By Tony Parra
Organizers are at a loss as to why the Willie Nelson concert on Wednesday in Portales has not yet sold out.
Bruce Williams, Joint Venture Productions promoter for the Nelson concert said, 1,250 of the 1,970 tickets have been sold. Williams said Nelson’s agents asked him to find out why the concert had not sold out. He said they didn’t understand why.
“The Durango (Colo.) show sold out in five hours,” Williams said. “It sold out immediately. Willie Nelson is breaking records. Willie Nelson and Billy Joe Shaver were the original outlaws of country music. Willie Nelson does 250 shows a year and they all sell out.”
Williams said ENMU concert organizers guaranteed the Nelson concert would sell out.
Williams thought it was possible that some fans aren’t buying tickets because they assume Nelson will also be at the UFO festival with Merle Haggard in June. Nelson has traditionally appeared, but Williams said that no information has been released that would imply Nelson was again part of the show.
“Some people may be assuming that he’s going to perform in Clovis or Roswell for the UFO music festival, but he’s not,” Williams said. “We’ve had tickets purchased from people who are coming down from Dallas and El Paso for the show.”
Williams said Nelson wanted to have Billy Joe Shaver as the headliner. Shaver, 65-year-old, singer/songwriter said he looks forward to performing in Portales and will probably make the trip to Portales from Waco on Tuesday.
“I love it because everyone works hard,” Shaver said. “People in a small town can relate. I cut to the chase. I’m straight forward with my stuff. I really appreciate those in a small town.”
Shaver said he will be on the CBS show 60 Minutes later this year to talk about the hardships he’s had to deal with. Shaver’s only child, Eddy Shaver, died early New Year’s Eve of 2000 of a heroin overdose at the age of 38.
“He went with bad company that night,” Shaver said. “He was a great guitar-player. He played lead guitar with Dwight Yoakam. Eddy was world-class on the guitar. I thought he had it (heroine addiction) whipped.”
Billy Joe Shaver’s mother, Victory Odessa Watson, and his wife, Brenda Tindell Shaver, both died of cancer within a month of each other in 1999.
Shaver said he has known Nelson since 1955 when they first met through a friend.
“I loved his songs so much,” Shaver said. “They used to call him ‘Abbott Willie’.” Nelson was born in 1933 in Abbott, Texas, a small farming community in central Texas.
“He’s a great guy. He will give you the shirt off his back.”
Nelson was not available for comment, and Williams said that the singer rarely does interviews.
Williams said he was talking with Will Kayatin, director of Office of Student Activities and Organizations and Jeff Blake, Jeff Blake, program coordinator of Associated Student Activities Board, about getting a 1,700-pound piano to the Ballroom, which is in the second floor of the Campus Union Building. Williams said they will be contacting a construction company about a scissor lift for the piano, which Bobbie Nelson, Willie’s sister, will be playing for the show.
Williams said they will begin set-up of the show at 10:30 a.m. and will have sound check at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. He said the doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and Bill Joe Shaver will perform at 7:30 p.m., followed by Nelson.
Williams said organizers were excited to bring Nelson to Portales because of the success of a Pat Green concert two years ago. The price difference between the two events (the Green concert was free) isn’t a concern in Williams’ mind.
“A $30 ticket to see Willie Nelson is an inexpensive ticket,” Williams said, “and to add Billie Jo Shaver, it’s a really inexpensive ticket.”
General admission tickets are $30 each and $35 at the gate. Tickets can be purchased at the ENMU bookstore, by phone at 1-800-462-7979 or online at www.enmu.edu (service charges may apply).
“We know we’re bringing something special,” Williams said. “We’re just surprised it hasn’t sold out, yet.”