BUNKY KEELS AND THE BLUE BOYS 

by Frank C. Anderson

One of the Blue Boys died recently. Thomas "Bunky" Keels died on November 29, 2004 in Madison, Tennessee. He left behind a wife and two sons.

Through the years, Jim Reeves hired a lot of musicians for his Blue Boys band. Before they were Blue Boys, though, Jim called his band the Wagon Masters. As has been the case with country music bands all along, including The Wagon Masters and The Blue Boys, there was turnover: some musicians quit the band and some were let go. Steel guitar players came and went until Jim took the steel guitar sound out of his road show. Several bass players and drummers moved in and out Jim's band. There was more than one electric lead guitar player, but Leo Jackson is the one fans remember because he served the longest with Jim, and he was the best. Of course, Dean Manuel was Jim's piano player and road manager.

What a lot of people may not know is that Jim hired Bunky Keels to play electric organ for The Blue Boys. What Jim himself didn't know when he hired him, according to Leo, was that Bunky also played the saxophone. Bunky apparently was a talented guy.

Leo has some wonderful stories to tell about Bunky and The Blue Boys. Leo says that Bunky worked with The Blue Boys on two separate occasions, first during Jim's lifetime, and then again after Jim was killed when The Blue Boys toured North America on their own.

Leo has agreed to share his memories for a future article for the Fan Club magazine which will focus on Bunky Keels and The Blue Boys. We can't fit all of Leo's memories of The Blue Boys into a single article (maybe not even a single book!), so this time we've asked Leo to tell us about Bunky and The Blue Boys.

In the meantime, we hope you will enjoy some rare photographs.  The on -stage photo is quite rare in that it shows members of The Blue Boys some fans may have never seen. Perhaps more significantly it shows Bunky Keels playing saxophone behind Jim Reeves. Many fans may find it difficult to imagine a saxophone player in The Blue Boys band, but Bunky Keels was there. This particular photo was taken in late 1963 at the Veteran's Hospital in Denver, Colorado.

Roy Aldridge on electric bass, Thomas "Bunky" Keels on saxophone, Jim  Reeves, Vic from Vincenens, Ind.  on drums, George "Leo" Jackson on electric lead guitar, and Dockie "Dean" Manuel on piano.

These two photos are RCA publicity shots of The Blue Boys taken after Jim's death, and Bunky is in both.

      Jimmy, Leo, Bunky, and Bud                   Bud, Leo, Bunky, and Jimmy 

 Jimmi Orr on drums; Bud Logan, bass; Bunky Keels, piano; and Leo Jackson, guitar


So, if we've kindled your interest about this future article, you might consider becoming a member of The Jim Reeves Fan Club so you can read it in the Fan Club magazine. Contact Arie den Dulk for details.