The Dale Mc Bride Story

 

The Early Days

Even though the 1929 stock market crash had impacted countless lives, someone who owned a little land and didn't mind a lot of hard work could still eke out a modest living in rural America. And so it was for J.D. McBride and his wife Aleen Thomas-McBride, who settled on a nice little sprig of land in Central Texas to farm and ranch near a small trade settlement of fewer than 600 population called Kileen. By the mid 30's the couple had also produced two daughters, Mildred and Sarah and things were shaping up for the happy family.  But the1936 Texas drought produced by record breaking temperatures soaring to a high of 120 degrees on August 12th was a rough year --  tough enough on young J.D. and the children, but for Aleen, in the sixth month of her 3rd pregnancy, it was insufferable.  But when December 18th rolled around all the misery of that scorching summer was all but dimished in the excitement of a little ginger haired boy they named Dale.

       Dale was the pride of the entire family, being the only boy and the baby in the family he was doted over by his two older sisters, but nothing of the magnitude of J.D. himself, who at last had him a boy, a distinction he never lost.  He was, however, forced to relinquish his "baby" status when a baby sister Sue entered the scene the day after his second birthday and just in time for Christmas. It might have been the making one of those legendary Texas dynasties except for the advent of World War II and the United States government's decision to locate an army camp on the site of several homesteads including that of the McBride's.  The government insisted the land was critical for the war effort, and gave the property owners a pittance reimbursement and just two weeks to vacate the land.  Trying to fight the United States government in those days of soaring patriotism was socially akin to leprosy, and you could get labeled "Communist" or worse "Traitor" just by expressing the right opinion at the wrong time.  So most of the area pioneers just packed up and left to search for other pastures, green or otherwise.  One second generation rancher could not stand the thought of being ejected from his father's homestead, and so he shot him so that he could die there.

     With the establishment of Camp Hood, which would later be re-dedicated "Fort Hood",  the small settlement of Kileen began to experience exponential growth, while a broken hearted McBride clan and many others moved from one place to another, searching for a decent place to raise a few crops or pasture a small herd of animals.  J.D. settled his family for awhile in Gatesville, and that's where Dale made his public singing debut at the age of five.  That moment pretty well defined his destiny.  The new McBride home had no indoor plumbing or electricity, but that didn't keep the family from huddling in the old family coupe on Saturday night to listen to the Grand Ole Opry on the car radio (Often running down the battery which had to be recharged the next day). "Dale always knew he wanted to be a singer,"  J.D. once recalled, "and I had no argument with that.  I was convinced that Dale had the most beautiful voice on earth the first time the little warbler open his mouth."  So Dale's Dream also became the dreams of J.D. and the entire family who were his biggest fans and supporters during the five decades in which he poured out loving entertainment onto an admiring base of dedicated fans from Texas to practically every state in the country, and even today’s  worldwide fan base.

     But life was harder after Kileen, and the McBride's were often on the move searching for a new arable property that could adequately support this growing family.  They finally came to roost on the outskirts of Lampasas just a few miles and one county west of Killeen and Fort Hood.

     The Lampasas land was never very productive, and there was the ever present smell of sulphur from the nearby springs.  But it was centrally located and convenient and that's where Dale McBride's professional career was launched at the ripe old age of thirteen.  At first he performed in local events, including school dances and local fairs.  He even recalled performing at a political rally where the audience was so big and he was so excited that he couldn't even recall who the politicians were or what office they were running for. "As far as I was concerned, that audience was there for no other reason than to hear Dale McBride sing," he laughed.

     Soon Dale was discovered by a local Central Texas television station where he performed "Live" every Saturday afternoon. Before his eighteenth birthday he was snatched up by Gaylon Christie to be the new lead singer for “The Downbeats”.  After a couple of regionally notable Rockabilly singles, Western Swing Legend Jimmy Heap came courting the McBride voice and Dale found himself touring as the primary singer for “The Melody Masters”. 

Dale McBride was a grand performer,  as much at home on the stage as he was at a backyard barbeque.  The  "Dale McBride Show" was the whole package: A little Country, a little Rock, spiced with blues, and flavored with pop, and nearly always tendered with a spiritual edge.

   His love of guitar was evident in every note he played.  And when he was in between all that, he loved to joke and laugh with the audience with monologues that were dry and wry, witty and wild. And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, Dale would mesmerize the crowd by busting loose with his incredible impersonations of Elvis, Walter Brennan, Marty Robbins, Roy Orbison and a host of others.

     Dale's small town (Lampasas, Texas) roots, and a deep spiritual upbringing, kept him firmly grounded in a profession that swallows up a lot of talented performers long before they have been in the business for the five solid decades that Dale recorded his legacy.  Hundreds of recordings provide a lasting memory, not only for his proud and loving family and friends, but to countless adoring fans.

