A reporter can become frustrated trying to interview Robert Gallagher. The longtime entertainment director at Billy Bob’s Texas is naturally funny, gregarious, and well- spoken. He’s full of stories. Sit down with him over a beer, and you’ll feel like y’all are good friends by the time you reach the end of the first bottle. But try and interview him on the record about the many hundreds of artists he’s worked with during his 27 years at the world’s largest honkytonk, and he gets cagey. Quiet. Elusive.
Gallagher made sure the venue offered topnotch acts and that entertainers were happy, comfortable, and on time. That could mean anything from picking them up at the airport to buying them Popsicles (Gary Stewart) to taking them shopping for tennis shoes (David Allan Coe) to giving them late-night tours of the town. Gallagher pampered and protected artists, making their visits to Billy Bob’s special. What Gallagher doesn’t do is reveal their foibles, insecurities, and idiosyncrasies. That tight-lipped loyalty made Gallagher a great entertainment director but a bland interviewee. Surely it wasn’t easy for the feisty Gallagher to bite his tongue, but he’d rather be thought of as a dullard than a gossip.
Gallagher’s energy is legendary. The nature of his job lends itself to long days, late nights, and the occasional rabblerousing. Now about to turn 70, he’s leaving Billy Bob’s to spend more time with his three grandkids and to take more swings on the golf course. People in the audience all those years might not have known him, but Gallagher was beloved by the stars backstage. Billy Bob’s posted Gallagher’s retirement announcement on its Facebook earlier this week, and artists quickly began leaving comments. A common sentiment referred to Gallagher’s tendency to treat everyone with respect and charm, whether you were Willie Nelson or Joe Nobody.
“He gave me my first shot on this notorious stage and has been my champion from the very beginning –– a class act for sure,” singer Bonnie Bishop said.
“He is Billy Bob’s,” said singer Vince Vance, adding that Gallagher’s “discerning ear for music truly helped make the legend of Billy Bob’s Texas credible.”
Walt Wilkins praised Gallagher for making “everyone feel like a king, in a completely real way –– you really love people and music.”