The Civic Lubbock, Inc. Board is pleased to announce the upcoming inductions into the West Texas Walk of Fame for 2017.
The honorees are: James "J.T." Braxton, Thomas Braxton and Johnny Ray Watson. The induction ceremony will take place at 7:00pm on Thursday, October 19, 2017 in the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center Theater located at 1501 Mac Davis Lane.
Musician and music educator James "J.T." Braxton was born in Tulsa, OK on September 18, 1919. His father, who was an elementary school principal, sang in the choir so James was surrounded by education and music. He began playing the saxophone and violin at an early age. In his teens, he felt a deep passion for music as he enjoyed the big bands of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Chick Webb, Ella Fitzgerald and many others as they toured on Route 66. Since he was under-aged, young James even crawled through an AC vent to hear his favorite saxophonist, Lester Young. Braxton attended the historic Tuskegee Institute where he joined the school's big band, The Tuskegee Melody Barons. He took a sabbatical after two years and went to the East Coast where he performed with various jazz bands in Philadelphia, New York and Atlantic City. He also performed and toured with the famed Russell Jacquet Band. James enlisted in the Army during World War II, served in the South Pacific and played in the US Military Band. He finished his degree at Wylie College in Marshall, Texas. During those years, he toured extensively with the Wiley Collegians, which included his brother and future brother-in-law. He went on to attend the University of Nebraska, Tyler College and the University of Denver, where he earned his master's degree in music. The Braxton's moved to Lubbock in 1960. James worked with his brother-in-law Roy Roberts to build great band and orchestra programs that became widely recognized through Texas. As an orchestra teacher, Braxton taught at E. C. Struggs, Dunbar, Alderson, Bozeman, Atkins, and many other schools. He kept up a hectic performance schedule with the Roy Roberts Combo, the JT Braxton Band and several other dance bands. He also played with the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra in the 1970's under the direction of William A. Harrod. James Braxton has been a favorite on Wayman Tisdale's Smooth Jazz Cruise, often joining his son, Tom, on stage. Braxton's influence as a music educator has been far reaching. Many of his former students have gone on to become music teachers, orchestra or band directors and even professional musicians. He retired in 1985 after 35 years of service with the Lubbock Independent School District; however he continued to perform and serve as a mentor for more than 30 years after his retirement from LISD. Today, he continues to serve as a member of Mt. Vernon's United Methodist Church where he has been the church's violinist for over 50 years.
Composer, producer and musician Thomas Braxton has been thrilling audiences of all ages from coast to coast and abroad for nearly two decades with his distinct melodic sound. He has been referred to as "one of smooth jazz's most prolific saxophonists." Tom grew up in Lubbock, Texas and was valedictorian of his 1979 class at Dunbar High School. As a young boy having a dream of becoming a jazz musician, he fortunately had a direct link to this creative art form through his dad, James ("J.T.") Braxton. "I have to credit my dad with connecting me to jazz at an early age. He introduced me to all the jazz legends: Lester Young, Miles, Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Stitt, Getz, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, and many more. He would share how he had heard Count Basie and Duke's original bands and the great Ella Fitzgerald. He put the alto sax in my hands in the 6th grade, after I had been playing piano for two years." After graduating summa cum laude from Texas Tech University in 1983, Tom moved to Austin to pursue a career in music. He has recorded nine albums including The Other Side (2016 Sanae/Braxton collaboration), The Next Chapter (2014), Endless Highway (2009), and Imagine This (2007) on the Pacific Coast Jazz label and Bounce (2005) on the Rendezvous label. His latest release, The Other Side, is a collaborative project with label mate Robert Sanae. Braxton's music can be heard on the radio and television airwaves nationwide and his albums have hit numerous jazz charts including Billboard, RadioWave, SmoothJazz.com, Groove Jazz Music, Capital Jazz Radio and Amazon. He toured extensively with Wayman Tisdale for 17 years, also serving as Musical Director; has been a frequent featured performer on the Smooth Jazz Cruise since 2005; has performed as a headliner on the first Smooth Jazz Europe Festival in the Netherlands and the Nile Gold Jazz Safari in Uganda; was a featured performer on the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia and the Stanbic Jazz Festival in Accra, Ghana. Tom has toured with Earl Klugh in South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique and Japan as well as with Keiko Matsui in Russia, Eastern Europe, Malaysia and Japan. Braxton has shared the stage with many great artists including Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Peter White, Brian Culbertson, Marcus Miller, Bob James, Kirk Whalum, Jonathan Butler, Jeff Golub as well as Aretha Franklin and Luther Vandross. Over the years, he has been featured in media and publications such as JAZZIZ, Smooth Jazz News, The Saxophone Journal, CBS's The Saturday Early Show, BET's Jazz Central, Ugandan Television and DayStar Television Network.
