Getting to know a Honky Tonk named Billy Bob

The last paragraph of the previous blog mentioned us leaving the pharmacy and walking across the car park to the car….that’s when it happened.  Ty said to me ‘Look at how this truck is parked, no one can get around her’ as I looked around to see what he meant I tripped and fell.  Yes, Sir Lunchalot and Gorging Gonz, I tripped again and this time I didn’t damage my ankle I damaged both knees…blood everywhere. What is it with me and holidays?  I seem to either get a horrid cold/infection or fall over. This time I’ve managed both so perhaps I could look at it that I must now be cured of these holiday annoyances. I’m being positive and thinking this to be the case. Oh, and to clarify, the truth wasn’t what we Aussies think of as a truck but a ute (think those large Toyota Utes) on a case of steroids.  Yes, I did get a look at it as Ty helped me up off the roadway, placed me in the car and hurried back to the store to purchase antibiotic cream and band aids.

Returning to the hotel I walked by people as quickly as possible hoping to get to the lifts before the blood started running down my legs again. What a mess I was!  About 2 hours later,  wounds cleaned, disinfected and band aids applied, change of clothing (pants not skirt) we headed towards the historical Stockyards area of Fort Worth.

Traffic was bad, didn’t matter what time of day, every lane on every flyover (overpass/underpass) was heavy with traffic…we decided they didn’t have a real peak period it was a continual peak. We won’t complain about our commute anymore…well for at least a week or two after we return home or until the first accident causes major traffic chaos.

Forty five minutes later we drove into the carpark behind Billy Bob’s. We paid the man $15 for parking and purchased the tickets for the concert at the box office just inside the main door of the bar….$16 per person for this country artist and his band that we’d never heard of.  Well let’s be more specific, Ty had never heard of him, I’m certainly not a country music officianado. It was more the atmosphere of the place that Ty was trying to convey to me and seeing a live concert would help. Tickets purchased we then decided to go back to the historic Stockyard Station area for a wander, a little shopping and to find a place to have some food.

FW Stockyards

We needed to be back at BB’s by 8pm for our cultural evening of all things country and suddenly it was almost 7pm. “Ok, we need to find somewhere to eat, have you had enough of shopping?” Ty said. Does a shopper ever have enough of shopping? Silly question but I knew he was keen to get to BB’s so I put down whatever I was looking at and we headed out the door to find food. It soon became clear that choices of food in this area of the historical part of town were in short supply.  The busiest place was an indoor/outdoor eatery named Bullock Burger. Fabulous, I thought, but not many other choices down here so let’s do it.  They had White Zinfandel on their menu…place can’t be too bad! Oh yes it can….my wine was served in a plastic glass.  “One consolation” I whispered to Ty, “is they don’t measure the alcohol serving”. My plastic glass was full.

When we left the Stockyard Station and commenced the walk to BB’s ithe temperature was still in the high 90’s at 7.40pm.  The whole area was buzzing with families and couples, a number of walking tour groups passed us and buskers were on most corners. One Texan couple had two steers tethered to a fence wearing saddles with a sign offering people to have their photos taken sitting on them, for a price of course.  I felt sorry for the cattle.

I had never seen so many cowboy hats and cowboy boots being worn in one place by both genders.  It was fabulous, great atmosphere, trucks of all sizes and colours being driven around the streets. A large number looked to me to as big as a semi trailer cab. I couldn’t drive one ‘cos I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to see through the windscreen although my initial problem would be getting into the truck itself. I’d need a stepladder or a leg up every time. It also amused me when we saw a car with 2 people in the front seat both wearing their cowboy hats…both hates almost touched in such closeness so it looked quite comical.  No one removed their hats when they were indoors either.

As we passed by an indoor rodeo arena we noticed a very old truck parked at the front, it’s claim to fame was being owned by a 1970’s rodeo I champion. Not sure, if, over 40 years later, it’s still relevant but given I’m not a follower of rodeo riders and their championships who knows.  We still took photos with the old truck! Placed next to the newer Dodge RAM 2500 this li’l old red beaten up thing would look like a Tonka toy.

Arriving at our destination Ty opens the main entrance door to Billy Bob’s and stands back as I walk in and my cultural evening of all things country begins….beer, cowboys, cowgirls, country music, bull riding, fried foods and country music.  The man checking our tickets said, as he stamped our hand, ‘Y’all enjoy yourself tonight’.

As we round the corner of the hallway we find ourselves in a wide open space. A little further on and to the left is the large gift shop, on the right, the indoor rodeo ring and seating on both sides for spectators.  There are 2 championship shows a night on Friday and Saturdays at $4 per person entry. Of course it wasn’t a straight walk in to the arena we had to pass the small rodeo hall of fame on the way. Back out into the main section of the bar there were games machines, not poker or slot machines, the type where you put your money in and try to pick up some toy or chocolate bar.  This was Texas so what do you think, dear reader, would be in one of the game machines?  Cowboy hats, foam oversize cowboy hats, all colours of the rainbow and you might think they’re so large they’d be easy to pick up and hold but we watched a few people try and fail. We moved on to the bar area….now forget your normal small pub bar area think of you favourite drinking hole bar and triple it at least.  That was the main bar but there were also 30 serving stations. I’ll now list some of the other areas found in Billy Bob’s, the largest Honky Tonk in the world.

Chrome house band

  • capacity for up to 6000 people
  • free Line dancing classes
  • live bands every weekend
  • a pool hall with around 12 pool tables
  • a photo stop
  • a large dance floor
  • 2 banquet rooms
  • meeting rooms
  • permanent main stage plus another stage used by the house bands
  • Honky Tonk kitchen including a pizza kitchen, a Texas BBQ and private dining space

The main stage act was Sam Riggs and his band.  Naturally I’d never heard of him but, surprisingly, nor had Ty but thousands of others had because when we purchased our tickets there wasn’t a lot of seats left in the main stage area.  The main act didn’t come on till 10pm so we had plenty to keep us occupied until then.  The house band for this week was “Chrome”.  Apparently house bands play for a week and any band can apply to be the house band of the week by sending a demo cd.

After wandering around this huge venue we settled at a table at the edge of the dance floor and secondary stage to listen to the house band.  Ty went to get the drinks and came back with a vodka and orange for me instead of a wine.  He laughed as he told me the barmans’ reaction when he asked what choice of wines they had. The barman looked at him as if he had 2 heads then replied ‘Wine? Y’all can’t drink wine here, this is a Honky Tonk, we serve beer and spirits’.  I drank vodka for the rest of the evening!

The people watching was amazing, the way the girls/women dressed, many in pretty little dresses and cowboy boots, or tiny shorts with diamonties on the pockets and belts with a sparkly top, cowboy hat and boots.  Age was no barrier to what you wore with your cowboy boots.  The boys and men wore their cowboy boots and hats with jeans or trousers and even shorts.  Young or old, it didn’t matter, once that country music started they were all on the floor dancing pretty much the same country style of dancing.  There was the professional couple who glided around the floor in perfect step to the music, the couple who seemed terrified of what they were doing that she never smiled at all, seemed like she was there under sufferance and had a definite cat’s bum look. Her partner seemed to be concentrating very hard…I decided they were learners still counting the steps.  There was the twenty something professional in tiny shorts and tank top stretched over her largish body very much in demand by several male dancers.  I was surprised by the number of teenage couples and couples in their early twenties taking to the floor and dancing to the music.  The music Chrome was playing  is what I think of as country rock, not the slow ‘found your dog, got the wife back and the Chevy truck managed to start again today’ type of slit your wrist stuff.  Upbeat country and the dancers loved every minute of it, except for the couple counting their steps and looking terrified.

The first championship rodeo was starting at 9pm so we decided to divert to the rodeo arena.  We watched about 5 rodeo riders strut their stuff and 4 time out of 5 the bull won… However, rider and bull 6 burst into the ring and this bull was a little angrier than the previous ones.  He threw the rider almost trampled on him and stomped on one of the diversionary clowns. Rodeo arena He bailed up the other clown and refused to leave the ring.  He threw dirt up and chased anyone who tried to move him out of the ring.  Eventually they sent in another bull assuming he would head back out the gate and the crabby one would follow.  Not so, they ganged up and kicked dirt all over the patrons sitting behind them as they snorted and stomped from one side of the arena to the other.  These bulls were enjoying themselves only looking up to charge anyone who tried to remove them. Things were at a stalemate. After 10 minutes an announcement was made saying the championship was called off because they needed to remove the Bulls from the arena.

Wandering back to the main bar area it was very clear the whole place was starting to fill up and eventually it was time to move to the main showroom area (just behind the secondary stage). Before this the house band played a song that had as many patrons as possible attempting to get a spot on the dance floor for a group line dance. Once again we were surprised at the ages of many of the line dancers but then again it’s Texas and it’s total country unlike Australia with small pockets of country music fans. Quite an amazing sight.

We sat back to watch the crowd moving in to main stage and noted it was a mix of ages from late teens to late 70’s maybe even 80 year olds.  Whoever this Sam Riggs is he’s popular with everyone. We thought that it might be a sign that it was going to be a good night and also unusual because, in general, the younger generation may like some of the middle aged rockers or country music stars especially if they grew up with their parents listening to these artists but not usual that someone in their 70’s might be interested in a young country music up and coming. As Ty said, this is Texas and I’m learning things are different in Texas!  In a good and interesting way.

It was 30 minutes over the start time when the band stepped out onto the stage, the crowd went wild, we looked at each other in surprise, when suddenly the screams and shouting in the room grew in it’s intensity.  Sam Riggs, the main act, had stepped up through the smoke haze onto a raised dais.  A young man who thanked the room for helping him get to where he is today.  The crowd went wild again.  I was astounded, I hadn’t heard screams like this since Ty took me to see Tim McGraw in Sydney and he is a ‘big’ name in country music.  I was also surprised by age of crowd and their reactions at Sydney concert.  A member of the group of people sitting on our table obviously knew the guitarist as he kept waving and yelling at him to get his attention telling his companions how nervous he would be.   Eventually the guitarist acknowledged him and that seemed to satisfy his ego.

 The crowd knew the words to all the songs, there were no slow songs (thank goodness) and there appeared to be no responsible service of alcohol as some of the females around us became quite drunk falling over people, taking seats that weren’t there’s and just being a nuisance. Apart from a few incidences everyone was in a grand mood and enjoying the evening.  Half way through the event the singer stopped to ‘God Bless America and all our prayers are with the families of the Policemen shot’ he went on to say respect your police force, look after your fellow Americans and more patriotic words of encouragement.  That small diversion from music almost brought the house down.

We left Billy Bob’s around 1.30 am and I have to say we both had a great time – one of the most entertaining night outs I’ve had for awhile.  The place is extraordinary, I’ve seen lots of bars on my travels but nothing like this place.  I enjoyed the music and the people watching.  If you’re ever in Fort Worth this is one place you should go…especially on a Friday or Saturday night….it seems to be the only place in Fort Worth to be.

So what’s a Honky Tonk….there are some slightly different definitions; a loud, rowdy bar  typically full of hillbillies enjoying country music or a cheap noisy nightclub or it can refer to a type of music.  To me it’s all of the above  it was loud, there were a few hillbillies and it was definitely noisy but it’s the best fun…..y’all gotta do it.

Plus, the people of Texas are so very friendly…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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