Wednesday, December 13, 2017
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20161117 Kelly-LyonsMISSION—At 6-foot-4, and maybe a little more, with wide shoulders and 14EEE shoes, 87-year-old Kelly Lyons can still be a daunting figure, even if a slight foot pain causes him a little grief when he tries to stand up.

His genuine smile, a seemingly never-dulling sparkle in his eyes and quick-witted barbs tell only a little of the story of a man who has seen much war but is at great peace. He approaches the mic, says a few words to bring out some chuckles, and begins a rendition of “Why Me Lord,” written by Kris Kristofferson and recorded by all the great, classic names – Cash, Willie, Haggard, Gaither, Elvis. Lyons wants to share the same peace he has.

“Why me Lord? What have I ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures I've known,” sang Lyons, “Tell me Lord what did I ever do to be worthy of you or the kindness you've shown.”

Sunday was the first Gospel Jam of the Winter Texan season at BlueBonnet RV Park in Mission and featured Lyons and Teresa “Blues to the Bone” Burley. Despite threatening skies and a little cooler evening than normal at this time of year, dozens came out to enjoy the music, food and camaraderie.

“This is a good night,” said Kathie Osborn, BlueBonnet park manager. “They come out here almost every week and they have a good following.”

Lyons has been playing guitar since 1950, when while in the U.S. Navy he was at a USO (United Services Organization) show and came across a fiddle player he enjoyed watching and listening to. The two became friends almost immediately.

“He told me I needed to learn how to play guitar and he would teach me,” said Lyons, originally from Corpus Christi. “In six months we had a band and would play at dances and events in front of 2,000 people.”

Lyons was a gunner's mate in the Navy and served in the Korean War. During his time in the military he developed an ulcer and because of that he said, he couldn't – and wouldn't – drink alcohol. It was also during that time that he met Maxine, his future bride.

“I was playing in the band and would see her dancing – with some other guy,” he said, still with a little good-natured fire in his voice. “She knew my family, but didn't know me.” They married and remained together for 61 years until Maxine passed away earlier this year on her birthday.

“She was born at 10 a.m.,” Lyons said, “and passed at 9:15 on her birthday.”

The group performed many of the traditional Gospel classics including “Why Me Lord,” “He Touched Me,” “I'll Fly Away” and “Beneath Still Waters.” Burley also sang a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

Burley, who has traveled the world as an entertainer, played the keyboards for her “Amazing Grace” performance, but spent most of the time playing the Dobro. Even though she's been battling some allergies, a couple minor injuries and what she's thinking is arthritis in her hands, it doesn't seem like she's slowed down a bit.

“No matter what, I'll always have my Dobro,” she said.

The group will continue to perform on Sundays. Chuck Mathis, who plays guitar in the group, headlines the Country Jams every Thursday starting Nov. 17. Lyons also performs in the group.

The park will hold its first craft show/garage sale on Saturday, Nov. 19. Other upcoming events include John Sager's Musical Variety Show on Jan. 7, the Wilson Family String Country Band on Jan. 21 and Wade Benson Landry's Swingin Cajun Style Show on Jan. 23.

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