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Riders In The Sky's Too Slim Remembers Texas Bix Bender

A sad time on Harmony Ranch. Our great friend and collaborator Steve Arwood, aka Texas Bix Bender, The Voice That Sold A Million Baby Chicks Over Border Radio, passed away unexpectedly on December 28, 2023.


Every once in awhile you find a true friend, somebody who knows you well enough to finish your sentences when you pause for a second. And then once in a very, very great while you’re lucky enough to find somebody who not only finishes your sentence, but takes it in an unexpectedly clever hilarious direction that you didn’t see coming, building on your idea and then building on the next idea as well. And you make something together that’s better and funnier than what either of you could come up with by yourself. That was Bix and me. He was a true collaborator in every sense.


We met in 1981, I think, when he had the idea of producing a Riders TV show which eventually became Tumbleweed Theatre on the Nashville Network. We started cranking out scripts and kept at it for almost 20 years. A rough count adds up to close to 150 TV shows, 250 public radio shows, a couple albums, and a book. 


Ranger Doug, Woody, Joey, and Zeno all contributed to these scripts, but Bix and I did the heavy lifting. We’d meet in a conference room, or his kitchen, or some motel room, and improvise, making each other laugh until we literally fell on the floor. One of Bix’s gifts was organizing our improv moments into a cohesive narrative which, on some cosmic comedy level, made sense. 


To say we shared a million laughs is an underestimation. More like ten million. And that was even before rehearsal. We didn’t agree on everything, but if one of us had a really strong opinion, the other guy would usually back away. 


Bix was a sweet man, a kind, humble man, a charming man, and the best friend you could have.


By a lucky stroke of fate, my son George and I had lunch with Bix on his last day. We laughed of course, talked books, American colonial history, Texas politics, our four decades football wager, and reminisced about Riders Radio Theatre bits, regaling George with jokes and situations we still found funny.


We hugged in the parking lot, said we loved each other, and he drove home to his precious Sally.

Rest In Peace, Bix. 


Fred “Too Slim” Labour, 12/31/23


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