Willie Nelson and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (June 1975)

Dallas Times Herald
June 22, 1975
by Kim Martin

Willie Nelson packs one powerful punch in Texas music.  HIs fans are young; his fans are old. They’re wild-eyed and mild mannered, homespun and elite.  WIllie reaches out his big musical hand across the giant spectrum of humanity and offers them all something tangible, something Texan to reach for.

WIthin a scant week’s time, WIllie will be reaching out to two opposing ends of musical interest.  Next Friday he takes his place on the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Summertop bill at the big tent on North Park’s parking lot.  Then he will high-tail his way down to the hill country to host his third 4th of July picnic, this year at Liberty Hill.

There is already speculation about just what WIllie will wear for his DSO performance, and even symphony officials don’t know yet what to expect.  He may drag the old tux out of mothballs for his “formal” appearance.  Or, more likely, he will show up in his traditional Willie uniform — faded blue jeans, T-shirt and those now-famous sneakers.

But in blue jeans or tux, the music will be the same — straight, pure WIllie Nelson progressive Texas music, written as only he can write it.

It may not sound quite the same as it usually does, though.  Special orchestral arrangements of WIllie’s songs like “Bloody Mary Morning,” “Whiskey RIver” and “Shotgun WIllie” have been prepared for the DSO engagement.

January Sound Studios’ Chuck Mandernack — whose own musical acumen stretches easily from serious symphonic work to the free-wheeling Texas sound — has put together the arrangements, blending the two musical forces into one exceptional sound, showcasing the finest points of each.

The Summertop evening begins at 8:45 p.m. with the symphony taking the stage, playing Dallasound arrangements like “Overture to Rock” and the Aaron Copland favorite, “Billy the Kid Suite.”

After intermission, the orchestra members will resume their places onstage, this time with Willie and Family in tow.  They will perform the  combined numbers together, before the King of Red Neck Rock takes over the stage by himself completey, playing until he gets tired of playing.  That usually means a musical marathon running nonstop for at least a couple of hours.

DSO operations manager Russel Gloyd thinks the growd will prove to be an interesting one.  About one-third of the audience will be series ticket holders.  Another third, he says, will be the persons that know and love Willie who have rarely if ever been exposed to a symphonic orchestra.  The rest will be just the opposite — persons attending Summerop to see the sympony, who may never have experienced a Willie Nelson show before.

Why is the DSO being pared with a progressive Texas act?

“To represent a total musical picture for the entire series,” says Gloyd, “we wanted the finest performers in each particular field.”  Yep, for Texas music that would be Willie alright.

The Summertop series will present a variety of artists over the next several weeks, including Sarah Vaughan he night after Willie, plus Chet Atkins, Victor Borge, two generagtions of Brubeck and Roger Williams, all in July.

Summertop is a cabaret-styled set up in a huge tent, with tables toward the front and general admission seating at the back.  Beverages, including soft drinks, beer and wine will be served, and each table has cheese and snacks. 

The symphony will play through a custom-designed Jaffe Acoustics sound system, and a special air-circulation system has been installed.

Tickets, priced from $3.50 to $7.00, are available at the NorthPark Ticket Center, the Music Hall at Fair Park, the State Fair Box Office and at Titche’s Downtown.

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