Famous Names In Wichita Falls – Our Top Five Legendary Wichitans
Their names are known by many, but how much do you really know about them? Maybe you've seen their images, heard their voices on radio or even seen them in action on your television, but you didn't really know who they were. Here, we offer a brief description of five individuals, each famous in one way or another who call or have called Wichita Falls their home.
Over the last few years, I’ve talked with many people who held fond memories of this guy. My mom recalled meeting him in his days doing radio in a storefront on Indiana Ave. Joe Tom White has shared countless tales of the man. One of my distant cousins was on the scene when he broadcast from a car mounted on top of a pole. The man I’m referring to was born Thomas Garrett in Dallas in 1939. But anyone who remembers radio in Wichita Falls in the late 1950’s knew him as Snuff Garrett. Famous for his stunts, such as spending a week in that Renault on the pole and staying awake for a marathon-run of over 120 hours, Snuff endeared himself to the youth of Texoma. During his time at radio station KSYD-990 (which, by the way, went to become KNIN-990), Snuff clearly made a lasting impression on lots of people. DJ’s like himself paved the way for many others. It’s rumored that George Carlin replaced Snuff for a short time on KSYD shortly after Snuff departed for the west coast. And yes, I am referring to the George Carlin. Snuff went on to become a successful record producer and got to rub elbows with everyone from Gene Autry to Cher to Burt Reynolds.
Snuff was also a good friend of Buddy Holly in the 1950’s and did a tribute show on air after Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson died in a plane crash in Iowa in 1959. Listen to the audio below, which gives you a glimpse into radio in Wichita Falls a half century ago!
Snuff Garrett Buddy Holly Tribute (15 min 26 sec)
When you talk Wichita Falls radio, there is one voice that has been a constant presence on the air for over 50 years: Joe Tom White. I’ve worked with him for nearly a decade. For over twenty years, his voice boomed over the airwaves via KWFT-620. After a brief stint at KGTM-990 he and his longtime broadcast partner Mike Campbell spent five years on air at KAUZ-TV. Since 1995, he has dominated the early morning radio dial from KWFS-1290. Think the gun shows, you think Joe Tom. Think T-O Fair, you think Joe Tom. Think Stanley’s BBQ, you think Joe Tom. Does he have any exclusive ownership of these things? Not literally. But Joe Tom’s voice and personality have helped make each of them successful. Joe Tom is as much a master marketer as he is a radio personality. It’s the secret to at least some of his success: that ability to cast the line and reel in the fish every time. Born in Vernon in 1939, he first turned up on-air at KWFT in 1959. Uncle Sam took him over for a couple of years in the early 60’s and still he managed to be on the radio. He produced, hosted and syndicated a daily outdoors show to more than thirty radio stations across Texas and Oklahoma during that time. This was a much more labor-intensive feat in the days before the Internet, mp3’s and CD’s. But it worked and it worked very, very well. He and Mike Campbell have co-hosted the ‘Rise and Shine’ radio show since the move to KWFS in the mid-90s. And I have no doubt he’d do it for another 50 years if he could. His local celebrity status is clear. But the fact is, the guy you hear on the radio is the same guy you’ll meet at a gun show, the fair, Stanley’s or anywhere else you happen to run into him. There’s no put-on. No ego trip. He is who he is. And that, too, is part of his success. He’s as real as they get and THAT is something the people of Texoma truly appreciate. He really should write a book. It’s a guaranteed best seller.
