ABILENE – Robert Hoy “Bob” Lapham, 83, author, long-time editor for the Abilene Reporter-News and the last surviving member of the 1950s pop and rock ‘n’ roll vocal group The Picks, died on April 4.
A native of Abilene, Lapham graduated from Abilene High School in 1953 and attended Texas Tech University, studying engineering, business administration and speech and dramatics. He was a Tech varsity golf letterman in 1953-54.
After spending six years in oil field supply with Continental EMSCO in Wichita Falls, Snyder and Abilene, he entered journalism in 1966 as sports editor of the Brownsville Herald.
During his career, he was director of sports for the Brownsville Herald, Harlingen Valley Morning Star and McAllen Monitor, and finally sports editor for the Abilene Reporter-News.
He gained four statewide AP and UPI writing awards, including sportswriter of the year for UPI in 1970.
He was sports editor, news editor, special features editor and arts and entertainment writer during a 25-year span at the Reporter-News that began in 1975. He retired in 2000.
Lapham became a member of The Picks in 1957. The trio also included the late John and Bill Pickering. They were best known as the surreptitious voices of The Crickets on nine early Buddy Holly recordings, on which they arranged and sang the backup vocals that would help generate an estimated 52 million Holly records, LPs, tapes and CDs worldwide.
Over the span of 30 years, he wrote five books. Among his works were “Twenty Years of Life Begins at Forty - The Story of a Unique Golf Tournament,” a history published in 1973, and two commissioned works, “What Made Wyatt Urp,” the biography of C.D. (Toad) Leon (2001); and co-wrote “The Wild Blue...And Family Too,” a biographical novel based upon the life of a retired Air Force officer- B-47 pilot (2008). “Meet Me at the River Buddy Holly,” his first attempt at a novel in 2003, was partially and factually based upon his days as Holly’s backup baritone, a job that was taken over by the late Waylon Jennings when Lapham and the Picks split in late 1957.
They reemerged in 1984 to overdub their voices on mostly obscure early Holly recordings.
His last book, the novel “Ethan’s Keys,” was published in 2009.
He was a former volunteer on the chaplain’s staff at both Middleton and Robertson prisons. He was a private pilot.
Lapham married Mary Parker Garren of Wichita Falls on May 7, 1960, in Abilene and she survives him. He is also survived by three children, one grandchild and other relatives.
Memorial service and interment were held April 7 at First Central Presbyterian Church in Abilene.