Arlington man arrested in fatal shooting of well-known North Texas singer

One of the best-known North Texas singers, who kept the sound of rockabilly alive in such legendary regional groups as the Cavaliers, was the victim of a fatal shooting in Arlington, authorities and band mates said Wednesday.

An official with the Tarrant County medical examiner's office identified the victim as Rudy Mata, 56, of Kennedale. He was shot by a relative, authorities said.

Mata had performed with the Cavaliers Studio Group and most recently with the Hi Roller Band. He was named Grapevine Opera's Entertainer of the Year in 1997.

"I can't believe someone could get that upset with Rudy," said band mate Neil Scheckels of East Mountain in east Texas in a telephone interview Wednesday. "I never heard him say a bad word about anyone."

Mata's son-in-law was in custody Wednesday, accused in the shooting Tuesday.

The suspect was identified as David Matthew Merrill, 34. He faces a charge of murder, police said in an e-mail, and is in the Arlington Jail with bail set at $50,000.

The shooting occurred in the 2500 block of Lynwood Drive, near South Bowen Road and Park Row Drive.

Arlington police have not released any information on a motive in the shooting, but they said it was apparently family-related.

Officers were called to the scene at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and found a man with multiple gunshot wounds.

The man, later identified as Mata, was taken to Arlington Memorial Hospital, where he died a short time later, police said.

Several of Mata's fellow band members were in shock Wednesday over the slaying.

For years in North Texas, Mata sang with bands that featured a variety of music. He joined the Cavaliers in 2006 after drummer Gary Holmes of Crowley sat in with him one night.

"I held my cellphone up so my Dad could hear and told Dad we've got to get this guy to sing with us," Holmes said Wednesday. "In no time, he was singing with us."

Sid Holmes of Fort Worth, one of the founders of the Cavaliers, said Mata was a natural for the group, which had a strong rockabilly base and later mixed it with country rock. The Cavaliers began in 1956 in San Angelo and moved to Fort Worth in 1962.

J. Frank Wilson was the lead singer of the Cavaliers in 1964 when the group had a big hit with Last Kiss, Sid Holmes said.

The Cavaliers kept performing for the next 50 years, playing mostly at Texas hangouts.

"We were mostly a studio group when Rudy joined us in 2006, but he had such a great voice," Sid Holmes said. "He was such an easygoing guy who was always giving out hugs."

Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763

Twitter: @mingoramirezjr

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