Heart of Texas Country Music Association

The Hillbilly Hits Radio Show Started It All

Traditional Country Music is gaining a larger following throughout the country. One disc jockey (and now record label owner) Tracy Pitcox from Brady, Texas, is doing his part to provide traditional country fans with an opportunity to hear their beloved music. Most importantly, he is also giving the legends an avenue to record new material.

“I grew up listening to late night radio,” Pitcox said. “I loved the truckers programs hosted by Bill Mack out of Ft. Worth and Larry Scott in Shreveport. They would let you call up and make requests and I would call as often as I could get away with it!”

Pitcox was hired by KNEL radio on August 15, 1986, to work the 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM shift. At 15, he was not old enough to drive so his mother would take him to work and then pick him back up after he read the evening news.

“We had a very open policy at KNEL,” Pitcox remembers. “At night, we had a lot of older listeners who would call up and request songs. I loved that interaction with the listeners. It has always been very important for me to do what the listener wanted. I have always idolized Kitty Wells. Kitty told me one time to be nice to the people on your way up, because you are going to meet the same people on your way down.”

In 1989, Pitcox started hosting the ‘Hillbilly Hits’ radio show on Friday evening from 7:00 PM until 10:00 PM. The show was created from an idea developed between music director Josh Holstead and KNEL employee Darrell Cowen.

The format was simply requested music from at least twenty-one years ago. The program quickly grew to six hours and is still broadcast each week. Interviews from many legendary figures in Country Music were highlighted each week and special guests have co hosted the show with Pitcox including Kitty Wells and Johnny Wright, Johnny Bush, Darrell McCall, Charley Louvin, Justin Tubb, Freddie Hart, Frankie Miller, Jean Shepard, Tommy Cash, Hank Locklin and Big Bill Lister.

When these entertainers would come to town, Pitcox started collecting personal memorabilia from many of them.

“I was interviewing Rose Maddox one day,” Pitcox said. “Rose was telling me that Marty Stuart had just been to her home and bought all of her old stage outfits. She said that he bought everything except for one that she just found in the back of an old closet. I asked her if she wanted to sell it and for how much. Rose said she owed a bill for $100.00 and could not pay it and if I would mail her a check that she would send the dress. It was the best $100 that I ever spent.”

In August of 2000, the Heart of Texas Country Music Museum opened in Brady, Texas, with over seventy five entertainers represented with various memorabilia including Minnie Pearl’s hat, Floyd Tillman’s guitar, Leona Williams wedding dress (to Merle Haggard), one of Bob Wills’ fiddles and even Jim Reeves’ 1956 Tour Bus.

When the Heart of Texas Country Music Association was raising money to build the museum, several artists contributed songs to a compilation album titled “Heart of Texas Country.” The money raised from the sale of the album went to the museum building fund.
The project became so successful that Pitcox and Justin Trevino formed Heart of Texas Records. The label signed Leona Williams as their first project. “Leona Williams-Honorary Texan” was released to rave reviews and was the first studio album for Williams in over ten years.

“I wanted to capture that sound of 1960 with a little modern edge,” Trevino said. “I wanted a lot of steel guitar and fiddle and that is exactly what we did on Leona’s album. It set a precedent for upcoming projects.”

The award winning “Floyd Tillman-The Influence” was the second release on Heart of Texas. The album became the final time that Tillman was in the studio and added his vocals to many of his musical students including George Jones, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Ray Price, Hank Thompson and Mel Tillis.

“We followed ‘The Influence’ with an album by Curtis Potter titled ‘Them Old Honky Tonks’ and then Darrell McCall ‘Old Memories and Wine,” Pitcox said. “We have since released Pretty Miss Norma Jean’s ‘Loneliest Star In Texas’ and Potter’s ‘Chicago Dancing Girls’.”
Justin Trevino joined Heart of Texas Records as a recording artist in 2004. Trevino, who released two projects on the Texas based Lonestar label, wrote nine out of the twelve songs for his first Heart of Texas album “Too Many Heartaches.” His new gospel album will be released on March 25.

Williams also owned the masters to her 1978 live album recorded at San Quentin titled “San Quentin’s First Lady”. It was released on Heart of Texas Records in 2004. He latest project “I Love You Because” was released in 2005.

“Justin Trevino produces just about everything that we do,” Pitcox said. “He is one of my best friends and has an exceptional ear. I don’t tell him how to produce a record. He produces and it is my job to sign the talent and then market the product.”

Upcoming projects include a Frankie Miller album to be released on March 25, an Amber Digby album on June 1, and a Ferlin Husky album scheduled for the end of the year.

“We have so many projects that we want to do,” Trevino said. “I am very proud of Heart of Texas Records. We have certainly done our part to keep traditional Country Music going. You hear a lot of people gripping about the state of Country Music but not many actually doing anything about it. We are doing all that we can and with the support of the listeners, we will continue to do just that.”

Shania Twain and Tim McGraw may be two of the biggest artists in most areas of country music. There are still places like Brady, Texas, where the echoes of Jimmy Rodgers and the Carter Family are still heard and respected by the next generation of country music fans. And we can thank God for that.

For more information of the Hillbilly Hits radio show or Heart of Texas Records, log on to www.hillbillyhits.com.

Several entertainers has co-hosted the Hillbilly Hits Radio show live on KNEL including Grand Ole Opry Stars Pretty Miss Norma Jean (pictured), Charlie Louvin, Kitty Wells and Johnny Wright, Floyd Tillman, Leona Williams, Dave Kirby, Jean Shepard, Big Bill Lister, Cal Smith, Buck Trent, Clay Walker, Frankie Miller, Johnny Bush, Darrell McCall, Joe Paul Nichols, Johnny Duncan, Frenchie Burke, Curtis Potter, Tony Douglas, Justin Tubb, Ferlin Husky, Jimmy Eaves, and Ron Williams among others.

Many others have been featured on the telephone interviews including Jimmie Davis, George Jones, Hank Snow, Granpa Jones, Roy Acuff, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Gene Watson, Mickey Gilley, Moe Bandy, Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Skeeter Davis, Jimmy Dickens and a host of others.