Archive for the ‘Picnic’ Category

Willie Nelson announces Fourth of July Picnic 2016 Lineup

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

rick diamond

photo:  Rick Diamond
by:  Joseph Hudek

Willie Nelson has announced the lineup for his storied 4th of July Picnic, held this year at the Circuit of the Americas racetrack in Austin, Texas. The roster is among the Independence Day party’s most diverse, with aggro-country outlaw Brantley Gilbert sharing space with Lone Star state songbird Lee Ann Womack.

Founded in 1973, Nelson staged his inaugural picnic in Dripping Springs, Texas, just outside of Austin. Last year’s event featured Eric Church, frequent Nelson collaborator Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and the late Merle Haggard.

Tickets go on sale Friday, May 20th, at 10:00 a.m. CT via Ticketmaster, Live Nation and the Circuit of the Americas website.

“I got the idea from Woodstock about how music could bring people from different places together,” Nelson said last year about the picnic. “I had just moved to Austin and had come to realize what a great music center it was and could be. I thought it would be a nice idea to this year have it back in Austin.”

The always-on-the-road Nelson is also set to perform at the 2016 Austin City Limits Festival Hall of Fame Inductions on October 12th, as well as headline the ACL Fest’s two weekends earlier that month.



Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic 2016 in Austin

Monday, May 16th, 2016


Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic 2016 returns to Circuit of the Americas in Austin

Monday, May 16th, 2016


Raise the stars and stripes right here: The Picnic stays in Austin. Willie Nelson brought his iconic Fourth of July bash back home from Fort Worth in 2015, and things went well enough out at Circuit of the Americas to warrant a return engagement there this year.

More than 20 acts will join Nelson and his Family Band, including fellow Highwayman and living legend Kris Kristofferson, a pairing of renowned singers Jamey Johnson and Alison Krauss, contemporary hitmaker Brantley Gilbert, old-school Picnic favorites Leon Russell and Billy Joe Shaver, and younger upstarts Margo Price and Shakey Graves.

Also on the bill are Lee Ann Womack, Jamestown Revival, Johnny Bush, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Cody Johnson, Asleep at the Wheel, David Allan Coe, Dallas Wayne and Amber Digby, along with extended representatives of the Nelson clan in Paula Nelson, the Raelyn Nelson Band and Folk Uke (which includes Amy Nelson).


Like last year, music will be presented both at the Austin 360 Amphitheater and on a smaller stage in the venue’s Grand Plaza, which has both standing-room areas and picnic-table seating. The evening entertainment also will include a fireworks display.

Tickets are $85 for reserved seats in the Amphitheater, $65 for the general-admission standing-room pit up front and $39.50 and up for general-admission lawn seating. VIP packages run $200-4500. All tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, May 20, via or 800-745-3000.

Gates open at 11 a.m. Set times have not yet been announced; last year, music in the Grand Plaza started around noon, with Amphitheater performances beginning mid-late afternoon. Premium parking lots will open at 9 a.m., with standard lots (included in the ticket price) opening at 10 a.m. The ticket office also offers options for purchasing RV parking or campsites; in addition, the Circuit of the Americas website includes a hotel booking service.

Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic (1983)

Saturday, May 7th, 2016


The Willie Nelson Picnic at the Meadowlands (July 4, 1983)

Saturday, February 27th, 2016


Thanks, Budrock, Lighting Director for Willie Nelson & Family, for your pass from the ’83 Picnic at Giants Stadium at the Meadowlands.

THESE days, Willie Nelson is as much a symbol of steadfast American individualism as a Buffalo nickel. His albums of standards – ”Stardust,” ”Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and ”Always on My Mind” – have sold in the millions, and he’s become a compelling movie presence that Hollywood still doesn’t quite know how to use.

As this granite-faced, long-haired man of the soil has grown from a cult figure into an American institution, his Fourth of July picnics in Texas and Oklahoma have become meccas for music lovers who cut across the traditional categories of pop, country and rock.

Mr. Nelson’s last Fourth of July picnic was held two years ago on his own 27-acre Pedernales golf course and country club near Austin. Now, Mr. Nelson is taking his festival on the road. Tomorrow, he and a spectacular roster of pop talent will perform in Syracuse. And Sunday, Mr. Nelson and friends will be at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands, in East Rutherford, N.J. The 10-hour marathon, which begins at noon, will feature seven acts. Appearing with Mr. Nelson will be his fellow ”country outlaws” Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings and Mr. Jennings’s wife, Jessi Coulter. Mr. Nelson and Mr. Haggard, who recently recorded their first album together, the excellent ”Poncho and Lefty,” will perform at least one number together Sunday.

