This is part of a new series of posts I’ve entitled, “Stories From the Road.” Each week I will post a new story from Rick Sikes, a Texas musician who traveled the roads of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and out to California for well over twenty years. With hours to pass in a van full of sweaty musicians, they found ways to entertain themselves. These stories are told in Rick Sikes’ words. I’ll do my best to correct grammar, but I want to keep them in his own voice.
“I started in first grade with a kid named Dean Beard. Our birthdays were only days apart and we went all through school together. We formed our first band together in the late 40s or early 50s, a rockabilly band called “The Crew Cats.”
Dean was a great vocalist as well as a musician and loved to act up on stage. He earned the name of “The West Texas Wildman” because of his frantic stage presence and piano playing style.
Anyway, we were playing a gig out at Buffalo Gap one Saturday afternoon. This was where I got my first glimpse at how girls reacted to musicians. We played pretty straight rockabilly at that time and these teenage girls threw their underwear up on stage. I thought that was pretty neat. I was a big ol’ dumb kid and never saw anything like that before.
Dean Beard introduced me to Elvis Presley. I was working at the brickyard in Coleman and got in one Friday evening to find Dean waiting for me at my mom’s house with Elvis. Dean had picked him up at the bus station earlier in the day. I remember my mom offering Dean fifty cents to take Elvis across the street to a barber shop to get a haircut. She didn’t think he ought to go on stage looking like that with the big sideburns and long hair. Elvis played on my mom’s piano while I took a shower and got ready to go to Abilene to do a show. At that time, we were more popular than Elvis and it was no big deal to ride around with him in the car. No one knew who he was yet. Hell, we didn’t even take any pictures. That night, after the show, Elvis got sloppy drunk and Dean and I couldn’t wait to get him back on the bus to Memphis. A few days later, I heard my mom say that she didn’t see how that boy was ever going to make it in music.
Dean Beard and I split off and formed separate bands after high school. He kept the name Dean Beard and the Crew Cats and I named my band The King Cats. He stayed with the rockabilly sound and I went more traditional country. In 1958 Dean went to California along with Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts (who were part of his band) to work in the group called The Champs, who had produced the huge hit, “Tequila.” Later on that year, Dean was in a bad car wreck so he quit The Champs and came back home. We always came back around to doing shows together and worked with Slim Willet on the Big State Jamboree, but by 1970, Dean had pretty much given up on the music and suffered a lot of health problems. He died in April of 1989, only four years after I got out of prison.”
Both Rick Sikes and Dean Beard are listed as pioneers in the West Texas Music Hall of Fame
Listen to Dean Beard on YouTube