Great State: Old Time Country Music has a Special Place in his Heart and his Bethany Garage

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BETHANY, OKLAHOMA -- "This was once a garage," says Dennis Davis as he steps down from the laundry room in his small house in Bethany.

He used to store two cars and a boat in here, but those items have long since been banished outside.

"Welcome to my country music hall of fame," he says.

Then he makes a big claim.

"I've got the largest collection of country music in pictures and albums of anybody west of the Mississippi."

He's had lots of visitors before but Dennis wanted us to get here quickly because a whole table full of Hank Williams Sr. memorabilia was headed to the singer's museum in Montgomery, Alabama; books, pictures, all of it.

"How many records do you have?" asks a visitor refering to his Hank Williams collection.

"Over 500," he replies.

Dennis grabs a book of sheet music.

"This is his songbook," he says. "It may be the only one left in the world."

Davis has had an interesting career in publishing. He started a little handout flyer called 'Shortgrass Prairie News' in 1975 to promote the sport of rodeo.

Along the way he got to know a lot of country artists who performed at them.

He boasts, "I did the last interview on the road with Earnest Tubbs (before he died)."

'Shortgrass Country News' eventually became 'I-40 Country News'.

If he visited a radio station he'd take any old records they were throwing out.

Whatever anyone was willing to let go came in here.

"It was just a natural," says Davis. "I kinda' grew up in an era where we never threw things away."

He had a silent partner in his adventures on the road, a repossessed store dummy he called Okie Joe.

Davis recalls, "One time a guy flagged me down and said, 'Hey. My wife wants to meet your buddy. She's always wanted to meet a man who wouldn't talk back."

Most of the Davis collection is still in this garage, minus the old Hank Williams stuff by now.

Dennis Davis saved whatever he could by never falling out of love with classic country music.

"No doubt about it," he declares. "If it doesn't have a fiddle and a steel guitar in it then I don't listen."

Dennis Davis' publications ran weekly from 1975 to 2000.

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