The hum of country-western music first ranged in Smokey Silver's ears when, as a child, he heard Bob Wills sing to him through a wind-up Victrola or a battery-powered radio.
As a young man, Silver was a vocalist and bassist with the Stockton band Tommy Estes and the Silver Sage Riders. He later worked as a music agent, booking shows for country stars, including Johnny Cash and Little Jimmy Dickens.
Now, at 74, Silver fights to breathe life back into traditional country music. He says he often feels only a small band of musicians carries the fight.
"We've got too many people against us," Silver said. "There use to be music at every club in town. Those days are gone now."
When Silver noticed the sound of country music beginning to shift in 1981, he began to seriously collect vinyl records. He now owns about 60,000 records, nearly all of country -western music.
"If it was recorded country, I have it," Silver said. These days, people from around the globe call Silver to find a rare country record, but if they seek a recording of Smokey Silver himself singing or plucking the bass, they'll have no luck. "I've got everyone in th world singing except me," Silver said.
When Silver noticed the sound of country music beginning to shift in 1981, he began to seriously collect vinyl records. He owns about 60,000 records, nearly all of country-western music. "If it was recorded country, I have it, " Silver said.
These days, people from around the globe call Silver to find a rare country record. But if they seek a recording of Smokey Silver himself singing and plucking the bass, they'll have no luck "I've got everyone in the world singing except me," Silver said. "We didn't have the facilities back then. "
After he hung up his bass in the late 1970s, Silver worked for several radio stations in Northern California. In the early 80s he helped change the format of former Manteca station KQKK to country. "The music that's now blared on radio stations no longer resembles the simple country he knew," he says.
" Today's country sounds like what we would've considered rock in the 1950s," Silver said. Silver's efforts to preserve western country music were recognized in 2001, when he was welcomed into the Western Swing Society Hall of Fame. The society recognizes musicians around the country who promote and play western swing music.
"I hope it will be preserved, loved and carried on long after my journey here is through," he said.
(Reprinted with permission of the Sun Post newspaper in Manteca. To contact the reporter of this story, Danielle MacMurchy call 239-6351 or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
A man as rare as the records he collects
Smokey Silver with his record collection.
(Photo courtesy of Smokey Silver)
Smokey Silver on the air at KEJC, The Ranch, which he and partner Edward Cardoza put on the air in Modesto on January 13, 1995.