Former Fresno home of the "King of Western Swing" is moved

The old Bob Wills ranch house was moved from Northeast Fresno winding up Highway 168, to just outside the foothill community of Prather.
January 22, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Drivers in Fresno, Clovis and the foothills had an unusual sight Wednesday, a house moving down the road. With a Highway Patrol escort the old Bob Wills ranch house was moved from Northeast Fresno winding up Highway 168, to just outside the foothill community of Prather.

The trip took just two hours and caused only brief traffic tie-ups. The move was necessary to save the house, and its history.

Bob Wills was known as the King of Western Swing. He bought the house and 80 acres outside of Fresno in 1943. He named it the Triple B Ranch. The B's for his wife Betty, son Bob Jr. and himself, and he planned to stay. His daughter, Caroline Wills was born in the house. But like the title of one of his songs, "Time Changes Everything" after just a couple of years, Bob, his family and his band the Texas Playboys moved on, to Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, and then back to Texas and Oklahoma. Now, nearly 70 years later, and a lot of work, the house hit the road as well.

Lance Tullis said, "We did it and people have really stepped up to help us out."

In order to save it from being torn down by a developer Lance Tullis bought the place for a dollar and then spent nearly a year trying to raise money to move it. Historic preservationists and music lovers came together to help. Tullis moved it to his families land near Prather but the move is just the beginning.

"I'm still in awe of the project there's still a lot more money to raise of course, putting a roof on the foundation, the complete restoration of the project," said Tullis. "But I guess I am really encouraged the community stepped up and saw the value the Bob Wills Triple B Ranch house."

The house may be 20 miles from Bob Wills original Triple B Ranch but Tullis says the goal is to make it a centerpiece for Bob Wills Music.

"The house itself will be the museum of Western Swing," said Tullis. "If you look out here this will all be planted vineyards we will have a full winery up and running."

Right now the house doesn't look like much, the roof was removed, along with some additions and the wrap around porch. While it's structurally sound, house Mover Rick Ellison says the only thing special about it, is the man who once lived there.

"If it wasn't for the fact it was Bob Wills house an historic house I doubt if anybody would have wanted to bring it up into the mountains here."

But now that it is here, Tullis and his group the Central California Music Association hope to make it a destination.

"People will be able to come off of Highway 168 on their way to Shaver Lake or coming back from skiing and stop in and see the museum and enjoy the scenery."

Tullis expects the renovations to take at least a year, or two. He's hoping the community will continue to support the effort.

Negotiations are underway to hold a benefit concert on the Memorial Day Weekend. Country Music Legend Merle Haggard has indicated an interest in taking part, but Tullis says plans have not been finalized yet.

Haggard was friends with Bob Wills and was recording an album with him when Wills suffered a stroke in 1974. Bob Wills passed away in 1975.


Load Comments