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Gary S. Hickinbotham

TOLER, GARY DAN [DOC] (1943-2005). Doc Toler, singer and songwriter, was born Gary Dan Toler in Shreveport, Louisiana, on May 29, 1943, to Earl Ralph Toler and Delta Mae Toler. Doc was raised in the sawmill towns of Northeast Texas and began playing music as a child. He grew up listening to the Louisiana Hayride. By his teens he discovered his love for traveling and making music. About 1965, while in his early twenties, he married his wife Di from Red Lick, Texas. When he discovered she could sing harmony, they began traveling the country and making music, often singing for their meals.

As they toured, Di learned to play the acoustic bass, complementing Doc's guitar work and providing a stronger rhythm for the music. Doc and Di settled in Martindale, Texas, about the late 1970s to raise their four children. They continued to make music for a living and gained a following playing fairs and festivals across Texas. His format was a traveling medicine show, and it was through this that he became known as “Doc.” The show continued as the children grew and joined their parents on the medicine wagon stage.

From the mid-1980s to 1995 Toler hosted a radio show broadcast live on Fredericksburg radio station KFAN from New Canaan Farms in Dripping Springs and the Stage Stop Ranch near Fischer. The shows featured music, storytelling, and Doc’s peddling of his souvenir “Torpedo Tonic”—a mixture of cayenne pepper and grain alcohol. The family band continued to tour, mostly playing fairs across the state, until Doc's health began to fail. They garnered critical acclaim, including awards from the Kerrville Folk Festival, the Airplay International Awards Group in Nashville, and the Austin Music Awards. The Tolers also released several albums through the years. One of his songs, “More Than One Gun on the Rio Grande,” was the Independent Country Music Song of the Year in 1993. Toler also wrote a music column for Hill Country Sun, a monthly magazine published out of Wimberley.

Doc Toler, one of the last true Texas troubadours, died in Martindale on September 16, 2005. He was survived by his wife Di; daughters Fagan, Banjo, and Island; son Von; and his parents Earl and Delta Mae.


Gene Fowler, “‘Physic Opera’ On the Road: Texas Musicians in Medicine Shows, The Journal of Texas Music History, 8 (2008). “Toler Family,” San Marcos Historical Collection, San Marcos Public Library, San Marcos, Texas. Wimberley View, September 24, 2005.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Gary S. Hickinbotham, "TOLER, GARY DAN [DOC]," accessed August 11, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fto58.

Uploaded on March 20, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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