BILLINGS - For decades, some of the biggest names in country music made a stop at a service station in downtown Billings and left behind something to remember - their signatures.
“It always generated a lot of comments and stories primarily because as you go around the board, it conjures people that you have known for years and years and years,” says Jim Anderson, whose father, Kenny Anderson, collected the autographs on a large board that graced the wall of Anderson’s Interstate Standard Service on First Avenue North.
Kenny Anderson was also a singing cowboy who performed live on the radio.
“He set that board at his station... and every time a country music person would come he’d get them to come in and have them sign it,” said Lonnie Bell, a longtime Billings DJ who also helped promote many country artists in his decades in the business.
The autographed board titled “Roundup of Stars” was dedicated to KGHL radio Wednesday by Anderson and his sister Janet.
“Over the years, he created this masterpiece, we think. It’s the only one like it in the world we figure,” says Jim.
Kenny collected the signatures from 1956 to 1979. Some of the nearly 100 names include Ernest Tubb, Jimmie Dickens, Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, Faron Young, Kittie Wells, Minnie Pearl and the Statler Brothers.
“Some of his great heroes are on here, like Jim Reeves. Jim Reeves was one of his favorite people. And George Jones. He had good times with George Jones. Good party,” laughs Jim.
On hand for the dedication was the Sons of the Pioneers, one of the longest-running groups in the history of country music, who performed a concert Wednesday night.
Some members of the group had signed the board when they visited Billings back in 1965.
“Such great artists. I’ve been taking pictures of all these names, and oh goodness,” said band member Ken Lattimore.
The Andersons said they weren’t always aware of what a piece of history their father possessed. At one point the board had been put aside in a garage. Now it will hang inside the KGHL radio station—just a few blocks away from where Anderson had his service station.
“I watch these guys walk up here and see these names and they just light up,” said Janet Anderson. “We hope that a lot of people can enjoy and we are just so grateful to have it back in Billings.”