Tonight I would finally get to hear Robert Earl Keen, Jr. in person. Carol Ann and I left Nacogdoches at 6:00PM and headed West for the 7:30PM concert in Crocket, TX. I had my iPhone connected to the car’s sound system and we listened to Robert Earl Keen songs during the drive. We were getting in the mood.
We arrived about 7:00PM. The parking lot was not very crowded at all. We parked close to the door and went inside to the “Will Call” window for our tickets. Robert Earl Keen souvenirs were being sold in the lobby so I had to buy a Robert Earl Keen “The Road Goes on Forever” T-shirt and a “Road Goes on Forever” bumper sticker. The sticker is over two feet long and is asphalt black with white lines down the middle (like a highway). On the left-hand side above the road are the words, “The Road Goes on Forever.” Guess I'll have to place on the rear of the motorhome.
We found our seats and although the scheduled start was only twenty minutes away, there were not very many people in the auditorium. I was a bit concerned. After we had been seated for perhaps ten minutes I looked up and was startled to see Robert Earl about six feet away from me saying hello to two elderly women sitting right in front of us. He was wearing an old cowboy hat and shorts (well, he isn’t exactly mainstream). I could have reached out and touched him. Instead I immediately started shooting pictures of him. I mean I almost had the camera in his face! I was like the paparrazi! I was thinking about whether or not to ask him for his autograph when all of a sudden I realized that the guy I was snapping photos of, was in fact, NOT Robert Earl Keen. He was the right age and had a similar beard and did bear a resemblance to Robert Earl, especially if you had never actually seen Robert Earl in person before. The man ended up sitting about three rows in front of us, probably thinking that I must be a really weird guy. I was a little embarrassed about the whole thing but Carol Ann began to laugh and I couldn’t help but join her. I am just so glad that I only took pictures and didn’t reach out and shake his hand or ask for his autograph. How stupid I felt!
Robert Earl Keen, as I mentioned in my last post, is a Texas singer-songwriter. I guess you could call his music “Alternate Country” with a little “Americana” thrown in. Something like “Texacana,” except that makes it sound more like “Tex-Mex” and it’s not. All of his songs tell a story of life. They are not a conglomeration of nonsensical words that just happen to rhyme. His songs might have eight to ten verses, plus chorus, with each verse like a chapter in a book. He is a storyteller who tells his stories with songs.
7:30PM came and went and the seats began filling up. The tickets and signs all said 7:30PM but it was 8:00PM when Robert Earl was finally introduced and welcomed to the stage where he was presented with a coonskin cap like Davey Crocket, hero of the Alamo and namesake of the town, wore. Crocket is the fourth oldest town in Texas. Nacogdoches happens to be the oldest. Sam Houston lived in Nacogdoches for four years prior to the Texas Revolution. A stone house that he built as a trading post is known as Old Stone Fort and located on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. The El Camino Real (now Highway 21) ran East-West through Nacogdoches. Nacogdoches was the destination and marshaling center for many of the volunteers who came to Texas to fight in the Texas Revolution. Enough history for now. Back to Robert Earl.
Robert Earl has been entertaining for about 30 years and has always been, and still is, extremely popular on college campuses in Texas. Especially his alma mater, Texas A & M. A large part of the crowd tonight was composed of young people who probably were still in diapers, if they had been born, when Robert Earl's career started, yet they knew the words to almost every song and sang along much of the time. It was a loud crowd. A middle-aged woman sat on my left and yelled so loud that my left ear is still ringing. She stomped and clapped and yelled through the entire performance. A group of about eight young men were a few rows behind us and they knew exactly when to shout out the refrain or sing the chorus. When they weren’t singing along they were hootin’ and hollerin’. Robert Earl really seemed to be enjoying himself and having fun also.
One of the songs was “Merry Christmas from the Family.” No matter that Christmas is still four months away. It has always been one of his most popular songs and is really funny in a weird kind of way. The first line is, “Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk at our Christmas party.” In an interview about a year ago he was asked about this song and he said that his mom didn’t like it very much, even though his mom and dad were both alcoholics. I’m not sure if he was serious or joking.
He and his band played for about an hour and twenty minutes without a break. There last song (before the encore) was “The Road Goes on Forever.” I knew it would be last so before it started I left my seat and headed towards the front. I got down on my knees between the stage and the front row and took some close-ups as he sang “The Road Goes on Forever” and the encore, Billy Joe Shaver’s “Live Forever,” which they did acoustically (no amps or microphones). It was a really great show. I wish it had been longer as there were more of his songs that I would love to have heard him sing.
On the drive back to Nacogdoches it was pitch black dark, no moon in the sky, and I missed a turn and we ended up in Lufkin, about 20 miles south of Nacogdoches. We may have taken the scenic route but we couldn’t tell in the dark.
Robert Earl Keen in Concert