Boxcar Willie

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Boxcar Willie
Birth name Lecil Travis Martin
Also known as Boxcar Willie
Born (1931-09-01)September 1, 1931
Ellis County, Texas, U.S.
Died April 12, 1999(1999-04-12) (aged 67)
Branson, Missouri, U.S.
Genres Country, gospel, trucker, hobo
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter,
Instruments Vocals, guitar, train whistle
Website www.boxcarwillie.com

Boxcar Willie, born as Lecil Travis Martin (September 1, 1931 – April 12, 1999) was an American country music singer, who sang in the "old-time hobo" music style, complete with dirty face, overalls, and a floppy hat.[1] "Boxcar Willie" was originally a character in a ballad he wrote, but he later adopted it as his own stage name.[2]

Biography[edit]

Born in Sterrett, Texas, Martin joined the United States Air Force in 1949, and served as a pilot and flight engineer for the B-29 Super Fortress during the Korean War in the early 1950s. In Lincoln, Nebraska, Martin was once sitting at a railroad crossing and a fellow that closely resembled his chief boom operator, Willie Wilson, passed by sitting in a boxcar. He said, "There goes Willie." He pulled over and wrote a song entitled "Boxcar Willie".[citation needed] It eventually stuck and became Martin's nickname. There is no relation to the fictitious character, bearing the same name, as featured in the CJCLS commercial that aired ~1985. In 1962, Martin met his future wife, Lloene, in Boise, Idaho. They would later have four children.

In San Jose, California, Martin attended a talent show as "Boxcar Willie" and performed under the nickname for the first time. He won first place, a $150 prize and a nickname that he would forever go by. That was his part-time vocation, however; he was still in the Air Force and had been flying daily missions. He later became a Flight Engineer on Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter aircraft in the 136th ARW in the Texas Air National Guard, including air refueling flights around the USA and overseas in Germany.

In 1976, Martin left the Air Force and became a full-time performer. One of his first national appearances was a win on Chuck Barris' The Gong Show. He entered American mainstream pop culture consciousness due to a series of television commercials for record compilations of artists who were obscure in the United States, yet had large international followings, such as Slim Whitman and Gheorghe Zamfir. He went on to become a star in country music, selling more than 100 million records, tapes and CDs worldwide.[citation needed] In 1981, Martin achieved a professional landmark by being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry as its 60th member.[citation needed]

In 1985, Martin moved to Branson, Missouri and purchased a theater on Highway 76, or 76 Country Music Boulevard. In addition to the Boxcar Willie Theater, he opened a museum and eventually had two motels, both bearing his name. Boxcar Willie was one of the first big stars to open a show in Branson, paving the way for the other nationally-known names that followed.[3] He performed at his theater in Branson until he died.

Death[edit]

Diagnosed with leukemia in 1996, Martin died on April 12, 1999 in Branson, Missouri at age 67. He was subsequently buried at Ozarks Memorial Park in Branson.[4] Major league baseball umpire "Cowboy" Joe West was among his pallbearers.

Legacy[edit]

After a major reconstruction project, the overpass at Interstate 35E and Farm to Market Road 664 in Red Oak, Texas (also known as Ovilla Road, approximately four miles east of Ovilla) was renamed Boxcar Willie Memorial Overpass. A small park, two blocks from the National Mall, near the L'Enfant Metro Station in Washington, D.C. was renamed Boxcar Willie Park. Boxcar Willie's legacy also includes being named "America's Favorite Hobo".

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Album Chart Positions Label
US Country CAN
1976 Boxcar Willie Column One
1978 Daddy Was A Railroad Man
1979 Boxcar Willie Sings Hank Williams And Jimmie Rodgers
1980 Take Me Home
1992 King Of The Freight Train
1980 Greatest Hits - Boxcar Willie
1981 King of the Road 54 35 Main Street
1982 Last Train to Heaven featuring Lee Gentry 27
Best of Boxcar, Vol. 1 34
1983 ...Not the Man I Used to Be 35
1986 Boxcar Willie Dot Records

[5]

1996 Achy Breaky Heart
2004 American Songs - The Very Best of Johnny Cash & Boxcar Willie Retro Records

Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country CAN Country
1980 "Train Medley" 95 single only
1982 "Bad News" 36 15 Last Train to Heaven
"We Made Memories" (w/ Penny DeHaven) 77
"Last Train to Heaven" 80
"Keep on Rollin' Down the Line" 70
1983 "Country Music Nightmare" 76 Best of Boxcar, Vol. 1
"Train Medley" (re-release) 61
"The Man I Used to Be" 44 ...Not the Man I Used to Be
1984 "Not on the Bottom Yet" 87
"Luther" 69

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Malone, Bill C. Country music, U.S.A., University of Texas Press, 2002, p. 277.
  2. ^ Mazor, Barry. Meeting Jimmie Rodgers: How America's Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of a Century, Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 291.
  3. ^ "BoxCar Willie", Salon obituary, April 14, 1999.
  4. ^ "Boxcar Willie (1931 - 1999) - Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  5. ^ DVD

References[edit]