One of the oldest, and most beloved roadies in all of country music and beyond has has taken flight to that big tour bus to the sky. Ben Dorcy III, also known as “Lovey” or the “King of the Roadies” has passed away. The 92-year-old original roadie who began working in the business in 1950 and at one time or another offered his services to Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and June Carter, Buck Owens, Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, Ray Price, Jerry Jeff Walker, and even more modern artists like Randy Rogers and Jack Ingram, was part helper, part guru, and universally beloved and celebrated. Though he may not be as well known as the artists themselves, Ben Dorcy is one of the most revered individuals in all of Texas music.
Known for his spiritual glow and ever-present smoking pipe, Ben’s contributions to side stages and behind-the-scenes had waned over the past few years due to his advanced age, yet he was a figure in the wings, back stages, and tour buses for artists up until his death.
“I’ve learned I have the perfect person to steer me. When I’m contemplating one of life’s difficult decisions, I generally consult with Ben Dorcy,” said Willie Nelson in his book The Tao of Willie from 2009. “Bless his barely thumping heart, Ben is my canary in the coalmine. When faced with a difficult decision, I observe Ben and do the opposite of what he does.”
His first job was in 1950 as a “bandboy” for Hank Thompson. At the time, nobody really knew what a “roadie” was. He subsequently became so honored by the musicians he served, his name began to show up in the music itself, such as Waylon Jennings’ “Ode to Ben Dorcy” and Red Sovine’s “Big Ben Dorsey the Third.” A character from Kinky Friedman’s book Roadkill is based on Ben (it’s about being aboard Willie Nelson’s bus), and the list of references to “Lovey” go on from there.
A true road warrior, Ben initially dropped out of high school to tour around helping the Ice Capades show before the breakout of World War 2, where he served on an aircraft carrier and was injured in the Battle of Cape Gloucester. Other odd jobs he worked ahead of his music career included making deliveries for Nudie Cohn, and gardening for John Wayne while living in Hollywood.
But it’s his work with music artists that would endure. For the last five years, the legacy of Ben Dorcy III was celebrated at Ben Dorcy Day at Floores Country Store in Helotes, TX, with many of the artists he served participating in a celebration of his legacy. Dorcy was the first inductee in into the Roadie Hall of Fame in 2009.
RIP Ben Dorcy