OCTOBER 21, 1965 THURSDAY
For three successive years, the Bill Black Combo was named ''Most Played'' group in America by Billboard magazine and ''Number 1 Combo'' by Cash Box, a magazine published predominately for jukebox operators. By 1962
the group had four gold records, ''Smokie (Parts 1 & 2)'', ''White Silver Sands'', and ''Josephine'', and a string of successful albums, including ''Sexy Jazz, Solid & Raunch'', and ''Movin'''. It was reported in the Press-Scimitar that
anything the combo released was given an automatic first pressing of 250,000. Bill reveled in the success, but the day-to-day business of looking after the group's interests, which increasingly involved television appearances and a worldwide touring
schedule, became a chore. In 1962 Bill gave up leadership of the group to Bob Tucker, who already had replaced Reggie Young.
For years, Bill had complained of headaches. His wife, Evelyn, thought it was from all the loud music and crowd noise, and the lack of sleep from being out on the road. In April
1965 he complained of pain across his temple and around his upper cheeks. Because he had not been out on the road recently, Evelyn talked him into going to the doctor.
''I thought it was his sinuses, and he did, too'', says Evelyn. ''I took him to a doctor we had been going to. He took X-rays of his head
and said would get back in tough with us. About four or five hours later, he called and said he couldn't get a good picture. It was like fog. He wanted him to go downtown to the neurological floor at Baptist Hospital.
Evelyn took Bill to the hospital, but the admitting nurse mistakenly assigned him to
the psychiatric floor. ''He's not crazy'', Evelyn told the nurse when she discovered the error. ''I told her the doctor did not say psychiatric ward, he said neurological ward'', says Evelyn. ''She threw a fit and charged me $100 for the time we
stayed there. I got the doctor's secretary to call her. I said I wasn't going to pay the $100''.
Finally, Evelyn got Bill admitted on the right floor. After running some tests, the doctor took Evelyn aside and told her the news was not good. They had found a tumor on the left side of his brain. ''We're going to have
to open his head to see'', the doctor said.
After the surgery,
the doctor came out into the waiting room to talk to Evelyn. The prognosis was not good. He told her the tumor was about the size of a pecan. ''I asked him if he got it all'', says Evelyn. ''He said they tried, but they had to take quite a bit
of his brain to get what they got''.
The doctor told her
they would have to operate again. For what reason, they weren't going to sew him up. They were going to leave what he called a ''floating incision''. Before sending Bill home from the hospital, they would wrap his head in bandages. After he told
Evelyn the bad news, the doctor broke down and wept. ' 'What a waste for someone so talented, he said.
When Bill had recovered from the effects of the anesthesia, and was able to leave the hospital, Evelyn took him home to recuperate. The doctor told her not to discuss the surgery with him. If she needed to talk to others, he said,
be sure to do it in another room where Bill wouldn't hear.
was devastated by the news. Bill was only thirty-nine years old. They had three children, Nancy and Louis, both teenagers, and Leigh Ann, who was a little over a year old. Bill had been her lover, best friend, and soulmate since she was sixteen. She could
not imagine life without him.
Over the next few weeks,
Bill seemed to improve. Evelyn nursed him and took care of his bandages. She noticed that when the pressure built up inside his head, the bandages pumped up and down with each beat of his heart. But before long, his behavior became erratic, if only for short
periods of time. One night he awakened and got out of bed while Evelyn was asleep. He leaped down the eight steps from their bedroom to the ground floor, at that time they lived in a tri-level house, and ran out the back door into the driveway. Evelyn awakened
when she heard him calling for his father. She ran outside and found Bill standing in his underwear. ''He was trying to find his daddy'', she says. ''But he had been dead for ten or twelve years''. The doctors had told her not to argue with Bill, no matter
what he said. With that in mind, she gently nudged him back toward the house. ''Bill, let's go back to bed'', she said. ''It's dark and your daddy's asleep. Let's not wake him up''. ''Well, okay'', Bill said, and went back into the house.
When Elvis Presley heard that Bill was ill, he went by to visit with them. He
took Evelyn aside, ''He said he was sorry about Bill and that if anything happened he would not go to the funeral so it would not turn into a circus'', says Evelyn. ''He said he'd come back after everything was over with''.
As soon as Scotty Moore heard about Bill's surgery, he called D.J. Fontana. They decided to meet in Memphis,
with D.J. driving up from Shreveport and Scotty driving over from Nashville. ''We met with Bill and had dinner with him'', says Scotty. ''He was his old jovial self and he looked great''. They left thinking Bill had everything under control. However, according
to Evelyn it was all an act for Scotty and D.J. Bill didn't want his friends to feel sorry for him. Even though neither she nor the doctors talked to Bill about the seriousness of his condition, she knew he was aware of everything.
