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2013-10-17

Bandera's 'Tooter' is 2013 Living Legend

By Mary Allyce Special to the Courier

Don't expect cartwheels or splits - more on that later - but when Walter "Tooter" Ripps takes the stage to receive the 2013 Bandera Music Hall of Fame Living Legend award on Sunday, Oct. 27, at the Silver Sage Community Center, you can expect truly great music.
"So many [musicians] never see their name in lights and they deserve recognition. I never considered myself one of these," said Ripps. He is exactly the kind of Bandera musician for whom the "Living Legend" category was created when Bandera Music Hall of Fame organized in 2004. Appropriately, Ripps was on the original committee; still functions as technical consultant; and is the last original member still active with the project. He was awarded Musician honors in 2010.
Encouraged by his parents, Leonard and Doris Ripps, from an early age, Ripps said, "My dad got me a guitar when I was nine and taught me some chords. Mom got me a chord book." He listened to music on the radio and mimicked the sounds he heard. When he tired of guitar he says, "I took two strings off my six string" - and a talented bass player was born.
As a young teenager, he was in garage bands and playing paying gigs for $10 a night. "I was the richest kid in the eighth grade!" he quipped. Other opportunities followed with George Chambers and Willie Nelson. "He [Nelson} only had a drummer then. I played in with him about half a dozen times and that was a lot fun."
Hired as a vocalist and a frontman for the band Crossover, Ripps said, "They wanted me to sing and put on a show." He dressed as a Blues Brother and Superman and recalled, "I'd strut across the stage, do cartwheels and splits. We had 800 people at our dances."
An avid interest in electronics led him to learn the sound business at ZAZ in San Antonio and to a stint in the computer department at University of Texas Health Science Center. Today, he operates his own recording studio, Bandera Sound Company, sets sound for bands and venues where he's earned the nickname "The man with the golden ears." Ripps is also co-founder with Ed Hodges of the successful new Internet radio station www.banderaradio.com, which features local songwriters and musicians.
Although he can - and has - played fiddle and guitar, keyboards and drums, his love is the bass and Ripps has held down that crucial place for many bands, including Lonestar Pickerz, Art and Lisa, Lee Winright and Julius Arlt and Billy Mata. Currently, the Drug Store Cowboys keep him busy with playlists ranging from classic country to rock to disco. He's also a welcome fixture at the Silver Sage Opry.
It's hard to remember this is a man who wrestled with several surgeries for brain tumors. Doctors predicted Ripps might never walk or play music again, but the cartwheeling bassman proved them wrong. "We have to keep putting one foot in front of the other every day," he said. "We don't get to decide when to quit."
Join Tooter and his fellow music hall of fame winners from 3 pm to 5 pm, Sunday, Oct. 27, at the Silver Sage Community Center, 803 Buck Creek Boulevard, for the best of the best of Bandera music.