B.W. Stevenson: The voice from Oak Cliff who was silenced too soon

B.W. Stevenson. (Photo via CMT.com)
B.W. Stevenson. (Photo via CMT.com)

B.W. Stevenson was a folk singer from Adamson High School

Buckwheat Stevenson stood out in a crowd.

The singer/songwriter from Oak Cliff was only about 5-foot-7, but he was a burly guy with a big beard and a cowboy hat. His neo-country look was ahead of its time for late-1960s Dallas.

He was born Louis Charles Stevenson, nicknamed Buckwheat as a kid and later branded B.W. Stevenson for his recording career. The 1967 Adamson High School graduate ascended quickly into a recording and songwriting career in the early ’70s, before he died during heart-valve surgery at age 38 in 1988.

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His best-known song, “My Maria,” was in the Top 40 for 12 weeks in 1973. It also was a hit in 1996 for country duo Brooks & Dunn, who won a Grammy for their cover of the song.

“I just thought he was a really cool songwriter with a great voice,” says Texas singer/songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard, who graduated from Adamson two years ahead of his friend “Buck.”

From left to right: B.W. Stevenson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rusty Weir and Steven Fromholz. (Photo courtesy of Judy Hubbard)
From left to right: B.W. Stevenson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rusty Weir and Steven Fromholz. (Photo courtesy of Judy Hubbard)

When Hubbard was a student at the University of North Texas, Stevenson was serving in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in Wichita Falls. Stevenson would drive to Denton on Friday nights and stay the weekend at Hubbard’s house, playing guitars all night.

“We’d get up and play at this little coffee house,” Hubbard says. “Of course we’d play songs like ‘Who do you Love’ and John Lee Hooker stuff.”

When Hubbard and his band Three Faces West had a club in Red River, N.M., Stevenson, still an airman, would make the drive and perform solo, just him and the guitar.

Hubbard recalls taking a perilous trip in 1970 from New Mexico to Los Angeles in Stevenson’s Ford Mustang.

“It was incredibly cold, and we were leaving the next day. It was so cold we had to leave the cars running the night before,” Hubbard says.

The other two guys in Hubbard’s band, Rick Fowler and Wayne Kidd, went in the van, and Hubbard rode with Stevenson. The heater was broken in the Mustang, so they stopped at a hardware store in Taos and bought a kerosene heater. They filled it up, lit it and went on down the road.

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“Buck said, ‘You better read the instructions on that thing.’ It said, ‘Do not use in an enclosed area,’ and we laughed so hard at that,” Hubbard says.

Goofy on fumes, Stevenson drove off the road and into a snow bank. When Fowler and Kidd drove up a few minutes later, they rolled out of the Mustang, laughing hysterically.

But they made it to L.A. and stayed in the Hollywood Hills home of their friend, actor Royce Applegate. That’s where Stevenson wrote “Highway 1” and “On My Own.”

After a terrifying earthquake in 1971, Stevenson left California as fast as possible.

He signed with RCA in ‘72, launching a prolific career. He released eight albums from 1972-80.

Stevenson fit into the country/folk/pop genre popular at the time, but the obligations of being a pop star frustrated him. He felt more comfortable and was at his best playing guitar and singing in a coffee house rather than playing a big room, Hubbard says.

Stevenson, who performed frequently at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, opened for Waylon Jennings at Memorial Auditorium in Dallas in 1976.

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Many of his songs have been covered by other artists.

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B.J. Thomas recorded his “I Need a Miracle” in 1982. Several others have recorded “My Maria” and “Texas Morning,” to name a few.

Angus Wynne, a longtime Dallas music writer and promoter, lived next door to Stevenson on Douglas Avenue in Oak Lawn around 1969. He remembers going to see him play at local venues, including the Rubiyat and Poor David’s Pub.

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“He was a terrific fella. He wasn’t one of these Texas progressive music characters that was bombastic in any way,” Wynne says. “He was a gentle guy, and he had a great sense of humor. He was somebody that you liked being around.”

In November 1987, when Hubbard was working on his sobriety, Stevenson called him from Nashville. It was Hubbard’s birthday.

“He said, ‘Hey man you’re doing the right thing,’ and he gave me a lot of support,” Hubbard says. “He kind of showed his heart. I always considered him a friend.”

Less than a year later, in April 1988, Stevenson died. He is buried at Laurel Land Cemetery in Oak Cliff.

“I just miss him,” Wynne says. “Seems like to me, he was just getting going with his life when he passed.” —Rachel Stone

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