Skiles & Henderson
Both of us come from show business families. Bill, born in Texas and later transplanted to Southern California, was part of the Skiles family orchestra at the tender age of two and a half, behind a big set of drums. Of course, being a Skiles endeavor, this particular band wasn't like other outfits. Consider the name: The Bob Skiles Haywire Orchestra. Bob was Bill's daddy and . . . like father like son.
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Pete didn't get into music until he was four years old when he took his first piano lessons. His desire to play was sparked by his visits to the huge soundstage at 20th Century Fox with his father, Charles, who was the vocal director, songwriter, vocal arranger and/or conductor on most of the Fox musicals of the forties. Young Peter had no desire at this time to be a comedian. Then, years later in 1953, Pete Henderson met a drummer named Bill Skiles and said to himself, "This guy's a nut!" Bill made Pete laugh a lot, so when Bill suggested a comedy partnership, Pete figured he'd have more fun doing comedy than doing music. Besides, comedians made more money.
Our first job was at Disneyland in 1958. Nine shows a day, fifty-four shows a week. We loved it. By l959 we were working days (shows) and nights (with our DateNite band) and decided it was time to enter the real world of nightclubs. So we played little lounges in Las Vegas (and Albuquerque and Tacoma and Newport Beach and dozens of others.) playing music and singing and joking for a few years, even spending some time doing television and cabaret in Melbourne, Australia. Returning from Australia we discovered that Selective Service and the Draft had blown Pete away into the army for two years but 1963 saw us back in the lounges, honing our comedy for a few years. Then we found a bigger stage.
Starting in 1965 we spent an entire year as part of a well known folk singing group called The New Christy Minstrels, a year spent almost entirely on the road. We did this with the understanding that we would be featured as Skiles and Henderson during the Christy concerts and in this way we became accustomed to larger audiences. Television appearances during this period included the prestigious Bell Telephone Hour and The Red Skelton Show. When we left the Minstrels in 1966 (with an unknown named Kenny Rogers taking Pete's place in the Christys,) we were ready for the Nevada main room circuit where we opened shows for everyone from Tennessee Ernie Ford to Andy Williams. We also started doing TV on the Dean Martin and Ed Sullivan shows. Rowan and Martin featured us on their 1970 Comedy Concert Tour (along with Lily Tomlin) and then, at one of our last Ed Sullivan tapings, we met Richard and Karen Carpenter and eventually became a part of their concerts. That went on for five years and a world tour, with Skiles and Henderson doing the first half of the concerts and Pete singing with the Carpenters during their Oldies Medley to close the show.
At the same time and on into the Eighties, we did the usual TV spots, featured on a Bob Hope Special, more Dean Martin, lots of Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Steve Allen, Mike Douglas and so on . . . literally hundreds of shows; talk shows, game shows (80 Hollywood Squares), variety shows, charity shows, telethons, you name it, we did it.
After a tour of the United Kingdom with Andy Williams in 1979, our families thought it might be nice to have us home a little more, so we discovered the corporate world of conventions and trade shows which took us through the 80's and into the 90's. The nineties! . . . cruise ships, symphony orchestras and the wonderful town of Branson, Missouri, where we continue entertaining in various venues. Theses days you'll find Bill's family in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Pete is happy to make his home right in Branson.
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