by Sheryl Beadles, staff reporter
Bill Lear has been playing music for nearly 50 years. He started playing bass guitar and flat top in 1967 when he was 18. His love of music began even before he started playing.
“I have just always liked music,” Lear said. He said he used to listen the The Grand Ol’ Opry on a battery operated radio. It didn’t always get the best reception, but he listened whenever possible.
He sold garden seed to get his first guitar. Lear said it wasn’t the best guitar and he never learned to play. He had two more after that which he never learned to play either.
Lear never learned until he met Wesley and Janese Reynolds. Wesley ran a garage in town and would have “jam sessions.” Lear would sit and listen in at the jam sessions until Wesley told him if he was going to be there, he should learn to play. He began going over the Reynolds’ house for music lessons.
He works at Macon Electric Coop, so music is only a hobby. It is a hobby he has been involved in with many groups throughout many years. He has been part of a group called Bill Lear and Friends that has been singing for nursing homes over 40 years. They go to nursing homes at least twice a month to sing and play music. Lear says they never know who will attend their performance, they just play for whoever comes. He said the nursing home residents really enjoy their visits.
“If I ever end up in a nursing home, maybe someone will come play a tune for me,” Lear said.
Lear was the member of a dance band for 25 years. They played at dances held by the Moose Lodge or Eagle Lodge. This group quit playing in 1994. After that, Lear played at the Salt River Opry for one year before joining The Black Diamond Jubilee in 1996.
In January 2016, it will have been 20 years since The Black Diamond Jubilee started playing together. They play at the Wilcox Opry Barn in Macon. There are six regular players in the house band with a guest or two each show. Lear provides more of the comedy and a little bit of the singing now.
Members of The Black Diamond Jubilee include: Karen Bail, a 20-year member who is a music teacher at Callao C-8 and can play all the instruments; Aaron Russell, a nine-year member from Springfield, Missouri who is a piano player; Steve Riker, a 12-year member who is a drummer and Vance Monday, a three-month member who plays steel guitar. Lear uses the comedy name of Wee Willie Shagnasty. Their lead man just passed away August 2, so they are looking for someone new to join their band.
The Black Diamond Jubilee plays a lot of traditional country, a few newer country songs and gospel music. They have several guests such as Terry Lee Ridley and Duke Mason coming up in the next few months. The Wilcox Opry is also in the middle of remodel in order to seat more people and seat them more comfortably.
Lear said he loves music and doesn’t see himself retiring from playing anytime soon. For people thinking of getting involved somehow with music, Lear said music is a lot of fun. He said he has met a lot of friends through music. In fact, he knows people from all over the United States through his musical connections. He encourages people to become involved in music in whatever way they can.