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Mexia News

Texas Tornado on bass

By Skip Leon,

2023-01-07 ,

Growing up in Mexia in the 1970s, Dwayne Heggar was surrounded by music.

A number of family members played instruments. Heggar started playing the trombone at Mexia Junior High. Eventually he earned a music scholarship to McClennan Community College, picked up a bass and moved to Dallas where there was a burgeoning music scene.

Heggar has carved out a niche in the music industry over nearly four decades as a performer and instructor. He has played in the highly popular Emerald City Band for more than 30 years. He has

Dwayne Heggar employs the slap technique as he practices on the bass.

The Mexia native has carved out a long career playing and teaching in Dallas over the past 40 years. He was voted a Texas Tornado bassist by Buddy magazine in 2022, one of 13 musicians to receive the honor.

performed throughout the country and even played at the White House twice.

In 2022, Heggar was chosen as a Texas Tornado bassist by Buddy Magazine. He was one of 13 honorees.

The magazine’s annual Texas Tornado awards represent a virtual Hall of Fame of Texas music performers. It has been giving the awards since 1978. Some of the early recipients included Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughn and his brother Jimmie Vaughn.

Heggar found out in early 2022 that he would receive the award, which was announced in November.

“Receiving an award such as being elected as a Texas Tornado bassist is equal to winning an Academy Award as an actor, or having your name engraved on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or being inducted into the Hall of Fame among the elites. It’s the notoriety of someone’s body of work that has impacted the music industry,” Heggar said.

He said the news was not surprising, since he has paid his dues and been playing in Dallas for nearly 40 years.

“It wasn’t a surprise. I felt it was overdue, especially when two of my bass students were inducted in previous years,” Heggar said.

He noted that another Texas Tornado honoree in the past was Cindy Walker, the legendary country music songwriter who also is from Mexia.

“It feels good to stand with someone like the famous, legendary Cindy Walker by having two Texas Tornados to represent Mexia, which makes my induction very special,” he said.

Heggar’s body of work is voluminous. He estimated that he has played in front of hundreds of thousands of people over the years. In addition to his work with the Emerald City Band, he has appeared on television shows and in commercials. He has played at many historical events in Dallas and the surrounding area. He also is one of the premier teachers of the bass with an array of students of all ages and skill levels.

Heggar said he has played at such events as the groundbreaking ceremony for the American Airlines Center, Bass Hall in Fort Worth, Lone Star Park, The Verizon Center, the Perot Museum, AT&T Stadium and The Star in Frisco. He played twice at the White House and also has performed in every House of Blues club in the United States.

He began playing on the jazz scene when he moved to Dallas in the early 1980s, but switched to playing in the pop music genre after three years, and that’s where he has made his mark.

Heggar recalled his jazz days with fondness.

“I was on the local jazz scene back in the early 80s when I moved to Dallas,” he said. “The jazz scene was big, with jazz-related venues all over town, especially on Greenville Avenue. You would find the baddest musicians on both sides of the streets. When you walked in and saw those cats, you would be blown away.”

Heggar played with vocalist Jeanette Brantley and her band for three years. There was always work and always a crowd.

“I was blessed to play with some very talented musicians while playing in front of large audiences on a nightly basis back then,” he said. “That was the life as a jazz musician. That scene has definitely changed in the present day.”

When he switched genres to play popular music, there were still goodsized crowds. Heggar played for three years with Dallas Brass and Electric, a wellknown band at the time.

“There were pop venues all over town, lines wrapped around the building, wallto- wall packed Monday through Sunday,” Heggar said.

After three years with Dallas Brass and Electric, Heggar got the call to play for the Emerald City Band, a well-established outfit that played shows throughout the country.

Heggar spoke about paying his dues in those early days.

“The road from 1984-89 was not easy, but I earned every step to this high platform. Nothing was given to me — it was earned,” he said.

Heggar said as a youngster in Mexia he got the itch to become a professional musician.

“Growing up in a small town like Mexia, I always dreamed of doing what I’m doing to this very day. My journey to this point wasn’t easy,” Heggar said.

He began playing trombone at Mexia Junior High and continued to play in the Blackcat Band at Mexia High School. Heggar said he is still in touch with his junior high band director, Jerry Thomas, and his high school band director, John Ivey, Jr. He also still talks with his high school football coach, Ron Anders. He cites them as important to his development.

“These three men motivated me,” Heggar said. “All three had a different approach, but all three worked. I still bring up their names when I’m teaching my students and still use their quotes that motivated me after all these years. I have a strong passion for what I do and where I’m from.”

With all his projects, Heggar found time recently to record the Mexia High School Fight Song. He uploaded it to Youtube and also put it on his Facebook page. Heggar played all the instruments for the song, which was written by former band director Joe Tom Haney.

Heggar said he also was influenced by family members who played instruments. His eldest brother, James Ray, played saxophone. His brothers Kenny and Rickey played the tuba and sisters Debra and Frankie played the flute.

He said Kenny began playing drums and Rickey took up guitar. Kenny continued to play in bands and eventually asked Dwayne if he would play bass in the group. That’s when he began playing the electric bass.

Dwayne said as he was learning bass, he was influenced by local bass players Reginald Conner and Lionel (Lonnie, Jr.) Walker.

“Both of those guys were bassists that were playing in across-town bands, so I would go watch, listen and study,” Dwayne said.

During this time he was becoming more well-known as a basist and playing in a small family band called The Kustomize Band that included his brother, Kenny, his sister, Debra, and his sister- in-law, Dorothy, among others. They would play at small venues in Mexia such as Club 84 and Daisy Joe Chicken Shack in an area of town called The Beat. They also played in area towns such as Teague and Mart, as well as in Bryan.

“At this point, my passion for continuing my career as a bassist had gained momentum,” Dwayne said.

In addition to his playing schedule, Dwayne has a full slate of students to whom he gives private lessons.

“My students range from young to old, and everyone from police officers, firemen, doctors, attorneys, pastors and even pro athletes, boys and girls from all walks of life that are inspired to learn,” he said. He counts among his students former Dallas Mavericks player Loren Meyer, former Dallas Cowboys Mark Tuinei and Tony Casillas, and former NFL player and Wortham native Leonard Davis.

In addition, Dwayne has been playing at his church, The Pathway of Life in Mesquite, for more than 20 years. He cites Pastor Danny Wegman and Pastor Kelly James for their leadership.

“It’s my other life as a musician, my gift to give back,” Dwayne said. “There’s nothing greater than playing in a ministry, especially this one. It also is uncommon for a working musician to serve that long at the same church, but it let me know it’s definitely the right place for praise and worship.”

His weekly schedule is hectic.

“Playing with Emerald City an average of four nights a week, my church, and teaching everyday is quite a load,” Dwayne said. “With all that, there’s no time for anything else. That’s being a professional musician full time. At this point, anyone can see I’m not your everyday average musician.”

For his future plans, Heggar said, “The biggest purpose of my future in the music industry is to continue my work of serving the community and industry. I’m in the works of developing my own online bass lessons portal to reach out to the masses and ex-students that had moved away from the Dallas area, and continuing my work with Emerald City in the infrastructure part of the company.”

Heggar said he will continue his rigorous schedule. This Texas Tornado has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

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