Charles “Gene” Crossland was born on July 9, 1933 in Broken Bow, Oklahoma on the same piece of property he died on 86 years later on October 4, 2019. He, his father Charlie and mother Pearl Milton Crossland, were living in a tent-house with wooden floor and canvas walls with his brother Earl Lee (then 7), sister Juanita (then 5), and Ola Mae (then 3). His father died 11 months later. When he was 5, his mother married Joe Ware, who by that time owned the place. All predecease him, as do his half-sisters Leola, Myrtle, and Willie Jewell and his half-brother John Allen (Crossland).
Gene Crossland started living up to his last name at an early age. He’d slip off from his sisters when just a toddler and climb out of his first-grade classroom window. Around ’42 or ’43 the family moved to Aransas Pass for a year and picked cotton outside of Edna, Texas, for six weeks when their old pickup blew its last good tire. They rode a Greyhound to California in ’44 to live in the DiGiorgio migrant labor camp and working the grape fields near Bakersfield. They always returned to Broken Bow.
In Broken Bow Gene had heard bands play in street concerts and in Bakersfield heard the men playing music in the evening. He loved the music and yearned for a guitar of his own. When he finally got one, he practiced when the other boys wanted to play ball. He practiced until his family would run him out of the house and down the hill so they wouldn’t have to listen to him. His practicing would eventually earn him recognition and respect throughout the West Coast.
In ’48 Gene and his folks traveled Route 66 in a loaded down truck on their first of many trips to Oregon. They camped at night alongside of the highway, sleeping on a mattress laid out on the ground. He hitchhiked to Broken Bow and to Oregon at least once. In Oregon he met and married Frances Farley, his surviving spouse of 67 years.
Gene is also survived by his three daughters and their husbands Cathy and Steven Bain, Sandi and James K. Brunson, Charlie and Dan Lewis; five grandchildren, Justin Bain, Jessica Wade, Ross Bain, James C. Brunson, Catie Lewis; and 11 great-grandchildren AJ Warlick, Kalie Bain, Braden Jamar, Morgan Bain, Miles Bain, Gibson Bain, Maisy Wade, Kinsley Wade, Talyn Bain, Lachlyn Bain, Austyn Gene Bain.
Gene began playing guitar in bands around Oregon at age 17. One night when a band’s steel guitar player didn’t show, he was offered a free steel guitar if he’d learn to play it. He agreed, which led to a professional career that took him from Oregon to Las Vegas, back to Bakersfield, and as far away as Alaska and Alabama. He worked with many recording artists before forming his own band. The Lucky Four and backing Golden Nugget headliner Eddie Dean. He played opposite Waylon Jennings, Charley Walker, Bob Wills, and Merle Haggard among others.
In ’69 he left the music business, returned once and for all to Oklahoma, and eventually took ownership of his birthplace in Broken Bow.
Over the course of his life, Gene Crossland was a paper boy, a shoe-shine boy, and a farm hand. He worked in the ice cream plant in Broken Bow with his life-long friend Choc Wallace and in a second-hand store for the Tuckers. He worked in sawmills and plywood plants. He was a barber, a musician, a construction worker, a beer salesman, and a Baptist Deacon. He drove 18-wheel trucks and car haulers and retired after 25 years. Gene was an active member of First Baptist Church of Broken Bow and talked with those he met about their relationship to the Lord until he couldn’t speak any longer.
Gene loved his wife, his daughters and sons-in-law, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, his church family, his friends, the Lord, traveling, Country Music, Broken Bow Savages and OU football, and not always in that order.
A visitation for family and friends will be held on Sunday, October, 6, 2019 from 6:00 to 8:00 P.M. at Bunch Singleton Funeral Home Chapel of Broken Bow, Oklahoma.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Monday, October 7, 2019 at 2:00 P.M. at the First Baptist Church in Broken Bow, Oklahoma with Bro. Pete Wilson officiating.
Interment will follow at the Crown Hill Cemetery.