All these words describe popular South Texas personality, Billy Mata. Born in San Antonio in 1957, Billy graduated from Sam Houston High School in 1976. He has lived in Lytle, Texas, since 2003. Billy’s outstanding successes in the music world have enabled him to travel to such places as Canada, Sweden, Poland, and throughout the US to play his music. And, when he’s not on the road with his band or working at Paris Hatters as a Master Hatter, Billy enjoys delving into true-story documentaries, watching movies, and admiring classic cars. As an avid enthusiast, Billy hopes to own one or two classic cars someday.
Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition is known for “recreating the original tradition of Western Swing… thriving in historic Texas Dancehalls that provide real, danceable, country music for the whole family, from kids to grandpa,” as quoted from Billy Mata’s official biography. He is a veteran in the Texas music scene with 36 years of music-making. Billy is a three-time Academy of Western Artists Western Swing Vocalist of the Year, winner of the Academy’s Entertainer of the Year Award, and winner of the Academy’s Western Swing Album of the Year Award.
Mata started his career in the 70’s singing Billboard Charted Top 40 Country Music. However, in the 90’s, he decided his passion was “real country music.” His career jumpstarted as a featured singer with Tommy Morrell and the Time Warp Top Hands on Larry Scott’s syndicated radio show, The Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium of the Air. That resulted in his being invited to make guest appearances with the Texas Playboys featuring Tommy Allsup and Leon Rausch. Subsequently, Billy was invited to perform at the West Texas Western Swing Festival in Snyder, Texas, and then to the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium in Ruidoso, NM. Now, Billy is invited to entertain there annually.
In addition to the above-named artists, Billy says it has been a privilege to do shows with other such great performers as Ray Price, Mel Tillis, Hank Williams Jr., Earl Thomas Conley, Jerry Jeff Walker, Red Steagall, Johnny Bush, Asleep At The Wheel, and many others at various theatres, festivals and dancehalls. “Each has given me an opportunity to learn more about the business and how to conduct myself on and off stage,” Billy states.
Recalling some of his most memorable incidents in his world of entertainment, Billy shares that a most exciting time was singing harmony and duets with Leon Rausch and the Texas Playboys. Another memory is hanging out with the Gatlin Brothers after a show in Ruidoso, NM, where they shared funny band stories. Billy also relates the time when he and the band performed with Mell Tillis at Shroeder Hall. “After the show, everyone wanted to eat. The closest eatery was the Whataburger in Gonzales, Texas. Mell Tillis’ bus would not fit thru the drive thru, so there stood a line of about 12 of Tillis’ band members and staff, ordering at the drive-thru window while the bus was parked on the street. It was a sight to behold.”
Music has given Billy an opportunity to grow personally. As mentioned, he likes documentaries, and he is a history buff. Therefore, he was most taken with his tour of Auschwitz while he was in Poland for a music festival. He shares, “We are educated about the WWII European theatre and what took place over there, but until you see it in person, and literally feel the vibes, it is almost indescribable. This was a life changing event.”
Some of Billy Mata’s most famous songs: First Top 100 Chart record in the nation, “Macon Georgia Love” (1986), “Photographic Memory” (1987), “Private Party” (2008) – written by local Somerset resident Big John Lambert, and many songs from Volume I of This is Tommy Duncan, which are aired worldwide on Sirius XM.
Mata’s hot gig spots include the Broken Spoke in Austin, Quihi Gun Club and Dancehall in Quihi; West Texas Western Swing Festival, Snyder; Legends of Western Swing, Wichita Falls; The Cowboy Symposium, Ruidoso, NM.
Billy is the father of three beautiful girls. Sonora is 16; Shannon, 24; and Emily, 26. Emily is married to a Navy Corpsman, and they are stationed in 29 Palms, CA. Shannon is single and works for her dad, maintaining the billymataentertainer.com website. She lives with her sister Emily in California. Sonora is a junior at East Central High School and is the top of her class, very active in choir and theatre. When Emily and Shannon were five and seven years of age, they recorded with their dad on a song called “Hearts,” along with George Harris’ granddaughter, Tyler Richards. Sonora, the youngest, has been on stage with her father several times. “Another Mata singer in the making?” Billy quips. Billy is very proud of all three of his girls, and, despite his travels, he has done his best to be involved in their school activities. He also belongs to Holy Name Catholic Church where he went to school as a boy.
Billy states, “I love what I do. I love bringing that good ol’ country and western swing music of yester year to our fans. It is my hope, that this music is passed on to our younger generations and they will listen, appreciate and come out to all our historic dancehalls and support live music. We have to keep these historic dancehalls alive and thriving. Having and being part of a band is not all glitz and glamour as most folks would think. It takes a lot of hours of hard work, dedication, and a lot of miles to perform these shows. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. To see the dancehalls, festivals, and shows filled with fans who delight in our music is what it’s all about. Then it’s time to pack it up and head home to our families till it’s time to hit the road again.”