When I was a kid my parents used to host their own Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic “Satellite” parties in our backyard in Dallas. They were fairly epic. To resurrect that tradition I thought it would be fun to have a celebration last night in honor of Willie’s 80th birthday. With the help of my talented friend Tex Smith, we pulled off a fantastic evening with friends, food and live music. Tex recruited several of his musician buddies to share the stage and we threw a “Willie Nelson Potluck 80th Birthday Party” at Sam’s Town Point. It was a bash. Family style.
GLADYS AND MAYBELLE
Gladys and Maybelle travelled down from Fort Worth where this sister act stays busy playing private parties and busking the streets of the Stockyard. They cleaned out every Hobby Lobby in north Texas buying enough red bandanas to SEW THESE ADORABLE DRESSES just for the Willie party!
They also brought a crockpot of chili and Willie braided breadsticks. Too cute. I love these girls.
Gladys and Maybelle offer sweet, old-fashioned country harmonies that are so vintage they are downright fresh. Every act last night did some covers, did some originals, but everyone did at least one Willie tune. Here they are doing “Good Hearted Woman.”
South station in Boston to the stockyards of Austin….Josh Buckley moved from Boston to Austin and the Texas music scene is all the better for it. Typically he performs with his band The Gilded Splinters but he is as big a Willie-phile as the rest of us so he graciously joined the party and blew everyone away with his strong, unique voice.
People were dreaming up reasons to have parties so they could hire Josh to play them. Josh has a new fan club as of last night.
He did a great rendition of “Hello Walls” for Willie…
If you have been reading this blog lately you already know what a talent Tex Smith is as I have been raving about him in recent posts. His songs are soulful and powerful and dare I say he too got a whole new batch of fans last night. He sounded great. If you like Townes Van Zandt, you will like Tex Smith. His songs have a similar meandering, lyrical yet poignant ache to them.
Unfortunately I didn’t capture any video of Tex last night because once he took the stage I started getting nervous. And I mean nervous! Because Tex had already agreed to let me sing one song during his set. I haven’t sung on a stage since my twenties and the few times I did it was little more than late-nite, overserved screeching. I am incredulously comfortable public speaking in front of a thousand people, but the idea of singing in front of people makes me get all blotchy and nearly faint. I haven’t been this scared in I don’t know how long. But I did it. With a real mic, and a real band, in front of a real audience.
I sang Kitty Wells’ classic “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” I missed a few notes and choked on a few words early. Yikes! But I so enjoyed the instrumental solo in the middle that it relaxed me. Tex was strumming away, Nick was on guitar, Lynette on standup bass, Russ on drums and Peter on steel. I guess that calmed me down because I felt much more relaxed on my second verse/chorus and sounded a bit better. No one bumrushed the stage or anything but hopefully I didn’t hurt anyone’s ears either. I grade myself out at a C+ maybe B- but most importantly….I DID IT!
Thanks to Tex encouraging me for a month and a half, I didn’t chicken out.
The final act of the night was Jason James. This kid has a voice straight out of 1949 and might just be the future of traditional honky tonk in Austin. Great originals as well as covers of Willie, George Jones, Hank Sr. Jason cites Lefty Frizzell as one of the most important singers to him and it really comes across in his music.
Here he is covering Willie’s “I Gotta Get Drunk and I Sure Do Regret It”
Special kudos to the band who played with all four acts. They jumped in on songs they had never even heard before and brought them to life, it was incredible! I have seen Nick on guitar and Jake on bass a few times now and I am continually amazed at their talent.
Of course what’s a birthday party without cake? I made two cakes for Willie. This is the red velvet with the bandana/braid theme. A little rough around the edges but hey, I am not only an amateur singer, I’m an amateur cake decorator.
And this is a yellow cake I did trying to celebrate Willie’s treasured guitar, Trigger. I even sacrificed my best eyebrow tweezers to this project, trying to meticulously place the little silver beads on the guitar and arrange the brown sprinkles to create the hole worn in the wood. I felt like it was 1977 and I was playing the game Operation.
I can’t have a celebration without ordering a cake from my friends at Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop. They just won Cupcake Wars on the Food Network so they are SLAMMED these days but they found time to create this Willie cake masterpiece. I looooooved it! And it was delish, chocolate cake with kahlua and cayenne pepper. Insane.
We ended the night just as Willie ends his concerts, with all the musicians on stage together singing “I Saw The Light.” I was so flattered when Tex asked me to join them up there, I was over the moon.
I don’t even know where to start with the THANK YOU’s. It was such a fun, magical, easy evening. I loved it. SPECIAL gratitude goes to the band…Nick on guitar, Jake on bass, Lynette on bass, Russ on drums and Peter on steel. I can’t believe I got to be on stage with you guys.
Thank you MARY for letting us have this at Sam’s Town Point and for all your enthusiasm about the evening.
BIG THANKS to Tex for cheerleading me all the way to the mic. And figuring out I sing that song in G. And for assembling all this talent. Thank you for sharing your gig and letting us turn it into one big party.
THANK YOU to all my friends who ventured out on a school night to hear some honky tonk, love on Willie, and clap for my song. I kinda stacked the deck, it’s true. But I will never forget each of you being there. Yall were better than a beta blocker.
And thank you to Willie for bringing us all together. I think he would have enjoyed it, we certainly captured his spirit. They’re all good but this was a pretty special night of music and friends in Austin Texas.