This is part of a series of posts I’ve entitled, “Stories From the Road.” Each week I will post a new story from Rick Sikes, a Texas musician who traveled the roads of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and out to California for well over twenty years. With hours to pass in a van full of sweaty musicians, they found ways to entertain themselves. These stories are told in Rick Sikes’ words. I’ll do my best to correct grammar, but I want to keep them in his own voice.
“Sometime, long about 1964, I had gotten hoooked up with booking agents in the bigger cities. One of them was out of Waco, Texas.
Willie Nelson and his ex-wife, Shirley Collie, had come from California around this same time. Willie was pretty much unknown then. He was known more as a writer and not a lot as a performer. He had one record going for him called “Touch Me” and he didn’t have a band at the time. So, my agent from Waco asked me and my band to back Willie and Shirley on a little tour through Texas, and we did. These were mostly stage shows.
We did a stadium show in Austin or San Antonio and the acoustics were hellish. You’d speak a word and just as you finished, it would echo back – or as we used to say back then, slap you in the face. Instruments (especially drums) were really a pain.
Another incident I remember took place in Brady, Texas. We were scheduled to do a stage show at the high school auditorium from 7 ’til 8:30, and then we were to play at the Brady Country Club from 9 or 9:30 until midnight. We set up at the high school auditorium and a little after 7, there were only five or six people who had shown up. So, the promoter decided we should go ahead and tear it down and go out to the country club to set up for that dance.
We did, and it was getting on towards 9 o’clock but still, there was not hardly anyone showing up there either. I had a van with a P.A. system and horn on top, so the promoter asked me to head into town and advertise that there was a dance with Willie Nelson at the country club and invite people out on the P.A.
We were cruising the streets and I was plugging the dance hard. A policeman pulled us over and asked to see our permit to use the P.A. I told him we didn’t have one and he said, “Even if you did, it wouldn’t allow you to use that P.A. this late in the day.”
I felt it was time for an alibi so I told him, “The mayor is out at the Country Club and he told us to come in and plug the dance.” The cop said, “Well, I think that’s enough for tonight, so turn it off.” I said, “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” We hauled it back to the Country Club and started playing.
Willie and Shirley put on a great show and I think we may have had around 25 for 30 people show up. We didn’t get paid that night and I doubt if Willie and Shirley did. Willie wore suits and neckties back then and had a businessman’s haircut and was clean-shaven.
We didn’t know it at the time, but in a few short years, Willie would be well-known everywhere. It was truly an honor and privilege to back him and a friendship formed that lasted over the years.”
**A side note** When Rick saw Willie again in 2003, he asked him if he remembered the Brady shows and Willie did. Then he asked him if he ever got paid for them and Willie said he didn’t. They had a good laugh over it.