Billy Grammer was born on an Illinois farm in 1925, the oldest of 13 children. Music was often the glue that held poor farming families together and so it was with Billy's. His father played the fiddle. Billy picked up the guitar and learned to play his first song at the age of 4. It soon became clear that Grammer had a musician's ear and a natural rhythm. Throughout his youth, Billy was called upon often to play square dances and other occasions. After graduation, he served in WWII in the army and, later, worked at the Washington Naval gun factory. When the war ended, Billy and pretty much everyone else at the factory were laid off.
When the show ended, Billy put together his own band. At about the same time, a young songwriter and ABC Records promotion man named Fred Foster was sinking his life savings into a new record label. The very first record on the new Monument imprint was Billy Grammer's "Gotta Travel On" in 1958. The record scored a hat trick, reaching number 4 on the Pop charts, number 5 Country, and even climbing to number 14 on the R&B charts.
Grammer never matched the success of that first hit single. Still, he did produce a few memorable singles such as "Bonaparte's Retreat", "I Wanna Go Home" and "Jesus Is A Soul Man". Billy's albums display a far greater range of talent, from inspired Gospel singing to some of the most skillful guitar playing this side of Chet Atkins. In his time, Billy Grammer was something of a rarity--a singer who was also a great guitar player. He even designed and marketed his own line of flat-top guitars. The Grammer Guitar was considered the finest flat-top guitar of its time and was played by artists ranging from Johnny Cash to Rolling Stone Mick Taylor. Billy's most recently released recording was "Turkey Texas Blues", an original song he wrote for the Bob Wills' 100th Anniversary tribute album released in 2005.
Outside of a couple of post-fame releases from 1985 and 2000 and a Greatest Hits collection, Billy Grammer's recorded legacy remains unavailable digitally or on CD. That includes Billy's contribution to the holiday season, 1977's "Christmas Guitars".
Warrant was formed in Los Angeles in 1984 and Lane joined the group in 1986. Their style was typical of the L.A. Hair Metal bands of the day, but they were good enough to get signed by Columbia records in 1988. Their debut album "Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich" was hugely successful and included the power ballad "Heaven" which rose all the way to #2 on Billboard's Hot 100. The band's next effort, "Cherry Pie", sold huge numbers with the help of a suggestive MTV video. However, the MTV video proved to be a double-edged sword as many began to view Warrant as something of a novelty act. Lane soon left the band, though he rejoined it shortly (only to leave again later), and that set off a cascade of membership changes. Toss the beginning of the Grunge movement into the mix and Warrant was soon commercially irrelevant. More recently, Lane was working on a solo career and a side project called Saints of The Underground that included the 2008 release "Love The Sin Hate The Sinner". He was also battling his personal demons as demonstrated by a string of DUI arrests in recent years.
Jani Lane did provide the vocals for Warrant's lone contribution to the festive season, a rendering of the Kinks' "Father Christmas" which was included on the 2003 collection "We Wish You A Hairy Christmas".
Marshall Grant was Cash's original bass player, providing the distinctive "boom chicka boom" backing to hits like "Ring Of Fire" and "I Walk The Line". In spite of arguments over Cash's drug use and money issues that led to Grant being fired in 1980, the two men were close and Grant was helping to put on the Johnny Cash Festival (raising money to restore and preserve the Cash family home) at the time of his death. After leaving Cash's band, Grant went on to manage the Statler Brothers until they retired in 2002. Luther Perkins, the other half of The Tennessee Two, died in 1968.
Grant's memoir, I Was There When It Happened: My Life With Johnny Cash, was published 1n 2006.
They were born the Ward triplets in the Panama Canal Zone and raised in Washington DC. "Even though we didn't have any talent," Milly told People magazine in 1988, "we knew we wanted to be in show business." So they bought guitars, dyed their hair blond and renamed themselves the Del Rubio Triplets. To hear them tell it, they spent the next several years working clubs overseas. They briefly stopped performing after their mother died, but eventually the bug got them once again and they began performing in hospitals and such in the seventies. By 1979, they were working lounges and clubs again and, in 1985, they were "discovered" by songwriter Allee Willis who began presenting them at her parties.
The Del Rubio Triplets found their success late in life. But, for about ten years, they were very much in demand, appearing on countless television shows and selling their share of albums. Their "act" was a little bizarre--three women in their sixties wearing short skirts and singing everything from Nat King Cole to the Rolling Stones--but they were so utterly charming that most everyone found them irresistible.
After Eadie died in 1996, the Del Rubios ceased performing. As Willis noted, "They always said to me that they were one person with three heads and that was completely true. They were completely dysfunctional without the other." When Elena died in 2001, Milly was left alone and she never completely recovered from the loss of her sisters.
Although their biggest "hit" was a cover of Devo's "Whip It", the Del Rubio Triplets may best be remembered for their appearance on Pee Wee Herman's Christmas special in 1988. A full album of Christmas songs, "Jingle Belles", followed in 1991.