Mr. Tony Douglas, affable leader of Tony Douglas and the Shrimpers, died Jan. 22 in his hometown of Athens.|
Mr. Douglas had lymphoma, according to his family. He was 83.
Fort Worth figured prominently in Mr. Douglas' long career, and five decades of local country music fans enjoyed dancing to Tony Douglas and the Shrimpers in clubs or watching him in a popular block of 30-minute country music TV shows that aired Saturdays on KTVT/Channel 11, then an independent station.
He was a lifetime member of the Country Music Association in Nashville and is in the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Hayride Hall of Fame.
Mr. Douglas' first big break came in 1954 when he became a regular at Fort Worth's Cowtown Hoedown, and he recorded his first single release on the Cowtown Hoedown record label, Old Blue Monday and Echoes of You.
Born April 12, 1929, in Martins Mill, Mr. Douglas grew up singing in church and listening to the Grand Ole Opry.
During his Army service in Germany in 1952, he performed before paying audiences for the first time when he sang Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell songs.
After the war, Mr. Douglas returned to East Texas and worked for grocery stores and the gas company. He sang on Friday and Saturday nights for small-town audiences.
That changed when he began to play Fort Worth regularly at the Cowtown Hoedown, and later on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport.
In the fall of 1957, Mr. Douglas was offered a three-year contract on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, fulfilling a boyhood dream, but he turned it down when he learned the contract required him to relocate to Tennessee.
Mr. Douglas gained his first national attention in 1961 when he recorded the song Shrimpin', which gave rise to the band's permanent name of Tony Douglas and the Shrimpers.
The Shrimpers began touring after their 1962 hit His 'N Hers was released, and Mr. Douglas performed with Grand Ole Opry stars, including Ernest Tubb, Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner, and Leona Williams.
Mr. Douglas recorded a new album in 2010 on his own Cochise Records label called Saved The Best For Last.
A funeral was Saturday in Athens.
Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Mim Douglas of Athens; three children; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Published in Star-Telegram on Jan. 31, 2013