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South Texas Living

Historic ‘Top Hands’ bus now parked in Adkins

Historic ‘Top Hands’ bus now parked in Adkins

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April 24, 2013
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ADKINS -- After surviving close to 15 years parked outside the Broken Spoke in Austin, the 1948 Flxble bus belonging to iconic Texas swing band the “Texas Top Hands” has found a home, for now.

The rusty, deteriorating old bus was supposed to get rehabbed years ago, according to Ray Sczepanik, the “Top Hands” manager and owner of this Texas music treasure. Instead of restoration, the bus turned into storage and was falling into disrepair. After a bit of trouble trying to recover his property amicably, Ray had no choice but to haul his property back home on a quiet Sunday morning.

Holding the title in his hand, Ray, a music legend in his own right, defended his actions at a press conference held April 17 at Texas Pride Barbecue.

“We had a mutual good-faith agreement in hopes that it [the bus] would get restored. After completion I was told that the bus would be open to the public to see how the band traveled. I loaned the bus [to the Broken Spoke] in hopes of restoration. But it was used for storage,” said the “Top Hands” manager.

The final straw was when the name “Texas Top Hands” was replaced from the nameplate at the front of the bus. Ray was disappointed in the lack of reverence to this shrine of Texas swing and stepped up his efforts to recover his property in late 2012.

As for the bus, it now sits under the 17,000-square-foot pavilion at Texas Pride Barbecue just outside of San Antonio. The barbecue complex has quickly been caught in the crossfire of bus fans accusing the restaurant of “stealing” the bus from the Austin location.

“I don’t feel good about what has happened,” said Texas Pride owner Tony Talanco. “For about five years, I’ve known that Ray was concerned about it being out in the elements. It should be taken to the Country Music Hall of Fame. If not there, we’ll create a 501(c)3 led by Ray to ensure it’s restored. The fact is the ‘Top Hands’ were the last band to play with Hank Williams before he died; this is history. I just want the right thing to be done.”

It wouldn’t be uncommon in the late ’40s, ’50s, and later to see the “Top Hands” tour bus rolling down the highway to the next honky tonk.

“Me and Doug Sahm [of ‘The Sir Douglas Quintet” and ‘Texas Tornadoes’ fame] used to see that old bus roll down the street and it inspired us to be in music,” said Texas country great Augie Meyers. “I used to see the bus sitting outside in Austin and think it sure is deteriorating. I’m glad it’s back here. Tony and Texas Pride have a reputation of taking care of Texas musicians.”

At their prime, the “Top Hands,” starred in the 1948 Western, “Echo Ranch.” Their resumé includes performances with stars Tex Ritter, Hopalong Cassidy, and Gene Autry. In 1992, the group was inducted in the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame. The group is credited as being the longest active country band in America, having started in 1945. The group is still performing today.

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