Among the flood of radio personalities that have graced the airwaves of Texoma over the years, a guy with the nickname ‘Mad’ was a huge part of the music scene in more ways than one. Joe “Mad” Martin has operated All Star Disc Jockey service in the Falls since 1975. He also has ‘spun the hits’ for several stations. His first gig in the Falls was on “The Mighty 1290”, KTRN-AM (now News Talk 1290; you should listen, the Program Director is really cool). He’s been on-air at KNIN-AM 990 and QV-103. His voice and his on-air presence just oozed cool all over rock radio in this town. His personality is what made music radio so much fun around here in the 70’s and 80’s. He’s obviously taken his profession seriously, as is evidenced by his enduring popularity. He was inducted into the Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in 2003—a high honor. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone from this area who did NOT know who Mad Martin is. And anyone who’s met him will agree; he’s just a regular guy. He’s got almost as many entertaining tales from the business as Joe Tom White does! He’s a successful entrepreneur, a well-loved personality and a genuinely friendly person. He’s taken stage with some big names over the years, but seems to have remained as down to earth as any man I’ve met. Although he’s no longer doing radio, you cannot have a discussion about radio personalities without including Mad Martin in the discussion. He, along with Joe Tom and “Snuffy”, have more than earned a place in the history of Texoma broadcasting. I spent a few minutes recently visiting one-on-one with Joe Martin. Listen to the interview below:
Mike Hendren's Interview with Joe 'Mad' Martin
Indy Car racing just has never gotten the respect it deserves in my opinion. Open wheel racing isn’t as hot as NASCAR, I know. But so few people under the age of 50 in our town realize that one of the true legends of the sport called Wichita Falls home. Thousands of you drive over an expressway named in his honor everyday and don’t even know why it bears the name. According to Wikipedia, Lloyd Ruby raced in the USAC Championship Car series in the 1958-1977 seasons, with 177 career starts, including every Indianapolis 500 race during 1960-1977. He finished in the top ten 88 times, with 7 victories. His best Indy finish was 3rd in 1964. In 1966 he led the Indy 500 for 68 laps. How’s that for stats? Born in Wichita Falls in 1928, he’s the first professional race car drivers I remember meeting. I don’t remember exactly where I met him, but I remember my uncle walking up and shaking hands and telling me “this is Mr. Lloyd Ruby”. Later, I was schooled on just exactly whom he was. But he never seemed to enjoy the celebrity status that he should have at home. Years later, I was at a restaurant in Austin with a couple friends and was introduced to the man who owned the place. When I said I was from Wichita Falls his first reaction was “ah, the hometown of the great Lloyd Ruby!” I guess you just have to get out of town to be a star sometimes. He had seen Lloyd run at Indy a couple of times and had and autographed photo on the wall. Our brief introduction led to a half hour discussion about all things racing and chiefly about Lloyd Ruby. In 2005 Ruby received the Bruton Smith Legends Award at the Texas Motor Sports Hall of Fame. And in 2008 he was inducted into the Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame. I got to shake hands with him one last time just a few months before he passed away in 2009. And I think if I’d asked him he would have said ‘yes, I’d like one more shot at Indy’.
I’ve done two different radio broadcasts with Eddie Hill as a guest. I’ve held a dozen conversations with Eddie and his wife Ercie over the last few years. Each time I talk to Eddie, I learn something new about the man without him even telling me anything specific to him. I’ve heard people refer to him as a wild man, insane, a super-hero and great friend. The fact is, being in radio and racing do have one thing in common: you do have to be a little bit crazy to do either one, but crazy in a fun-loving, I-don’t-mind-getting-scratched-up-a-little kind of way. That said racing is definitely the more dangerous of the two. Eddie Hill has proven that fear just does not enter into his thinking. He held an NHRA record for the largest improvement in the elapsed time in 1960— he drove the quarter mile in 8.84 seconds. My head spins just thinking that fast. Motorcycles, drag boats-Eddie Hill raced everything but thoroughbreds. In 1982, his top fuel hydroplane (a really fast boat) set the world's record for a quarter mile water drag at Chochilla, CA—229.00 mph. That record made it into the Guiness Book of World Records and held the spot for a decade! That very boat is on display at the motorcycle shop Eddie and Ercie opened in downtown Wichita Falls in 1966, Eddie Hill’s Fun Cycles.