Vic Williams’ musical career really started the year his brother got a ukulele for Christmas and he got a tennis racquet! His Aunt had played the ukulele in college so she showed him some chords and taught him a few songs. He got pretty good on both the ukulele and the tennis racquet, and then decided he would like a banjo. The family listened to the Light Crust Doughboys on the radio every day, and Vic thought their banjo player was just about the greatest musician be had ever heard. He soon found that banjos were expensive, so he settled for a $5 guitar and a book titled How to Learn to Play the Guitar in Fifteen Minutes. And so, a star was born!
Actually, Vic was born September 3, 1921, in Comanche, Texas. His dad was a railroad telegrapher, and his mother played piano. Times were hard in the 1920s; telegraphers had to move around a lot, and Vic entered school in Wellington, Texas. Because of his interest in a girl clarinet player, he thought that learning to play the clarinet would enhance his chances to sit with her in band. The band director told him that a clarinet would cost $58.50, but he could have one for $5 down and $5 a month. He taught guitar lessons to the band director, and the band director gave him clarinet lessons. After about three lessons, the band director said that was all he knew about clarinet and Vic didn’t know much more about guitar, so they both were on their own.
Through connections with his band director, Vic got a job playing in a small dance band. They played dances in Silverton and Turkey on alternate weekends. A couple of sax players at Hardin-Simmons had written a duet on Corinna, Corrina and the band director told Vic if he would write a band arrangement, he and another clarinet player could play it on their spring concert. This was the time Mr. Williams learned all about transposition!
During his senior year at Wellington, Vic played in a church orchestra and the director recommended him for a position with a dance band at West Texas State which made a college education possible. One night, the band leader turned to Vic and asked him why he wasn’t using vibrato. Vic had to ask what is vibrato as he had never heard of it.
Vic’s dad got transferred to Lubbock, so he decided to live at home and attend Texas Tech. He got a job playing with a house band in the Lubbock Hotel and later moved on to bigger and better bands while attending school. But then along came December 7, 1941. A friend who played French horn had enlisted, and Vic went to San Angelo to audition for an Army band. He began writing more arrangements and had the opportunity to work and study with some very talented people.
After discharge from the service, Vic decided he should return to Texas Tech and become a band director. At that time, the Music Department at Tech did not have a course in music arranging, so Vic and a friend were permitted to teach courses in band and stage band arranging for music majors at Tech.
Vic played first chair alto sax in the Tech Band and was the arranger of Matador Song and Fight Raiders Fight as well as music for halftime shows. He arranged the music for Texas Tech Varsity Show in 1948 and was the arranger and director of music for Texas Tech graduation exercises in 1948. Years later, the President of Texas Tech and the Tech Band Alumni Association awarded Vic a plaque in recognition for his contribution as musical arranger of show music and Texas Tech school songs which have been used these past 50 years.
His first teaching job was in Slaton, Texas, with 30 players. The band grew to 60 players and at the end of Vic’s second year, Slaton High School dedicated the annual to him. Vic was now married and the west Texas dust storms caused health problems for the family. His old friend, Charles “Pete” Wiley, was working in Austin schools and recommended a position at Bastrop. He worked in this program from 1950-1952. A son, Gary, was born in 1950.
Weldon Covington hired Vic to assist him at Austin High School in 1952 and a year later, Austin opened two new high schools, Travis and McCallum. Vic became director at Travis. He wrote most everything the Travis Band played on the football field for the next four years, including the school song, Rebels True.
When a daughter, Vicki, was born in 1957, Vic decided to leave teaching and try selling life insurance with The Prudential. A teacher’s salary in those days did not support a growing family. He made three times as much money selling insurance, but continued to play in dance bands in the area. Gradually, Texas teacher salaries improved, and Weldon Covington persuaded Vic to return to teaching in Austin. His first assignment was Lamar Junior High School where be remained for ten years. Lamar made Sweepstakes every year and Vic had a lot of fun teaching there. He continued to arrange and compose and many of his pieces were published.
In 1970, Vic moved to Pearce Junior High School for a two year stint, and then to Dobie Junior High School from 1972-78. Those six years were some of his most exciting and fun teaching years due to the jazz program which was started. The Dobie Junior High Stage Band won top awards in every contest they entered. Good things were happening with the Concert Band program also. In November of 1977, Vic suffered the death of his wife. They had been married for 31 years.
Vic moved to Houston and began work at Lamar Junior High in Rosenberg. His band made their first sweepstakes the first year, but Vic learned he would have a heart bypass operation. After recovering, he was offered a junior high job in Missouri City. The second year there, the band made sweepstakes with both the 7th and 8th grade bands, the only time in the history of the school, before or since. Vic became the resident school song composer of Ft. Bend ISD with at least ten school songs and several fight songs. The Ft. Bend School Board presented him with a Certificate of Achievement in September 1995 to honor him for all the school songs he had written for their district.
In 1980, Vic married Jean Lasater, and they enjoy traveling and seeing the world. In 1981 Vic decided it was time to retire, but be continued to teach privately and to instruct Drivers Education and Defensive Driving courses while playing with various Houston dance bands. In 1995, the Ft. Bend ISD asked him to come out of retirement to be a long tern substitute for a band director who had cancer. He returned for a full year. Now it is time to retire again and resume teaching private saxophone lessons as well as playing a whole lot of golf, but we expect to be seeing a lot of Vic at TBA and TMEA for many years yet to come.