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There are not many people who can say they have been successful at two
careers. But Billy Robinson can! After a successful stint as a steel
guitarist, he added another dimension to his life, becoming a respected
He can truly call himself a native Nashvillian. A self–taught
musician, He began playing guitar at age 10, and by 15 formed his own
local band, the “Eagle Rangers” playing steel guitar locally at places
like the old “Eagles Club” on 8th Avenue. All the “Rangers” went on to
make their own mark in the music world: Bobby Moore, Floyd Robinson
(Billy's Brother), Jerry Rivers, Jack Boles and Dwain Birdwell. In 1947
He began playing steel guitar with Big Jeff who was the “music school”
for a lot of musicians at the time. Billy worked for Jeff in clubs and at WLAC
Radio as one of the “Radio Playboys” while still in high school.
Billy’s big break came in l948, while he was still playing at WLAC.
WSM, then a clear channel station, needed a steel guitarist for their
Grand Ole Opry, NBC Network Prince Albert Show. Red Foley, star of the
show and Jack Stapp, Program Director, auditioned him for that spot
and he was hired. He quickly had all the work he could do. Not only did
he work and record for Foley, he recorded on hits records with George
Morgan, Carl Smith, Webb Pierce and many others. As steel player “On Staff”
with WSM, he found himself rising at dawn to do the early shows, back
again at “Noontime Neighbors” and again there for the dinner show, “Blue
Velvet Music” with Red Foley. As an Opry musician, he was called on to
play for Opry guests such as Tony Bennett and Kay Starr.
Then in 1952, he became a member of the US Army in Special Services.
Billy played bass drum in the Army’s marching band and became a member
of the combo that played in Officer’s and NCO Clubs. He
always had a second love besides music, so when he was discharged from
the Army, he completely changed directions and attended the Harris
Advertising Art School. He finished a four year course in three years on
the GI Bill.
After graduating, he had several jobs and then worked for the Baptist
Sunday School Board for 7 years. Then he became Art Director for NASCO
in Springfield TN. He has now retired from there after 27 years, but
retirement isn’t for Billy Robinson. Now he has a foot in both art and
music. He founded his own business, “Robinson Graphics,” and designed a
lap steel guitar which has been custom built for him by Charlie Stepp of
Derby Steel Guitars in Kentucky.
Now he has the time to do what he has always dreamed of doing. At his
home on the lake, in Gallatin, TN, he has painted many pictures,
representing music and musicians as it used to be in the old country
store, at a square dance, in a cabin living room and even at an Indian
Campground. And is now working on Santa Claus playing different
instruments. And there are more on the drawing board!
Billy was inducted into the
International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame
in September 1996 and plays at steel guitar conventions all over the
country. He has recorded, produced and released an album of pop and
country songs, creating his own sound on the lap steel guitar, and still
finds time to play a round of golf with friends.
And in September 2007 he received from The Steel Guitar Hall of Fame,
The Jerry Byrd Lifetime
Henry Cannon's Plane
husband of Sarah Cannon "Minnie Pearl"
left to right -
Butter Ball Page, Jack Drake, Red Foley, Eva Foley,
Grady Martin, Rod Brassfield, Ernest Tubb, Cowboy Copus,
Calvin Robins-ET's Bro,
Dollie Dearman, Don "Red" Barry, Minnie Pearl, Ernie
Newton, Lazy Jim Day
in the door - Zeb Turner
Many years later, (1982) he was chosen for a stand-in part, playing the
Eastwood's movie "Honkytonk Man"
left to right: Billy Robinson, unknown,
Clint Eastwood, unknown
back row - Floyd Robinson, Jerry Rivers, Jack Boles, Bob Moore
front row - Billy Robinson,
Billy with Eddie Stubbs of WSM radio, at Uncle Dave
Old Time Music And Dance Festival in Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Displaying his Art
Danny Hammers of FLwww
11/09/14 10:58 AM.
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