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MOORE, WINSTON LEE [SLIM WILLET]

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MOORE, WINSTON LEE [SLIM WILLET] (1919–1966). Slim Willet, songwriter, disc jockey, record producer, and television personality, was born Winston Lee Moore in Victor, Texas, on December 1, 1919. He was the son of Luther and Fannie Moore. In 1935 the family moved to Clyde, and Willet attended Clyde High School. He married Jimmie Crenshaw in Clyde in 1938. They had two sons, Ted and Tim.

After serving a brief stint in the United States Army during World War II, Willet returned to the Abilene area and later entered Hardin–Simmons University. While working as student manager of the school radio station, he adopted the ironic pseudonym Slim; he was far from slender. He took the name Willet from the Willets, characters in his favorite comic strip "Out Our Way." Upon graduation from Hardin–Simmons in 1949, he went to work for radio station KRBC as an advertising salesman and disc jockey. He had already begun writing songs, including "Pinball Millionaire," which was recorded by both Hank Locklin and Gene O'Quin.

Willet began his recording career in 1950 with the Dallas-based Star Talent label. His first release, the self-penned "I'm a Tool Pusher from Snyder" (later changed to "Tool Pusher on a Rotary Rig"), was one of the songs with which he became most associated. In 1952 he recorded "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes." Released nationally on 4 Star Records, the song reached Number 1 on Billboard's country and western chart, and at one time there were four versions of "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes" in the C&W Top 10. Perry Como also took the song to the top of Billboard's pop chart.

At the height of his popularity, Willet was making regular guest appearances on the Big D Jamboree in Dallas, the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, and the Town Hall Party in Compton, California. Although he never had another hit to match "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes," he continued to write and record. He formed the Edmoral and Winston labels to release not only his own recordings but also those of area performers such as Dean Beard, Hoyle Nix, Curtis Potter, Darrell Rhodes, and Jimmy Seals. Willet even dabbled with the emerging rockabilly sounds of the day and recorded some sides under the name Telli W. Mils, the Fat Cat ("Telli W. Mils" is "Slim Willet" spelled backwards). In 1959 he released Texas Oil Patch Songs by Slim Willet, an album devoted to life in the oilfields and one of the earliest country music concept albums.

While continuing with his radio activities, Willet set up an advertising agency to handle local promotional ventures. In this capacity, he booked Elvis Presley's first appearance in Abilene in 1955. Willet was also a pioneer in live television on KRBC-TV, in addition to hosting the Big State Jamboree. The weekly variety-show format provided exposure for many area performers, including the young Larry Gatlin. Willet left his disc jockey job at KRBC in 1957 and joined radio station KNIT. In 1964 he became general manager of KCAD, one of the few all-country music radio stations in the state.

The combination of radio, recordings, and television made Willet well-known in the Abilene area. He apparently died of a heart attack on July 1, 1966, and was buried in Victor, Texas. He was elected to the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in 1994. He is also honored in the West Texas Music Hall of Fame.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Abilene Reporter–News, December 24, 1995. Dick Grant, "Slim Willet: Smell That Sweet Perfume," Rockin' Fifties, June 1998. Paul Kingsbury, ed., The Encyclopedia of Country Music: The Ultimate Guide to the Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).

Joe W. Specht

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Joe W. Specht, "MOORE, WINSTON LEE [SLIM WILLET]," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmocl), accessed August 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on October 2, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.