East Texas country music legend passes away - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

East Texas country music legend passes away


Tony Douglas passed away Wednesday morning following a bout with cancer.

"Angels called him home," said his wife, Mim.

In February 2012, Douglas was diagnosed with lymphoma. After 16 cycles of chemotherapy, the cancer went into remission. But in September 2012, Douglas started to get sick again. Doctors told him the cancer had returned.

Visitation will be January 25 at the Carol-Lehr Funeral Home in Athens from 6 to 8 p.m. The funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. on January 26 at the First Baptist Church in Athens. Tony will be laid to rest at the Athens City Cemetery.

"He loved Athens. It was home. And he let everyone know that Athens was the love of his life," Mim said.

From Tony's website:

Tony Douglas was born April 12, 1929, in Martins Mill, Texas, to Hubert and Artie Jones Douglas. He grew up on a farm and went to school in Martins Mill and enjoyed hunting and fishing along Kickapoo Creek.

He attended Hobbs Missionary Baptist Church with his family and there he developed his love for singing. As a young boy, he often led the singing.

Tony also learned to love country music while listening to an old battery-operated radio at a neighbor's house. Every Saturday night they would listen to the Grand Ole Opry. When he became a little older, his family got their own radio and he never missed a show. He always wished in some way, he could be a small part of country music.

In 1949, Tony married Mim Reaves from the Colfax community. In 1952, he was drafted into the Army and was sent to Kaiserslautern, Germany, where he served 18 months with the 45th Anti-Aircraft Battalion.

During this time, Tony took every opportunity to learn songs by some of his favorite performers as Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell and Webb Pierce.

One night he was headed to his room singing Hank Williams' "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" when someone asked him if he sang professionally before he came into the Army. They had never heard anybody sing a Hank Williams song like that. Tony was flattered but he had never sung these songs to an audience before.

He was asked to come to the jam session that night and some of the guys asked him to sing. He did, and it felt so natural, he was hooked! The next night there was a big show going on at the service club and he was asked to sing a song. He sang "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" and the crowd screamed, hollered and stood up to cheer for him. The bug "bit" him and he's been at it ever since.

While in Germany, he wrote the song "Echoes of You" for his wife, Mim, which was on his first record release.

Tony was discharged in 1954 and was employed by the local Safeway store in Athens and later Lone Star Gas Company.

With the great desire to sing, he made the Saturday night circuit of small community musicals - a different one every week.

After attempting to audition on four or five occasions at the Cowtown Hoedown in Ft. Worth, Texas, he was finally granted permission to sing one song. Upon receiving a number of encores, he was asked to become a regular member of the show. It was during this time, he recorded his first record "Old Blue Monday" b/w "Echoes of You" which was on the Cowtown Hoedown label.

One Saturday night, Johnny Horton appeared as a special guest at the Hoedown. Johnny's manager, Tilman Franks, invited Tony to appear as a guest on the Louisiana Hayride. After Tony's second appearance at the Hayride, he signed a three-year-contract.

In the fall of 1957, Tony and Mr. Franks went to Nashville where they met Jim Denny, General Manager of the Grand Ole Opry. Tony was offered a three-year contract but due to a clause which stipulated residing in Nashville, Tony turned it down. He returned to Athens and fulfilled his contract with the Hayride, where he performed until it closed in 1960.

In 1961, after Tony's recording of "SHRIMPIN‘" gained national attention, his band acquired the name ‘The Shrimpers; hence, it has since been Tony Douglas and The Shrimpers.

On October 5, 1962, "HIS ‘N HERS" was released which set the stage for Tony and The Shrimpers to "hit the road". This was a big turning point in his career.

Another great single "THANK YOU FOR TOUCHING MY LIFE" was released in 1972. Tony also formed CMU Productions (Country Music Unlimited) and toured across the country performing shows in numerous states with guest appearances from the stars of The Grand Ole Opry. Names such as Ernest Tubb, Charlie Walker, Dolly Parton, Osbourn Bros., Porter Wagoner, Leona Williams, Johnny Russell, Kenny Price were among the list who entertained.

In May 1974, Tony was invited to the annual Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival in Meridian, Mississippi. He participated in the Festival eleven consecutive years and called Meridian his "home away from home". It was at the beautiful Temple Theatre in Meridian where Tony recorded his first live album entitled "MERIDIAN LIVE".

In the early 1990's, he recorded "THANK YOU, LORD FOR MAKING HER MIINE". When the radio stations didn't respond, it was quite a disappointment to Tony and he totally quit performing for three years, after performing for over thirty years in country music.

After encouragement from fans and family, he began doing shows again. His country disciplined up-bringing made a big impact on his life. He hopes to always be remembered as "a man who kept his shows clean, where you could always take the family and not be afraid of what might be said or done on stage".

Tony's latest CD, "SAVED THE BEST FOR LAST" has been a great challenge. Songs so different from anything he has ever done; such as - "MORE AFRAID OF LIVING". But after much effort and determination, the project has been completed. Perhaps he will gain some new fans and for sure, he'll keep the faithful.

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