LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - Jimmy Yancey is a legendary former band director who impacted the lives of thousands of East Texas band students; for his 90th birthday they wanted to do the same in return.
Birthday parades with carloads of family and friends have become common during the pandemic, but Jimmy Yancey’s line was full of his former band students. Yancey’s youngest son, Chris, organized the parade on social media and tried to reach as many former students of his father as possible. He says, “people from his bands could come in, decorate their cars with their years, and just come by and wish dad a happy birthday.”
Jimmy Yancey was in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. After he was discharged he moved back to Texas and began teaching music to students. He went on to direct different bands across East Texas for forty five years. Chris said he was worried no one would come because of the holiday weekend and the pandemic, but the 35 plus cars in line to wish his father a happy birthday was proof of otherwise, “we had a really good turnout. We had people come today from as far away as Houston, from his Gaston band which was back in the late 50′s.”
Wanda Rhodes and a couple of her former classmates were members of Yancey’s first band as a director. Rhodes says Yancey made such an impression on her, that she remembers a piece of advice he gave her from back in high school, today.
“I was passing off music one summer and he could tell I wasn’t too happy, I think, and he told me ‘anything worth having has to be worked for,’ and I’ve never forgotten that,” says Rhodes.
At the end of his big day, Yancey expressed how grateful he was that so many former students came just to see him, he says “it was just really heartfelt because all of those young men and women… we.. It was a great run.”
During his run, Yancey directed a number of school bands from Van, to Gaston, to Longview. In 2000, one year after his retirement, Jimmy Yancey was inducted into the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame.