Texas Drug Store Cowboys Celebrating 50 Years as Dancehall & Venue Legends

50th Anniversary will be on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022 at John T. Floores Country Store & Dance Hall in Helotes, Texas. 3-7 p.m.

Admired by fiercely loyal fans, The Drugstore Cowboys have brought their electric energy to venues throughout the US and Europe.

The south side of San Antonio, in the neighborhoods surrounding McCollum and Harlandale high schools, are the childhood homes of many notable people in Country, Funk, Soul and Tejano Music.

Legendary Country Music DJ Hall of Famer and everybody’s “Cousin” Jerry King went to Harlandale in the 1960s. I can remember when King, along with other DJs and musicians, played with the likes of Willie Nelson and George Jones at a charity basketball matchup at the McCollum gym in the late 1960s.

During the 1972-73 school year Nashville recording artist Johnny Bush played on stage at the McCollum Auditorium. Country.

Down on Harding Blvd., a talented local newspaper country music and entertainment writer, John Goodspeed, served as an early inspiration for me.

The late Emilio Navaira, from the McCollum Class of 1980, was a Mexican-American musician who performed country and Tejano music nationally. His classmate from the year ahead of him, Yolanda Saldívar, is the convicted murderer of Latin music superstar Selena, and is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison.

Especially in the late 70s and early 80s many of us would go watch Horizon perform. Southsiders Charlie, John, and Geoff Boggess joined classmate Freddy Carrillo and others (T-Bo Gonzalez, Bill Dudley, Larry Scott and Sahara Greer come to mind) and actually opened for the Commodores. The story goes they were offered to go on the road with Cool and the Gang but turned them down.

Through the years, southsider singers and musicians continued to play venues and dances as far away as Europe, on television and especially throughout the Lone Star State.

Some of the more enduring included Rex Allen McNeil, Walter “Tooter” Ripps, Ray Morris, Randy Potts, Lonnie Castleman, John Marsh, Leonard Wong, and the rockers, The Toman Brothers, Randy and Russell—and who could forget R

1972

In the fall of 1972, 17-year-old McCollum senior Dub Robinson had organized a country trio and began playing around a little bit. He went to go see Willie Nelson at the John T. Floore Country Store northwest of San Antonio in the foothills of the Hill Country town of Helotes.

Johnny Bush, Paul English, Willie Nelson

Nelson was to perform as a trio with drummer Paul English and Bee Spears on bass. The steel player didn’t show.

“I watched Willie play that gut string guitar and it didn’t lose anything,” Robinson remembers. Since age 12, Robinson had played professionally across South Texas, but on this night he was particularly inspired.

He called his drummer, Robert “Cotton” Payne, and his bassist, Tommy McKay the next day and proclaimed that if they could be a hundredth as good as Nelson was, they might have a chance.

They knew their taste in music was a blend of country, rock, and blues. McKay suggested the perfect name for their new band. It described the kind of “cowboy” who didn’t want to get his boots dirty.

I’ve followed Dub and other fellow McCollum Cowboys classmates over the years. He continues to be a favorite.

At a ten year class reunion in 1983 at the downtown El Tropicano Hotel Ballroom, Dub and his band honored his classmates as we danced in memories of “old times.” I was particularly honored. I knew the band was good, but when I was called over during a break, he asked me what Elvis song I was going to sing later that evening.

I suggested “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hearbreak Hotel,” and “Hound Dog.”

He grinned, and with guitar in hand, said, “Okay. Let me hear you sing them.”

1983 McCollum 10 Yr Reunion. Dub (guitar) was the ultra-professional. What an honor for me.

I only had to belt out a sentence or a few words of each. He immediately knew what key and chords to play.

Later, when some of our classmates were literally pulling my pants off while singing, I looked back at Dub. He was grinning big time. He and his band never missed a lick. I tried my best not to also. It remains a fun and wonderful memory in my heart.

In 2011, while interviewing George Strait and Ray Benson at a fundraiser for wounded veterans at Tapatio Springs outside of Boerne, Texas, Strait said something that reminded me of Dub.

“When everyone thinks of Asleep at the Wheel, they think of Ray.”

That’s exactly how I feel about the Drug Store Cowboys. When I think of them, I think of Dub Robinson.

