Anticipation spills over with the first few notes from Mickey’s harmonica. Then, as Willie takes the stage and sings “Whiskey River Take My Mind,” the audience responds as if each person there had just won the New York State Lottery.
This rapport increases throughout the show as Willie glides from Kris Kristofferson gems to gospel, cowboy songs to blues, self-penned classics to ballads. Whatever Willie sings, the people. Funny how two hours slip away.
Willie and Family Show is felt, not just seen and heard. It’s a natural high for those lucky enough to be there. Ad those people will be back for another show.
It’s easy to appreciate the efforts of Willie and the band members on stage. They have given us top quality entertainment. Not so visible, i.e. well-known, are the people involved backstage working before and after each show.
Willie and Family roll coast-to-coast on tires. Five chocolate/tan customized Silver Eagle buses, painted in various Indian and western themes, drive into the shows parking area. these carry the 27 or so experts, including band members, that work with Willie to keep the show running smoothly. And smoothly it does. Also on tour is a motor home with the concessions people, a rental truck, and a semi for equipment.
On tour with Willie can be 200 shows a year, covering up to 100,000 miles. The buses soak up to 200 gallons at truck stops and that translates to about 6 or 7 miles per gallon.
Your ticket might give the show’s starting time as 8 p.m., but the first of Willie’s crew starts long before that. The sound and lights technicians are setting up by 11 in the morning for an 8 p.m. show.
By 3 p.m. the security staff and stage manager are at work. Look for the Wrangler bus around the same time. the fourth bus, with the band members, comes over about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour before the show starts.
The big question is, of course, When Does Willie Get Here? It varies.
It’s not unusual for Willie to arrive 30 minutes to an hour before show time. Or, it just might be any time from 11 a.m. to 7:45; each show has it’s own circumstances.
Eventually the evening ends, Willie waves goodbye and exits the stage. the audience also heads for home.
Willie’s crew, the same people that set up that morning, have another 2 to 2 1/2 hours of work to tear it all down. When you have the best sound and light equipment available, it takes that long before everything is loaded and ready to roll.
One by one the Silver Eagles and trucks hustle down the highway to the next show and another city.
Many thanks to Wrangler’s Mell Parkhurst who took time at the Salem, Ohio show to answer all our questions.
Jean and Beth Dolezal