Billy Bob’s Texas owners are divided in a lawsuit over control of the award-winning club. WFAA-TV
Billy Bob’s Texas owners are divided in a lawsuit over control of the award-winning club. WFAA-TV

Bud Kennedy

Time for Billy Bob’s partners to stop dancing, start dealing

By Bud Kennedy

August 03, 2017 07:45 PM


Here’s my advice for the Hickmans, Minicks, Murrins, Nelsons and all the hard-headed owners of Billy Bob’s Texas:

First of all, stop dodging any TV reporters. Let everybody’s camera crews come inside. Go on out and brag about one of the legendary nightclubs in country music.

Sure, your owners are feuding in a father-vs.-son lawsuit that’s sadder than a George Jones song.

But don’t let that push Billy Bob’s out of the picture. If reporters want to come show the club, that’s good for the club and whoever runs it.

Be the first to know.

No one covers what is happening in our community better than we do. And with a digital subscription, you'll never miss a local story.

Second, get this lawsuit over with soon.

Fort Worth wants to be known for music, and we need a thriving Billy Bob’s as part of it.

Years ago, vacationing in Southern California, I walked out on Santa Monica Beach with a morning cup of coffee and opened the Los Angeles Times.

Page Two had a big photo of part-owner Steve Murrin headlined, “The Cowboy Behind Billy Bob’s.”

People know Fort Worth has this rich music history … Billy Bob’s is the only big venue — it plays a special part.

Brooks Kendall Jr. of Hear Fort Worth

More recently, on the west coast of Sweden, we heard men in a restaurant talking in heavy German or Dutch about “Dah-las.”

Then they all laughed when one shouted something about “Bee-lee Bob’s.”

Halfway around the world, they know about the world’s largest honky-tonk.

Of all the country music nightclubs in the U.S., only one has won the Club of the Year award 10 times from the California-based Academy of Country Music. Throw in three more awards from the Nashville-based Country Music Association.

Fort Worth tourism is a $2 billion industry that supports 22,000 jobs. Many of those tourists come to see Billy Bob’s.

Fort Worth is pitching tourists to come hear music. The idea is that any club might have the next Leon Bridges, Crowley’s favorite son, or a singer-server like former comedy clubber Kelly Clarkson.

Music thrives in small clubs in South Main Village or off Sundance Square.

But it all starts in the Stockyards.

“People know Fort Worth has this rich music history, from Ornette Coleman and Townes Van Zandt to Bob Wills,” said Brooks Kendall Jr., a concert promoter and president of Hear Fort Worth, an organization promoting live music.

“But if you want to go somewhere most nights of the week and be guaranteed to see live music, the Stockyards is the surefire place. Billy Bob’s is the only big venue — it plays a special part.”

Fifty years after the meat packinghouses closed, 25 years after the last regular cattle auction, Stockyards leaders cling tightly to history.

That includes 36 years of country music concerts by Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and nearly every other star, all in a century-old former cattle barn.

It’s the biggest drawing card for both the old shops nearby and the new shopping village coming to the Stockyards.

Quit shuffling and deal.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.