The Drugstore Cowboys with Gary Stewart: Dub Robinson (left), Stewart, Randy Toman and Robert "Cotton" Payne.
Dub Robinson on the left.

Dub just announced the band will be celebrating their 50th anniversary with a new CD. What are his thoughts?

In his own creative words, the songwriter, musician and singer posted:

Originally, McKay lasted about a year and a half and Randy Toman, (who now performs with his brother Russell), became the bassist for 13 years.

They became the touring band for country stars Gary Stewart and Stoney Edwards. The Drugstore Cowboys also backed Johnny Rodriguez, Freddy Fender, Johnny Bush and Gene Watson.

Other artists they shared the stage with or even backed up include Nelson, Merle Haggard, Mel Tillis, Frenchy Burke, Greg Allman, David Allen Cole, Charlie Daniels, the Mavericks, Jerry Jeff Walker, and even Asleep At The Wheel.

“They joined Stewart, who was known for such hits as “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles),” when his backing band could not make a gig at the old Kicker’s Palace,” Goodspeed once reported. “The owner told Stewart they knew all his songs and he gave them a try. Stewart hired them and they toured coast to coast. Robinson quit after four years.”

“I didn’t want to be somebody’s backup band the rest of my life,” he said. “I’m a songwriter first and wanted to do my own thing.”

In 50 years, at least that many musicians have played in The Drugstore Cowboys.

Some of the members went on to play for the Bellamy Brothers, Janie Fricke, Bill Anderson, and Judas Priest.

“I believe it’s all about the song. It’s a lot of work running a band, but I do it just to play my music the way I want to hear it,” Dub said.

In God We Trust

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History, Texas, Pioneers, Genealogy

From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

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Are We in Jeopardy? Things Only Baby Boomers Understand

Here are the same guys with the exact same car 50 years later:

Only Baby Boomers understand.

In the 1970s, I changed the oil, set the timing, cleaned the carburetor and installed Jenssen speakers for the 8-track player (also self installed) in my car.

This was my first car.

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History, Texas, Pioneers, Genealogy

From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

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QUIZ–What Do These Photos Have in Common?

What began in 1893 became a huge tradition reflecting the hopes and wishes of many Americans.

Spanning the years 1910 through 1994, photos from this collection consisted of seasonal influence and tradition.

Baby Boomers will be more apt to guess what these pictures all have in common. Can you?

Long before there was an Amazon or Etsy or even a dot.com, America had a Sears catalogue…or “Wish Book.”

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What is the Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Muscle Recovery After Strenuous Exercise?

 

Courtesy of Green Pasture

🔹Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) due to physical exercise reduces the ability to perform intensive physical training and participate in sports at high levels.

🔹Omega-3 fatty acids may provide a partial protective effect against development of DOMS and may accelerate recovery after damaging exercise.

🔹Because cod oil produced through fermentation contains natural bioactive compounds such as Vitamins A and D along with omega-3 fatty acids, it may assist in the recovery from DOMS. 

Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Muscle Recovery After Strenuous Exercise

By Dr. Subramaniam Sathivel

Physical exercise, particularly resistance exercise, often results in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that peaks 1-2 days after the exercise and takes up to 5-6 days to get resolved. 

DOMS has shown to reduce the ability to perform intensive physical training and to play sports at high levels.  

There is evidence to suggest that omega-3 fatty acids could provide a partial protective effect against development of DOMS and may even accelerate recovery after damaging exercise. 

The main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

EPA and DHA, in particular, may reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines while raising anti-inflammatory markers. Some researchers have reported that omega-3 supplementation decreases the soreness after exercise. They found that individuals are able to perform a specific type of exercise at increased levels after omega-3 supplementation, and concluded that omega-3 supplementation could decrease the severe localized soreness due to this type of exercise.

Based on these findings they believe that omega-3 supplements could be beneficial to athletes, especially athletes involved with high-intensity strength training. Other researchers have suggested that fish oil containing omega-3 fatty acids could be a natural anti-inflammatory.

Researchers have investigated the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on muscle soreness over three days in competitive soccer players. Their findings showed that the soccer players experience muscle damage due to the high demand of physical activities during soccer games and were able to show that combining omega-3 fatty acids with a multi-ingredient supplement resulted in protection of the muscles from damage during exercise and reduced muscle soreness in recovery.