Linda Ronstadt Is Back

Linda Ronstadt, making her first appearance in years in a countrymusic context, will also perform, and so will the country-pop singer Emmylou Harris and the Stray Cats, a hot rockabilly trio. Tickets are $17.50 and $20, and are available at the Capitol Theater box office in Passaic, N.J., at the Byrne Meadowlands Arena box office and through Ticketron and Teletron.

”The first time I saw a group of people out in the pasture listening to music together was at the first annual Dripping Springs Reunion, in Dripping Springs, Tex.,” Mr. Nelson recalled the other day. ”It was a three-day affair in March 1971 that some of us Texas musicians and others outside of Nashville put together to call attention to ourselves. People had a good time, and every imaginable type of person showed up. The following July, I tried it again in the same place and called it a Fourth of July picnic.”

One of the aims of Mr. Nelson’s picnics has been to show off a diversity of pop-music styles. The original Dripping Springs Reunion brought together such non-Nashville country and western performers as Mr. Haggard, Tex Ritter and Roy Acuff. The following year’s picnic brought out Jerry Jeff Walker, Leon Russell and other friends. One year even the Pointer Sisters performed. Mr. Nelson’s goal of focusing press attention on himself and his friends was quickly realized. The first Willie Nelson picnic drew 50,000 people and generated Mr. Nelson’s first significant coverage. Out of it, the myth of the ”country outlaw” – a renegade from the Nashville music establishment – was born. A Tantalizing Coalition

Sunday’s bill brings together one of the most tantalizing coalitions of pop-music talent to appear locally in some time. Mr. Nelson and Mr. Haggard, who have never appeared together before in this area, are more than just country-music stars; they are folk heroes who, along with the late Hank Williams, have done for the folk music of the white rural South what Bob Dylan and his followers did for urban folk music. Like Dylan, they have taken root styles – in their case rural folk music, Western swing, the country yodeling style of Jimmie Rodgers and the barroom honky-tonk music of the 1940’s and 50’s – and made them the basis of a primitive vernacular art song.

Miss Ronstadt and Miss Harris have both made crucial connections between country music and the Los Angeles pop mainstream by including some of the best work by country-oriented songwriters on their albums. Miss Ronstadt has included Hank Williams tunes and Motown songs on the same album, while Miss Harris has recorded most of the major songs by the late Gram Parsons, the country-oriented songwriter and singer who influenced West Coast rock groups like the Byrds and the Eagles. The Stray Cats, who draw an enthusiastic, young rock audience, perform contemporary rockabilly songs with a zest and humor that recall the young Elvis Presley and Gene Vincent.

Merle Haggard, who has never enjoyed the commercial success of high-power rock stars and who has yet to reach the mass audience that has embraced Willie Nelson, is skeptical of putting labels on musical styles.

”It seems that if they like you, they call you rock,” he said the other day. ”If they don’t like you, they call you country.” ”If CBS, who markets my product, wants to sell it in the pop field or the corn field, it’s fine with me,” he went on. ”While there’s some good music that comes out of Nashville, most of it sounds like it’s produced by a machine.” The Haggard-Nelson Ties

Mr. Haggard believes that he and Willie Nelson have basically the same viewpoint. ”We’ve been acquaintances for 20 years and friends for six or seven,” he said. ”We both had Middle-Western families, and we both admired the music of Bob Wills, Django Reinhardt, Lefty Frizzell and Tommy Duncan, who was to the Wills Band what Frank Sinatra was to Tommy Dorsey. Bing Crosby, Duncan and Frizzell were the three biggest influences on my singing.”

Mr. Haggard doesn’t mind the ”outlaw” label that was affixed to the non-Nashville-oriented singer-writers who have frequently appeared at Mr. Nelson’s picnics. ”It means a person who does his own thing, who plays his own music and is able to reproduce himself, as opposed to being the product of a producer,” he said. ”I’m still striving for something they can call Merle Haggard music – not jazz or country or hillbilly or rock. Elvis Presley did Elvis Presley music, and he did it everywhere. That’s what I’d like to see.”

Willie Nelson, who used to be a disk jockey, made the same point in even simpler terms. ”I just like good popular music of whatever kind,” he said.

