Archive for the ‘Picnic’ Category

Willie Nelson, “On the Road Again” (1983)

Sunday, July 8th, 2018
by: Stephen L. Betts

Willie Nelson gave fans in Austin, Texas, a double dose of entertainment during Independence Day week in 1980. On July 3rd, the entertainer, who made his big screen debut a year earlier in the Robert Redford-Jane Fonda film, The Electric Horseman, attended the world premiere of Honeysuckle Rose, which would mark his first appearance in a lead role. The following day, Nelson hosted his eighth annual Fourth of July Picnic on the 20-acre golf course of his Pedernales Country Club with a crowd of 60,000 braving the stifling heat for what Nelson had announced at the time would be his final July 4th picnic event. After a two-year hiatus, the picnic would return, taking place in Atlanta in 1983 before returning to Austin the following year.

The Honeysuckle Rose premiere at Austin’s Capital Plaza Cinema was attended by Nelson, accompanied by his then-wife, Connie, along with co-stars Dyan Cannon, Slim Pickens, director Jerry Schatzberg and the film’s producer, Sydney Pollack, who also directed Nelson in his previous film role. Others on hand for the auspicious event included actress (and Texan) Sissy Spacek, fresh from her role as Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter.

Nelson’s role in Honeysuckle Rose wasn’t exactly against type. The 47-year-old played country singer Buck Bonham, enmeshed in a love triangle with his wife (Cannon) and a young musician, played by 26-year-old Amy Irving, who was at the time romantically involved with director Steven Spielberg – and would, in fact, marry him five years later. Nelson and Irving began an on-set affair, as did Cannon and the film’s director. But for all the sparks behind the scenes, Honeysuckle Rose wasn’t exactly generating the same kind of electricity with film critics. Irving’s performance was especially singled out, earning the future Oscar nominee the first-ever Golden Raspberry (“Razzie”) award for Worst Supporting Actress.

The music-filled film, which also featured appearances from Emmylou Harris, legendary songwriter Hank Cochran and fiddle icon Johnny Gimble, would also get an Oscar nomination and today Honeysuckle Rose, in addition to providing the names for Nelson’s tour buses, is perhaps best remembered for the song that has become a true country-music classic. According to the Billboard Book of Number One Hits, “On the Road Again” was penned by Nelson on a plane flight with Schatzberg and Pollack, who told the songwriter they needed a tune about touring for the film. To their amazement, he proceeded to write out the lines for the chorus in mere minutes. The melody would come later – months later, in fact, on the day the song was recorded during filming.

Nelson had also tried to persuade the powers-that-be to title the film after the song, but that didn’t happen until the film was reissued on video later. The song, however, has since become one of his most popular, having been covered several times and used in commercials included a 2016 Volkswagen ad featuring the Red Headed Stranger himself. Since its 1980 debut, the song has popped up in everything from Dumb and Dumber To to the short-lived 2015-2016 series The Muppets and is now enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

In June 1983, one week after the second US Festival concerts took place in California, a country-themed day was added to the official event. The lineup featured Nelson and band as the closing act, along with appearances by Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, Alabama, Hank Williams Jr. and Waylon Jennings. In the video above, Nelson and his fellow musicians, including Mickey Raphael on harmonica, tear through a lively version of “On the Road Again,” which by then had become a familiar staple of their concert repertoire.

Willie Nelson’s 44th annual Fourth of July Picnic will be broadcast live on Nelson’s SiriusXM channel, Willie’s Roadhouse, on Independence Day beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. Among the performers scheduled to appear are Margo Price, Gene Watson, Johnny Bush, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, and Ryan Bingham, with Nelson and his Family band closing out the event.

Willie Nelson Unites

Sunday, July 8th, 2018
by:  Kevin Curtin

A haze of fireworks and cannabis smoke hung over Wednesday’s Independence Day party at Circuit of the Americas, where concertgoers wore star-spangled duds and an enormous American flag backdropped the stage.

Although Willie Nelson, 85, remains an outspoken troubadour of the socially progressive left, he attracts a bipartisan audience. For every “Alt-Country, Not Alt-Facts” T-shirt seen amongst attendees at his annual Fourth of July picnic, another read “Fuck your feelings. Drink freedom.” In Texas, and elsewhere, liberals and conservatives maintain a common love for Nelson going on five decades now.

Independence Day outs our patriotic urges. Whether pledging allegiance to the ruling party or dissenting a corrupt government, ones does so on July 4 because they’re a “patriot.” And yet, by sundown at Austin’s annual summer extravaganza – briefly evacuated on account of lightning – none of the performers had uttered or even muttered the name Trump.

Instead, they made statements musically.

Margo Price covered Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” an anti-war anthem along class lines, while Lukas Nelson performed a new song called “Turn Off the News and Build a Garden,” which included the lines: “Turn off the news and raise the kids/ Give them something to believe in/ Teach them how to be good people/ Give them hope that they can see.”

Before offering an inspired version of Mexican standard “La Malagueña,” Ryan Bingham spoke about moving to the Texas border town of Laredo at 16 and learning guitar from an old mariachi.

