Country singer Tony Douglas was favorite in Fort Worth area

Posted Friday, Feb. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Longtime Texas music favorite Tony Douglas, affable leader of Tony Douglas and the Shrimpers, died Jan. 22 in his hometown of Athens.

Mr. Douglas had lymphoma, according to his family. He was 83.

Fort Worth figured prominently in Mr. Douglas' long career, and five decades of local country music fans enjoyed dancing to Tony Douglas and the Shrimpers in clubs or watching him in a popular block of 30-minute country music TV shows that aired Saturdays on KTVT/Channel 11, then an independent station.

He was a lifetime member of the Country Music Association in Nashville and is in the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Hayride Hall of Fame.

Mr. Douglas' first big break came in 1954 when he became a regular at Fort Worth's Cowtown Hoedown, and he recorded his first single release on the Cowtown Hoedown record label, Old Blue Monday and Echoes of You.

"Tony was one of the best in the business, very well respected," recalled Carroll Parham, a Stephenville-based country and bluegrass musician and record producer.

"Tony had his own style of music, his music was set apart from everybody else's. I think some of Tony's music will go on forever."

Born April 12, 1929, in Martins Mill, Mr. Douglas grew up singing in church and listening to the Grand Ole Opry.

During his Army service in Germany in 1952, he performed before paying audiences for the first time when he sang Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell songs.

After the war, Mr. Douglas returned to East Texas and worked for grocery stores and the gas company. He sang on Friday and Saturday nights.

That changed when he began to play Fort Worth regularly at the Cowtown Hoedown, and later on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport.

In the fall of 1957, Mr. Douglas was offered a three-year contract on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, fulfilling a boyhood dream, but he turned it down when he learned the contract required him to relocate to Tennessee.

"He was criticized for not going to Nashville," said his son-in-law Randal Mowery. "But he had some priorities that were important to him."

Mr. Douglas didn't sing songs about cheating or heavy drinking, and he didn't allow cursing from his band.

"He had what he called a 'cuss kitty' in the back of his car, and you had to put a dollar in it if you cussed," Parham recalled.

He first gained national attention in 1961 when he recorded the song Shrimpin', which gave the band its name.

The Shrimpers began touring after their 1962 hit His 'N Hers was released, and Mr. Douglas performed with Grand Ole Opry stars, including Ernest Tubb, Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner and Leona Williams.

His hits included Thank You for Touching My Life, My Last Day, Layin' in the Sunshine, Don't Piddle Around a Puddle and Worst of Luck.

Mr. Douglas recorded a new album in 2010 on his own Cochise Records label called Saved the Best for Last.

A funeral was Saturday in Athens.

Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Mim Douglas of Athens; three children; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram

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