They speculated that a possible reason for these desirable effects is that the omega-3 fatty acids improve the structural integrity of the muscle cell membrane before exercising. This could lead to protection of the muscle fibers in the active muscles from developing DOMS.

In a study done by a group of researchers the effect of a high dose and low dose of EPA on the recovery from muscle damage induced by exercise was looked at. 

Twenty-seven physically active males participated in this study. They used 100 plyometric drop jumps to induce muscle damage. The participants were tested for muscle soreness and isokinetic muscle squat jump performance.

The researchers found that those who took the high EPA dose were able to return to their baseline performance faster.

Another group of researchers investigated how muscle soreness in 20 professional Rugby players was affected by the consumption of a protein-based supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids. They observed a moderate beneficial effect of omega-3 fatty acids in reducing fatigue. 

The researchers concluded, “The moderate beneficial effect of adding fish oil to a protein-based supplement on muscle soreness translated into the better maintenance of explosive power in elite Rugby Union players during pre-season training.”

Fish oils, including cod liver oil, contain these beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. With that in mind, cod liver oil may be useful for muscle recovery from intensive exercise.

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History, Texas, Pioneers, Genealogy

From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

SPORTS & MUSIC: Do You Recognize Who They Are by Their Mugshots?

Can you identify these famous sports and music celebrities by their arrested mugshots?

Answers at the bottom.

SPORTS

MUSIC

SPORTS: Tiger Woods, Tony Manziel, Jason Kidd, O.J. Simpson

MUSIC: David Cassidy, Michael Jackson, Phil Spector, Phil Spector, Justin Bieber, Jerry Lee Lewis, Glen Campbell, Hank Williams, Jr. Frank Sinatra

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The Angry Snake and Sharp Saw Lesson

There was a snake that crawled over a sharp saw and was cut. In anger, the snake wrapped the saw with its thick body and proceeded to squeeze the life out of the saw.

If you liked this, you will enjoy The Donkey, Tiger and Lion Lesson.

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Sound Advice From a 75-Year-Old Mentor

A good mentor doesn’t necessarily tell you what to do. They don’t give you advice, either. A good mentor helps you think through problems based on their experience so you can come to your own conclusions. 

Here is some good wisdom from a 75 year old mentor’s experience:

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History, Texas, Pioneers, Genealogy

From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Things My Policeman Father Taught Me

Some of our regular readers know, my father, Walter “Corky” Dennis was a policeman, homicide detective for the San Antonio Police Department for decades.

He was in the motorcycle detail that traveled beside John F. Kennedy’s limousine in the Alamo City motorcade the day before the President’s assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963. After SAPD retirement, he was employed as a U.S. Marshal and worked on the Federal Judge John H. Wood, Jr. assassination case in 1979 and early 1980s.

One proud moment was when we found out he and I made it in the world famous Ripley’s Believe It or Not cartoon together.

Although Dad taught me a good deal about investigation, forensics, criminal psychology and police work, like all good fathers, he provided immeasurable guidance on other important matters:


1. How to make a fire
2. How to grill meat
3. How to cook on a stove
4. How to create a budget
5. Basic knot tying 
6. Basic woodworking
7. Basic firearm safety
8. How to throw a punch
9. How to take a punch
10. Basic boxing strategy
11. How to change a tire
12. Basic gardening
13. How to change oil in a car


14. How to pray
15. How to play poker
16. Basic first aid
17. How to pitch a tent
18. How to read the Bible
19. How to summarize a book
20. How to map a family tree
21. Basic dining etiquette
22. How to iron clothes
23. How to mow the lawn


24. How to read a map
25. How to be a polite guest
26. How to talk to a girl
27. Where to go on a first date
28. What to do on a first date
29. How to speak to a girl’s parents
30. How to make small talk
31. How to make deep talk 


32. How to pump gas
33. How to rope a cow
34. How to use a credit card
35. How to dress for an occasion 
36. How to “read” a person (later we called it “profiling”)
37. How to milk a cow
38. How to wrap a gift
39. How to write a thank you note
40. How to think critically
41. How to reverse engineer concepts
42. How to look for signs of criminal activity
43. How to ride a horse


44. Basic photography concepts
45. How to be aware of con artists
46. How to tie a tie
47. How to put on cufflinks
48. How to shine shoes
49. How to roof a house
50. How to use a saw

These next ten, I suppose, are not typically taught to most children by their parents in everyday living.

