Monday, April 23, 2018

Rex Rinehart (Lonnie Lillie?) on Yucca 117


Rex Rinehart - Poor Wanderin' Boy (Rinehart) / What a Shame (Rinehart) (Yucca 117)

"Poor Wanderin' Boy"



"What a Shame"



Rex Rinehart and Lonnie Lillie are two hopelessly lost ciphers of the Texas vinyl netherworld. No information has ever been published about either, no photos exist, no recollections. Nothing. Spud Goodall, the guitarist on"Truck Driver's Special" (Marathon 5003), Lonnie Lillie's sole release, was tracked down and interviewed, but he had no memory of the singer or the session.

Were Rex Rinehart and Lonnie Lillie the same person?

Rinehart released three singles on the Alamogordo, New Mexico Yucca label in 1959-60, and one further single on the Bulletin label (with a Nashville address) in 1961. His name appears in a few West Texas newspapers from this period. He's one of the opening acts for the Stonewall Jackson-Shirley Ray-Little Jimmy Dickens show at the Amarillo City Auditorium on October 13, 1964.


The Amarillo Globe-Times, October 13, 1964.

While going through Charlie Fitch's files in 1998, I was surprised to discover that Lonnie Lillie had unsuccessfully auditioned for Sarg. Charlie had retained a letter Lonnie had written him in 1956 from Hobbs, New Mexico, asking that he send any copies of the Marathon single he still had to him COD. A striking aspect about this letter was the unusual font used.


Lonnie Lillie letter to Charlie Fitch (Sarg Records), November 30, 1956. Click to enlarge. 

The memory of this letter came back when I picked up a copy of the Rex Rinehart single on Yucca, which contained a typewritten note using the same font. The similar vocal pitch between the Lillie single and this one also made me begin to suspect that Lonnie had changed his name to the flashier "Rex Rinehart" when he moved from the Central Texas area to West Texas. More research is needed, however. 


Rex Rinehart promo note to disc jockeys for Yucca 117.

Someone named Lonnie L. Lillie died in an automobile accident near Luling on February 25, 1965. The article that ran in the Austin American noted that he was a resident of Wadsworth -- a small town near the coast -- but was the son of a San Marcos family. Lillie left behind a widow and four step-children. No mention is made of a music career. He was 28.


The death of Lonnie Lillie. Austin American, February 27, 1965. 

Admittedly, all this is highly speculative. But I suspect that the person who died near Luling in 1965 was the same person who recorded "Truck Driver's Special," and later four more singles under the pseudonym Rex Rinehart. No hard evidence exists to connect these dots, but perhaps a relative of Mr. Lillie or Mr. Rinehart will surface to confirm or deny these suspicions.

UPDATE (4/26/2018):
Forrest Rex Rinehart (1924-1969) -- his real name -- was a singer from Iowa. According to his obituary in the Moravia, Iowa, Union, he died in Arkansas, and lived in Iowa his entire life except the last ten years in Tennessee and Arkansas. The obit does not mention a music career. It was probably this artist who was on tour with Stonewall Jackson in 1964, in Amarillo as well as the rest of the country.

The Odessa American reported (Dec. 7, 1959) that a local resident named Rex Rinehart had a typewriter stolen from his car while it was parked at the Silver Saddle night club. Could this be the Iowa singer, or someone else named Rex Rinehart?


Lonnie Lillie "Truck Driver's Special" (Marathon 5003)

Rex Rinehart "Going Back (To My Baby)" (Bulletin 1002)


Rex Rinehart: "More Than Me" (Bulletin 1002)