Little Texas concert at Great Texas Balloon Race considered homecoming for Longview natives

Porter Howell, Duane Propes excited to return to East Texas

LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - This year’s Saturday night concert at the Great Texas Balloon Race in Longview is considered a homecoming for two Longview natives in the country music group Little Texas. Porter Howell, lead guitarist and lead vocalist, graduated from Pine Tree High School in 1983, while Duane Propes, bassist and vocalist, graduated from Longview High School in 1985.

KLTV 7′s Blake Holland spoke with Howell and Propes via Zoom on Wednesday morning.

“Growing up in Longview, my mom was a piano teacher for one,” Propes said when talking about his early start in music. “There was also a very heavy music program in all the elementary schools and over to middle school. The band program in Longview is still one of the most fantastic programs in the world.”

Propes said at the age of 12 he was asked to join his first band, TNT.

“We started playing clubs around Longview,” Propes said. “We played the Gilmer Yamboree, Hallsville Western Days, stuff like that. And then we went on to play in bars with other bands. And then I met Porter, and we started a band and went to college. So that in a nutshell is kind of how we got from point A to point B.”

“I could say the same thing except for make it Pine Tree High School,” Howell said. “And music education and early band and choir. And my choir director, LouAnn Neely, had a huge influence on a lot of kids.”

It’s their deeply planted roots in the East Texas soil that will make their performance at this year’s GTBR so special.

“We always looked forward to the balloon race every summer,” Propes said. “We’d be up on top of our roofs watching the balloons go over, hollering at the pilots and waving. That was the best part of summer to me. So finally being able to get to play the show is is huge. This is this is one of the things I looked forward to most of my life.”

Their homecoming performance even came up in a recent conversation with East Texas native Neal McCoy at a concert in New York.

“First thing I said to Neal was we’re playing the balloon race,” Howell said. “And I figured he’d done it five times you know, and he said, ‘No, I’ve always been too booked and up here in the Midwest or the North - I’ve never played it.’ I’d love to do it with him (Neal) at some point. That would be more of a homecoming.”

And while fans have their favorites when it comes to songs either written or performed by the Longview natives, we wanted to know what their favorite songs were. Howell said he has two: a commercial favorite and a personal favorite.

“I’d be a fool to not say that God Blessed Texas is my (commercial) favorite,” Howell said. “I appreciate all it’s done for me, my family, and the band. And how it’s been embraced in Texas and all over the world for that matter. My new favorite and personal that I wrote and put out as just a songwriter is a song calledThis Town.”

“My favorite thing to Play is Kick a Little,’” Propes said. “I mean, for one, the bassline is just massive. It’s hard to play, and so it gives me something to really sink my teeth into. But I can tell people this now because the statute of limitations is over. In the solo section of the song, I slipped in the bassline from Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Flying High Again.’ I giggle every time I think about that. They played that song all the way up the charts and it’s got Ozzy Osbourne in there.”

While both men now live in the Nashville area and have for some time, they agree East Texas will always be home. They’re set to headline the GTBR Saturday night at 9:30 at the Longview Convention Complex.

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Blake Holland

Blake Holland

Blake Holland anchors East Texas News at 5, KLTV 7 News at 6, and is a reporter for KLTV/KTRE. Blake grew up in Panola County and graduated from Carthage High School.

KLTV Digital Media Staff

KLTV Digital Media Staff

KLTV 7 has been the East Texas News Leader for over 60 years. It is a destination not only for viewers and web-users, but for people who work in the broadcast industry.