|Dean Beard remembered by Brother Danny Ray
Hi, my name is Danny Ray from Coleman, Texas, home of Dean Beard and birthplace of Ronnie Dunn of the Country Music duo "Brooks & Dunn". I was raised on the music of Elvis Presley at the age of five. I won a boppin' contest at age six dancing to "Hound Dog". My dad Leonard Ray used to play lead guitar for Ray Thompson's Band (Country Star Hank Thompson's brother). My dad (who passed away in '93) used to set Dean on his knee when he was a kid and show him chords on the guitar. This encouraged Dean to get involved in music and he later learned to play the keyboards. After Dean graduated from Coleman High he began futhering his musical career. He also had a crush on my older sister Elizabeth. He had to come to our house quite often to not only watch my dad play, but to eye my sister. When Dean got his band "The Crewcats" together, he began moving up in popularity.
Here I was age six in 1957 and everytime Dean came home and staged a dance, I either had to get my sister Liz or my dad to take me where Dean was playing. I couldn't go inside, but I would bop on the sidewalk outside. People would get excited watching me bop and they would go in and tell Dean that he had a young fan outside dancing. Dean would have them open the door wide enough so he could see me. Dean would wave at me and I would wave back. He would dress in a nice black outfit with a Spanish lace white shirt underneath. He would cut down on one of his tunes and I would cut down on my dancing. Then Dean had purchased an old transit bus in an auction and he brought it to my dad to fix-up for a band bus. My dad was a auto-bodyman at the time. He stripped out all the seats in the bus and put in an ice-box, stove, fold-down table that the sections laid across the booth-type seats and made a bed. He built more bunk-type beds at the rear of the bus. My mom made curtains for it, my dad also carpeted the floor. Then my dad and I grabbed sandpaper and began sanding this big bus all over, worn my fingers to the bone. After we got it all sanded, then dad primed it out, and we sanded it again until we got the primer smooth. Then we had to mask-off all chrome and glass and my dad painted it a pretty blue with white top. That was Coleman's school colors. Then in real fancy letters, my dad painted "Dean Beard and the Crewcats" on both sides. I almost forgot, my dad had to overhaul the engine in this bus too.
Then Dean and the band took off on tour. I didn't see him for a long time. Then when I had my 12th birthday in '63, The Beatles struck America. I went from Elvis to "The Beatles". At age 13th, I received my first set of skins and my younger brother Bob at 5 years old was playing guitar. He and I started our own band together and began playing on television for charity and around Abilene, Texas, where we were living at the time. We played on the stage with many famous television stars and music groups. Then at age 15, I was asked to play my first professional gig with Eddie Burns. I would go to school M-F, and Friday and Saturday nights I was Honky-tonky with Eddie. His wife was a cousin to B.B. King. I got the honor to jam with B.B. for nearly an hour. Then Eddie, me, and a white guy named Roy Spikes playing bass guitar. He could eat that bass up.
I recorded two 45rpm records with Eddie on "Plantation Records". His two big hits from these were "Color Me Country" and "The Southside of Chicago." Then my parents moved back to Coleman, thus ending my career with Eddie. We heard that Dean had been involved in a car wreck and messed his back up. I began playing in a rock band named "Showboat" here in Coleman and played with them all through high school. I graduated in '69, got married in '71, went into the U.S. Air Force in '72 and got out in '75. Served some time in Vietnam. Messed me up nerve-wise. Couldn't hold a job until I finally found a job that didn't pressure me in '76. Worked for them for 21 years, was forced to quit in '97 because of health problems due to being exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. I played drums in a country music band my brother Bob started named "Southern Cross".