51. How to rescue people from a raging flooded river or creek.

52. How to dedicate yourself to helping, protecting, and sacrifice for other’s wellbeing, safety and benefit.

53. How to respond responsibly to a crisis, strangers in an emergency, and/or communities in need (hurricanes, flooding, fires, etc.).

54. How police and emergency workers respond when one of their fellow men/women are killed.

55. The importance of visiting and helping those in hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, and with victims of disaster.

56. Why some people call the police names like “Pig.”

57. Why and how some people repeatedly live a life of crime, hate and anger.

58. How to work for the betterment of a community.

59. How to smile when you are angered, fearful or scared.

60.. How much he loved me and always would, even though there was a chance he might not make it home from work ever.

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History, Texas, Pioneers, Genealogy

From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

FBI Laboratory Publishes Results of Their Major Handwriting Analysis Study

As a licensed private investigator in Texas many moons ago, I studied Graphology and examined documents for various crime cases and court proceedings. Today, I retain an interest in this forensic activity and it’s a fun hobby and exercise at parties and get togethers with friends.

Recently I learned of a five year study performed by researchers evaluating many examiners, most of them government employees, where they undertook 100 handwriting comparisons using digital images of such writing produced by 230 people.

Of the 100 tasks:

🔹44 were comparison of documents handwritten by the same person

🔹56 were comparison of documents written by two individuals.

🔹Unknown to the participants, a tenth of the comparison sets were repeats of sets they had already seen—a way to test how consistent each participant was over time.

The FBI’s Laboratory Division, in conjunction with Noblis, Inc., recently published their scientific research paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about the accuracy and reliability of forensic handwriting comparison.

The paper, “Accuracy and Reliability of Forensic Handwriting Comparisons,” summarizes the results of the five-year project.

The FBI Laboratory undertook this research to provide estimates of error rates—how often document examiners make correct writership decisions—as well as how often an examiner reaches the same conclusion when seeing the same documents again, and how often other examiners reach the same conclusions.

This study was the largest of its kind, involving examiners from U.S. and international crime laboratories and private practice. Collectively, these examiners made more than 7,000 document comparisons and provided information with which to correlate results to levels of education and experience, along with other metadata.

Examiners in the FBI study expressed their conclusions in the form of five ratings: definitive that the same writer had or had not written the compared samples, probable that the same writer had or had not written them, or no conclusion.

Features of interest included letter spacing, how letters connect, and the drop or rise of “legs” below or above a letter, such as the tail of a small letter “g” or the upsweep of a small letter “d.”

Overall, in 3.1 percent of cases, examiners incorrectly concluded that the same writer had composed the comparison samples. Different writers who were twins tripped the examiners up more often, leading to a false-positive rate of 8.7 percent. The false-negative rate of samples that were incorrectly attributed to two different writers was even lower, at 1.1 percent.

The study is part of a portfolio of research projects conducted by the FBI Laboratory to evaluate the accuracy, repeatability, and reproducibility of pattern evidence examiner decisions.

It was modeled after a highly acclaimed 2011 FBI Laboratory study about the accuracy and reliability of fingerprint examiner decisions, which is widely regarded within the forensic community as a gold standard in pattern evidence study design. That research project formed the basic design for this study and resulted in more than 15 scientific publications to date.

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History, Texas, Pioneers, Genealogy

From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

My First Big Interview Was With Elvis Presley

In the early spring of 1976, my Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State) journalism professor Jeff Henderson, asked his class on the second floor of Old Main to write down the names of two people we would like to interview if we could. 

When he called on me to reveal my answers, embarrassingly, I said “Elvis Presley and Clint Eastwood.”

Spontaneously, my classmates laughed. Their answers were reasonable…and safe: the police chief, fire marshal, county commissioner, etc. But Jeff held his hand up and looked me seriously straight in the eyes and asked, “Why don’t you?”

WHY DON’T YOU?

“Look, Jack. You just came back from winning Investigative Reporter of the Year Award out of every university in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Association,” he smirked, then grinned. “So, my question to you is—why don’t you?”

I thought of scores of reasons why I couldn’t. Jeff’s question would have profound impact the rest of my life. So, why don’t I? Within eight months, I interviewed both Presley and Eastwood.

