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Boxcar Willie

Boxcar Willie

Overview
Boxcar Willie, born as Lecil Travis Martin (September 1, 1931 – April 12, 1999) was an American country music
Country music
Country music is a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music...

 singer, who sang in the "old-time hobo" music style, complete with dirty face, overalls, and a floppy hat. "Boxcar Willie" was originally a character in a ballad he wrote, but he later adopted it as his own stage name.

Born in Sterratt, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, Martin joined the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 in 1949, and served as a pilot and flight engineer for the B-29 Super Fortress during the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 in the early 1950s.
In Lincoln, Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska
The City of Lincoln is the capital and the second-most populous city of the US state of Nebraska. Lincoln is also the county seat of Lancaster County and the home of the University of Nebraska. Lincoln's 2010 Census population was 258,379....

, Martin was once sitting at a railroad crossing and a fellow that closely resembled his chief boom operator, Willie Wilson, passed by sitting in a boxcar
Boxcar
A boxcar is a railroad car that is enclosed and generally used to carry general freight. The boxcar, while not the simplest freight car design, is probably the most versatile, since it can carry most loads...

.
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Encyclopedia
Boxcar Willie, born as Lecil Travis Martin (September 1, 1931 – April 12, 1999) was an American country music
Country music
Country music is a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music...

 singer, who sang in the "old-time hobo" music style, complete with dirty face, overalls, and a floppy hat. "Boxcar Willie" was originally a character in a ballad he wrote, but he later adopted it as his own stage name.

Biography


Born in Sterratt, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, Martin joined the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 in 1949, and served as a pilot and flight engineer for the B-29 Super Fortress during the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 in the early 1950s.
In Lincoln, Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska
The City of Lincoln is the capital and the second-most populous city of the US state of Nebraska. Lincoln is also the county seat of Lancaster County and the home of the University of Nebraska. Lincoln's 2010 Census population was 258,379....

, Martin was once sitting at a railroad crossing and a fellow that closely resembled his chief boom operator, Willie Wilson, passed by sitting in a boxcar
Boxcar
A boxcar is a railroad car that is enclosed and generally used to carry general freight. The boxcar, while not the simplest freight car design, is probably the most versatile, since it can carry most loads...

. He said, "There goes Willie." He pulled over and wrote a song entitled "Boxcar Willie". It eventually stuck and became Martin's nickname .There is no relation to the fictitious character, bearing the same name, as featured in the CJCLS commercial that aired ~1985. In 1962, Martin met his future wife, Lloene, in Boise, Idaho
Boise, Idaho
Boise is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Idaho, as well as the county seat of Ada County. Located on the Boise River, it anchors the Boise City-Nampa metropolitan area and is the largest city between Salt Lake City, Utah and Portland, Oregon.As of the 2010 Census Bureau,...

. They would later have four children.

In San Jose, California
San Jose, California
San Jose is the third-largest city in California, the tenth-largest in the U.S., and the county seat of Santa Clara County which is located at the southern end of San Francisco Bay...

, Martin attended a talent show as "Boxcar Willie" and performed under the nickname for the first time. He won first place, a $150 prize and a nickname that he would forever go by. That was his part-time vocation, however; he was still in the Air Force and had been flying daily missions. He later became a Flight Engineer on KC-97L aircraft in the 136th ARW in the Texas Air National Guard, including air refueling flights around the USA and overseas in Germany.

In 1976, Martin left the Air Force and became a full-time performer. He entered American mainstream pop culture consciousness due to a series of television commercials for record compilations of artists who were obscure in the United States, yet had large international followings, such as Slim Whitman
Slim Whitman
Ottis Dewey Whitman, Jr. , known professionally as Slim Whitman, is an American country music singer and songwriter, known for his yodelling abilities. He has sold in excess of 120 million albums in unit sales and has had numerous successful recordings...

 and Gheorghe Zamfir
Gheorghe Zamfir
Gheorghe Zamfir is a Romanian pan flute musician.Zamfir is known for playing an expanded version of the traditional Romanian-style pan flute of 20 pipes to 22, 25, 28 and 30 pipes to increase its range, and obtaining as many as eight overtones from each pipe by changing the embouchure.He is...

. He went on to become a star in country music
Country music
Country music is a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music...

, selling more than 10 million records, tapes and CDs worldwide. In 1981, Martin achieved a professional landmark by being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee, that has presented the biggest stars of that genre since 1925. It is also among the longest-running broadcasts in history since its beginnings as a one-hour radio "barn dance" on WSM-AM...

as its 60th member.

In 1985, Martin moved to Branson, Missouri
Branson, Missouri
Branson is a city in Taney County in the U.S. state of Missouri. It was named after Reuben Branson, postmaster and operator of a general store in the area in the 1880s....

 and purchased a theater on Highway 76, or 76 Country Music Boulevard. In addition to the Boxcar Willie Theater, he opened a museum and eventually had two motels, both bearing his name. Boxcar Willie was one of the first big stars to open a show in Branson, paving the way for the other nationally-known names that followed. He performed at his theater in Branson until he died.

Death


Diagnosed with leukemia
Leukemia
Leukemia or leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells called "blasts". Leukemia is a broad term covering a spectrum of diseases...

 in 1996, Martin died on April 12, 1999 in Branson at age 67.
Martin was a first cousin to the actor Tommy Lee Jones
Tommy Lee Jones
Tommy Lee Jones is an American actor and film director. He has received three Academy Award nominations, winning one as Best Supporting Actor for the 1993 thriller film The Fugitive....

, who is also from Texas.

Legacy


The overpass at Interstate 35E
Interstate 35E (Texas)
Interstate 35E , an Interstate Highway, is the eastern half of Interstate 35 where it splits to serve different cities in Texas. I-35 splits into two branch routes, I-35W and I-35E at Hillsboro. I-35E runs north for , maintaining I-35's sequence of exit numbers. It runs through Dallas before...

 and Farm to Market Road 664
Farm to Market Road 664
Farm to Market Road 664 is a rural and suburban farm to market road in Ellis County, Texas.-Route description:FM 664, known locally as Ovilla Road, is a major access road for the northern sections of Ellis County. It begins at , the former route of in Waxahachie. It briefly travels north along...

 in Red Oak, Texas
Red Oak, Texas
-External links:* * * * * *...

 (also known as Ovilla Road, approximately four miles east of Ovilla) was renamed Boxcar Willie Memorial Overpass after a major reconstruction project.

Albums

Year Album Chart Positions Label
US Country CAN
1981 King of the Road 54 35 Main Street
1982 Last Train to Heaven featuring Lee Gentry 27
Best of Boxcar, Vol. 1 34
1983 ...Not the Man I Used to Be 35

Singles

Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country
Hot Country Songs
Hot Country Songs is a chart published weekly by Billboard magazine in the United States.This 60-position chart lists the most popular country music songs, calculated weekly mostly by airplay and occasionally commercial sales...

CAN Country
1980 "Train Medley" 95 single only
1982 "Bad News" 36 15 Last Train to Heaven
"We Made Memories" (w/ Penny DeHaven
Penny DeHaven
Penny DeHaven is an American Country Music Singer.She is best-known for having a series of Top 40 Country hits in the early 1970s. Her biggest hit was "Land Mark Tavern", a duet with Del Reeves in 1970.-Albums:...

)
77
"Last Train to Heaven" 80
"Keep on Rollin' Down the Line" 70
1983 "Country Music Nightmare" 76 Best of Boxcar, Vol. 1
"Train Medley" (re-release) 61
"The Man I Used to Be" 44 ...Not the Man I Used to Be
1984 "Not on the Bottom Yet" 87
"Luther" 69