Willie Nelson’s California Picnic (8/2/1980)

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015




Willie Nelson: $5.50 in advance; $6.00 at the door (July 4, 1973)

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015


“We set out for what was being called Willie’s last picnic” (7/4/1980)

Friday, July 24th, 2015
scan of a July 4, 1980 Willie Nelson picnic ticket  --  Credit required: From the collection of Buddy "Budrock" Prewitt

scan of a July 4, 1980 Willie Nelson picnic ticket — Credit required: From the collection of Buddy “Budrock” Prewitt

“I attended this heat wave with a buddy and let me tell you… We set out for what was being called Willie’s last picnic. We made the mistake of setting out on bicycles from Houston the day before the concert. We made good time on the 3rd. It was so hot we had to get off highway 290 and find a lake. We ended up in snake country on Lake Somerville near Burton. As it was night time we couldn’t find the lake. Ended up drinking cold beer at a country store. Just as well, there we learned of the cotton mouths. Unable to sleep anywhere we decided to continue riding.

Drunk and stoned we made it back to 290 thanks to one generator light on my buddy’s bike. There we passed out in the ditch. Woke up by the sun and feeling like shit we continued on. We made it to Bastrop and realized we were going to be late. Started hitch-hiking with 2 bicycles and by god, got a ride. Classic old timer in a 50’s pick-up got us damn near the rest of the way. With about 10 miles left to ride people were dragging coolers and walking due to parking issues. Had many offers to buy our bicycles. No way! As we were a little late we had made it. I remember looking up and seeing the red cross choppers hauling people away from heat exhaustion. I remember wondering how I could get on one.

I think we had to be the hottest ones there. After getting right to the gate we didn’t budget enough money to get in. Had just enough but no extra. Discouraged but not to worried. Thanks to some bikers that bolt cut the fence behind the porta johns we were able to slip in. Got up close and got some great pictures of Willie. Still have them. Managed to see a good part of the concert. As we decided to hike back to where we locked our rides to a telephone pole we encounter a run in with some shine. Made it to the telephone pole and woke up on the 5th. It looked like a war zone. Only thing left was a massive clean-up. We helped just the same. After all we did get in free. I’m sure Willie would’ve had us back stage had he knew how hard we worked to get there.”

— Rick

(Love to hear picnic stories!  Thanks, Rick.)


Willie Nelson and Paul English

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

photo: Janis Tillerson

Love this moment when Willie Nelson turns around and shakes Paul English’s hand, after the band plays, “Me and Paul.” Hard to capture sometimes, but Janis did a good job on the 4th of July

Chris Stapleton at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic in Austin

Thursday, July 16th, 2015


This was my first time seeing Chris Stapleton perform.  He and his band, which includes his wife Morgane, performed at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July picnic.  The picnic is always fun because you get introduced to other great music that you might not normally hear.  They were great.

Morgane Stapleton



Kentucky-born singer, songwriter and producer Chris Stapleton is one of Nashville’s most revered craftsmen, with a 15-year career that includes No. 1 hits, Grammy Award nominations, feature film contributions, the respect of his peers and, now, a new album.

Stapleton will release his highly anticipated debut “Traveller” on May 5. The Mercury Records Nashville release is the rare mainstream country album eagerly awaited by fans on both sides of the dial.

Blessed with an otherworldly voice, Stapleton earned this respect in numerous recording studios and anonymous writing rooms on Music Row and on stage as a touring headliner and opener for the most popular acts in the genre.

He has written five No. 1 songs for George Strait, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker and Josh Turner and contributed cuts to several major motion picture soundtracks. He’s also been nominated for three Grammy Awards and won the International Bluegrass Music Association Emerging Artist of the Year award as a member of The SteelDrivers.

His songwriting credits span all genres and artists from Adele to Jason Aldean and he’s recorded with everyone from Miranda Lambert to Don Williams.


Check out their album, and learn more about the band at:



Same Picnic, New Venue: Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Celebration in Austin @Austin360 Amphitheater

Thursday, July 16th, 2015


Willie Nelson’s picnic had all the good things we go to the picnic for:  Willie Nelson & Family live on stage, his kids and grand kids and extended  family members performing with their bands, several  great Texas musicians and other picnic regulars from out of state, Kinky Friedman, and a big-name touring country star to mix it up and bring in those young new country music fans.

It wasn’t on the back forty at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth —  this year they brought the picnic back to Austin for the 4th of July celebration.    Not back to a large field like Dripping Springs, but to the state-of-the art Austin360 amphitheater, set inside a giant race track.


