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Grandkids inherit grandmother’s talent

James E. BillieWhat I’ve been seeing lately is it seems like every generation picks up the habits of the first generation. I finally got to hear the Osceola brothers – Cameron, 18, Tyson, 16, and Sheldon, 13 – play their music at the 77th annual Brighton Field Day. I knew they played music, but I did not really know how well they played. And I think I did hear them a few years back and they were just getting to the point that they were good, and what was interesting to note is I kept wondering, who did these boys pick up their musical ability from?

I figured out it was their grandmother, Jimmy Hank Osceola’s wife, Marie Willie (her maiden name). Marie Willie, back when she and I were teenagers, 13-14 years old, we all went to the same church, First Baptist Church in Hollywood. And Marie would play the piano and I would lead the songs. Every Sunday we did the same things.

We weren’t really that good – she was better than I was. I was trying to remember the songs, but she played the piano very well and I would try to follow, and every Sunday we would try to lead the songs at Church. Sunday morning and Sunday night.

This went on for several years, maybe four or five years, until we all reached the high school age. I finally left Hollywood and went to Haskell Indian school and I believe Marie stayed here and went to McArthur High School and graduated. Eventually she married Jimmy Hank Osceola. I eventually graduated from high school at Haskell Institute and after that I joined the Army and came back to Florida in 1968. By that time Jimmy Hank and Marie had children and life went on.

I played guitar and attempted my best at folk singing. And I would see children trying to learn my songs and I often wondered who was going to take over and go way beyond what I was doing or what any of the other people were doing and lo and behold, here came the Osceola brothers. I believe, in my opinion, here in modern times, they are some of the best musicians around. And they are probably going to get better.

So whatever the Osceola brothers are doing now, there is probably somebody else out there watching and listening and wishing they could do the same thing. And several years from now, here comes the next generation doing their best to play great music, to carry on.

So what am I trying to say? Parents, no matter what you are doing, there are some young ones out there watching you. Remember to set a good example, for that next generation is probably going to out-do us by a long shot.

I really enjoyed the Osceola Brothers Band and I thank their grandmother, Marie Willie Osceola, for setting the pace, setting the example for them.


James E. Billie is Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.