Monday, February 4, 2008

Biff Collie, Texas Bill Strength, and other DJs

Here’s a brief biography of Biff Collie on-line.

In addition to the labels mentioned, Collie recorded first on Macy’s records in Houston and also later for Specialty. His only charted hit was as Billy Bob Bowman in 1972 on United Artists. He also was a morning man on KLEE.

The bio makes the claim that Collie was the the first Country DJ in Houston but I’m not sure that’s valid. Texas Bill Strength was a 16 year old teen in 1944 when he won a talent contest in Houston and was offered a job by KTHT, which may have been sponsoring the contest. Strength worked for KTHT for a couple of years but I don’t know for sure that he was a DJ or that he played country music, but if so, he certainly predates Biff Collie. He went on to a 25 year career in radio and recording.

Biff Collie’s first wife was the former Mrs. Floyd Tillman and his second wife later married Willie Nelson.

The bio indicates he stayed at KFOX, Long Beach, until 1969 so he apparently never returned to Houston to work at KXYZ as was suggested in the query.

The Country Radio Broadcasters Hall of Fame has listings for 6 DJs who worked in Houston radio and are in the Hall. On the link you’ll have to click on the Hall of Fame on the side bar - the site does not allow direct links to individual pages.

Houston DJs on the site include Biff Collie, 1978, Texas Bill Strength, 1990, Smokey Stover, 2000, Dr. Bruce Nelson, 2004, Arch Yancey, 2006, and Joe Ladd, 2007.

Note the CRB article on Texas Bill Strength gets the calls of both KTHT and KATL wrong. According to the article in the Encyclopedia of Country Music compiled by the staff of the Country Music Hall of Fame he started recording for Houston’s Cireco label and by 1949 was recording for Four Star Records then later for Coral and Capitol. While working at KWEM in West Memphis in 1954-55 he befriended a young Elvis Presley. He also later worked at KFOX in Long Beach, where Biff Collie worked, and recorded for Sun. His best know hit was Hillbilly Hades, a 1967 parody on Starday.

At one time on there was a picture on-line of Texas Bill Strength at the KTHT control board; I think that was on the CRB site but it’s not there now. That might have been taken ca. 1944-45 when he worked there although as I remember it he didn’t look to be just 16 or 17.

Arch Yancey arrived at KNUZ in January, 1958, from Memphis to do 1-4pm and had a long career in Houston radio as a hugely popular disc jockey. He was just inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame last year. There are pictures of Arch (who I had the pleasure of working with at KILT) and other KNUZ deejays among the Bob Bailey Collection at the University of Texas linked to in the External Galleries section on the sidebar.

The ad for Collie’s Coffee Club above comes from the archives of the Houston Chronicle at the Houston Public Library for October, 1950.


gfdrake said...

I stumbled onto this site when I was thinking about hearing Biff Collie on an AFRS HF frequency one night back in the early 60's. We were drumming along in an Air Force C-124 over the Pacific Ocean and I was surfing the HF radio frequencies for something to listen to, trying to stay awake. I was raised in Houston and listened to a lot of KNUZ when it was a country and western station, and I was a student at Austin High School ('53 to '55). I remember Biff, Laura Lee McBride, Paul Berlin, Arch Yancy and others. Texas Bill Strength doesn't ring a bell. As I recall, KLEE was one of the early rock and roll stations in the Houston area. I have often wondered what happened to those people.

AB said...

"The bio makes the claim that Collie was the first Country DJ in Houston..."

Nope. He was preceded by Babe Fritsch, Von Reece, Bill Strength, and many others.

Bruce said...

I suspected that claim was wrong since he didn't get here until 1948. Thanks for some names.

Unknown said...

My uncle was T Tommy Cutrer, a D J who worked with Von Reece at KXYZ and Then KNUZ.