Sunday, August 1, 2010

Billy in the Newspaper

In 1999 Jan Biles interviewed Billy for the Journal World. Here are some excerpts from her story.

But the one with the real history is Lawrence-born Hunsinger, who began playing guitar at age 9 or 10.

"When I was 14, some friends asked me to go to a bar and sing. It was 1946," Hunsinger, 68, said. "I played there all afternoon and got $17. That was about two days' pay. "

By the time he was out of high school, he had his own group, Billy Hunsinger and the Driftin' Hobos, and was playing hillbilly music in nightclubs four or five nights a week. Members of that band included Ken Badger, steel guitar; Bob Tarpy, guitar/vocals; and former Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ron Todd, bass.

Later Hunsinger went to KCLO radio in Leavenworth and played with the Santa Fe Trail Riders. The band received national recognition when Country Song Magazine and Box Office Magazine featured them in articles.

Hunsinger remembers performing in 1955 at the Rio Theatre in Bonner Springs. The band played between showings of "Bring Your Smile Along," a movie starring Frankie Laine.

"It was last-ditch Vaudeville," he said, explaining their one-hour show included a ventriloquist act.

From 1956 to 1964, Hunsinger ran the Billy Hunsinger Music Co. at 729-1/2 Mass. He sold instruments and taught guitar lessons using a color-coded chord chart and guitar method he developed and copyrighted.

When the school closed in 1964, Hunsinger was beginning to lose interest in music. For a while he operated Hal's Steak House, but in the late 1960s, failing health forced him to retire.

Hunsinger's love of music was rekindled in the mid 1980s by a conversation he had with Win Osborn at the Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Championship in South Park. He and Osborn, a bass player, began practicing together and before long they were joined by Ashline, Howard, Tommee Sherwood and John and James Holmes---the original Lonesome Hobos.

Today's "reincarnated" Lonesome Hobos practice once a week and perform at private parties, arts and crafts festivals, the city's Brown Bag concerts and occasionally at nightclubs

Hunsinger said the band seems like family, and he has always picked its members with that in mind.

"My purpose," he said, "is to find good people and hope they're good musicians….My purpose was never to be commercial."

Read the article on line by clicking here:

Hear Billy sing his own compostion: Don't Tell Him About Me from the first Hobos CD by clicking here: 

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