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Patrolling by day, singing by night: Texas officer charms community by moonlighting as local musician

“[Officer Willie Lain’s] talent is undeniable and showcases just one of the many interests our officers have outside of their law enforcement careers,” Chief Mike Hamlin said

By Rick Mauch
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

GRAPEVINE, Texas — By day, Willie Lain works to keep the citizens of Grapevine safe. By night, he entertains them.

Lain is a singing police officer. That’s not to say if he pulls someone over to give them a ticket — or let them off with a warning — he’s going to break out into a country western song.

However, if you happen to find yourself in Farina’s Winery & Cafe on Main Street, you’ll recognize him. Instead of his police uniform with a badge, he’ll be in blue jeans with a guitar as the evening entertainment.

“I used to be a part of a few bands a long time ago, even with Opryland and all that,” Lain said. “Here, now, I just started playing in places and it’s just grown from there.

“Can’t remember the year, but there was a motorcycle rodeo, I want to say in 2014 and that’s when I started playing at Farina’s Winery in Grapevine ... and it’s grown from that.”

He’s booked every Friday and Saturday night through the end of December.

Family tradition

Lain comes from a musical family. He got his first guitar when he was 8 and played with them growing up, learning all the while.

Then came a moment that changed his life.

“The story about me is my grandfather. My grandfather dared me to enter a contest and I did and it’s gone on from there,” Lain said.

His grandfather played harmonica, several other family members played guitar, and his grandmother’s sister’s husband played fiddle.

“We’ve got music all over our family,” he said with a chuckle.

Lain, 52, grew up Deer Park, and even met his wife Tamara through his music in 1993 while performing at Fiesta Texas in San Antonio. He played at Opryland in Nashville in 1994 and 1995 before moving to Grapevine in 1996 and going to work for the city in 1997 — joining the police force in 2006.

Tamara sings with him sometimes, as does their daughter, Peyton. They also have a son, Dillon, and daughter-in-law Mackenzie.

“My daughter sings like a bird. She loves to sing and I love singing with her, duets,” Lain said.

It’s not uncommon for someone watching Lain perform to recognize him from an earlier encounter.

“Yeah, people notice me. I’m a cop in Grapevine and I play in Grapevine mostly,” he said with a smile.

Lain is also a hit with his fellow officers who sometimes come to see him perform.

“I’ve got a lot of support throughout the city, not just the police department,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that support me.”

Lain has performed the national anthem at Texas Rangers games, Texas Motor Speedway and at numerous law enforcement and public events.

“His talent is undeniable and showcases just one of the many interests our officers have outside of their law enforcement careers,” Grapevine Police Chief Mike Hamlin said.

A big draw

Stephanie Reed is manager of Farina’s and has worked there for 15 years. She said Lain is a staple and a big draw.

“Willie has played here for several years. He has a huge following. He has a beautiful voice,” she said. “I always request that he sings the national anthem like in the middle of the night. The place just goes dead silent and you can hear a pin drop, it’s just amazing.

“His daughter works here as well. She has a beautiful voice just as he does. It runs in the family.”

Reed said Lain is fun and engaging in all aspects of life, whether onstage or on the beat.

“Everybody loves him. He’s the same way as a police officer. He takes both jobs very serious and everyone just respects him and loves him,” she said.

Reed recalled the time she hired Lain, which she said was an easy decision.

“It was after a motorcycle training a long time ago on our back patio. Willie was part of the training, but he brought his car and was sitting back there playing,” she said. “I was like. ‘Why aren’t you playing here? You’re amazing!’ He was like, ‘Are you serious?’ and the rest is history.”

Lain said he once wanted to make it big in the music industry, but he’s happy playing for his fellow residents and folks visiting his beloved Grapevine. However…

“If it happened today, I’d pursue it and give it my all just like when I play,” he said, again noting that he loves his station in life. “I have a good time what I’m doing. I like entertaining the people that come out and see me.”

Lain has played in some notable venues, including Gruene Hall, Texas’ oldest dance hall, in New Braunfels (since 1878). He also played the famed Bluebonnet Palace in Selma and the historic Coupland Dance Hall.

“I’ve played in some pretty cool honky-tonks,” he said with a laugh.

He reminisced about recording a song on AMI Records in the late ‘90s titled “Bully of the Town,” which he said was a minor hit. He remained under contract with the company for about a year.

“It was a pretty cool song. Did that back in 1999. I think it made it to 54 on the independent charts — about eight weeks,” he said. “Went over 3,300 stations across the United States. It was a cool thing to me.”

Whatever the future holds for Lain, he’s clearly not looking to relocate. He fell in love with Grapevine years ago and the feeling continues to grow.

“It’s a great city, a great community to be a part of. I don’t want to be anywhere else,” he said. “I love working for Grapevine. I’ve been there a lot of years. I’ve seen it grow and change. It’s still a great place to be.”

And he’d love to have you come see him perform — but please, give yourself plenty of time to get there and don’t speed. After all, the only tickets he really likes are those that let folks into his shows.

“A lot of times they ask for a warning,” he said, smiling. “But I do my job.”

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