About The Artist
Bill Lyon was born in Remus, Michigan back in 1918. HIs mother died when he was just two years old. No mention is made of his father. But he lived with is grandparents after her death until after he finished high school.
His school musical classes included learning a variety of instruments such as violin, wind instruments, participating in the glee club, band, orchestra, male quartet. And even took part in the debate club.
His first paid musical appearance was at the Merritt Restaurant in Remus, Michigan. He was only 13 years old at the time. He played the guitar and sang - doing a solo act. He earned $5.00 a night plus tips!
Bill's fan club president, Genevieve Wandel wrote a lengthy two page article about Bill that was featured in one of Eddie Adams' Fan Club Journals. She noted that the first dance band Bill was a part of was an old-time band that worked an "honest-to-goddness barn dance" that was litearlly in an open barn.
When he got to high school, he head a dance band, playing the school dances and other community affairs around central Michigan. The band played just about everything as the group used a variety of instruments such as mouth organ, tuba, piano, etc. At this point in time, Bill was mainly playing the piano.
In 1935, and just 17 years old, he built himself a gas station that he operated in the day time. At night, he honed his musical skills with various appearances.
In 1940, He won a WLS HOme Talent Show in Grand Rapids. That effort led to becoming a part of the Blue Ridge Mountaineers. That gave him the opportunity to appear on the WLS National Barn Dance until World War II broke out.
He had to leave the musical career behind for about ten years, but he still had a desire to be a musician and performer. He joined forces with what Genevieve termed "...a couple of other Michigan hillbillies" and formed a trio. They billed themselves as the "Plainsmen". The group stayed together for about a year, playing various dances in the area and doing broadcasts over radio station WION in Ionia, Michigan. In fact, the group was the first act to do a "live" show over the air on WION.
They were able to lure a few more acts to join them and that led to the formation of the Bundy Mountain Jamboree, which seemed to be an ensemble cast that did radio, television and personal appearances.
Around 1955, Bill was hired by WPBN-TV in Traverse City, Michigan to do a weekly half hour show. By 1958, he was also doing another show for the station.
Bill was married to a brunette by the name of Billie. They had five children, Bill, Jr., Harry, Lcia, Linda and Douglas. Back in the mid-1950s, Bill, Jr. and Harry were taking turns plaing drums in the band. Bill, Jr. was also taking up learning the bass guitar and rhythm guitar. His daughter Lucia was studying the accordion and had done several appearances on her dad's show doing yodeling numbers. His youngest daughter, Linda, also appeared on the show, doing solo as well as duet numbers with her dad.
Bill owned his own record label, BMJ and by 1958, had issued three singles. One featured Lois Ann Farrow doing a yodeling number while the flip side featured another Michigan artist, Johnny Colmus. Both were one-time members of Bill's band. Another single featured Bill on vocals ("Please Say You Will Take Me Back"). Cotton Nash did the vocals on the other side on "If You Want My Love". The record was said to have made several Top Ten Lists on Michigan Country Music radio stations back then. It was also held the number one spot on WION in Ionia for a couple of weeks.
He followed that up with a release featuring him on both sides, doing tunes he had written - "Bundy Mountain Polka" b/w "Tossing Pretty Words Around".
Bill was about five feet five inches tall and about 145 pounds back then. He was said to have had a record collection of over 2,000 records, including some of the original recordings by the legendary Blue Yodeler, Jimmie Rodgers.
Back in 1958, the band included five members. In addition to Bill, there was Bill Jr., Harry Lyon, Billie Lyon (his wife) on electric bass, and Hank Evener (who was blind since birth), playing steel guitar.
We have a few of Bill Lyon's fan club newsletters and were able to glean a few more details of his career.
By 1961 he was doing shows over the new Channel 4, WTOM-TV based in Cheboygan, Michigan. The show aired at 7:00pm on Friday nights.
In Februeary 1961, he told his fans that he had closed the Temple in East Jordan "...at least for the winter" and had just closed the Wilson Grange due to the ongoing problem of fights breaking out at the dances. He noted, "...I sure am getting discouraged with trying to do anything for the public. The more we try, it seems the less it is appreciated."
Credits & Sources
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