I traveled to Memphis during Spring Break with one mission in mind: To do the impossible by interviewing Elvis.

Just a few days after my arrival, staying at a nearby (from Graceland) Howard Johnson’s, I was called in by a local radio station to be interviewed myself because there was much buzz (was that even a word, other than the sound a bee makes, in ’76?) about Elvis.

It was recently announced he’d be performing in his hometown later that summer. Months away and thousands of fans had been camped out for two days in line to buy tickets.

The day before, I drove by the Mid-South Colosseum and was astonished. People were in tents, sleeping bags, lawn chairs and on blankets waiting. Although it was hot and humid, they were happy.

Through the years I’ve found dedicated Elvis fans to be among the happiest people on the planet. Their camaraderie expands beyond man-made limiting boundaries such as race, politics, religion and sex. Generally, they’re united.

Two nights before, I gained quick notoriety among Memphis fans for gaining the “impossible dream.” I scored an interview with Elvis Presley!

As a young journalism student from then Southwest Texas State, I did my homework. The stars were aligned:

🔹Local fans were not swarming around Graceland,

🔹It was a time sandwiched between Elvis’ mother Gladys’ birthday week (reasoned he may leave to visit her gravesite) and Mother’s Day. Yes, it was a long shot, but I was giving it all I could.

🔹With donuts, coffee and burgers from the Hickory Log cafe, I befriended Elvis’ cousin Harold Loyd and other Graceland gate security guards at night…and Uncle Vester Presley, Charlie Hodge and others during the day in between naps (Elvis was a night owl, so I had to be).

Harold Loyd

.

🔹The big card up my sleeve was the ace in the hole: I was President of the Texas Chapter of the official Elvis Presley Graceland Fan Club.

Invited to the radio station because of the spike in interest of the upcoming concerts and me landing the interview, the DJ began asking questions in rapid fire.

I answered them as fast as he spit them out, but when he paused for a commercial break, I defaulted to my normal mode of operation–to engage in conversation rather than his Q&A approach.

Elvis’ Bicentennial Harley.

.

He started taking live listener calls. It was compelling enough that he kept me on air for over an hour.

I was psyched, of course, but somehow all this excitement calmed my youthful ego. I was very thankful for meeting Elvis, but especially grateful for his kindness. When you hear or read how nice he was to fans, believe me, it was very genuine kindness.

Shaking the hand of the man my parents, my sister Bobbi and I would see on the giant screens of the Trail or Mission Drive-In theaters, watch on TV, or read about in magazines and newspapers, was a surreal and humbling experience.

Meeting Elvis taught me much, including the value of doing homework, being prepared, investigation and a more engaging approach to interviewing.

Most of all, it taught me to never let self-imposed obstacles get in the way of my dreams.

Photos of Dodie and me taken at Graceland, SUN Studio, on June 24, 25 2020.

The following August, I was able to meet Elvis briefly backstage at Hemisfair Arena in San Antonio to present him some official honorary documents from the City, Bexar County and a Texas-shaped award from fans across the state.

Two of my favorite journalism classmates under Jeff Henderson, Janis Johnson and Vicky Highsaw, joined me on the front row center section for the Elvis concert.

Photos taken from front row, center at Elvis Presley’s August 18, 1976 concert.

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History, Texas, Pioneers, Genealogy

From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Vintage Wisdom for Today’s Topsy-Turvey World

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.

That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. Neil Armstrong

The greatest wealth is to live content with little. Plato

Well done is better than well said. Benjamin Franklin

Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly. John F. Kennedy

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up. Vince Lombardi

Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. John F. Kennedy

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

VISIT BANDERA, TEXAS

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The ‘Hello, My Name is Jose Jiminez’ Eye Opener

When William Szathmary died on June 15, 2017, in Nashville, Tennessee, millions of fans who knew him, did not know him by his birth name.

Eleven years prior to his death, meeting American comedian Bill Dana was a complete surprise, because I had completely forgotten about the entertainer.

Like many baby boomers growing up in the 1960s, Dana would make America laugh with his signature, “Hello, my name is Jose Jiminez” astronaut routine. It was so popular, another celebrity, a country and western singing star, would adapt his own stage introductions with “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash!”

In 2006, I had the pleasure of meeting Buzz Aldrin, Wally Schirra, Gene Krantz, and other space related notables at the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, Texas.

