Baylor lecturer, students document legacy of western swing star

Glen Duncan poses with his brother Tommy Duncan’s boots that are in the new museum. Baylor alumna Jenna Willard | Courtesy Photo

By Bonnie Berger

Journalism and media arts lecturer Curtis Callaway appeared at the 100th anniversary celebration of Tommy Duncan’s birth in Whitney last Saturday to showcase his documentary in progress focusing on the country singer’s life.

The daylong event celebrated Duncan’s life and influence upon the music of artists George Strait, Willie Nelson, Billy Mata and Glen Duncan, Tommy’s brother.

Organized by Pam Townley executive director of the Tommy Duncan Fan Club, the day’s festivities commenced with an antique car show through downtown Whitney at 11 a.m., followed by the dedication of the Tommy Duncan and Western Swing Museum and a gala dinner at 4:30 p.m. Western swing artists Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition, Dave Alexander and Grammy winner Carolyn Martin took the stage around 7:30 p.m. and played well into the night.

With student enlistment, Callaway is filming a one-hour documentary depicting the story of Duncan and his impact as part of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

“Tommy was the voice of the Texas Playboys,” Townley said. “Tommy was never really recognized for that…[Bob Wills] was great at what he did…but Tommy did most of the singing.”

After Townley approached him regarding a documentary, Callaway was captivated by Duncan’s life and talent and involved students, turning the project into a fun, as well as rewarding endeavor.

“I saw it as a great opportunity for students to get involved and the story kept looking better and better,” Callaway said. “It’s a great story. It’s history, culture, and music.”

The documentary trailer, available at, also debuted at the event.

Callaway and a group of five students will incorporate the event into the documentary entitled “In the Shadow of A King–The Tommy Duncan Story.” Students filmed the musical performances and interviewed attendees, utilizing the opportunity to capture Duncan’s posthumous honors.

Ryan Fedor, a junior film and digital media major from Fort Worth, joined Callaway and crew early Saturday morning to document the day’s happenings. During the musical performances, he filmed close-ups of the artists, capturing all acoustic delights for later use in the documentary.

Culminating a day of hard work and new acquaintances, Fedor, a saxophone player in the Baylor marching band, relished the opportunity to hear Glen Duncan perform a band favorite.

“At the end of every home game, we play ‘Tennessee Waltz,’” Fedor said. “During our last game of the season, the seniors will step out on the field and join hands during that song. It really brought it all together at the end of the day to hear [Duncan] sing that. I got to stand two yards away from Glen Duncan when he was singing!”

Duncan, few know, was the main voice behind Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Callaway hopes this documentary will redefine public awareness of the star.

“We’re hoping Tommy will get recognized,” Callaway said. “We want to get Tommy Duncan into the Country Music Hall of Fame on his own right. We’re giving Tommy the recognition he deserves.”