Sunday, October 25, 2009

Driven to sing, duo lives on the road

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

They've been married for more than 25 years, but they've never settled down.
'It's a gypsy life for us,' said Jay Roy.
He and his wife, Tammy, have lived in a bus since their wedding day.
'Well not the same bus,' Tammy said. 'The first one was a green school bus with yellow curtains.'
The next one was a Greyhound, and then they graduated to a series of RVs rigged with cable TV and Internet.
'No matter where we are, we're always home,' Tammy said.
And that's good for business. The couple's an award-winning musical duo, always on the way to the next gig.
The couple's in Bell County through the end of November for a series of performances in Temple, Belton and Moody. 'We have a lot of friends in Central Texas,' Jay said. 'Even further out. People from Waco, Gatesville and San Antonio will drive to Belton to see us.'
The Roys consider this area homebase because of the two acres of land they own in Belton.
'There's no house,' Jay said. 'But it's got a nice pavilion and hook-up for the RV.'
The U.S. Army is what brought Jay, a boy born and raised in Rumford, Maine, to Texas.
'I was drafted and sent to Fort Hood by JFK on April 10, 1964,' Jay said.
By 1978, he had met Tammy, and the pair discovered they had a common interest of music.
Jay already knew how to sing and dance. He was the son of a 'champion fiddler lumberjack.'
'So I've been on the stage since I was 5, singing and dancing with my brother and dad,' Jay said. 'They'd throw nickels and pennies at me, and I figured out pretty quick I wanted to be an entertainer.'
Tammy, on the other hand, had no musical training. But she loved the art.
'He taught me how to play guitar,' Tammy said. 'First amp and then bass.'
Together, they started performing in Fort Hood for officers' clubs. They said their fans were quick to dote on Jay as 'a doctor of bar room music.'
Their reputation as a musical duo was born in 1982 - the year they were married, the year they hit the road.
The couple drove and sang their way from one end of the United States to the other and all through Canada. Their performance venues were opry houses, restaurants, bars and 'get-together halls.'
And when they made it back to Belton, they'd 'turn around and go back a different away.'
Just like the road, life for the Roys had its ups and downs.
'There were tough days,' Tammy said. 'There were times when we were broke and needed help. But our families supported us, and were always able to pay them back.'
It took several years for money not to be a worry.
'Now's the gravy time,' Tammy said. 'We're just living, and driving and happy to be singing.'
They play and sing music of all sorts, from country and western to light jazz, the blues and rock-and-roll.
'We even do some South American, French, Spanish and ethnic music,' Jay said. 'We do a lot of stuff and a lot of the time we play what the crowd requests.'
Their dedication and enthusiasm has earned them a lot of recognition.
In 1989, they were featured on the CBS 'This Morning' show with Harry Smith and Paula Zahn on a segment called 'RVing in America.'
Jay sang 'The Wanderer' throughout the piece, and he and Tammy were shown playing their guitars on the porch of their RV, which was parked in Phoenix, Ariz.
And in the last two years, the couple's been winning awards quicker than they can get from one city to the next.
In 2008, FAME, or Families Advocating for Moral Entertainment, named Jay as named Musician of the Year and presented Tammy with director's award. This year, the group named Jay best musician and best guitarist while Tammy was the 2009 recipient of the FAME award for Bassist of the Year, Vocalist of the Year and Song of the Year for Jen Buckner's 'On My Father's Side.'
And last September the couple was added to the Gatesville Country Music Hall of Fame, as the award states, 'for their contribution to music industry.'
'It's been exciting,' Tammy said. 'We've got to grow with our fans.'
As an example, she mentioned a group from Prince Edward Island.
'We've been going there since 1978,' Tammy said. 'They were 19 and so were we. But now they're as old as we are. It's kind of a weird feeling because they're people we didn't see all the time but always knew about.'
And of course, there's Jay's roadside barber's chair.
In addition a good set of pipes and guitar pick, Jay's got a barber's license.
'Well, it's expired these days,' Jay said.
'But he sure can cut hair,' Tammy said. 'He cuts mine.'
When the couple's camped at a RV park, Jay said he'll haul out his barber's chair and open a roadside salon.
'It gives the senior citizens there a chance for a cheap hair cut,' Jay said. 'And it gives me a little bit of soda money for my pocket.'
He says his patrons are always happy with his work.
Billie Lam of Belton can attest to the song man's stylish side. A fan of Jay's hair cuts, Lam says it's a shame the Roys aren't in town more often.
But that's not way of Tammy and Jay. They like to explore.
'Sometimes people will tell us they want to pack their bags and come with us, but I have to tell them this kind of life isn't for everyone.'
Just like other jobs, the perks come and go.
'A lot days there's no shows and nothing exciting going on,' Tammy said. 'It's just us and driving and looking around, having daily life in the RV. That kind of thing has to appeal to you. It just happens to be the best thing for us.'
Her husband put his arm around her as he nodded.
'The only time I'm happy is when I'm on my way out,' Jay said.

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