Austin Legend and Songwriter Doak Snead Passes Away

A pioneer of Austin’s progressive country scene, as well as respected songwriter and country music personality Doak Snead has passed on. A member of the duo Tom and Billy, and later the leader of the Doak Snead Band, he was a staple and regular opener at Austin’s legendary Armadillo World Headquarters for artists like Willie Nelson, Asleep At The Wheel, Jerry Jeff Walker, John Prine, and so many others. He died on Wednesday, September 16th in Nashville.

Born Billy Doak Snead on Christmas Eve, 1949 in the West Texas town of Bronte, he started playing guitar at the age of 13, first getting into the popular folk music of the time before finding the Beatles. He moved to nearby San Angelo, and began writing original music in 1969, eventually forming the duo Tom and Billy with T. Gosney Thorton. The duo traveled to Austin often to perform at the Hungry Horse folk club.

In 1973, Doak Snead permanently located to Austin, and became part of the burgeoning redneck rock scene that would help spark country music’s Outlaw revolution. By 1975 the Doak Snead Band was playing with the Houston Pops Orchestra at the Miller Theater, and performing at the Kerrville Folk Festival. But songwriting was always one of Doak’s biggest passions.

“In Austin, there was always a bunch of aspiring songwriters and we would all get together and have what we called songwriters’ parties,” Doak once said. “Everybody would share a little bit of what he had worked up, and it gave me some new directions and broadened my horizons as a songwriter. I was a songwriter first and a singer second. I’ll tell you I’m stubborn and tough and I’ll stick with songwriting. I’m stringy. Dreamers are not fools. I don’t care what anybody says.”

Hal Ketchum and was quoted once saying, “When I moved to Texas there were a few guys who were doing it already. They were the true Texas troubadours. Doak was one of the guys I gravitated toward. He can build you a house with words where the roof won’t leak. He’s mighty good at it.” 

Songwriting would later become the focus of Doak Snead’s career, and eventually he relocated to Nashville in 1989 after taking a hiatus from the music business. After working at the Country Music Hall of Fame to supplement his income, and writing songs in his spare time, he signed to Reba McEntire’s Starstruck Writers Group as a staff writer in 1993, and started landing cuts, including “Headed For The Light” by Jamie Slocum, and “John Wayne Walking Away,” which became a hit for Lari White.

Along with the multiple records Doak Snead and the Doak Snead Band released over the years, he also wrote and recorded multiple children’s records under the pseudonym Mister Doak, adding another wrinkle to his diverse and accomplished career.

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