James Rambur Presents

A very Memorable birthday

  This summer 2003 I found that Willie Nelson would be playing at Big sky Montana on my big 55 birthday. My good buddy Oliver English who just happens to be a brother of Willies drummer for the last fifty some years said he could get us back stage passes. A group of us left Great Falls at 6 AM. Three cars in a caravan. Oliver junior had car trouble just out of town and alas had to turn back after transferring the doctors lovely daughters to Clides car. We met Paul and Billy English at a very swank hotel at about 10:00. From there we were invited aboard the tour bus where we met Bee Speers "Bass" Mickey Raphiel "harmonica" and Pooty "stage manager". After a short ride we arrived at the stage where the road crew was already setting up. There we were given backstage passes.
  Back on the bus Paul brought in burgers chips etc. and made sure we all got fed. It sure was a thrill to be waited on by the rich and famous. There was plenty of southern hospitality and the whole group gave us the royal treatment. It was a lovely day with a few sprinkles of rain, The first we had seen in weeks.
I didn't have a camera but stole these from willienelson.com
   One unexpected treat was a short performance by Three guys from three bands behind the stage. The mandolin player with open road, Jody from willie's band and the steel player from Ray Price's band got together and started playing blue grass. They did a great job as if they had worked together for years. A bass fiddle player joined in to round things out. Shortly after that we were picked up in a van and taken to a nearby restaurant for a sit down dinner. While we were eating we were joined by Steve, another of Oliver's students who had just got there. When we finished it was about show time.
   The show started with Open road who did some real fine blue grass followed by Ray price. When Willie was ready to join him for a couple of songs and again when he went back to his bus the security people moved us back behind the yellow rope. Just before the main event Paul moved us from behind the stage onto the side of the stage and said they wouldn't bother us there. Just as the band was coming on Bee,bass guitar, came over to Oliver and said "My hand hurts. Can you fill in for me?" No doubt he could have as he had broken him in for Willie some years ago. When Willie came on the crowd went wild. The yelling whistling etc. was so loud you could hardly hear the music. The sprinkles turned into a pretty good downpour. While the paying customers were getting soaked we were high and dry under the tent. This last picture stolen from Willie's site is very close to the view we had.
   After the show we got back on the bus to visit a while before the long drive home. Billy said that this was the second loudest crowd they had ever played for. To quote "I thought Texans knew how to party loud".Before we left Billy gave us each a Willie Nelson guitar pick for a souvenir. It was after 3 AM when we got back to town and brought a memorable day to a close. And since this was the first birthday in a lot of years that I didn't get drunk I do remember it.

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