Dean Beard, rockabilly pioneer, was born in Santa Anna, Texas, on August 31, 1935, the son of Raymond and Opal (Baker) Beard. He was sometimes called the "West Texas Wild Man" because of his frantic stage presence and piano-playing style.
Beard, a lifelong resident of Coleman County, moved to Coleman in 1953 and graduated from Coleman High School. While in high school he started doing session work in Abilene for Key City media mogul and record producer Slim Willet. He briefly attended Tarleton State College but soon opted to pursue a music career. He made his first recordings in 1955 in Abilene with the Fox Four Sevens. The same year he shared the stage with Elvis Presley whose star was rising. The two became friends, and they spent a day together in Coleman where Presley's Cadillac created quite a stir.
Intent on duplicating Presley's success, Beard cut two demo sessions in Memphis for Sun Records in 1956, but Sam Phillips decided not to sign him. One of the demos was "Rakin' and Scrapin'," which Beard recorded again the next year in Abilene for Willet's Edmoral label. His popular West Texas band, Dean Beard and the Crew Cats, included area teenagers Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts, who later became a successful pop duo. A tenor sax- and piano-driven pounder, "Rakin' and Scrapin'," was leased to Atlantic Records for national distribution but failed to break out. A high energy follow-up on Atlantic, "Party Party," suffered a similar fate.
In 1958 Beard, along with Seals and Crofts, joined the Champs (of "Tequila" fame) and journeyed to the West Coast. After recording several sessions with the group for Challenge Records, he was fired and returned to Texas in 1959. Beard continued to record for Willet and then for a variety of other small labels throughout the 1960s. He remained a popular live act into the 1970s, despite having to battle crippling arthritis, the results of an auto accident that broke his back. He died in Coleman on April 4, 1989. He was honored by induction into the West Texas Music Hall of Fame .
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Abilene Reporter-News, April 11, 1989. Coleman Chronicle and Democrat-Voice, April 6, 1989. Clay Glover, "The Legend of Dean Beard," Rockin' Fifties, June 1994. Wayne Russell, "Dean Beard," New Kommotion 23 (1980).
Genres (Rock and Roll, Rhythm and Blues, and Rockabilly)
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Joe W. Specht,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 20, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
November 27, 2006
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 1, 2018
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: