Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The Rockdale Reporter, June 7, 2001. Singer's Grill by Bill Cooke. . . . Back in the late 1940s, Tommy Thompson and Vera Prestridge Thompson Miller’s downtown Singer’s Grill featured a country / western band every morning. The 30-minute session was broadcast live over KTAE radio in Taylor. . . . Veteran musicians Bill Dowdy and Jimmy Hester of Lexington played rhythm guitar and sang in that Singer’s Grill band. Dowdy remembers most of the others who played too, including the late, and legendary, Perk Williams of Chriesman. Williams later was the fiddler / vocalist with Jimmy Heap and the Melody Masters of Taylor, a band that also broadcast live over KTAE for a half hour each weekday at noon, and became Central Texas’ top dance band.
The Singers Grill band was called "Tommy Thompson and the Boys" and it played from about 1948 through 1950. "Tommy wasn’t a musician," Dowdy notes, "but he ‘fronted’ the band with his cigar." Dowdy remembers most of the musicians who came and went. In addition to Williams the list includes Jay Bird Thomas, drums; Hub Sutter, clarinet; Bill Dessens, fiddle (now with the River Road Boys of Houston, a premier western swing band); Smoky Wilson, lead guitarist; Wally Bryant, bass; and Cotton Collins, fiddle. "Most of ‘em, but not all, have passed on," said Dowdy, who is 79 going on 39, still playing several times a week.
Singer’s Grill was so named by its first owner, Charlie Moore who loved to sing and did so at the drop of a hat. He even organized and led a short-lived Rockdale community chorus. Vera and Tommy bought the cafe from Moore and moved here from Franklin in 1947. Vera ran the restaurant and a dress shop next door for many years. Both businesses burned in 1973 and Vera moved to other locations. NBC Bank now  occupies the space where Singer’s Grill and Vera’s Heaven to Seventeen were.