Afternoon with Bill Turner

Nov 27, 2023

I spent the afternoon with my buddy Bill Turner, looking through his parents’ old photos. Both of his parents were country-western musicians back in the 1950s through the 1970s. He had lots of cool photos and stories, but this might be the icing on the cake: How many people can hold up a 1950s photo of Merle Travis holding a baby and say, “See that baby Merle’s holding? THAT’S ME!”

Bill’s dad played with Wynn Stewart in the 1950s, had pictures of him and Chet Atkins playing Chet’s guitar together, and was a good friend with luthier R.C. Allen in his later years. Bill’s mom, Kathy Turner, was a musician and singer who played in the 1950s, but then also had a second career in the early 1970s playing pedal steel guitar (see photos). She knew all the famous pedal steel players well, and Bill told me that apparently she owned Ralph Mooney’s famous Fender steel guitar (with Ralph’s name across the front) for a decade before selling it off to get a new ZB Custom in the early 1970s. Amazing stuff…Too cool!

Bill’s friends were hanging with us at his house, including Keith Olesen (who had great stories about Rose Maddox in the 1970s and taking photos of Bill’s mom’s band, The Farmer’s Daughters) and Bill’s neighbor, noted producer-engineer David Eaton, who had great stories about recording Willie Nelson with a hard rock band he was producing when Willie happened to stroll into the studio they were recording in in Texas. Fun afternoon! Thanks Bill!