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Texas Top Hands
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The Texas Top Hands, one of the state’s oldest continuously performing western-swing bands, debuted in 1945 with Clarence J. Sleepy Short on fiddle, George Edwin Knee-High Holley on string bass, Walter Kleypas on piano and accordion, and William Wayne Rusty Locke on steel guitar. Manager Johnny H. Curly Williams played acoustic guitar. The Top Hands had an early-morning spot on WOAI radio, which was at that time a 50,000-watt clear-channel station in San Antonio.

The group had performed since 1941 under the name Texas Tumbleweeds. Then Bob Symonds, the former manager of the Tumbleweeds, came home from a stint with the Marines in World War II. When he filed a lawsuit to reclaim his band name, the group changed its name over a weekend, appearing under the old name on Friday and showing up Monday morning as the Texas Top Hands, the name that they still retain.

They traveled to New York in 1946 to record for Savoy and to back singer–songwriter Red River Dave McEnery on his Continental recording sessions. With McEnery, the Top Hands made several film shorts in 1947. That year they also co-starred in a ground-breaking movie filmed near San Antonio. The film, Echo Ranch, departed from the usual Hollywood westerns of the day in that it used no artificial scenery but was shot in natural outdoor settings. San Antonians made up the entire cast. Longtime Top Hands manager Ray Sczepanik owns a copy of the film.

In 1949 the Top Hands began recording on their own label, Everstate, on which they subsequently produced more than fifty recordings. The first—Bandera Waltz by O. B. Easy Adams—became a regional smash and remains a dance hall classic. The lament rode for fifty-two weeks at the top of the Hillbilly Hit Parade on KMAC. Slim Whitman, Ernest Tubb, Rex Allen, Jimmy Wakely, Adolph Hofner,qv David Houston, and nine other performers have recorded the song.

Tired of seven-night-a-week performing, with the Top Hands and with a band of his own, Kleypas left the band in 1952. Rusty Locke then managed the band until 1955, when he formed his own group. That left Easy Adams as leader until 1979, when he suffered a heart attack. Ray Sczepanik replaced him and still led the band in 2009. Locke later rejoined and played with the group for several years.

The Top Hands backed Hank Williams at his last Texas concert, on December 22, 1952, at the Macdona Shooting Club, near San Antonio; Williams died a few days later. The Top Hands have opened for or backed other well-known singers such as Webb Pierce, Tex Ritter,qv Moe Bandy, Johnny Rodriguez, Jerry Lee Lewis, George Morgan, Jacky Ward, and Mel Tillis. During the early 1950s, while the band played over radio station KABC, Gene Autry, William Boyd (known as Hopalong Cassidy), Wild Bill Elliot, Chill Wills, and other movie stars appeared with the band.

The Top Hands became known throughout Texas for their many appearances at local festivals and rodeos. They were the only band to perform at the first Poteet Strawberry Festival in 1948. On April 1, 1997, Locke, age seventy-seven, returned to the festival, where he sang Milk Cow Blues and Westphalia Waltz. Other appearances include the State Fair of Texas in Dallas (1955), where the show was broadcast live. Again, the Top Hands were the only band to perform. They also appeared at the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Showqv in Fort Worth, the Central Texas Fair in Temple, the Stompede and Rodeo in Bandera, Buccaneer Days in Corpus Christi; the Oil Show in Odessa, the Wool Show and Rodeo in San Angelo, the Stockman’s Ball in Laredo, the Peanut Festival in Floresville, the Watermelon Jubilee in Stockdale, the Horse Show and Fair in Junction, the rodeo in El Paso, and the Pecos Rodeo (where they were a regular act from 1950 to 1976). In their heyday they performed twenty-five to thirty evenings a month. Among notable Texans in their audiences, they entertained Allan Shivers, Beauford Jester, Bill Clements, and John Connally. Their road trip in early 1949 promoted the first San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, at which they also performed. The band returned for the show’s thirty-fifth anniversary under the direction of Ray Sczepanik. In 1955 the Top Hands were selected to represent the Lone Star Brewery.

The Texas Top Hands were inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame on May 9, 1992, in Austin. Former members of the band include Johnny Bush (drummer), Charlie Harris (guitarist), and Buck Buchanan (fiddler), all of whom later became members of Ray Price’s Cherokee Cowboy Band. The band had several releases on the Melco label in the mid-1960s and three for TNT in the early 1960s. In early 2003, Kleypas and Locke were the only two surviving members of the original band. Kleypas lived at Canyon Lake with his wife, Lucille, with whom he had celebrated more than sixty wedding anniversaries. Lucille is credited with naming the Top Hands. (A top hand is the best worker on a ranch.) Locke lived with his wife, Cora, in Kirby, a suburb of San Antonio, where he owned and operated a television repair shop. Both Kleypas and Locke still made occasional guest appearances.

J. E. Jordan, "TEXAS TOP HANDS", Handbook of Texas Online, ( ticles/xgt01), accessed October 28, 2010
posted by Freewriter432

Shelter Insurance Files Lawsuit For Failed Mamtek Project
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Image by KOMUnews
Wind blows flags in front of Shelter Insurance on a stormy day in Columbia, Mo., on March 21, 2012. The company filed a lawsuit against Morgan Keegan and Company for selling it bad bonds for the failed Mamtek project in Moberly. (Sarah Karney/KOMU)

Shelter Insurance Files Lawsuit For Failed Mamtek Project
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Image by KOMUnews
Shelter Insurance’s headquarters operates in Columbia, Mo., on March 21, 2012. It is suing the Memphis-based investment banker for more than 0 million. (Sarah Karney/KOMU)

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