By fall, Bill's condition worsened. The doctors had operated on him twice. They told
Evelyn that if they operated a third time, it would leave Bill a vegetable. The last week of his life, Bill lapsed into a semicoma. He didn't say much toward the end. He smiled at his wife Evelyn and squeezed her hand. On October 22, 1965, Evelyn and other
family members were sitting in the hospital room with Bill when the nurse looked in on them. They had been there about eight hours that day. The nurse suggested they to get something to eat. After eating, they returned to the room, but Bill Black was dead.
The funeral, they returned to the room, but Bill was dead. The
funeral was held at Bellevue Baptist Church, with burial in Forest Hill Cemetery. Scotty Moore and his wife, Bobbie went to the funeral with D.J. Fontana and his wife, Barbara. Scotty and D.J. were pallbearers. Afterward, they went out to Graceland to commiserate
with Elvis. Everyone was stunned by Bill's unexpected death. No one knew quite what to say.
OCTOBER 21, 1965 THURSDAY
two operations and lengthy hospital stays, Black died of a brain tumor at the age of thirty-nine. His death occurred during his third operation that doctors had hoped would eradicate the tumor once and for all. Black was buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis,
Tennessee. Elvis Presley was criticised for not attending the funeral, but he believed that his presence would turn it into a media frenzy. He decided instead to visit the family privately after the service to express his condolences. According to Louis Black,
Presley said, "If there's anything that y'all need, you just let me know and it's yours''.
Black's widow sold Bob Tucker and Larry Rogers both the right to use the name Bill Black's Combo. The band changed to country when it joined Columbia Records, and won Billboard's Country Instrumental Group of the Year award in
Dean Martin performs the Roger Miller hit ''King
Of The Road'' on his weekly NBC variety series, ''The Dean Martin Show''.
OCTOBER 22, 1965 FRIDAY
Ernest Tubb is named
to the Country Music Hall Of Fame during a ceremony at Nashville's Municipal Auditorium.
Fire breaks out in Tex Ritter's room at the Andrew Jackson Hotel in downtown Nashville. Ritter loses his guitar, several hunting rifles and new cowboy outfits made in England and Hong Kong.
OCTOBER 23, 1965 SATURDAY
Roy Acuff Jr. makes his Grand Ole Opry debut, introduced by his legendary father. On an encore, Junior reprises his daddy's classic ''Wabash
Elvis Presley receives a speeding ticket
in Memphis, Tennessee.
ABC's ''Shindig!'' welcomes The
Byrds, including Chris Hillman, who will go on to found The Desert Rose Band. The music show's lineup also features Dobie Gray, Delaney Bramlett and Glen Campbell.
OCTOBER 24, 1965 SUNDAY
Patti Page joins piano-comedian Victor Borge and clarinetist Benny Goodman on ''The Bell Telephone Hour''.
OCTOBER 25, 1965 MONDAY
Eddy Arnold recorded ''I Want To Go With You'' at RCA Studio B in Nashville, Tennessee.
OCTOBER 26, 1965 TUESDAY
The Beatles receive Membership of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire during a ceremony at London's Buckingham Palace. The group's recently released
''I Feel Fine'' becomes a country hit when it's remade by Sweethearts Of The Rodeo.
OCTOBER 27, 1965 WEDNESDAY
Arnold recorded ''The Last Word In Lonesome Is Me'' written by Roger Miller at Nashville's RCA Studio B.
Native American songwriter Peter LaFarge commits suicide by slashing his wrists in a Greenwich Village bathtub. At the time, Johnny Cash has
a country hit with the LaFarge-penned ''The Ballad Of Ira Hayes''.
OCTOBER 28, 1965 THURSDAY
Future country songwriter
Larry Henley appears on ABC's ''Shindig!'' as the lead singer for ''Bread And Butter'' band The Newbeats. Per usual, Glen Campbell plays guitar as a member of the house band.
Charlie Louvin goes back to the recording studio for the first time since the death of his brother and former duet partner, Ira Louvin. The session
includes Johnny Russell's ''Making Plans'', destined to become a hit for Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton.
OCTOBER 29, 1965 FRIDAY
The Who release ''My Generation''.
Ronnie Milsap marries Joyce Reeves.
OCTOBER 31, 1965 SUNDAY
Sandy Rogers, the adopted son of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, dies from choking on his own
vomit after an alcohol binge in Frankfurt, West Germany, where he was stationed with the Army.