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Terry LaVerne Stafford

Born: November 22, 1941- Hollis, OK
Died: March 17,1996 - Amarillo, Texas


Terry Stafford is best-known for his Top 10 1964 hit single, "Suspicion." As a friend, I will always remember him for his great talent and his easy going manner, almost to the point of being shy. He performed for me once during a Listener Appreciation Show in the mid 70's. He was scared to death, hometown audience and all you know. When I introduced him, he walked right out there like the pro he was, flashed that big smile and had 'em before he sang his first note.

Never did see Terry get upset about anything. He was a true friend, one I knew I could count on for anything and, there was never an ounce of ego in the mans makeup, even when he was riding high with "Suspicion" at # 3 in the nation, with the Beatles holding down the # 1, 2, 4 & 5 positions, according to Cashbox Magazine.

He was born in Hollis, Oklahoma, but was raised in Amarillo. He graduated from Palo Duro High School in 1960 and told his class mates he was leaving for California to make hit records. Those class mates who laughed at his dream were in for a big shock when "Suspicion" hit the radio stations nationwide and became a monster hit.

Stafford's voice resembled Elvis Presley's, especially on "Suspicion," which was originally recorded by Presley on his 1962 album Pot Luck. After "Suspicion" peaked at number three early in 1964, he had another Top 40 hit with "I'll Touch a Star" which reached number 23 in the summer of that year. Following "I'll Touch a Star," none of Stafford's singles made the charts. In the late '60s, he turned to professional songwriting and he continued writing songs into the '80s. Two of his best-known songs are Buck Owens' "Big in Vegas" and George Strait's "Amarillo by Morning."

Years before Strait cut "Amarillo By Morning," Terry recorded the song for Atlantic Records. It was the "B" side of a pop tune Terry was covering country called, "Has Anyone Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose." [cover tunes were big in the 70's] Well, I can tell you, the "A" side of that record never saw the light of day with me and my radio station in Amarillo. It got such a response, the label soon gave up on "Gypsy Rose" and promoted "Amarillo By Morning." The tune only went to # 31, but a song great enough to get the attention of George Strait later on down the line. To this very day, the song that started in 1973, is a theme song for rodeos and cowboys.

Terry always loved coming back home to Amarillo to see his Mother, Father and all his friends. He made his home in the Los Angeles area because he could find a great deal of work out there. Many young people, can't wait to be rid of their home town once they finish High School. Had the music opportunities been available in Amarillo that awaited him in Los Angeles, I know he would have never left. Getting back home, even for just a short visit, was always on his mind. He loved Amarillo, Texas.

Terry did return home late summer of 1995. I had open heart surgery in January of '95. Upon his return, he called me as he always did. He was very excited about a possible deal with a record label in Dallas and said he thought he could get us both on the label if I had any interest in that. Then we talked about how much fun we could have out there doing dates together.

I suggested we get together and he kept saying he was about to have some surgery to fix a problem he was having with his shoulder. We talked on a daily basis and the more we talked, I could sense there was something really bad going on with him. By the time October rolled around, mutual friends in the music business from Nashville started calling me asking about Terry's condition. He had been calling them as well, but remaining elusive about what was happening.

After hanging up from a call from Terry, I told my wife Joyce, "I know there is something serious happening here and he has come home to die." I called him right back and made him admit he was in trouble health wise. Problem was, his liver was about to stop working and, he had gained an enourmous amount of weight. He wouldn't see me in person because he didn't want me to see him in that condition. By the first of March, 1996, he was hospitalized. I called for him at his Mother's house because I had not heard from him in several days. She told me he was in Intensive Care. I asked if he could have visitors and she said he probably would not know I was there. After a few days of waiting, I just drove to the hospital and found him. He was on a respirator. His eyes were closed as if sleeping and, I took his hand and spoke. He opened his eyes just a little and closed them again. I said, "Terry, I know you can't speak with that thing in your throat, but just wiggle your fingers to let Ol' Dugg know that you know, I came to see you." He did and, I laid his hand back down on the bed and had to walk away.

Terry Stafford died Sunday, March 17, 1996. He was laid to rest Tuesday, March 19, 1996 in Llano Cemetery. As I sat there in the Chapel that day, I really didn't hear what the Preacher had to say. I was thinking about that shy man who was my friend for so many years and just remembering all the great times we had together.

His own words kept going through my mind. "I haven't got a dime, but what I got is mine, I ain't rich, but Lord I'm free. Amarillo By Morning, Amarillo's where I'll be."

Dugg Collins

dcollins@kfdi.com