March 8, 2014

Dallas native Leon Rhodes began his professional music career in 1948, at age sixteen, when he joined the staff of the Big D Jamboree. In the 1950s he recorded with Lefty Frizzell and Ray Price, among others, and worked as a drummer, guitarist, and vocalist on the local club scene. In 1960 Ernest Tubb hired Rhodes to play electric lead guitar in his band, the Texas Troubadours. The lineup that included Rhodes, steel player Buddy Charleton, bassist Jack Drake, drummer Jack Greene, and front man Cal Smith worked under Tubb for nearly five years and are regarded as his greatest band. Rhodes spent almost seven years with Tubb, leaving in 1966. During their time together the group recorded numerous instrumental tunes including the Rhodes-penned "Honey Fingers," which became his nickname. After leaving Tubb, Rhodes joined the Grand Ole Opry band and worked in Nashville studios, playing on records by Larry Gatlin, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, and George Strait. He also spent twenty years in the Hee Haw house band, and after leaving the Opry in 1999, toured with Porter Wagoner. This interview and performance will be illustrated with vintage photos, film footage, and recordings.