something really special in Pee Wee, and gave him a steel guitar so that he would be able to follow his dreams of someday becoming a steel guitarist. A generous gesture yet quite unheard of back in those days and even now. Pee Wee went on to become a part of Hank Thompson's Brazos Valley Boys and played on several of Hank's hit records. He later moved to his wife's native Louisiana home and became a sought after session musician.
Pee Wee said he followed Roy's career for quite some time. He used to listen to Roy on the radio with Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys and when Roy joined Luke Wills Band in 1947, they had a radio show broadcast from Fresno, California that he could hear in San Jose.
Pee Wee himself did go on to become a accomplished steel guitarist in his own right all the way to the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame, inducted in 1992.
Historical records pertaining to Roy's career say that he worked in San Pablo at Maples Hall and in Merced with "The Singing Cowboys" and with "Arkie and his Hillbillies".
Juanita Stark Coburn daughter of Louis Stark "Arkie" recalls that we played for Governor Earl Warren in 1943, in Sacramento, California at his Inauguration Ceremony. "I played the guitar and Roy Honeycutt was on steel and Arkie's brother Hoot, played bass."
Roy played at many nightclubs and other venues in the next few years with several bands in San Joaquin Valley and all along the west coast.
In was some time in 1946 in Modesto, California. when Roy was introduced to Bob Wills, at a club where a friend of Roy's was a bouncer at. Bob was needing a steel player for a dance job that evening; he auditioned and hired Roy on the spot. He joined the Texas Playboy's and toured with them, performed at various venues, on the radio and in the recording studio as well during his short time with Bob.
KGO Radio in San Francisco signed Bob and the band for a syndicated radio show to be recorded at The Mark Hopkins Hotel.
These recordings survive today as "The Tiffany Transcriptions".
It wasn't until the 1980's that these recordings were finally released and have become classics.
Many music critics, producers, fellow musicians and the general public have said that this is the best music that Bob Wills and The Texas Playboy's ever recorded.
While Roy has been recognized as one of the steel guitarist on these recordings, everyone maybe unaware of just how many tracks he actually recorded during the three sessions. Noel Boggs played on the first five sessions with a total of 119 songs. Roy was on the next three sessions with a total of 142 songs, and Herb Remington played on the last five sessions with 177 songs. Many of these tracks were released on "The Tiffany Transcriptions Volumes 1—10.
Since then Kaleidoscope Records also released Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, "Riding Your Way" The lost Tiffany Transcriptions, which Roy Honeycutt is the credited steel guitarist on 16 of the 50 tracks.
Documents at the end of this biography show correspondence between Roy and Jeff Alexson (co-owner of Kaleidoscope Records at the time) requesting Roy's thoughts on his experience with Bob Will's and as a member of The Texas Playboy's and the making of the Tiffany Transcription's. Although Jeff Alexson did receive Roy's notes, Tom Diamont (co-owner of Kaleidoscope Records) said he can't imagine why he was left out of the liner notes included with the set.
Shortly after the recordings were made, Bob signed with MCA to do a cross country tour to New York, according to Herb Remington in a conversation he and I had in 2015 over the telephone. He said that Bob and the band were heading to New York and that Luke Wills had split from the band and was starting another dance circuit in southern California.
He said that Roy made the choice to go with Luke, because he wanted to stay closer to home.
While touring on the bus, things would get kind of crazy at times according to stories Roy shared later on in his life with my brother, which was another reason why Roy decided to go with Luke.
Herb told me that Roy was playing an Emmons steel guitar and was a great steel guitarist who played with some of the best back then, and that he never saw Roy again.
Roy went with Luke and others that joined them were Lester "Junior" Bernard and Joe Holley. Luke's wife named the band Luke Wills and The Rhythm Busters.
Reviews said the early Rhythm Buster's were "excellent" They performed regularly in Richmond, Oakland, Bakersfield, Stockton, and Modesto in California.
On February 19,1947, King Records signed the band and at Broadcast Records in Hollywood, Ca. Luke, Roy Junior and Joe Holley also joining them was Tommy Doss, Eldon Shamblin, Darrel Jones, Johnny Cuievello, Robert M. Berg, Ocie Stockard, Mildred Kelso. They recorded the tunes "Four or Five Times" "Bring it on Down to My House", "Sweet Moments", "Those Gone and Left me Blues".
In later RCA sessions July 23, 1947, instrumentals "Bob Wills Special Two Step". Other tunes recorded at the RCA Victor studio at 1016 N. Sycamore St. in Hollywood, California were "Shut Up and Drink your Beer", "Long Train Blues", "High Voltage Gal", "Gotta Get to Oaklahoma City", "Uncle Tom Wills Schottische", "Cain's Stomp", and "Louisiana Blues".
Both Roy and Junior left before the October and November recording sessions. The Rhythm Busters disbanded in early 1948 and Luke rejoined Bob until 1950.