 Dale's recording history began in the 50's when traditional Country Music was in a state of flux and very hostile to newcomers.  But the innovative Dale was determined to make a living via his talent, and became one of the early pioneers of Rockabilly music. From a memorable performance with Gaylon Christie and the Downbeats on Kobb Records "Because I love you So", to Dale's solo performances on Fame Records' Rockabilly Classic "Prissy Missy" and his Teardrop Label classic swamp rocker "Barbara".  Dale also worked for awhile in the late 1950’s as a lead singer for Jimmy Heap  and the Melody Masters. Dale's early hits certainly fired up Biloxi, Mississippi's teen dancers on Joel Scarborough’s Saturday afternoon WLOX-TV dance program, "Teen Time". He was also a recurring act on Oklahoma City television and many others from Georgia to Wyoming.

      Dale's heart never drifted far from his country roots, and the flip sides of his rockabilly recordings generally featured a pure traditional country love song, i.e., "Born to Love You" and "I Can't Ever Free My Mind".  With that rare crooning tenor voice that covered more than a couple of octaves, and a falsetto that could raise the hair on the back of your neck, Dale could have gone in any musical direction, perhaps even Opera, a fact that did not escape Dean Martin's attention in the mid sixties when he heard Dale and immediately signed him to a contract with his label Reprise Records.

Although Reprise was a huge and successful major record subsidiary, its focus was on adult pop, mostly middle-of-the-road music, which Dale was great at, but he yearned for a more mass appeal sound, and something more attuned to his roots. By 1970 Dale found a progressive Texas label, Thunderbird Records, which was eager to give him a shot at some traditional country cover songs, along with some of his own original compositions, including "Corpus Christie Wind". And that was Dale's first single to hit Billboard Magazine's Hot Country Chart.

      Later that year, Dale was approached by Don Jaye of "The Jaye Community" in Hollywood, CA to play the lead role in a motion picture about a wounded veteran returning from Vietnam to try and resume a Country Music singing career.  The screenplay, "The Little Altar Boy" was optioned by M.G.M. and Casey Kasem was lined up as a priest, with Teddy Quinn as the altar boy.  Dale was ecstatic, but before contracts were finalized and production could get underway, MGM decided that the Vietnam War was tool controversial and that protestors might actually never allow such a project to get off the ground.     

During the early to mid 70's Dale produced a couple of albums on his own label which included a "Live" album of one of his stage shows, and also some of his wry monologues, plus some great impressions of Elvis Presley and Walter Brennan.

 It was around that time that Nashville started perking up to Dale's music, and noted arranger/ producer Bill Walker signed him to a new energetic label called Con-Brio Records where he recorded two successful albums along with several hit singles, including his biggest career chart song, "Ordinary Man".

 Other charted singles included, “I Don’t Like Cheatin’ Songs”, “Getting Over You Again”, and “Always Lovin’ Her Man”.

 It was also during that time that several of his own compositions received national attention through inclusion on these albums – “My Girl”, “Get Your Hands On Me Baby”, and “Love I Need You”, all received critical praise from fans and music critics alike.

 Producer and arranger Bill Walker described Dale at the time as, “Versatile, talented and one of the great voices in country music”.

 Dale recorded for Con Brio for the period 1976-1979.

Bill Walker's son, Jeff, who had traveled to Lampasas to originally sign Dale to the contract, and now a major factor in AristoMedia, recently arranged for many of those recordings to be re-mastered and released on a CD on their subsidiary label GMV Nashville, says Dale was one of the nicest, most down-to-earth guys I ever met."  Jeff also expressed interest in acquiring the rights to some of Dale's earlier material to be released on subsequent CDs.

 During the 80’s Dale continued an exhaustive touring schedule and focused his attention and recording on a more spiritual force. Louisiana’s former governor Jimmy Davis was enthralled by Dale’s highly charged spiritual rendition of Davis’ famous “You Are My Sunshine” and inspired him to record “Let It Shine, Let It Shine” another positive classic. Through his musical outreach he continued to build a positive base for himself among fans and music lovers alike.

And when it looked like the sun would never stop shining on Dale McBride, the 1990s crept in under a dark cloud that came with the devastating news of his father's death, and only a short time later Dale learned that he, himself, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After a hard and painful year of fighting the cancer, Dale finally closed his eyes in death in 1992.  "For a time, we all thought he was going to beat it," says Dale's sister Sue McBride-Osborne.  "His faith was so strong and he endured so much pain, but his attitude remained positive to the end."

     Dale Married his high school sweetheart and they had two children, Jo Lea Mcbride, who took such loving care of Dale during his illness and who now resides in Austin, and Terry McBride, the former lead singer of  the succesful country group, "McBride & The Ride", and who now tours with the ever popular Brooks & Dunn and who has also co-written many of that group's hit song.  Terry and his family reside in Nashville.

    There are also some younguns who will grow up hearing about their grandfather's legacy of wonderful music, memorable performances and they are sure to reflection on this remarkable man they never knew, and on the legions of friends and fans that loved him and who refuse to let his memory fade