Documentary highlights Tommy Duncan’s career
By Mandy Power
Willie Nelson is a famous musician in his own right, but the country star says his career wouldn’t be the same without the influence of western swing legend Tommy Duncan.
Three students and a Baylor lecturer, who are filming a documentary, spoke with Nelson before he took the stage to perform in Granbury on Saturday.
Nelson welcomed the Baylor group into his tour bus to interview him for a documentary, “The Shadow of a King — The Tommy Duncan Story,” started by Callaway and two of his students in fall 2010.
Nelson agreed to be a part of the documentary because Duncan had a huge impact on his music.
Callaway and his students have interviewed many country figures, such as Floyd Domino, Carolyn Martin and Billy Mata. Callaway was approached by Pam Townley, the president of the Tommy Duncan fan club, with the idea for the documentary.
“I had recently started working at Baylor and thought this would be a great opportunity for my students to have a real-world experience,” Callaway said.
The documentary highlights Duncan’s career as the lead singer for the band Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Many people are unaware that Duncan’s voice was the driving force behind the band. Nelson, an avid fan of Duncan, said he was never confused between the two.
“I heard Bob sing and I heard Tommy Duncan sing. I knew the difference for sure,” Nelson said. “Tommy was a great singer. I knew every song Tommy ever sung.”
Nelson said Duncan had a profound role in his musical development.
“I loved Bob Wills’ music. I was raised on it,” Nelson said. “I played it practically every night of my life once I started playing.”
Houston senior Kyle Beam led the interview with Nelson.
“Having the opportunity to interview Willie Nelson was indescribable,” Beam said. “Meeting someone that everyone in the state and the country knows and hearing his stories was amazing.”
Amarillo senior Caitlin Fairly was impressed with Nelson’s demeanor.
“He is just an inspiring person to be around,” Fairly said. “His humility, good nature and smile were contagious.”
Fairly took photographs and recorded audio during the interview. After asking the serious questions, Beam inquired about Nelson’s time at Baylor. Nelson attended Baylor after spending time in the Air Force because it was close to his hometown, Abbott.
“I went there awhile and had a good time,” Nelson said. “I spent most of my time over at the Rendezvous Club playing dominoes, so I didn’t really get a great education out of it. I was a good domino player.”
Callaway and his students ended the night by watching Nelson’s concert from backstage at the Rio Brazos Music Hall.
“It was an awesome experience,” Beam said. “I got to take some really cool photos of Willie Nelson performing that I wouldn’t get the chance to do otherwise; truly unforgettable.”