Just Who Is This Billie Sol Anyway?
That’s a good question. There more you start looking in to the story of Billie Sol Estes, the more bizarre it gets.
Several years ago, Bill (Dees not Billie Sol) and I were on the way to Texas to do some duo shows. Now, Dees has some different ways of doing things. For instance, he doesn’t like to listen to the radio. See, in his mind he’s always writing a song and the radio just disrupts the flow. Now, a lot of guys are like that, constantly going over a riff or a lyric in their minds. I do that a lot. The key thing is that most of us do this in our minds. Not Dees, he does his stream of consciousness, riff building, melody writing, lyric editing and arranging, out loud, in real time; for hours on end sometimes. It can get on your nerves on a long drive because songwriting…well, let me just put it this way; not every idea is a good one.
As we crossed the Texas border and entered the panhandle, Bill’s old stomping ground, he started slapping his leg in time and singing this…
There’s a man
Down in Texas who
Never ever had a care
His name is Billie Sol Estes
The multi millionaire
But, he got in trouble when
He crossed the state line
On fertilizer tanks they couldn’t find
…and I said, “Woah Woah Woah! What is that? That sounds like a damn song there.”
Bill said, “That’s something I started writing one day, while I was waiting in a barber shop back in 1962. I just kind of put it away ’cause a bunch of people were starting to drop dead”.
When we got back to the Ozarks, I did a little research on Estes and Bill and I got together and finished the song “Billie Sol”.
So, to answer the question, “Just Who Is This Billie Sol Anyway?”
Well, that’s a pretty complex issue. Here’s a good place to start. From Spartacus Educational.
Billie Sol Estes was born in Abilene, Texas, in 1924. After marrying in 1946 he moved to the small town of Pecos. As a result of high irrigation costs, local farmers found it difficult to make profits from their cotton crops. Estes started up a company providing irrigation pumps that used cheap natural gas. Farmers had previously used irrigation pumps powered by electricity. Estes also sold anhydrous ammonia as a fertilizer. This was a great success and Estes soon became a wealthy businessman.
Estes’s business encountered problems when the Department of Agriculture began to control the production of cotton. Allotments were issued telling the cotton farmers how much they could and could not plant. In 1958 Estes made contact with Lyndon B. Johnson. Over the next couple of years Estes ran a vast scam getting federal agricultural subsidies. According to Estes he obtained $21 million a year for “growing” and “storing” non-existent crops of cotton.
In 1960 Henry Marshall was asked to investigate the activities of Billie Sol Estes. Marshall discovered that over a two year period, Estes had purchased 3,200 acres of cotton allotments from 116 different farmers. Marshall wrote to his superiors in Washington on 31st August, 1960, that: “The regulations should be strengthened to support our disapproval of every case (of allotment transfers)”….
On 3rd June, 1961, Marshall was found dead on his farm by the side of his Chevy Fleetside pickup truck. His rifle lay beside him. He had been shot five times with his own rifle. County Sheriff Howard Stegall decreed that Marshall had committed suicide. No pictures were taken of the crime scene, no blood samples were taken of the stains on the truck (the truck was washed and waxed the following day), and no check for fingerprints were made on the rifle or pickup….
On 4th April, 1962, George Krutilek, Estes chief accountant, was found dead. Despite a severe bruise on Krutilek’s head, the coroner decided that he had also committed suicide. The next day, Estes, and three business associates, were indicted by a federal grand jury on 57 counts of fraud. Two of these men, Harold Orr and Coleman Wade, later died in suspicious circumstances. At the time it was said they committed suicide but later Estes was to claim that both men were murdered by Mac Wallace in order to protect the political career of Lyndon B. Johnson.
And, believe me when I tell you, there’s more to the story. A lot more. There’s a lot the people know about and probably more that people don’t know about. But, old Billie Sol is still around and only he knows all the truth.