After leaving The Rhythm Buster's Roy continued to work with a large number of western swing bands according to music historian Mitch Drumm who states on The Steel Guitar Forum that Roy is credited as the steel guitarist on at least three records of T. Texas Tyler's.
An advertising poster published in a newspaper in Seaside, California confirms Roy playing at The Corral Club.
Many bands and a variety of musicians played there with Roy including The Osage Trio, The Buckaroo Boys, with Tex Whittaker.
Roy and Bud Issacs also shared the stage at some point in Roy's career. On stage and another photo shows them shaking hands and holding the sheet music to a instrumental written by Roy titled "Honeycutt Stomp" which was on the backside of a Big Jim Denoon tune titled "Wild Strings.
In 1949 in the Bakersfield Californian Newspaper an article advertises a dance and BBQ on July 2-4 by Cliff Maddox and his Ramblers, featuring Roy Honeycutt. We have seen Cliff's name spelled as "Maddux" in other personal appearance ads, but so far, this one was the only one we have seen that mentions Roy Honeycutt.
According to Billboard Magazine May 14, 1949 Roy and His Western Swing Boys were playing at The Wagon Wheel in Modesto, California. The Wagon Wheel has a connection to another local Modesto group - the Sagebrush Serenaders, led by Rusty Bertolero. Rusy had bought the Wagon Wheel and remodeled it. It was formerly known as the Hi Ho Club and also was Walkies.
Also in 1949 Roy Joined Big Jim Denoon and his Rhythm Rustlers and were broadcast on KDON 1460am in Salinas, Ca, five days a week from 1:30-2:00 pm.
Big Jim and Roy performed together at several different times throughout their musical careers and were lifelong friends as well.
Tom Bradshaw at sixteen years old recalls how he used to drive his Model A from Monterey to Mortimer's Inn about 5 miles away. He would sneak in the back door and hide in the corner and listen to The Rhythm Rustlers. He says his interest was in Roy Honeycutt playing his lap steel. He was in awe of his single string skill. He said that Big Jim called him "Leroy" back then.
It was sometime in the early 1950's when Roy was again working with Will's according to photos taken at Will's Point in Sacramento, with John T. Wills and Roy and a couple of others.
Also a documentary video on YouTube narrated by Evelyn McKinney, shows the Texas Playboys performing at Will's Point in Sacramento, Ca. with Roy Honeycutt on steel guitar.
A photo with Roy and Tommy Duncan on stage at Maples Hall in San Pablo and another photo dated 1953. Roy and Tommy were band mates as well as life long friends and they kept in touch until Tommy's death in 1967, according to letters and posters, and a memorial card from Tommy Duncan's memorial service. Along with other memorabilia in posseasion of The Honeycutt family.
In 1954 advertisements in The Modesto Bee show Roy performing at The Riverbank Clubhouse in Riverbank, Ca.
An article in T.V. Guide This Week in 1954 from Salinas, Ca shows Roy performing with "Bashful" Bobby Wooten and The CareFree Corral on KSBW-TV (Channel 8) Salinas, California. This half-hour show aired on Wednesday nights at 9:00pm. Also joining Roy on the show was another lifelong friend and musician Truitt Cunningham and several others. A promotional brochure provided by Kathy indicates that the show usually consisted of eight musical numbers, three commercials, two comic relief skits and a hymn. The show was said to be easy and relaxed but fst moving. The show only used one camera that used dissolves and fades to do transitions. Bobby went on to be a disc jockey and worked on KAYO in Seattle, Washington which had some other DJs - Chris Lane and Don Chapman who later moved to WJJD in Chicago to estalbish that station as a country station.
In July 1955 an article in International Musician Magazine, featured Roy Honeycutt in "Where are They Now" segment along with other famous musicians.
Another band Roy performed with was The Glenn Stepp Band and performed on a radio and/or TV show during this time. Glenn performed in the central valley of California in the Modesto and Stockton area and was a friendly competitor of Chester Smith who was also on the scene at the time.
In 1979, writer and publisher of Steel Guitarist Magazine and SGHOF Inductee, Tom Bradshaw, wrote an article about western swing music in which Roy Honeycutt was one of the featured steel guitarists mentioned in the article. That issue points out that Roy played with the Texas Playboys for a brief time in 1946 before he joined the Luke Wills band. The article says he was somewhat influenced by Noel Boggs. Both Roy and Noel can be heard on the Tiffany Transcriptions that were made from 1945 through 1948. The article noted that Roy's work especially stood out and developed that in one recording, "Bring It On Down To My House, Honey", it was difficult to determine whether it was Roy or Noel playing on that recording. The article then mentions Roy went on to become an accomplished player by the 1950s and developed a one-string jazz style that rivaled another steel legend, Joaquin Murphy.
Throughout the rest of Roy's life he was invited to and attended various historical events that he, along with many other well known and great musicians were featured at. Bob Wills' Day in Turkey, Texas. Bob Will's and The Texas Playboy's 50th Anniversary in Tulsa, Oaklahoma in 1984,
In 1987, he was Inducted into The Western Swing Hall of Fame along with Bud Issacs, Leon McAuliffe, Jody McCaulley, Leon Rausch, Eldon Shamblin, Barry Doss and many others.
