Anson Funderburgh, Blues Musician

Little did his parents know in 1957 that the Roy Rogers guitar they gave their three-year-old cotton-top would change the international genre of blues guitar music. Little did his high school principal and teachers know that the kid who refused to cut his hair in the 1970s, choosing to wear a wig instead, would go on to be nominated 10 times for a Blues Music Award (BMA), the highest honor in the world of blues music.

That little kid, who spent his earliest years on a virtually isolated farm near the current intersection of Independence Parkway and Legacy Drive, is Anson Funderburgh, an American blues guitarist and bandleader of his most renowned band, Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets.

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Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets perform during Lewisville’s Texas Tunes series, January 2016 // photo courtesy of Kerry Langford

Anson, a 1973 graduate of Plano High School, used that Roy Rogers guitar and others (mostly Fender) to forge his career in the music industry. Anson has been pitted against such famous musicians as B.B. King in his BMA nominations.

Performing with such well-known musicians such as singer-songwriter Boz Skaggs (who also happens to hail from Plano), saxophonist David Sanborn, blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan and popular blues harmonica player Sam Myers, the Plano native tours internationally, but still calls Plano his roots.

“Sometimes, I still think I am 13 years old. We got to grow up in Plano at a wonderful time,” Anson said. “Everyone knew everyone.”

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Anson with Boz Scaggs, a fellow musician with Plano roots // photo courtesy of Anson Funderburgh

Growing up in his early years as an only child on a farm, Anson was excited when his father stopped farming the land of the popular Plano physician Dr. Jerry Thompson, and his family moved to 809 21st Street in the Haggard Addition of east Plano. There he was able to make friends in the neighborhood. At that time, Plano had yet to begin its building boom.

“I used to ride my bike across Highway 75 to get to Harrington Park to go to the swimming pool,” he said, referring to the lack of traffic in this area in the early 1960s.

But before Anson, now 61, made a name for himself opening up for big names such as Linda Ronstadt as well as Cheech and Chong, his years growing up in tiny little Plano made him the man he is today.

The current McKinney resident and married father of two did what many could only dream of doing. He taught himself to play the guitar and went on to make a living doing what he loved with that set of strings.

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Anson’s love for the guitar started as a young kiddo in the late ’50s // photo courtesy of Anson Funderburgh

At the age of 14, Anson recalls he was able to worm his way into a band with a bunch of the older high school guys in Plano. PHS students Mark Creed, Jerry Davis, Johnny Strawn and Skipper Wilson, among others, welcomed the young and talented Anson into their local band.

At that time in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the music revolution also included a trend of young guys growing their hair long enough to drape across their shoulders and trail down their backs. In the 1972 and 1973 The Planonian yearbooks from Plano High School, articles and pictures showed the lengths (no pun intended) that some teens would go to in order to buck the system and the conservative dress code that required short hair.

Anson, along with a handful of other boys protesting the hair code, decided that in order to stay out of trouble with the school administration, they would still continue to let their locks grow uncut, but cover up their own hair with wigs short enough to fit into the dress code.

“This [hair rebellion] showed how much my mom and dad loved me,” he added. “I probably embarrassed them, and I feel bad for that, but it showed how much they cared for me.”

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Anson (second from left) with his friends and band mates in the 70s // photo courtesy of Scott Ferris

Anson’s hard-working parents were never far away. His mother, Wilma, worked in school cafeterias and was admired for her delectable dishes, especially the homemade crust she used in her cobblers. She also worked in the popular Donley’s Flower Shop. His father was employed by Plano ISD for years, cleaning the schools and tending to the yard work, but was mostly known for his friendly personality that spilled over into the schools where he worked.

One of the most humorous times remembered during Anson’s days of sporting a short wig was in Physical Education class at PHS. While performing sit-ups to the commands and whistle of the coach, Anson’s wig flew off of his head and hurled out of control across the gym floor.

In addition to music, the Plano native, who performed at Dallas’s Poor David’s Pub for some ten years, also has another claim to fame. Former Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets bassist Mike Judge left the band after a few years and became the animator and creator of the animated television series “Beavis and Butt-head” and “King of the Hill.” Anson said Judge modeled the King of the Hill” character, Boomhauer, after him, and there is some speculation that Beavis’ pompadour is modeled after Anson’s own rockabilly hairstyle.

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Anson Funderburgh in front of downtown Plano’s Courtyard Theater, which was the school gymnasium during his junior high years // photo by Jennifer Shertzer

On rare occasions, blues enthusiasts can catch Anson performing in or near Plano. Soon after the Oak Point Amphitheater opened in east Plano around 2007, he performed before a sold-out crowd of some 1,500 local fans. In January 2016, he sold out a concert in Lewisville in almost record time, leaving many of his local followers without a ticket. The BMA nominee is also credited with starting a Singer-Songwriter event at Cadillac Pizza Pub in McKinney.

Anson, who has recorded at least a dozen albums in his years in the music business, spends much of his time on the road, touring not only across the country, but also in Europe. Anson and his band completed a European tour in March of this year, concentrating on his fan base in Switzerland. In early 2016, he and his bandmates were invited to perform aboard the Delbert McClinton and Friends Sandy Beaches Cruise. The Golden State-Lone Star Revue, an annual event melding blues talents from California and Texas, also showcases Anson and his talents.

Blues musicians, including Plano’s own son, not only entertain their fan base, but they also give back with a helping hand to their own aging musician brothers and sisters. “[Through the] BMA, funds are distributed to help older blues musicians in need of money for rent, medical bills and tombstones,” said Anson.

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Anson visiting downtown Plano’s Cox Building, where he attended 5th and 7th grades in the 60s, when it was called Cox Junior High // photo by Jennifer Shertzer

Life on the road as an artist can be tough, according to Anson, with long drives late at night, often in undesirable conditions. He advises aspiring young musicians who want to get a college education in music to also major in business so they are able to manage their money in the music industry.

“People are always going to do what they want to do,” he said, “but music is a special gift—it comes from the heart.”

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4 Comments

  • I was introduced to Anson through a mutual friend Eddie Cog, long-time sound engineer for Delbert McClinton. I was working the house gig at The House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, SC where Eddie had settled after some close calls on the road. From the instant you meet Anson you realize you’re dealing with the real deal. A genuinely nice person, Anson in turn introduced me to the late great Sam Myers who I had long admired. Without hesitation he had me join him on stage for a few songs and it’s a memory I will forever cherish and take with me wherever I go. Your article is wonderful and there’s not enough good things that can be said about such a talented, humble man. Thank you Rick. It was a pleasure to read.

  • I remember those times well! I was another one of the students who was involved with the hair rebellion and wore a wig in protest. I grew my hair to the middle of my back and loved every minute of it.

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