William Freeman "Bill" Simmons' 70-year music career included a
2003 Grammy Award as a longtime keyboard player for the Light Crust Doughboys.
Mr. Simmons, 80, died Monday of esophageal cancer at his Irving home.
Graveside services will be at 10 a.m. Friday at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.
Born in Tampa, Fla., Mr. Simmons began fiddling with the piano as soon as he
could reach the keyboard as a 4-year-old. He started lessons when he was 9
and was playing professionally on the radio before classes as a high school
student in Memphis, Tenn.
He first played with the Light Crust Doughboys in 1954. He performed
intermittently with the group until he became a regular in 1981.
In addition to the piano, Mr. Simmons played
the guitar, clarinet, saxophone, bass, "a little trumpet," fiddle and mandolin.
He wrote a number of songs, said his wife, Lena "Bunny" Simmons of Irving.
He and Mrs. Simmons wrote the pop classic "M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I,"
which was recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Red Foley and the Light Crust Doughboys.
He was a member of the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Texas Western
Swing Hall of Fame, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, the International
Country Gospel Hall of Fame and the Texas International Music Association.
The band was formed in the 1930s to promote Burris Mills' Light
Crust Flour. Former band members Bob Wills and Milton Brown are
credited with founding Western swing music.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Simmons is survived by two daughters,
Cynthia Louise Wainscott of Irving and Anna Mae Leddy of Jewett, Ohio;
two sons, Fred Simmons of Fort Worth and William F. Simmons Jr. of Dallas;
two sisters, Margaret Campbell of Daytona Beach, Fla., and June Elizabeth
Wilson of Greenville, S.C.; a brother, H.G. Simmons Jr. of Newberry, Fla.;
seven grandchildren; and 23 great-grandchildren.
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