His daughter Kathy tells of a time when his father bought her an accordion when she was just eight years old. Roy was thinking it would bring a 'cool sound' to his band. Kathy said she took lessons for about six months, but lost interest. But that did not mean she lost interest in the music. She enjoyed just watching her dad and his band perform. "They were stars to me." Kathy's brother Willie started playing the steel guitar at the age of 8 and he developed an obsession for the instrument.
Willie would sometimes stay at home, with the blessing of his dad while mom was working, and practice playing the steel. Willie would go with his dad to clubs, gigs and would always gain entrance when he was with his dad.
He performed at The Columbia House in Columbia, California with Billy Mac and the Wagon Wheels for over 5 years. Modesto and Turlock Moose Lodges where he performed with, Willie Harris, Rose Maddox, Truitt Cunningham, and dozens of known artists on weekends throughout the rest of his life.
In 1951, he was working at the Manhattan Tavern in Santa Cruz, California with his band, the Westerners. He was featuring at that time Ronnie Draper, who was Rusty Draper's brother.
His daughter mentions, there are many periods throughout Roy's musical career that she personally has been unable to find information.
But one can piece together a thread that tells his daughter that he was constantly performing with dozens of the greatest musicians from that era — sharing the stage, with them performing, touring, on TV and the radio or recording tracks in the studio.
Kathy says she can only imagine all the bands, the clubs and performances and other facts of Roy Honeycutt's life and musical career that perhaps we will never know.
The information she has discovered to date through research on the internet along with the dozens of pictures inside his photo albums, tells a story of a very talented man with a great love for music, had a amazing musical career and devoted his life to playing the steel guitar.
There is no way of knowing how many lives that were influenced by Roy's musical talents. What Kathy did discover as she researched Roy's career, sites such as The Steel Guitar Forum has posts, even years after his death, requesting list of songs he recorded, information on him which tells her that he continues to to be remembered by fans and probably will for years to come.
While his legacy as one of the steel guitarists for Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, and The Tiffany Transcriptions, which truly was a golden moment in history and Roy's life, it is just a small part of his contributions he made to the music industry throughout his musical journey.
Kathy wrote and told of one her favorite memories that included her dad and Willie. She stated that a gig that was really cool was when Roy was asked to play at a 4th of July Party at Michael Nesmiths (of the Monkees ) house. Her dad, mom, Willie and she all went to this party. It was in Monterey, or Carmel, California. She remembers they pulled up to the iron gates and the security folks asked their name. She said she and Willie said at the same time, "We're the band!" (You see, this was right after the Blues Brothers movie had came out and they used that line in the movie.) But, the gates opened and she remembers they thought that was so funny and great at the same time.
Mike took Will an I to his video room and we pretty much stayed in there the rest of the evening. It was wall to wall videos; it was crazy. But it was a good time. She doesn't remember what year that was.
Over time, Kathy has collected letters and correspondence from others who spoke to their encounters and experiences with Roy and Willie.
"Hello Kathy, I did have the privilege to get to play music with both your father and your brother Willie, separately and together. Willie was an exceptional talent, a young gunslinger, a hot picker, who would play some sizzling hot licks, fast, jazzy and flashy...and it was awesome!
Another letter spoke to Roy's son playing with the Kristi Lyndell band, but told of the experiences he had when the band would come back to Modesto and Turlock.
"My name is Randy U. I guess you would call me a 'default' band leader (bass player) for the Kristi Lyndell band when we first discovered Willie Honeycutt in the early 1980s. I was around 30 years old back then. We had just returned from a USO tour and were in need of a steel player. They were not all that plentiful here in Central California. Someone told us that there was a 'kid' playing with his Dad at the Moose Lodge. There was Roy Honeycutt with some other old timers setup up right next to Willie. We were what I guess you would call a country cover band with swing tendencies. Needless to say, I was blown away by both of them.
Kathy noted by email in response to a question that Roy's only "work" in his career was music. She said from her earliest memory at the age of three was that her dad kept his steel guitar setup in an area right off of the the family living room. He gave steel guitar lessons at least once a week. He would also have jam sessions with his bandmates or friends until she was about 13 or 14. Later in life, he played most weekends at the Moose Lodge in Modesto right up until the few months before he passed away.
Roy married the former Edna Louise Dillon, who was born in Edgemont, South Dakota to parents Ed and Louise Dillin. She moved to Rapid City, South Dakota and she graduated from high school in 1948. She went to work for an insurance firm in Buffalo, Wyoming; she became a beautician in 1950 and later moved to California. After Roy and Edna married, they moved to Turlock, California. Edna worked for Armour and Company for 13 years.
Roy and Edna had four children, Randy, Cheryl, Kathy and William.
Edna Honeycutt passed away at the age of 54 in April of 1984.
Roy Honeycutt passed away January 22, 1992 from congestive heart failure.
Credits & Sources
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