Bill and Bonnie’s unique blend of Southwest Americana, bluegrass, country and swing music has influenced many artists including Lyle Lovett, Jerry Jeff Walker, Nanci Griffith and Eliza Gilkyson.
The Texas transplants became an institution in New Mexico’s musical landscape beginning in 1979 when they moved to Red River and began playing at the Alpine Restaurant’s bar in the ’80s.
They didn’t remember right away, but in the early ’70s, when Three Faces West performers Wayne Kidd, Rick Fowler and Ray Wylie Hubbard first ran into Bill & Bonnie Hearne at The Chequered Flag in Austin, they were already known to Bill… from summer 1968, their first summer in Red River. Bill (who was 16 at the time) was on a trip with his aunt and uncle and they went to a chuckwagon dinner where The Coachmen were the entertainment.
In a 1998 Chronicle interview Bill recalled, “One of them said, ‘Man, this kid looks familiar.’ I didn’t make the connection, ’cause, you know, I’m visually impaired.” (Bonnie has been blind since age nine and Bill has extremely limited vision). Bonnie added, “In the spring of 1970, they invited us to come and visit and play their club. And we thought, ‘What a big adventure — we’ll take the bus to Questa!”
Bill and Bonnie came and went after that, living in Austin for five years and playing the Kerrville Folk Festival every year since its inception.
They moved to Santa Fe in 1991. After Bonnie quit touring in 2003 due to health issues, Bill formed a trio and quartet and continues to play and record his music. Bill’s most recent release, “All That’s Real” shows him as an inspired performer who has travelled many miles down the honky tonk road.
An online biography by Erik Hage noted, Bill and Bonnie Hearne met at the University of Texas in the late ’60s. They were already regulars in the Austin clubs in the early ’70s when the town became ground zero for the outlaw country explosion. From the late ’70s until the early ’90s, they released six albums on small labels. A best-of, Most Requested Plus, was put out on Poor David’s Records in the mid-’90s.
According to a press release from the New Mexico Music Commission, during the gala event, musicians, celebrities and distinguished guests will be featured with musical performances and personal tributes. Joe West with his band, the Santa Fe Revue, will be the master of ceremonies in support of the many musical tributes.
In addition, Solace Crisis Treatment Center’s 2017 Person of the Year will be announced and many local and national acts and presenters will provide entertainment during the show.
The Platinum Music Awards is also a benefit to provide funding for the New Mexico Music Commission’s “Music in School” programs and for the Solace Crisis Treatment Center, a nonprofit agency that provides support and services to individuals who are in crisis or suffering from trauma.
Prior to the event at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, the music legends will be honored at a private ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion. Tickets for the event are available March 21, 2017 at the Lensic Box Office or call 505-988-1234.
For more information on the Platinum Music Awards, visit platinummusicawards.org.
Other 2017 Platinum Music Awards honorees are:
Arlen Asher — Multi-woodwind maestro, Arlen Asher, is one of New Mexico’s long-standing jazz luminaries. He has performed on major recordings and at numerous jazz festivals, as well as a producer and on-air personality for KNME-TV, KOB-TV and KHFM radio. His private woodwind studio has taught woodwind fundamentals and jazz improvisation to hundreds of students for more than 50 years. At 87-years old, Asher remains active as a performer while hosting “The Jazz Experience” on KSFR, Santa Fe Public Radio station.
Fernando Cellicion — Fernando Cellicion is an accomplished musician playing many contemporary instruments and the ancient Native American flute for which he has developed his own style and sound. His efforts in defining a Native American music genre have created Native American songs that could be shared publicly (outside the Pueblo) and helped shape the unique Native American music and performance genre. Fernando is a solid leader in the New Mexico Native American music genre, representing New Mexico Indigenous People throughout the world.
Al Hurricane — Alberto Nelson “Al Hurricane” Sanchez is a key figure in the history of New Mexico’s music scene having released more than thirty albums, reflecting his unique blend of Norteño and Tex-Mex musical styles. His musical roots trace back to 5-years old when he and his guitar began developing a unique approach combining country music, old Mexican rancheras and rock. Through the years, he has performed alongside Fats Domino, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Clanton, and Chubby Checker.
Dr. Dale Kempter — Dale Kempter is one of the Southwest’s most outstanding and beloved music educators and conductors who has been at the helm of the Albuquerque Youth Symphony Program (AYSP) for more than 50 years, where he continues as Music Director Laureate. He also served as supervisor of fine arts and instruction coordinator for Albuquerque Public Schools for many years. Kempter was honored in 1989 as “Music Educator of the Year” by the New Mexico Music Educators Association, and won the 1991 American String Teachers National School Education Award and the New Mexico Governor’s Arts Award in 2002.
Catherine Oppenheimer – The Lee Berk Award — A former professional dancer with the New York City Ballet, Catherine Oppenheimer has provided opportunities for talented young musicians throughout the state to receive top-quality music education. In 1994, she co-founded the National Dance Institute of New Mexico, a statewide organization annually teaching nearly 10,000 children throughout the state. In 2010, she was also the driving force behind the creation of New Mexico School for the Arts, the state’s first residential high school for the performing and visual arts.
“These six distinguished honorees were selected from a diverse set of nominations of all musical genres from all parts of New Mexico. The selection committee, appointed by the Music Commission, was tasked with picking the recipients from the public’s nominations for this year’s awards ceremony,” said David Schwartz, producer of the Platinum Music Awards and president of the New Mexico Music Commission Foundation. “With this diverse group, the show at the Lensic promises to be entertaining and eclectic.”