Bill Terry's 38-year music career has taken him from coast-to-coast, from Korea and Germany to the South Pacific. He has rubbed elbows with rock stars, country music artists and a former President of the United States.
Bill's years as a musician have earned him nomination to the Iowa Rock 'n Roll Music Association Hall of Fame. He will be inducted this Saturday, Aug. 31, along with the group of individual artists, bands Spirit Award recipients, Support Persons and Lifetime Achievement Award recipients.
The weekend begins at the Majestic Pavilion in Okoboji this Friday evening, Aug. 30, followed by the Silver Wings concert at the Roof Garden at 8 p.m.
Inductees into the IRRMA Hall of Fame will begin Saturday with a Guitar Marching Band performance in front of the IRRMA Museum at 9 a.m. Induction Opening Ceremonies are on Lake Street, in front of the museum at 9:15 a.m.
In conjunction with the induction ceremonies, there will be a Vintage Car Show in front of the museum and Fanfare Roof Garden. The IRRMA Annual Meeting will be held in the Hedberg Theatre at the Maritime Museum. Panel discussions will be part of the day.
Meet and Greet inductees into the Hall of Fame at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Pavilion. The public is invited.
The actual induction is Sunday, Sept. 1, at 2 p.m. at the Okoboji High School Auditorium. An "autograph party" will be held at the Pavilion at 4:45 p.m. Concert Roof Garden rounds out the evening.
Rock the Roof Extravaganza Concert is Monday, Sept. 2, at the Sami Bedell Center for the Performing Arts in Spirit Lake. B.J. Thomas, one of the IRRMA Hall of Fame inductees features B.J. Thomas in full concert.
38 Years of Music
"The reason I got into playing music was my mother played piano in church and I sang," said Bill. He grew up in Georgia with a family that is musically inclined. Six of his brothers played guitar and all of them were vocalists.
Bill played with a band in the mid-1940s, following World War II. But, his career started to bloom in the 1950s with a rock 'n roll.
Throughout his career Bill has performed rock 'n roll, bluegrass and gospel, too, playing the drums and the guitar. Most people know Bill as a country singer.
Why country? "It just felt like that's what I should do," he said.
When Bill joined the Army, he took his old beat up guitar with him and played around the barracks. That was just the beginning of his music experiences in the military.
"When we went overseas to the South Pacific in 1950, I participated in a show on the boat. While we were on Eniwetok, I'd play my guitar every night," he said. "In Korea I met up with a guy who played mandolin and we played together."
Returning to the United States, Bill played with a five-piece bluegrass band in Virginia. The Green Hills Playboys, as the group was called, won the Second Army Semi-"Finals All Army Soldier singing contest at Fort Lee, VA.
A lady named Margaret (Skippy) Lynn auditioned Bill at Fort Lee.
"She was putting together Broadway-type shows that were going to include a variety of entertainment," explained Bill. "This was back in President Eisenhower's term and Ike was the type of guy that wanted the troops to come first."
Bill was included with the Second Army Show Mobile Unit #1 that toured the United States. "In late 1955, the guy who was producing the Roll Along Shows for the Department of the Army took five of us up to New York and we appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was on camera about five seconds."
A highlight of Bill's career occurred when he was at Fort Lee, VA.
"We were asked to play at a command performance for the Commanding General of Fort Lee and the Second Army Commanding General," Bill remembered. "We found out the day before that President Eisenhower might come. He did, and came back stage and shook our hands and said 'Good Show'."
Bill's stint in the Army took him to Germany and he worked with a German band. They immediately asked, "Can you sing any Elvis?" Bill's first Elvis moment was at an Atlanta, GA, concert before Elvis became a star. He vividly remembers that concert at the Paramount Theatre.
Again returning to the United States, Bill started playing with Shorty Mason and the Rock-A-Billies as a rock 'n roll vocalist. From Virginia, Bill was transferred to Fort Leonard Wood, MO. There he met Danny Hough, a barber and musician. Bill joined Danny's group and worked clubs within a 60-mile radius. The Army did not condone Bill playing with a group off base, competing with local workers and local musicians.
When Bill left the military he officially went to work as a musician. His first gig was in Kansas, working at a club and playing drums.
"My first paycheck was more money than I made in a whole month in the Army," said Bill.
It wasn't long before Bill made his way to Iowa. In Sioux City for a weekend, he met a drummer named Count Flash that he had known in Missouri. As the two talked, Count Flash decided he wanted a change, telling Bill there was "too much country" in Sioux City. The two traded jobs and Bill went to work with the Mac Bird Band. They played in Sioux City until 1963 when the club closed.
Bill Terry's career took him from Sioux City to Sioux Falls, SD, to Estherville and Emmetsburg. Bill teamed up with Denny Kintzi and the two worked together for a number of years before Bill went to Arizona.
"Things were pretty good out there music-wise," he said. "I got to meet a lot of country music artists while I was there."
Returning to the Emmetsburg area in the mid-1970s, Bill Terry and Denny Kintzi teamed up once again. As a duo, they performed throughout the Midwest. After a gig in Wisconsin, they were asked to play for the Green Bay Packers.
For many years, Bill and Denny played at the Town and Country in Emmetsburg. Those were Bill's fondest memory "because I met my wife there." Locally, Bill played with Rosie Argabright, Dean Potter, Lyle Edwards and Vic and Leonard Johnson. He made seven recordings at the Milford studio.
An often asked question is: How did Bobby Hill become Bill Terry?
"I went to school as Charles Robert Hill because that's what my mother wanted to name me. I was called Bob in school," he explained. "When I joined the Army, I went to get my birth certificate and they came up with Bobby Hill who was born June 30, 1932, to Effie and Albert Hill."
When Bill was at Fort Leonard Wood, he joined the music union and took a professional name.
"I took the name 'Bill Terry,' the name of my all-time favorite professional baseball player," he said. "We used to listen to his ball games on the radio. Bill Terry was a great pitcher."
Bill's career took another turn when he worked for local radio stations in Algona and Emmetsburg. It was in the mid-1980s when he developed an asthmatic condition that affected his vocals.
Bill played in Harrison Park for his 80th birthday last summer. Fellow musicians Lloyd Bottin, Ratt Reno and Denny Kintzi joined him for this local command performance. Bill is planning another come-back performance next summer when he and Linda celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary.