July 4, 1976




bi-centennial picnic
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tulsa Fairgrounds Speedway
Willie Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Jerry Jeff Walker
The concert was held on July 4th



Willie joins Doug on stage
Willie Nelson joins Doug Sahm on stage at Willie's 1976 Picnic.


from eBay:


WILLIE NELSON'S FOURTH OF JULY PICNIC. Since the 1970s the Fourth of July and Texas music have been synonymous with Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic. The country music extravaganza began in 1973 and was inspired by a country music festival that took place outdoors on a ranch near Dripping Springs, Hays County, in March 1972. Willie Nelson, one of the performers, and some of his business associates decided to organize a one-day event for July 4, 1973. Eddie Wilson, owner of Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, promoted the concert, which was held at the same ranch in Dripping Springs. Musicians in addition to Nelson included Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, Charlie Rich, Waylon Jennings, and Tom T. Hall. Organizers soon realized that their plans were incomplete: the lack of sanitation, electricity, and parking space became obvious as an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 fans jammed two caliche backroads to the site. As understaffed health-care volunteers treated cases of heat exhaustion, security personnel tried to keep the stage clear and contended with intoxicated fans.

In spite of the first picnic's shortfalls, Nelson and promoters made plans to stage a bigger and improved Independence Day concert for the next year. In 1974 the picnic was actually a three-day festival that took place outdoors at the Texas World Speedway in College Station. Waylon Jennings, Jimmy Buffett, Leon Russell, Michael Martin Murphey, and Jerry Jeff Walker were among the lineup of musicians that attended. From this time on, Willie's picnic established itself as an annual event.

In 1975, 90,000 people descended upon the hamlet of Liberty Hill in Williamson County to hear Nelson and the Charlie Daniels Band, Delbert McClinton, the Pointer Sisters, and Kris Kristofferson. The Texas Senate proclaimed July 4 "Willie Nelson Day." Ironically, the overcrowding problems of the previous picnics had also prompted the Texas legislature to pass the Texas Mass Gathering Act, and Williamson County officials charged Nelson with violating that law. Throughout the 1970s however, the picnics continued at various sites—Gonzales, the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, the Austin Opry House, and the Pedernales Country Club. Musicians included Doug Sahm, Emmylou Harris, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ernest Tubb, and other semi-regulars such as Leon Russell and Kris Kristofferson.

After 1980 and a successful concert at which over 90,000 fans heard Merle Haggard, Asleep at the Wheel, Ray Price, Johnny Paycheck, and others at Nelson's Pedernales Country Club, Nelson and his organizers announced the discontinuation of the event, though an event of sorts took place as a series of shows at Syracuse, New York, Giants Stadium in New Jersey, and Atlanta International Raceway in 1983. In 1984, however, the picnic began anew and in the succeeding years was held at various venues around Austin. The 1986 concert also doubled as Farm Aid, which Nelson orchestrated in the mid-1980s to raise money for America's farmers. John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Ely, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds were among the musical acts that played Nelson's picnics.




"Hit the Road" poster by Jack Jackson (Jaxon)
(11x17 inches)