Among some of the “celebrities” I talked with were movie and television stars James Drury (The Virginian, Disney’s Toby Tyler), Lana Wood (The Searchers, Peyton Place, Diamonds Are Forever) Clint Howard (Gentle Ben, Apollo 13), and Warren Stevens (Forbidden Planet). It was certainly an unexpected eye opener to spend some time with Bill Dana.

“Okay, José, you’re on your way!”


With those words, radioed to Alan Shepard as he lifted off to become the first American astronaut to fly into space on May 5, 1961, Bill Dana’s role in NASA history was sealed.

Because of his popularity portraying “José Jiménez,” Dana was bestowed the title of being the eighth of the Mercury 7 astronauts.

When he died on that June 15th in 2017, Dana was 92.

“He’ll be missed not only by the astronaut family, but many more around the world,” said Tammy Sudler, president and CEO of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. “Bill Dana was lovingly known as our honorary Mercury 8 astronaut.”

First created in 1959 for “The Steve Allen Show” and later appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” José Jiménez held several positions, including an elevator operator, a bobsled racer, a Navy submariner and a lion tamer, but it was as the shiny-spacesuited, reluctant astronaut that the Bolivian character became famous (Dana was of Hungarian-Jewish ancestry in reality).

“What do you consider the most important thing in rocket travel?” asked Ed Sullivan, playing the straight man during one of Dana’s better-known skits.

“To me the most important thing in the rocket travel is the blast-off,” said Dana.

“The blast-off…” repeated Sullivan.

“I always take a blast before I take off. Otherwise, I would not go near that thing,” Dana quipped as Jiménez.

Dana’s José Jiménez routine was later released on record albums, rising to the Top 20 on the Billboard charts, which drew the attention of the real-life Mercury astronauts.

“The astronauts, especially Shepard, absolutely loved the record, and listened to it in the office after intense training sessions,” author Neal Thompson described in “Light This Candle” (Crown, 2004), his biography of the first astronaut. “Shepard even tape recorded the album and during lulls between training exercises or during test launches at the Cape would play the tapes at full volume near the Mission Control loudspeakers.”

The astronaut and comedian first met at a Cocoa Beach night club, where Shepard — from out in the audience and without the prior knowledge of Dana — took on the role of the straight man, setting up Jiménez’s replies. Soon, fellow astronauts Wally Schirra and Deke Slayton joined in.

Dana, 3rd from left with Mercury astronauts



“The club was roaring as the three astronauts took turns,” wrote Thompson. After the show, Dana hurried to a phone to call his producer in New York.

“‘They know us. They know every word. And they love us,” exclaimed Dana, as described by Thompson.

Shepard and the other astronauts’ fondness for Dana and his character led to José Jiménez becoming the unofficial mascot of the Mercury program.

In addition to inspiring the 1961 launch call between Slayton (in the blockhouse) and Shepard (on top of a Redstone rocket), Dana performed at President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball with Shepard in attendance.

The comedian also inspired a “gotcha” – a practical joke – that Shepard arranged in secret for John Glenn to discover once aboard his Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft. Opening up a pouch while in orbit, Glenn was surprised by a small stuffed mouse floating free, a reference to the “leetle mice” Jiménez would cite as fellow test subjects in his routine.

Sammy Davis, Jr. Meets Archie Bunker

One of the most celebrated televised episodes of the classic and controversial All in the Family aired in 1972. It’s the tale about the time entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. stopped by to visit the Bunkers.

It begins with a briefcase he left in Archie’s cab and ends with the kiss of infamy. Very few people are aware that the writer of this episode was Bill Dana.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS



🔹Born William Szathmary in Quincy, Massachusetts on Oct. 5, 1924, Dana served as a gunner and mortarman in the U.S. Army during World War II.

🔹He began his career in comedy as a page and a writer for other comedians’ stand-up routines.

🔹Dana was also a screenwriter for television and movies, writing the Emmy-Award-winning “All in the Family” episode, “Sammy Davis Visits Archie Bunker” (1972), penning jokes for the “Donny and Marie” show (1977-1978), and co-writing the script for the “Get Smart” film “The Nude Bomb” (1980).

Dana also showed up as José Jiménez in a number of TV cameos, including as part of a 1966 episode of “Batman,” appearing alongside the late Adam West and Burt Ward.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.