The Key Note: A Heart for the Classics

Bill Mock and His Highway 105 Band perform at Young Texas Artists' Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala

If classic country musician Bill Mock could offer one piece of advice to emerging musicians, other than practicing, it would be to listen to seasoned artists in the same discipline and learn from them.

That’s how he got started as a performer more than 15 years ago.

“You’d surround yourself with better players than yourself,” Mock said. “They rub off on you and teach you. You listen and learn, and lo and behold, you get better and start feeling more confident.”

Man in cowboy hat sitting with guitar
Bill Mock

Today, Bill Mock and His Highway 105 Band is highly in demand for events throughout Montgomery County and the surrounding region, from parties and festivals to the annual Young Texas Artists Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala.

“Highway 105 is the spinal cord that runs through the area we play: Brenham, Navasota, and of course, as you come down 105, Conroe,” Mock said. “I was raised in Plantersville, and my father was raised in the Dobbin/Montgomery area. And so, we travel up and down that road, and that is kind of a stitch that has held us all together: the main thoroughfare that ran through where we were raised.”

From fan to performer

Mock, who also owns a ranching and agricultural construction business with his brother, Greg Mock, played guitar as a hobby for years before even thinking of performing in front of others. Mostly, he played the classic country songs he’s loved since childhood, songs by Ray Price, Bob Wills, Johnny Bush, Mel Tillis, Charlie Pride, and Faron Young.

Over time, Mock began performing at his church — an activity he continues to this day — where he first experienced the joy of seeing others enjoy his music. Shortly after his son and daughter left home for college, freeing up more of his time, Mock started attending performances by friends with their country bands.

“I might, perhaps, go to a dance, and they’d call me and say, ‘Hey, Bill, come up here and do a song with us.’ I started enjoying that.”

And, so, he started inviting his friends, and the musicians he met at their performances, to come to his house and jam. “There would always be musicians at the house, and the next thing you know, you start forming a little band.”

In those early days, Mock’s band membership was rather fluid, based on the types of gigs he heard about and the people in his growing network of musicians. What they shared was a love for Texas dancehall music: classic country and Texas swing music made famous by Wills.

A Different Beat

Texas Swing, Mock adds, is particularly close to his heart. It brings together two unique genres to create something special.

“You could say it’s a hybrid, a mixture of classical country mixed with jazz,” Mock said. “It has a different beat and different chords. Just think of one of those big bands like Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra singing a country song. How would they sing it?”

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys were masters of this sound, Mock said, and known for such songs as “Home in San Antone,” “San Antonio Rose,” and “Roly Poly.”

George Strait has that legacy to thank for his 1984 hit, “Right or Wrong,” which was performed by Wills.

“Playing Texas Swing is more difficult, more involved than regular country music, but it’s well worth it,” Mock said. “It’s a great sound.”

A YTA Tradition

Bill Mock and His Highway 105 Band perform at Young Texas Artists' Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala
Bill Mock and His 105 Highway Band perform at the 2022 Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala. Photo by John Hallett.

For Mock, the late 2000s were growing years for him and his band. They were hired for church bazaars, festivals, private parties, and regional events like the Bluebonnet Opry in Brenham.

Over time, the band got to be quite well known along the 105 corridor. Their sound and ability to connect with audiences caught the attention of YTA President/CEO Susie Pokorski.

“Susie called me one day, and we talked about putting together a show for her,” Mock said. “We’ve been doing it for several years.”

Today, dancing to the band’s music is one of the things YTA gala guests look forward to, and Mock enjoys performing for them.

“We’re old school; I love to dress up,” he said. “Have you ever watched those old movies where people wore a suit to go on an airplane? They sat down for dinner, and they would be all dressed up. I just love that period of the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. People respected one another and had some great values. So that’s one of the things about YTA I like, the dressing up.

“It’s a formal gala, but it feels comfortable, and people are enjoying it. And they’re eating a good meal and raising funds for the arts. There’s pluses all the way around. We enjoy the whole production of it: a formal good setting for a good cause and good people.”

A Career Highlight

Mock also has gone on to write some songs of his own, which are featured in his 2013 album, “Bill Mock Past & Present.”

“I recorded it with a really superb musician, Bobby Flores,” Mock said. “We’ve lost him to cancer. He played with some of the big-name stars throughout his career, and he was a good singer in his own right and produced records of his own.

“I was also able to record with one of my mentor musicians, Johnny Bush. Recording that album was a high point in my career.”

Learn more about Bill Mock and His Highway 105 Band here.

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