“He was the kindest human being I’ve ever met,” lauded Bingham in underlining the cultural benefits of migration.

Waiting on Sturgill Simpson, who last year called Trump a “fascist fucking pig” while busking outside the CMA Music Awards but yesterday contented himself with performing an impressive set of lengthy, hyperventilating guitar jams sans outward politics, Asleep at the Wheel leader Ray Benson emerged onstage and declared, “We need to make Texas a better place for everyone.” Then he ripped open his pearl snaps to reveal a Beto O’Rourke shirt.

Texas’ U.S. Senate candidate, who earlier in the day made an appearance at Austin rock & roll bar Hotel Vegas, delivered an impassioned, three-minute speech about living up to the highest ideals of America – specifically, better serving veterans and embracing immigration.

“El Paso is one of the safest cities in United States of America, a city that is safe, not in spite of the fact that we’re immigrants of the world over, but in large part because people chose to come to this country,” noted that area’s acting congressmen. “They crossed Mexico. They arrived here at our front door in the United States and they were part of this American story.”

Though he simply strummed open chords in 1-4-5 progressions, O’Rourke, who played bass in Nineties post-hardcore band Foss, which included future At the Drive-In vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala on drums, appeared very much in his element on Independence Day – even if he still has his work cut out for him in winning the outlaw country vote.

While overwhelming cheers resounded to O’Rourke’s vision of America, significant booing also occurred, particularly in the second level of amphitheater seating inhabited by a significantly older demographic. One group near “Playback” became incensed when the candidate said, “We will not be a country of walls. We will not be a country that locks kids up in little cages.”

“Yes we will!,” yelled one woman shaking a flag furiously.

O’Rourke then appealed to them as Texans:

“They want us to be afraid of one another. They want us to be afraid of immigrants. They want us to be afraid of Muslims. In this moment, we need to stand up to that small stuff, the big, bold, competent, strong people of the state of Texas helping this country.”

Two hours later, during Willie & Family’s closing performance, O’Rourke quietly reemerged with an acoustic guitar and played rhythm while singing backup on “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” and “It’s All Going To Pot.” He stayed on for a curtain call gospel medley of “Will the Circle be Unbroken” and “Fly Away.”

see more photos here Full photo gallery.

Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic (1986)

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

Wagner’s Time Off
The Leisure magazine for Professional Painters
Summer 1986
Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic
by David Standish

Picture this:  It’s the Fourth of July and deep in the heart of Texas a crowd of 15,000 has braved the sweltering heat to attend a picnic.  But then this is a picnic with star power — Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic, a weekend-long festival featuring the biggest names on the country music charts.  It’s a laid-back affair:  People come bearing coolers, spread their blankets, pop open a frosty, and stomp their feet all day to country tunes.  It’s probably the most American thing to do on this most American of days.

There’s a rumor that this year’s picnic will be titled Farm Aid II, and that the money raised will be distributed to needy farmers (much as it was after the original Farm Aid).  Whatever larger meaning it takes on, however, the event will still be, first and foremost, a picnic presenting no less than 36 hours of traditional and progressive country music.  Past programs have included Kris Kristofferson, Jimmy Buffet, Asleep at the Wheel, Merle Haggard, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Jerry Jeff Walker, Leon Russell, Michael Murphey, Waylon Jennings, and, of course, Willie Nelson.  This year’s lineup, which won’t be announced until just days before the event, is sure to include many of these stars.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Willie for Playboy magazine, and he explained that the picnic got its start in 1972 at the First Annual Dripping Springs Reunion held in Dripping Springs, Texas, on Willie’s birthday.  “Everybody was there,” remembered Nelson.  “Roy Acuff, Tex Ritter, Roger Miller, Merle Haggard.  Over a three-day period there were probably forty or fifty acts.  It was the best country music, the best show, and the best sound that anybody in that area had ever heard.  But for some reason the crowds weren’t large and the promoters lost a lot of money.”

“But it was still a good idea, and the location was a good idea, so I did the same thing the next year — only I did it on the Fourth of July because I knew it would be hot.  I knew we were bringing together a lot of hippies and a lot of rednecks, and I wanted it to be hot… too hot to fight.”

“I also wanted it to be the kind of time where everyone was gonna drink beer… as long as we had the heat there to.. keep down energy levels.  Throw out a blanket on the ground, open up a case of beer, and enjoy the show.  We had Charlie Rich, Kris Kristofferson, Leon Russell, Asleep at the Wheel, us…  It was really a picnic.  That was the atmosphere I wanted to create, that of a picnic with entertainment.

And he’s done it year after year.

The picnic my wife Carol and I went to was hotter than hell and just great.  It took place at a former country club (which Willie owns) few miles outside of Austin.  The site was lovely, with rolling oak-crested hills, and it overlooked Lake Travis, a tranquil section of the much-dammed Colorado River.  It was a setting that dispelled any prejudices about Texas being ugly, dusty, and flat.

