Wade Crane traveled the U.S. gambling at high stakes pool and needed an alias. Thus, Wade Crane became Billy Johnson, and most all pro players always called him Billy. His name was so entrenched that if you said Wade instead of Billy, people would be unsure who you were talking about at first and have to recall and then reply, “oh yeah Billy”.
He was considered the best Breaker in the game until years later along came David Howard and Fransisco Bustamante, who were then in the same league. Later in life he was affectionately known throughout the inner circles of pool as Boom Boom, due to the sonic booms created while Breaking.
He had a very muscular build and was 5’9” and barrel chested. His character and personality was always that of smiling, fun loving, and often hilarious. Yet he was both a killer on the pool table and a true warrior of the road. Wade was the second player ever to post a perfect 1.000 performance in tournament play according to Accu-Stats and they have charted thousands of matches including every professional player since the 1980’s. He fearlessly played everyone from top players to shortstops and won so often playing for money that I no longer remember him losing. Playing in high stakes ring games (multi-handed) his positive energy, ability to perform under pressure, and great Break produced consistent victory. Naturally these games took place in some rough places and with some rough people, but Billy was not intimidated.
“I may be the only player in history that got his action knocked from the sound of his break!” ~ Wade Crane
During those times, tournaments were less available or meaningful than the gambling games, and when you attended a tournament as a top player you hoped to cash or win the event, but the real reason that players attended was the assurance of gambling games and good winnings at a high frequency. Even if you took on tough action and lost some money, the games were so plentiful that you would get it back and still produce profit for the week. This created an atmosphere full of serious top player showdowns playing against the other top players. Today these circumstances no longer exist.
Even though he was known among his family and friends as an incorrigible practical joker, he took his pool very seriously, and avoided drinking while he was shooting. With his soft-spoken gentlemanly manner and explosive pool game, he epitomized the saying, “walk softly but carry a big stick”.
Recently pro player and historian, Mary Kenniston shared this “Billy Johnson” story. Wade was driving to the pool room with two other players and they were joking around and stopped at a traffic light. Wade and the boys noticed in the car next to them was a dazzling blond female. Wade locked eyes with her gaze and quickly reached up and locked his door.
That was Wade.