The Lord finally got me out of the honky-tonks in '86 and called me to preach. I thought Dean Beard was dead until my cousin told me that he was bed-fast living in the government apartments. I called him and he was glad to hear from me. He invited me over and I went to see him. When I knocked on the door, He said,"Come on in Danny." When I walked in, there was his piano setting against the wall and a big oil painting of Elvis hanging on the wall. When I got to his bedroom door, He said, "Hello Danny, Long time no see!" I grabbed him and hugged him, both of us had tears in our eyes. I told Dean I was a Minister and he was so glad. Then I found out that no one was coming over and giving Dean his baths. He said everyone that wanted to do it asked for money. I said, "No more Dean-O, I am going to come over here at least three times a week, carry you to the bathroom, set you in that chair in the bathtub, so you can take your shower, and I will not charge you one cent." He couldn't believe it...
Each day I went over to give him his bath, we would talk about the old days. He would make me pull down his picture album and we would go through looking at all the autographed pictures of different musical groups he toured with. I remember "Buck Owens & the Buckaroos" was one. He showed me pictures of he and Elvis together in front of Elvis' '55 Cadillac. The Cadillac that Elvis and Dean dragged up and down our main street chasing girls. Dean had told Elvis that he had a dance to do here in Coleman and asked Elvis to front for him. Elvis did. Dean had met Elvis after Elvis had done his dance in Brownwood only 30 miles away from Coleman. They became best of friends. Elvis loved Dean's voice. Dean showed me the hand-written & hand-signed letters that Elvis sent to him for some time until Elvis started making it big in movies and he stopped writing Dean. He showed me the picture of his band bus and asked, "Danny do you remember this bus?" I replied, "Boy, do I ever!" He asked me to pull a box out from under his bed. When I pulled it out it was full of his records. He picked two of his hits out and autographed them for me. He said, "Keep these, they will be worth a lot some day. This is payment for your kindness.
I was setting there one day with Dean when the phone rang. Dean answered and he said, "Yes this Dean Beard. No I ain't dead yet." The conversation went on for a few minutes and he hung up. Dean asked, "Danny do you know who that was?" I said, "No Deano, who was it?" He said it was a big record promoter in London, England, and his song "Party, Party, Party" was still #1 in Europe. This made old Deano very happy and I was glad for him too. Dan Seals (Country Star and little brother of Jimmy) used to come by once a month to check on Dean. Jimmy Seals and Dash Croft used to play in Dean's band. When the band broke up in the mid 60s, Jimmy & Dash formed the famous rock duo "Seals & Croft". Dan Seals was also known as England Dan when he was duo with John Ford Coley.
Then Dean asked me to come to come get him on Sundays for church. I had just introduced Terry Moffet to Dean. I would pick Dean up and put him in his wheel chair, wheel him to my car, take him out and seat him in the back seat and take him to church. It felt good to him to get out of his apartment and meet people. He got up in front of the church and gave his testimony warning kids to stay from booze, chasing wild women, and popping pills. He said he was paying for his sins. There was not a dry eye in the church building. He thanked me and Brother Terry in front of the church for the kindness we had shown him. He said all he wanted to do was to go to Heaven and see his mother. We asked Dean if he knew the Lord Jesus as his Savior and he said "YES", but he had never been baptized. Brother Terry baptized him. Then a week later, Dean caught pneumonia and was rushed to the Brownwood Hospital. He was in there nearly two weeks. His body was so weak from his other health problems, he couldn't pull out. He passed away in 1989 at age 54. My wife and I, along with a few friends, threw Dean his last birthday party in his apartment. It thrilled him so much. My wife fixed his favorite meal, spaghetti & meatballs and chocolate cake with white icing. He ate until he couldn't eat any more. It was a thrill to me to be able to make this great rockabilly star of the '50s last few months of his life a little more comfortable. He was in constant pain all the time, but he always praised Jesus and witnessed to those who came to see him. He is missed.
Well, I am sorry for the lengthy story, but I had to get it all in. I also have a Rock Gospel tape out entitled "House on Solid Rock" which features all the songs that I have written since I was 13 years old. I do all my songs with a '50/'60s rock beat to reach the kids. God bless & take care.
Used with permission, (c)2002