Nat Fleming would be the first one to tell you that he doesn’t mind the spotlight. The Byers native has been behind the microphone hundreds of times announcing rodeos, hosting television and radio shows, leading his country and western band, emceeing events and handing out tributes to others. But the boot was on the other foot May 5 when he was honored by the Cowtown Society of Western Music during its 14th Annual Swing Fest.
“I’m usually the master of ceremonies at these things,” Fleming said. “I’m not used to honors bestowed on me. I like to see others get them.”
For his contributions to western music in the North Texas area, the CSWM chose Fleming as one of 13 to be inducted as a Living Hero in a daylong celebration of western music at the Holiday Hills Country Club in Mineral Wells.
Fleming is well known in North Texas and beyond for more than 50 years of announcing rodeos, including the Clay County Pioneer Reunion. He is well known for owning the Cow Lot western wear store and he made a name for himself in the boot business for his knack of finding the best fit for his customers. His boot savvy made him a frequent guest of country greats such as Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams Sr., Little Jimmy Dickens and others in Nashville.
But it is for his contributions to popularizing country and western music in North Texas through television and radio that the CSWM decided to honor Fleming as a Living Hero. Larry Lange, vice president of the CSWM, said the group of approximately 1,000 members wanted to make sure that those from this part of the country get the proper recognition for contributing to the popularity of country and western music.
“His induction as a Living Hero was for his involvement in western music and broadcasting and getting it all started in Wichita Falls,” Lange said. “He’s been an inspiration to many of the musicians playing here today. We just wanted to honor him for his talents and abilities.”
Fleming is in good company. Past honorees of the group include Bob Wills, Merle Haggard and North Texan Eddie McAlvain.
Fleming hosted “The Nat Fleming Show,” a 30-minute television show Monday-Friday on KFDX from 1953 until the early 1960s. On the show, Fleming’s band of Pee Wee Stewart, Elmer Lawrence, Buck White, Pappy Stapp and Tommy Bruce would play popular country-western songs. Fleming and Lawrence are still close.
Then Saturday mornings, Fleming broadcast the “Horn Honkin’ Show” live from The Cow Lot on KNIN radio. Fleming would shoot the breeze with customers and those who drove to the Cow Lot just to chat, play country music records and give doses of Fleming wisdom.
“I think more people remember me for that than anything,” Fleming said. “I still have people come up to me and talk about the radio show.”
The CSWM presented Fleming with a plaque, medallion and a proclamation signed by Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Fleming graduated from Byers High School in 1938 after attending the Valentine School between Charlie and Byers. He and his wife of 56 years, Tawana, live near Byers. He will be 91 June 30.
This is not Fleming’s first musical honor. In 2001, he was given the “Legends of Western Swing, Entertainer” honor at the Legends of Western Swing Festival. That did not make him any more comfortable receiving the CSWM honor.
“I don’t receive honors well,” he said. “If I’ve made others happy, that was enough.”