Eddie Joe Downs was a native son of Navasota, Texas.
He started singing at the tender age of five.
The story goes he was performing in clubs from Texas to California
but there were instances where he had to hide behind the curtains or the drummer
so the local authorities wouldn't see an underage performer in a club.
When he was just thirteen, he was entertaining the radio audiences
in Holbrook, Arizona. He was also said to have been part of minstrel shows
throghout the state of Texas.
By the time he was fifteen, he was a regular on the Town Hall Party show that
originated in Compton, California. An article in an Arizona publication
indicates that Ralph Hicks was the owner at the time. That stint gave him the
opportunity to work with such stars as Tex Ritter and Lefty Frizzell.
He was nicknamed "The Singing Buckaroo".
We're not sure of the timeline of his back and forth to places such as Texas,
Arizona and California, but one article indicates he was a part of the Houston Jamboree
out of Houston, Texas and worked with such acts as George Jones and Sonny James.
While in California, Eddie worked with Eddie Kirk's new band at the time,
the "Hollywood Caravan". He worked with Eddie on the Town Hall Party as well.
He also was heard over radio stations KNX and KFI on network shows every
Saturday night with Eddie Kirk.
When the calendar turned its pages to the year of 1965, he was signing
a recording contract with Capitol Records. His first release on the label was "Nothing
But Time." It gathered attention across the country, appearing in many
of the local Top Ten lists.
Singing wasn't his only talent. In 1965, he penned the song, "An Occasional Wife"
that became a big hit for Country Music Hall of Famer, Faron Young.
He wrote other songs such as "The Great Tear Maker" and of course, "Nothing But Time"
and seemed on a roll, appearing on the Billboard charts and was being touted
as "Country's Hot Newcomer".
When he wasn't singing, he was a part of a couple of unique organizations
back then. One was known as "The Knights Of the Turntable" where he served
on the Board of Directors with John Anderson and Bobby George. The purpose
of the organization was "...the encouraging all efforts and activities in connection
with music and other types of entertainment."
He was also asked to be a part of another organization that was based in Los Angeles,
the COuntry Music Project 70. This time, the purpose was to explore the possiblities of conducting
a nationwide Country Music Fair which would include all phases of the country music
industry. It sounds similar to what Fan Fair or today's Country Music Festival
Eddie continued his career into the 1980s which saw him forming a band called
"The Electric Horsemen" that was based out of Palm Springs, California.
He was asked to be a guest on the Regis Philbin show many times during that
time. He also appeared on the annual Jerry Lewis Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy.
The group then began touring with Willie (Nelson), Waylon (Jennings) and Hank (Williams, Jr.),
to such venues as Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and even the Alaskan circuit.
He wrote a tune for a movie that never happened - "Ride, Cowgirl, Ride".
He continued his songwriting, said to have written hundreds of tunes.
He spent a lot of time on the road, but was quoted as saying he "...was
never on the right one."
In 1985, Eddie moved to Arizona to be with his family and continued
to perform at the Sunset Lounge for a couple of years as well as other venues
in the Phoenix area.
In 1989, Eddie was diagnosed with colon cancer.
In January of 1992, Eddie Joe Downs was bedridden as the disease took its toll.
But even then, with every chance he had, he'd pick up his guitar
and sing to his friends and family. In April of 1992, he did his last
show at the "Country City" where they were holding a benefit for him. He
sang for his fans one last time from a wheel chair.
Eddie Joe Downs passed away on July 3, 1993, leaving behind memories
of his wisdom and talents as well as his music.
The Reatta Pass Steakhouse in Tempe, Arizona held a tribute show for Eddie Joe Downs
on May 13 (we think it was 1994).
Credits & Sources
- Country Song Roundup; No. 29; February 1954;
American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
- PJ Country Entertainers Magazine; Circa 1994;
PJ Country Promotions; Tempe, AZ