In Memory

Keith Landers

Keith Landers

William Keith Landers


Death Notice in the Austin American Statesman

LANDERS, William Keith, 60, musician, of Austin died Monday [October 17]. Survived by wife Marylyn. Visitation 6 p.m. Friday, Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Funeral Home. Services 1 p.m. Saturday, Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks.

     In Memory of                                               

Keith Landers

January 15, 1951 - October 17, 2011

Keith Landers came into this world on January 15, 1951 and was called home to Heaven on Monday, October 17, 2011.

Keith was a person who was larger than life. He touched the hearts and lives of thousands of people with his incredible and uncanny talent as Johnny Dee in Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88's. His magnetic personality allowed him to make friends out of everyone he met. Keith's greatest joy in life was truly his family as he was absolutely the most devoted husband, father and grandfather a family could ever ask for. His passions in life were performing with his band of 35 years, Johnny Dee & the Rocket 88's, hunting with his family and friends, watching his favorite football and basketball games every chance he got, and keeping his property beautifully landscaped all year round.

Keith is survived by his loving wife of 30 years, Marylyn Landers; his three sons, Justin, Cullen and Mitchell; his grandson, Ethan; two sisters, Sandra (Burke) Baker and Deborah (Doug) Caldwell; also surviving Keith are many nieces, nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews.

The pain of his absence grows stronger by the second and we miss him deeply. We believe that he is now in Heaven with God, which gives us something to smile about. Following cremation, his ashes will be spread at the gravesites of his beloved parents in Abilene, Texas as well as his family property in Austin that he loved so much.

The family will receive friends from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Thursday, October 20, 2011 at Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Funeral Home.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 4:00 p.m., Friday, October 21, 2011 in the Chapel of Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Funeral Home with Pastor Mark Gardner of Ridgetop Baptist Church officiating.

For those desiring, memorial contributions may be made in honor of Keith to the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians at P.O. Box 301496, Austin, Texas 78703-0025, or by visiting

Johnny Dee Of The Rocket 88′s Passes

200x200_Rudy-v2 By: Rudy Fernandez  |
Johnny Dee logo on a drum


Johnny Dee, the band founder, leader and front-man for Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88′s, passed away on Monday evening at approximately 6:30PM after arriving home from a weekly treatment at an Austin dialysis treatment center. Dee’s real name is Keith Landers he was 60 years old and was a 1969 graduate of Abilene High School. Dee had resided in Austin for the past 40 plus years. Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88′s were still performing regularly, mostly on weekends all over the state.

Johnny Dee & the Rocket 88s


He was known throughout the Lone Star State as the “coolest guy ever.” I once described him as “too hip for the room” because he could control the vibe in the air wherever he played. Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88′s played here in west Texas quite a bit during the 80′s and 90′s with their 1950′s jump-jive sock-hop swing. There were many “Cruise Nights” when Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88′s were the main attraction. 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.” You couldn’t help it but you would first start tapping you toes, then, the full boogie was on and everybody danced.


Johnny Dee and his Rocket 88′s were also the stars of a campaign for the Texas Department of Transportation. The public service TV announcements were, “Don’t Mess With Texas” an anti-litter campaign that ran for many years with the band as the pitchmen. As you watch the videos, one is reminded how much of an entertainer Johnny Dee was and when you take into account the number of wardrobe and set changes they did, just for one show, it’s no wonder they will always remain the best 50′s-style rock and roll band ever in my book. My fondest memory was the year that Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88′s and Wolfman Jack both came and performed at our Cruise Night.


As 'Johnny Dee,' musician led party band for 33 years

By Michael Barnes


Updated: 8:08 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011

Published: 7:48 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011

Musician Keith Landers, known by the stage name "Johnny Dee," died Monday evening in an ambulance after a weekly treatment at an Austin dialysis treatment center. He was 60.

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?"

Last year, Landers was drawn into the shooting death of Bill Maddox , his neighbor and best friend since elementary school in Abilene. Maddox was killed in a struggle with John Debrecht, whom Landers told the American-Statesman "was a paranoid schizophrenic off his medicine who believed that he was trying to get into his safe house" in the Scenic Brook neighborhood.

"In eight months, we lost two incredible people," Landers' wife, Marylyn, said Wednesday. "They were lifelong friends and were in several bands together. They were the most genuine, loving, giving men I've ever known."

The Rocket 88s will continue to perform, she said, and will play Sunday at the Nutty Brown Cafe in a Dell Children's Medical Center benefit.

A visitation for Landers is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. today at Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Funeral Home, with services at 4 p.m. Friday.

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10/19/11 01:57 PM #1    

Otis Charles Crumpton

I am going to miss him like ever body that knew him will, he has touch all our hearts and left laughing and won'ting more, but Keith and Karen is in heaven and waiting for one day we will all meet and have a bang of a party and we will look like we did in 69, I turely believe he is happyer and not sick any more. He and karen are having a ball, I miss my old buddy

10/19/11 02:03 PM #2    

Sam Rogers

Guess it's true, only the good die young! Happy trails Keith. Sam Rogers

04/10/13 10:39 PM #3    

Jackie Kelly (Ververs)

Keith sat behind me in senior English and was just about the coolest guy ever. What a shame he was taken too soon.

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