Funding shortage threatens fate of Bob Wills house

The effort to save the Fresno home of a music legend is falling short.
November 6, 2013 2:55:34 PM PST
The effort to save the Fresno home of a music legend is falling short.

The one time home of country music star Bob Wills is located in East Fresno, near Clinton and Armstron. The abandoned house has to be moved to make way for a new subdivision.

Bob Wills started out as a fiddle player and became known as the King of Western Swing. Over 50 years, Wills and his band the Texas Playboys blended country music through the big band, jazz and rock era.

During their peak, just after WWII , Wills and the Playboys followed their fans from Texas and Oklahoma to California. They performed all over the state and after playing at the Fresno Barn, Wills made Fresno his California base.

He bought a ranch and named it The Triple B, one B for Bob, the other B's for, his wife Betty and son Bob Jr.

There's a picture of his family on the front porch of the house. The little girl in the picture is Carolyn. She was born in the house and just saw the house for the first time since she was 3-years-old on a recent visit to Fresno.

"Just kind of gave me chills. This is amazing. This is like re-visiting a very important part of my life," Carolyn said.

Caroline Wills and her niece Dana Wills, a singer came to Fresno for a musical fundraiser, aimed at raising money to move the old house out of the path of a new subdivision. She talked about what the place meant to her Dad.

"Growing up the story about Fresno was always in our family because this is where he was so happy. This was his dream," Carolyn said.

A Fresno man, Lance Tullis stepped forward to keep the Bob Wills house from being torn down. He offered land in the foothills to put it on, and spent thousands getting it ready for the move.

A lot of demolition work has been done, the house has been lifted off its foundation and put on wheels, it's ready to be moved. The only holdup is a lack of money to get it to its final destination.

"The house mover needs to be paid right away we've exhausted all of our resources. We've tied up all our money, on land and permitting," Tullis said.

The fundraiser didn't raise much money and Tullis realized he needed help. He is working with the Fresno Arts Council, a non-profit organization that will handle the fund raising effort. "We've spent everything we can to prepare this house to be moved and now we just want to make an appeal to fans of Bob Wills and fans of art and history, and of Fresno," Tullis said.

But Tullis said time is running out, and Fresno's connection to a music legend could soon be gone.


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