Gospel singer, Johnny Ray Watson was born July 3, 1950 in Lorenzo, Texas. His singing career began at the age of 8 years old, singing in the children's choir at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in his hometown. At the age of 10, he formed his first singing group, "The Thrillers" with his two cousins. They won second place in a 1959 Lubbock talent show singing "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." His parents scraped together enough money to by an old upright piano and Johnny Ray took piano lessons for about 2 weeks and decided lessons were not for him after getting his knuckles repeatedly tapped. He then taught himself how to play by ear. If he could hear the melody, he could usually play the song. Watson, as he was affectionately called by his wife Brinda, joined the high school choir for a short time, although not of his choosing; being 6'7" tall, basketball won out in the end. Johnny Ray never had any formal voice training, but the little he did get, he credited to Mr. Harlan Reddell. Watson attended college at McMurray in Abilene, Texas and DJ'd at a club called the "Sound Barrier" where he would spin records and sing along with the artists. He was also a member of a band called "Speedlimit 2020" and they would travel to other colleges and perform. Watson ended up dropping out of school and moving to Dayton, Ohio where he continued to sing in night clubs and bands. In 1972, he moved back to Lorenzo where he formed a family group called the "Soul Savers" and they traveled all over the Panhandle spreading the gospel in the African-American churches. In February of 1974, he wrote, arranged and recorded his first single, "This Man", at Caldwell Studios in Lubbock. It sold 100 copies. In 1975, he recorded his first album, "The Straight and Narrow Path" at Caldwell Studios under the Telephone Records label. Several of the songs were written and arranged by Watson himself. In 1977, he recorded his last album, "Gonna Be A Glorious Day", at Caldwell Studios under the record label Pure Love. Watson went on to record five other albums, "It's Beginning To Rain", "Johnny Ray Sings the Old Hymns a New Way", "It is Heaven", "Music that Heals the Heart", and "I Love This Story". In September of 1975, Johnny Ray shared the role of "Joe" with Terry Cook in Texas Tech's Theatre production of "Showboat." He also played the role of a Greek slave in Trinity Church's production, "The Cell". Watson once again had the opportunity to play the role of Joe in "Showboat" at the Spring Mountain Ranch's Super Summer Theatre '97 in Las Vegas. During his career, Johnny Ray Watson was invited to sing and appear with the Billy Graham Crusade on several occasions in the mid-1990's, performing for millions and the former President of South Africa, F.W. de Klerk, invited Watson to perform at his home in 1989. Over the years, Johnny Ray shared the stage with Andrae Crouch, Cliff Barrows, Chuck Swindell, Joe Aldrich, Shirley Caesar, Larry Gatlin, Billy Davis, Jr. and Marilyn McCoo, just to name a few. His itinerary included appearances in Japan, South Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, Canada, and the Middle East as well as across the U.S. Johnny Ray Watson's Ministry lasted 42 years. He passed away January 21, 2014. Johnny Ray will be inducted posthumously during the 2017 Walk of Fame Induction Ceremony. His wife, Brinda, will be accepting the honor on his behalf.