BILLY MIZE (By Shaun Mather)
Born William Robert Mize, 29 April 1929, Arkansas City, Kansas
Billy Mize and his equally gifted/famous brother Buddy were raised in the San Joaquin Valley of California, an area steeped in country music thanks to relocated Okies and other southerners headed for the gold in them there hills out west. He originally learnt to play guitar as a child, but fell in love with the steel guitar he received for his 18th birthday.
He moved to Bakersfield, and formed his own band playing local gigs and also working as a disc jockey on KPMC. In 1953, he joined The Cousin Herb Trading Post Show on KERO-TV Bakersfield, where he became affectionately known as Billy The Kid. He stayed with the show for thirteen years. In 1955 he began to appear on the Hank Penny Show on Los Angeles television and by 1957 he was working on seven different weekly shows in the LA area, including the Hank Penny Show, Cal Worthington Show, Country Music Time and the legendary Town Hall Party. He recorded for Decca (Solid Sender/It Could happen - 1957), Challenge and Liberty, finally hitting the country charts in 1966 with You Can't Stop Me for Columbia. That year he began hosting and performing on Gene Autry's Melody Ranch network show on KTLA as well as starting his own syndicated Billy Mize Show from Bakersfield. During the next decade he managed eleven chart hits as well as writing hits for others such as Who Will Buy The Wine (Charlie Walker), My Baby Walks All Over Me (Johnny Sea) and Don't Let The Blues Make You Bad (Dean Martin). Dean Martin cut three of his songs in one day in June 1966, including "Terrible Tangled Web."
He won the Academy of Country Music's "TV Personality of the Year" award three years in a row between 1965 and 1967. In 1972 he taped two pilots of the "Billy Mize Music Hall," which he hoped to sell into national syndication. With Merle Haggard on the one show and Marty Robbins on the other it seemed a sure fire bet, but it wasn't picked up.
Shakers will no doubt know and love other versions of these, for instance Jerry Lee Lewis' great version of Who Will Buy The Wine and Bob Luman's wonderfully moody reading of My Baby Walks All Over Me. He was pretty much a mainstay of Merle Haggards band, playing steel and rhythm on many of Merle's classics. In the early '80s, Buddy hooked up with brother Buddy for various television projects. In recent times he's been heading Billy Mize Productions, making television spectaculars with Merle Haggard. He suffered a stroke during the mid-90's and although he now speaks a little slowly he has recovered well enough to play guitar again. Representative recordings: This Time and Place (Imperial, 1969, out of print), You're All Right With Me (United Artists, 1971, out of print).
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