Fourth of July celebrants packed the place.  There was such a collection of great music.


There were  two stages, to accommodate all the artists on the line up.  One was on a grassy knoll (I named it that), with picnic tables and room to stretch out.  The other side was the amphitheater, with a concrete pit area for standing room only in front of  stage, then chairs an behind that, a grassy area.  It was huge.  

DSC_0250 DSC_0301

My unscientific survey found that everyone especially liked the smaller stage area, comfort-wise speaking, and access to the performers.  There was a grassy lawn in front of a stage with a low railing in front. People could spread out and stretch their legs, there was room for dancing. Families sat at one of a hand full of picnic tables and ate their lunch.

The venue was so big, it was hard to to move from stage to stage to see the different acts, once they started alternating acts on the two stages.  Especially once they opened up the large stage area, and people parked themselves in the pit, holding on to those coveted front row spots.  And it was hot for hustling between stages, for some (me).    Some chose one stage or the other, and parked themselves there, until the small stage area closed, and there was only one performer at a time on the big stage.  


There was an air-conditioned bathroom a few feet away. It was nice. It let the fans get up close and personal with the bands that played that stage.   I know, there were too many people in the evening to spread out like that, but a grassy field up front instead of concrete would have been nice.


VIP guests, and photographers, got to enjoy Bobbie’s Lounge, which had places to sit, misting fans, and a private bar.  There was a similar bar, honoring Paul on the other end of the venue, for the VIP.  It was so hot, it saved me a couple times. 

The picnic has changed venues before, of course, it hasn’t always been at the Stockyards, or even in Texas.  I’ve celebrated the 4th with Willie in Michigan, and in Washington state.  But for the past few years it has been  at Billy Bob’s, and we had our routines down.   New venue, new challenges.   There were complaints and there were compliments about the new place, but mostly there were people having un and enjoying the  music and chance to spend the 4th of July with Willie Nelson & Family.

Thanks for another great picnic, Willie.

The Raelyn Nelson Band at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic 2015

Sunday, July 12th, 2015


Raelyn Nelson and her band brought their rocking garage country rock music from Nashville for her Granddad’s 4th of July celebration.



These kids made a lot of new fans on the Fourth of July. They have played at Farm Aid, but not at picnic, as far as I can remember, which means less and less these days.


They were so much fun to watch and so talented.  And she is as cute as a button.


She filmed her aunt Amy’s set with Folk Uke. And her Aunt Amy filmed her. I’ll pay to see that movie!


The band is composed of the talented and lovely Raelyn Nelson, and the handsome and talented Jonathan Bright on guitar and vocals, Paulie Simmons and Preach Rutherford.


Raelyn and her talented band have an album out, and are also releasing new songs, along with videos. Most recently, they created a video from their song, “Boyfriend”


Here’s the video, and you can purchase the song on iTunes.

Saturday, July 11th, 2015


Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie and Folk Uke at the Fourth of July picnic

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015


There were so many artists lined up to perform at Willie Nelson’s picnic, that one stage wasn’t enough. It wasn’t like the Stockyards in Forth Worth, either, with two stages at the ends of the Back 40, but it was two separate permanent stages, where you could turn around and watch the other stage, or at least listen. One was smaller, and lots of grass and picnic tables. The other is a bigger stage under a giant tower called the Mullett (a tall tower, used during races held on the track that surrounds the two stages.) That stage has a large concrete area “the pit”, surrounded by chairs, then grass at the back. It was hard, to impossible, to get to both stages to see the acts. They had a big screen on the side of smaller stage, so you could watch the other acts, but not visa versa. In the evening, the smaller stage area closed, and everyone came to the big stage area to watch the headliners perform into the evening.


Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie performed on the grassy knoll stage (I made that name up myself), and it was nice because it let fans get up and close and personal with them. Their set was as good and fun and irreverent as ever. They are so talented, and people are so entertained by their naughty lyrics and songs so much, I think we forget how really good they sound together. They sang their hits, and introduced a new song, and the fans loved them all.


Merle Haggard at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

photo: Janis Tillerson

It would be incredible enough to get to spend the fourth of July with Willie Nelson and his family, and hear the play music, but he always piles it on and turns it into a magical gathering of great musicians. This year, he invited Merle Haggard to perform, and joined him at the end of his set to perform. These photos are from Merle’s set, taken by Janis.

photo: Janis Tillerson

photo: Janis Tillerson



Thank you, Janis from Texas for your great photos.