Tommy Hancock Dances His Way to Heaven (1929-2020)
The godfather of West Texas music was 90
By Raoul Hernandez,
10:47AM, Thu. Jan. 2, 2020
“I am the patriarch of a large family,” Tommy Hancock told Margaret Moser in 2004 for a Chronicle cover story. He meant it literally, but in a much larger and fittingly cosmic sense, Hancock, who died January 1 at the age of 90, seeded a far deeper and more widespread legacy.
“Tommy Hancock's blue eyes twinkle in understatement as his chair squeals when he leans back,” wrote Moser. “Those eyes have watched three-quarters of a century from an extraordinarily enlightened perch, and they're sharp as ever. His thinning hair is braided into silver cornrows, much to his family's amusement, and he is – typically – barefoot.
“With a deep and abiding love for music and family, Hancock lives alone in a senior housing complex on the shores of Town Lake. Wife Charlene lives out at the lake in an arrangement agreeable to both. His daily life is enriched by a never-ending quest for greater experience and the meaning of existence. That sounds more profound than the way Hancock himself speaks, in a flat, West Texas twang, using words devoid of artifice.
“‘We’ve been here almost 25 years, and I have no regrets,’ he says, gazing out the window of his apartment on the ever-changing Austin skyline. ‘I can honestly say that life gets better the older I get.’”
Moser (1954-2017) continues: “Hancock grew up in Lubbock, raised playing classical violin and switched to popular fiddle tunes while in the military. When he got out of the Army in the mid-Forties, the fiddle-playing bandleader of Lubbock's Roadside Playboys took up residence as house band at the town's famous Cotton Club.
“In the early Fifties, Charlene Condray was ‘the sweetheart of Lubbock.’ A cheerleader at Lubbock High School, where classmates included Buddy Holly and fellow Cricket J.I. Allison, she sang weekly on The Circle 13 Dude Ranch show on local TV. Charlene was already a veteran performer and regional star at age 15 when the Roadside Playboys called. Their girl singer had ran off with the piano player. Might Charlene be interested in the job?”
Read Moser’s epic Hancock profile/Hancock family history/West Texas music primer here. Her subject, known to decades of Austinites for his hoofing ubiquity at local venues far and wide, now joins her on the dance floor of another dimension.