By Peggy Browning Pioneer Sentinel
When Raymond “Eoogie” Edwards passed from this life in 2007 at the age of 86, he left a legacy of fine fiddle music and happy memories. Edwards was a well known and popular area musician and fiddler from Clay County who entertained North Texas audiences and music lovers for more than 70 years.
His legacy was honored Saturday May 5, when he was posthumously inducted into the Cowtown Society of Western Music’s Heroes Hall of Fame during the organization’s 14th annual Swing Fest in Mineral Wells.
Edwards, who grew up on a farm in south Clay County, was born into a family of accomplished musicians on September 19, 1921. His father, George Edwards, played the fiddle and his mother, Ruth, played the guitar as did his older brother, Loyd.
While teenagers, the Edwards brothers performed at house dances where friends and neighbors gathered, rolled back the rugs and moved the furniture to dance to popular tunes. They formed the Post Oak Fiddle Band in 1939. By the time the brothers graduated high school in 1941, they were already popular, well respected musicians.
During World War II, Loyd served in the military and Eoogie and his young bride, Emogene Lumpkin, worked in defense plants in Fort Worth and California. When they returned home after the war, they gathered their old friends Lloyd Cooley and Lawrence Haberman and resumed playing their style of western swing music at dances and rodeos.
Cooley played the bass fiddle and Haberman played piano while Raymond and Loyd went back to their positions of fiddle and guitar players.
Eoogie was the band’s anchor, playing breakdowns and fiddle licks that earned him the respect of area musicians and the reputation of a being a master fiddler.
Square dancing flourished as a pastime during the late 1940’s through the 1950’s and the Post Oak Fiddle Band was one of the most popular square dance bands in the Wichita Falls area. The band soon became an essential part of the square dance scene.
In the late 1950’s, the group disbanded due to growing family obligations and other commitments, but Eoogie’s interest in playing western swing music never waned. In 1967 the Knights of Columbus officials in Windthorst and Scotland approached him about playing for dances to raise money for their organizations.
Eoogie obliged and formed the western swing band, Post Oak, by recruiting his daughter Susan to play bass and sing vocal selections. Other original band members were the Gosler family: Verla and her sons, Kerry and Tommy.
Over the years, Edwards played with other legendary area musicians. They included his brother Loyd and Bill Adams, both of whom played guitar, Clint Cozart of Buffalo Springs, Brady Bowen, Bobby Boatright, and Leon Gibbs all of whom were fiddlers.
One young guitar player, Kenny Mayo, joined the band near its beginning and stayed. Kenny and Susan married in 1969 and he became a permanent member of the band. After their marriage, Edwards always had a rhythm section at every gig.
Edwards continued to play his fiddle for 40 years with the band he formed in 1967. Although his eyesight failed in his later years, he still performed breakdowns and fiddle licks for organizations, groups and dances until shortly before his death in 2007.
In all those years, first with the Post Oak Fiddle Band and later with Post Oak, he missed only two engagements. The first one time was when his back went out prior to a New Year’s Eve dance and the other when he entered hospice care.
Although some things inevitably changed over 70 years of performances, two things remained constant for Edwards: his love of fiddle music and his love of playing it.
Today his daughter Susan and son-in-law, Kenny still continue to play at the old venues as well as new ones with the Post Oak band. Sometimes they recruit their own daughters Mandy and Marly for vocal performances.
Now almost five years after his death, Raymond “Eoogie” Edwards’ legacy of western swing music lives and his band plays on.