A festival-style stage had been built across the top of a hill on the golf course, and the crowd spilled down the hillside, over a fairway and a couple of greens.  It was a big crowd.  Over 15,000 people were packed onto the golf course and, while they were generally friendly, the grounds were torn and trampled at the end of the weekend.  (One reason Willie’s picnics are rarely held at the same site from year to year is the mess they leave behind.  Willie’s country club, where the picnic was held several summers in a row, became off-limits when residents of the area complained.)

The weekend presented a nonstop lineup of country stars, but the best of them were Willie & Family, a band of longtime friends that includes drummer Paul English, bassists Chris Ehtridge and Bee Spears, harmonica player Mickey Raphael, and guitarists Grady Martin and Jody Payne.  The group is occasionally joined by Willie’s sister Bobbie on piano.  They pose as a country-rock group, but they’re really a fine jazz band playing in a country mode, probably the best performing band of it’s kind since Duke Ellington quit the dance hall circuit — like Ellington and the other great ones, their music changes every night.  Willie and Family played a long, pleasing morning set, and then closed the show that evening. It’s worth staying for both sets, if you can stand the three-digit heat.

And it is all day singin’ and picnicking on the ground.  The day gets rolling around 10 a.m.  Musicians play for 30 to 45 minutes, sometimes joining other bands later in the day. Forty or 50 acts are scheduled for the weekend.  Vendors sell beer and soda, as well as hot dogs, chips, and simple sandwiches, but most picnickers bring their own food and drink.  Because its so hot, medics are on hand to dispense  free salt tablets — every year, a number of people pass out from dehydration.  Many others suffer severe sunburn.  But Willie’s theory about the heat does seem to work.  The year I went everybody seemed to get along just fine.

Willie’s picnic was the most fun Carol and I had had in a long time.  But we did come up with a few parting tips to ensure that other first-time picnickers will enjoy Willie’s party, too.

— Take a good sun-shading had and a long-sleeved shirt.  The sun is so strong it’s possible to get sunburned through thin cotton shirts, so bring a heavy one.

— Bring a plastic jug full of ice water.

— Be prepared for no shade.  However cumbersome, toting along a beach umbrella is a good idea.

— Finally, don’t forget the essentials:  a quilt or blanket to stretch out on, and a cooler full of your favorite refreshment.

Basically, it’s like getting ready for a nice long day at the beach — except the music at the beach was never so good.

Friday, July 6th, 2018

photo:  Gary Miller

Rep Beto O’Rourke on stage with Willie Nelson

Friday, July 6th, 2018

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Willie Nelson Guitar Pick of the Day: Willie Nelson’s Picnic 2018

Thursday, July 5th, 2018


TOMORROW. BE THERE #willieandfamilylive #williespicnic2018 #williespicnic #sturgillsimpson @willienelsonofficial @lukasnelsonofficial @sturgillsimpsonofficial @ryanbingham_official #headandtheheart @theheadandtheheart #raywyliehubbard @raywylie #margoprice @missmargoprice #ryanbingham #lukasnelsonandpromiseofthereal #particlekid @particlekid #guitarpicks #plectrums #billyjoeshaver @ednewbohemians #folkuke @folkuke #jamestownrevival #davidallancoe #genewatson #johnnybush @asleepatthewheel1970 #yellowfeather @raelynnelsonband

Thanks, Budrock “The Illuminator”, for pictures of this year’s picnic picks.

Ryan Bingham with Beto O’Rourke and wife Amy, at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

ryanbingham_officialGreat to meet @betoorourke and his wife Amy at Willie’s picnic last night and hear Beto speak about his vision for Texas #4thofjuly #GoBeto

Lukas Nelson and Micah Nelson, Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

#happy4thofjuly ?? ?: @rauffer

A post shared by Lukas Nelson + POTR (@lukasnelsonofficial) on

Raelynn Nelson at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic 2018

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

A post shared by raelynnelson (@raelynnelson) on

Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic, photos by Gary Miller

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

PHOTOS: Scenes from Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic

Thanks Gary Miller for great photos from Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic.

See more of Gary’s great photos here.

Photos from Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic by Scott Moore

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Photos by Scott Moore in

See more of Scott Moore’s great photos here.

Texas Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke plays Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic in Austin

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

  • photo:  Sam Sodomsky

Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic Texas congressman running for Ted Cruz’s Senate seat, once played in a punk band with At the Drive-In and the Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala. Yesterday, he showed off his musical chops once again, playing guitar with Willie Nelson during Nelson’s annual Fourth of July Picnic in Austin, as Consequence of Sound points out. Along with Margo Price, members of the Head and the Heart and Asleep at the Wheel and more, they played Nelson’s stoner anthems “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” and “It’s All Going to Pot,” as well as the hymn “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” Check out a video of the performance below.

In his campaign announcement, O’Rourke promised to resist Trump and “fight when necessary against a president who is focused on building walls, or conducting military immigrant round-ups.”

The Democrat running against Ted Cruz was previously in a band with At the Drive-In’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala.

Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic 1998 (Luckenbach, Texas)

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Willie Nelson fans at Willie Nelson’s Picnic

Thursday, July 5th, 2018