For 33 years, Landers played with the outrageously costumed Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88s, a popular party band. The 1950s-style rock and swing group was best known for “Don’t Mess with Texas” on the 1986 Addy Award-winning public service announcements for the Texas Department of Transportation
During decades of touring, they had shared the stage with Wolfman Jack, Dick Clark, James Brown, the Beach Boys, Charlie Daniels, Tanya Tucker, the Pointer Sisters, and Ricky Nelson, among others.
“As the band played, you could feel the air jump and move in a very heavy, rhythmic swing, putting everyone within ear shot into the ‘Johnny Dee’ trance,” KEAN 105.1 FM program director Rudy Fernandez wrote this week on the Abilene station’s blog. “You couldn’t help it but you would first start tapping your toes, then, the full boogie was on and everybody danced.”
A graduate of Abilene High School, Landers had lived in Austin for 35 years. The Rocket 88s played all over Texas, often for charity groups. They were known for covers of songs such as “Little Bitty Pretty One” and “Do You Love Me?”