His name is Ben Dorcy and he’s been a roadie since 1950. With his 90th birthday coming up next month, Texas Monthly looks back on the career of a guy who might just have been the first roadie ever.
Like a band of gypsies, we go down the highway,” read the lyrics to “On the Road Again,” Willie Nelson’s 1980 paean to the itinerant touring life. Thirty years before Willie wrote those lines—on a plane, of all places—Ben Dorcy III was already the proto-road warrior.
Known far and wide as “Lovey,” after his preferred endearment for everyone he meets, Dorcy is credited by Willie with being the first-ever roadie—and as “the world’s oldest living roadie” by nearly everyone else.
Given the tangled switchbacks of history, it’s hard to argue with that sentiment. Dorcy, who turns 90 in May, started as a bandboy in 1950 for Hank Thompson—in that day, more a personal valet than the seasoned road crew celebrated in songs by Motorhead and Tenacious D, or on screen in the 1980 cult classic filmed in Austin, Roadie, starring Meat Loaf. In the 65 years since then, Dorcy has toured and/or worked with Ray Price (with whom he relocated to Nashville for half a decade), Elvis Presley (“when he was young”), Buck Owens, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Leon Payne, Johnny Bush, Johnny Cash, Faron Young, Jerry Jeff Walker, David Allan Coe, and Willie, among countless others lost to time.
There’s more here. And if the name Ben Dorcy sounds familiar, it could be because you’re thinking of (a) the 1980 movie Roadie in which the character played by Meat Loaf was inspired by him; and (b) one of the many songs people have written about him.