(September 1, 1931 – April 12, 1999) was an American "hobo music" singer.
Born Lecil Travis Martin near the town of Ovilla, Texas, Boxcar Willie was an American country music singer who sang in the "hobo music" style. In 1949, he joined the United States Air Force, became a pilot and flight engineer for the B-29 Super Fortress during the Korean War in the early 1950s.
In Lincoln, Nebraska, Martin was once sitting at a railroad crossing and a fellow that closely resembled his chief boom operator, Willie Wilson, passed by sitting in a boxcar. He said, "There goes Willie." He pulled over and wrote a song entitled "Boxcar Willie." It eventually stuck and became Martin's nickname.
In 1962, Martin met his future wife, Lloene, in Boise, Idaho. They would later have four children.
In San Jose, California, Martin attended a talent show as "Boxcar Willie" and performed under the nickname for the first time. He won first place, a $150 prize and a nickname that he would forever go by. That was his part-time vocation, however; he was still in the Air Force and had been flying daily missions.
In 1976, Martin left the Air Force and became a full-time performer. He entered American mainstream pop culture consciousness due to a series of hyperbole-laced television commercials for record compilations of artists who were obscure in the United States, yet had large international followings, such as Slim Whitman and Zamfir. He went on to become a star in country music, selling more than 10 million records, tapes and CDs worldwide. In 1981, Martin achieved a professional landmark by being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry as its 60th member.
In 1985, Martin moved to Branson, Missouri and purchased a theater on Highway 76, or 76 Country Music Boulevard. In addition to the Boxcar Willie Theater, he opened a museum and eventually had two motels, both bearing his name. Boxcar Willie was one of the first big stars to open a show in Branson, paving the way for the other nationally-known names that followed. He performed at his theater in Branson until he died.
On Halloween in 1996, Martin was diagnosed with leukemia. On April 12, 1999, Martin died in Branson of leukemia at age 67.
The overpass at Interstate 35E and Farm to Market Road 664 in Red Oak, Texas (also known as Ovilla Road, approximately four miles east of Ovilla) was renamed "Boxcar Willie Memorial Overpass" after a major reconstruction project.
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