Billy Bob’s Texas recently heralded the return after five evidently long years of Willie’s 4th of July Picnic to Fort Worth, specifically to Rodeo Plaza, a.k.a. that large portion of Stockyards real estate occupied by the World’s Largest Honky Tonk ®. The picnic will take place in and around Billy Bob’s. The 2004, ’05, and ’06 versions happened in the Stockyards in general. The intervening picnics took place elsewhere.


Part of the 2011 picnic will include the penultimate performance of the Country Throwdown Tour, featuring Willie, Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Lee Brice, Craig Campbell, Drake White, and Willie’s son’s band, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. The tour also has a side-stage, the Bluebird Café Stage, named after a celebrated Music City ® club where country singer-songwriters often participate in guitar pulls. Passing around the gitfiddle at Willie’s picnic will be Adam Hood, Caitlyn Smith, Austin Lucas, Brent Cobb, Dani Flowers, and Erin Enderlin. Among picnic headliners so far are Willie, Ray Price, and David Allan Coe. Others will be determined later.

You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?

In line with previous spleen-o-grams I’ve written over the years on the subject at hand, Willie’s picnics have never been cheerful of local talent. That there is enough quality Fort Worth bands and artists in keeping with the picnic’s folky/rock-y/countrified style is indisputable ––The Orbans, Telegraph Canyon, The Will Callers, Chatterton, Whiskey Folk Ramblers, Tommy Alverson, Charla Corn, Scott Copeland, Ginny Mac, Jody Jones, Brad Hines, Stephen Pointer, Clay Wilson, Phil Pritchett, Joey Green, PrinceRodriguez, Randy Brown, Manning-Dickson, Left-Arm Tan, Terry Rasor, Paul Nunn, and former Fort Worthians Collin Herring, Jason Eady, and Kyle Bennett would fit just nicely.

Willie, ever the shrewd businessman, should understand that he would be doing himself –– and good ol’ “Cowtown” –– a great service by featuring some of them prominently. He’d get cheap draws. The bands would get good exposure. Rounding out the picnic with some homegrown talent –– and “homegrown” means “Tarrant County,” not “Dallas” or “Denton” –– makes so much sense it hurts.

By not tipping his bandana in the direction of our musically inclined friends and family members, Willie is A.) smearing his image as that of a blue-collar man of the people, and B.) he’s, well, he’s kind of thumbing his nose at us. How’d you feel if someone was throwing a party in your house, but you weren’t allowed to speak to any of the guests, imbibe, or generally have fun? Not too great, I bet. Not too great.

Unlike the Vans Warped Tour or Lollapalooza, Willie’s picnic is a one-shot deal. At least Edgefest, another one-shot deal, lets local bands battle for an opening spot, which is a left-handed compliment, totally, but still: The Edge is at least, no doubt with a great many sighs, acknowledging its constituency. Willie, apparently, could care less.



  1. @anthony: I feel your pain about Willie’s festival not featuring any of the local talent pool. On the other hand, a local band did get the headliner spot — Willie spent many of his formative years residing in Fort Worth and playing all the joints in town, so in a roundabout way he’s a Fort Worth act. And Ray Price lives a couple of hours east in Mt. Pleasant but he’s spent a lot of time here and recorded a fantastic song called “Fort Worth Texas” in which he refers to it as “my town.”

    The Country Throwdown Tour acts were already booked before the decision was made to have them hook up for one day only with the Willie festival, so there’s no reason to think they would have hired FW bands for that. And the Bluebird Cafe Stage was booked with guitar pullers that have made an impression at the Bluebird club in Nashville from what I understand.

    Also, I wouldn’t consider Willie as thumbing his nose at us since he chose to have his picnic here. (As you can tell, I’m a lifelong Willie fan and feel compelled to defend him.)

    Having said all that, I’d rather hear Telegraph Canyon play than any of the acts listed on the festival bill, with the exception of Willie.

  2. Well, how the Bluebird stage materialized doesn’t really matter and isn’t really the point. He’s Willie Nelson. He can get anyone he wants to play his festival(s). As for the quality of the scheduled performers, I have no idea. I’ve never heard of or listened to any of them, though I’d be willing to bet my house that none of them is tighter, more creative, or more progressive than Telegraph.

    And, c’mon, Jeff. You know what we mean by “local,” i.e. someone you can bump into at the grocery store and/or have a beer with. Willie hasn’t been “local” since the ’60s.