Country Music Artist Boxcar Willie In Branson Missouri

Boxcar Willie

Boxcar Willie's Biography

Baby Boxcar Boxcar Willie's parents Boxcar as a boy
Where Boxcar Willie grew up
Born in a small railroad shack along side the KD railroad in 1931 Lecil Travis Martin was the son of a farm and section hand for the railroad in Sterratt, Texas. The railroad provided a small 3 room tool shed which served as a house for them. From the front porch to the first set of railroad tracks was about six feet. This is where Lecil spent his childhood playing on the rail cars in front of his home.

Lecil joined the United States Air Force in may of 1949 and became a pilot, he trained on the B-36 bomber. In 1952 the Korean war was in in full swing, Lecil was a second engineer and at this time was sent for final training in preparation for the conflict. Flight engineers were needed, he was then re-assigned to the magnificent B-29 super fortress.
Flight Engineer Martin
Lincoln Nebraska is where he got the idea for Boxcar Willie. His chief boom operator at the time was a gentleman named Willie Wilson. On one afternoon Lecil was driving in Lincoln when he came upon a railroad crossing, he was the first in line as the crossing gates closed. As the train rolled by slowly he saw a man sitting inside an empty boxcar. This guy looked so much like Willie the boom operator he thought "there goes Willie". He imediately pulled off to the side of the road and wrote a song called "Boxcar Willie".
Marty Martin and The Rangers Marty Martin and The Rangers The Four Black Crows
Boxcar had a television show in Lincoln at Channel 10. He also was a radio disc jockey, and held a job in the air force. They were Marty Martin and The Rangers, they traveled all over Nebraska and the Dakotas even into Kansas playing. Boxcar, Kurt Doolen and Ray Fino went on the road after two years on the television show. They had heard of a good job in Boise and went to check it out, Ray had left the band so they mananaged to hookup with a bass player and drummer and called themsleves The Four Black Crows.

In 1962 while playing a club in Boise a girl came in an set in front of the band stand that caught his eye. In fact upon first sight he thought he just had to have her. He went over and introduced himself thinking she would already know who he was, since he had been on the radio for years. Well it turns out she wasn't really into country music and had never heard of him. He sat out to impress upon her who he was and did a good job because they fell in love, got married and had four children. Her name was Lloene, she turned out to be a very important part of Boxcar Willie. Not only was she supportive of his music she believed in him, and stood by him through some very hard times.
Boxcar and Lloene

To this date he was still Marty Martin, and during a trip to California he decided to enter a talent contest as Boxcar Willie at a club called Sam's place. He borrowed a buddies car and drove to San Jose to sing in the talent contest. He won $150.00 for first place, that was the first time he had performed as Boxcar Willie.

All the while he was still in the Air Force he had been checked out on C-5's and was flying daily missions. He decided that he was doing his fellow crew members a dis-service. Because he had music on his mind and played nightly he could not give his full attention to the aircraft and crew. In 1976 he took a discharge from the Air Force and became Boxcar Willie full time.
Marty Martin and The Rangers

They had moved to Middleothian, Texas and rented a small house. Boxcar's mother had died and they wanted to be close to his father to help out. Times were hard and there wasn't much money. Box went to the junk yard and found a couch and brought it home. They cleaned it up and adopted the family of mice that came with it. Christmas that year for a tree his father cut the top out of his tree and gave it to them for their tree, they decorated it with paper ornaments and strung popcorn. It was christmas eve and they had no money for a turkey on christmas day and it bothered Boxcar. He went to the post office to check his mail and there was a check for eighty eight dollars. The proceeds for a song he had written called "Golf on the moon." They knew the value of that blessing and Lloene still remember's that christmas as one of the best ever.

He was just starting out as Boxcar Willie, he had been a country music performer for years and a radio DJ. He had the talent but the gimmick just hadn't been there until now. He just put the costume on and became the hobo and the crowds loved it. He was playing at the Silver Saddle in Grand Prarie Texas, and they had booked George Jones there. Well George's agent saw boxcar perform and ask him to come play at George's club in Nashville "The Possum Hollow". When he got off the stage everybody was patting him on the back. Waylon was there, George, and others congratulated him. A scottish talent agent wanted to book him in England. Boxcar went over and worked just over a month. Getting his start in England proved to be another rung in the ladder of success for Boxcar Willie. The media began to notice this genuine railroad hobo, he didn't have the flash and sparkle of most of the stars. He was a hobo with a tune and the public loved him. Within a span of four years he became world famous conquering Europe first then the United States. He acknowlegded the media coverage as the reason his fame began to spread. He was working hard and always thinking of ways to sell records. They went to New York and recorded a television commerical featuring a double album set. When it ran on national television the phones rang off the hook, it was his big break here in the U.S. he sold millions of albums on TV.

One of the highlights of Boxcar's career was when Roy Acuff had invited him to the Grand Ole Opry. It was a dream of a lifetime for Boxcar having grown up in awe of the performers on the show. Roy took a liking to Boxcar and the Smoky Mountain Boys were all very fond of him and his brand of entertainment. In 1981 Boxcar became the sixtieth member to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, this touched Boxcar to the point of tears, he said "I can't believe I'm a member of the Grand Ole Opry".

In 1985 Boxcar had been on the road 300 days a year for the last ten years. He had found something in Branson Missouri and took Lloene there to check out the phenomenon going on there. They thought it was the best place in the world, moved there and opened a Music theater across from Roy Clark. This is perfect it's small, beautiful surroundings and an excellent community with high moral standards.

Boxcar was the one of the first big stars to settle in Branson and pioneered the way for others. He helped stars like Tony Orlando learn the ins and outs of the Branson way of doing things. Tony started a Veterans Day Celebration show, that pays annual tributes to veterans of all branches. Boxcar was presented with honors at one of these tribute shows, which are still a tradition in Branson.

On halloween of 1996 Boxcar was diagnosed with cancer. He anounced to the public that he had hit a snag. Boxcar's battle with luekemia was tough, he fought hard. He wasn't afraid of dying he was upset because he knew he wouldn't be here to watch after his family. Lecil Travis Martin died April 12th, 1999 in Branson, Missouri. After a three year battle his train came in and he was called to the lord. His memory will live on forever in his music and those whose lives he touched here on earth. The family wishes to extend their gratitude for all the love, sympathy and prayers his fans and friends have given.

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