La Vernia-area musician Carrol Sammons has deep roots in Wilson County.
Born Virgil Carrol Sammons in 1932 in Floresville, Carrol recalls his grandfather and cousins having cut C.R. 317 with a machete and an axe.
He learned to play guitar by watching his cousins play guitar chord changes at dances. They gave him his first guitar, and at the age of 16, Carrol started his own band, the “Circle C Band.” By the time he graduated from Burbank High School in San Antonio, he had been playing lead guitar professionally at local clubs and events for at least two years.
Carrol also played for the “Texas Top Hands.” The “Top Hands” played the first Poteet Strawberry Festival in 1957, and are playing the festival this coming weekend, 70 years later.
Carrol and the “Circle C Band” performed on San Antonio’s KONO radio station; KMAC DJ Charlie Walker’s show in the 1950s; Channel 5’s weekly television show, “Ranch House Party” (the station was KEYL at the time); and KGNB radio in New Braunfels.
Throughout the years, Carrol has played with many well-known musicians. Their names are a litany of country music, including Bob Wills, Johnny Horton, Roger Miller, Hank Williams Sr., Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Sonny James, Porter Wagoner, Slim Whitman, Johnny Cash, Freddie Fender, George Jones, Bill Anderson, and Bobby Bare.
Seeing the demise of several of these stars due to alcohol and drugs, Carrol chose not to indulge in either.
In addition to lead guitar, Carrol also plays mandolin and harmonica, and sings.
He also wrote songs, and penned “Wasted Love” with the band in 1959. It reached No. 2 on the California charts, and No. 19 in the nation.
His music has taken him to venues across the Lone Star State, as iconic as the musicians he’s performed with, such as Randy’s Rodeo, The Farmer’s Daughter, The Golden Stallion, Hilltop, Quihi Gun Club, Twin Sisters Dance Hall, Mesquite Hall, Gruene Hall, The Grove in Dallas, and many more.
While playing with the “Texas Top Hands,” he spotted Avanette Moore, who was at a dance with her cousin. They married in 1953 when Carrol was 21. He continued his day job at Kelly Air Force Base for 30 years in a top security clearance position, while also pursuing his music.
Avanette traveled with him when he performed.
They had a daughter, Pamela, and a son, Terry. A family man, Carrol finished his gigs and “came right home to her and the kids.” Terry began to drum with the “Circle C Band” when he was 7 years old.
Carrol now has two regular gigs in La Vernia -- Sunday mornings at the Cowboy Fellowship of Wilson County on U.S. 87, and at Country Care Manor every Saturday. Avanette passed away while at Country Care Manor, and he plays there in tribute to her.
Bob Wills requested that Carrol play for him during his performances; he’s quoted as saying, “The ‘Circle C Band’ is to San Antonio what apple pie is to Mom.”
Carrol is so humble, said his companion JoDee Doyle, that he told her, “They asked me [to play] ’cause I went in, played, and didn’t make any mistakes.”
This humble musician will be inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame, along with fellow “Circle C” bandmate, Johnny Bellinger, at the Western Swing Heritage Festival in San Marcos this Saturday, April 8.
For more on the festival, visit smtxswingfest.com.
You don’t have to go to San Marcos to hear this local legend play. You can catch him and fellow musicians in the back room at Witte’s Bar-B-Que in La Vernia on Wednesday nights, starting around 6 p.m.