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Hugo Chambers Celebration Scheduled
Hugo Chambers, famed Western Swing Drummer
By Cherilyn Johnston
Hugo Chambers, long time member of the famed Brazos Valley Boys and resident of Mesquite area, passed from this life December 18th, 2011. A celebration of his life will be held on Sunday, January 15, 2012 at Paula Sue’s Restaurant at Hickory Tree and Lake June in Balch Springs from 3-6pm. There will be music and stories about his life and career.
Hugo started playing drums with Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys at the age of 21 (just out of the Navy) where Hank found him playing with the Starlighter Band. Hugo recorded with Hank in the 60's and was with the Brazos Valley Boys for five of the fourteen years that the band was voted the Number 1 Western Swing Band. He left the band for three and a half years and played with Ray Price. After that, he returned to the Brazos Valley Boys and played off and on as needed until Hank's death in November, 2007.
The Early Years
He grew up in Abbott, Texas where his mother and father played in a band with Willie Nelson’s dad before Hugo was born. At age 7 they moved to Oak Cliff. He started drumming at age 5. His folks had a one hour Sunday radio show on KLIF, “Aubrey Chambers’ Circle C Ranch Hands.” He could sing on air, but the station would not let him play drums.
As a teenager he played rock and roll with Trini Lopez, appearing for 6 months on Cabel’s Teen Time, on Channel 11 in Fort Worth where Pat Boone was the emcee. He also did well playing with the Rhythm Kings. Beginning in 1956 he was a Machinist’s Mate in the Navy for three years. Following his discharge he played with different bands until hooking up with the Western Starlighters, a large group that travelled the southern states.
At Busch Stadium in St. Louis they played before 70,000 fans. They often played overseas, including many military bases, and received a first class welcome. Tokyo was one of his favorite venues, playing before packed houses. In France and Germany the bus would be filled with beer. Apparently the band had earned somewhat of a reputation, so on one occasion when checking into a hotel they had to present themselves as a “professional bowling team.”
Earlier this summer Hugo was diagnosed with cancer. Friends organized a benefit in his honor at Southern Junction Nightclub and Steakhouse in Rockwall, Texas on Sunday, August 28th. Many of his musician friends and fellow band members performed in front of a packed house. Unfortunately, Hugo was hospitalized and unable to attend.