Dale Watson and Steers at the Stockyard

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FORT WORTH — At 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day, the Longhorn steers at the Fort Worth Stockyards take a leisurely stroll down the brick streets of Exchange Avenue, flanked by cowboys on horses keeping a watchful eye on the herd — and the folks gathered on the sidewalk to watch. I suspect the cowboys are more worried about the two-legged creatures doing something dumb than the Longhorns making a break for it. It is obvious these magnificent creatures are well fed. Other than two 15-minute (at most) walks in the searing heat, life is pretty darned good for these bovine.

Somehow I have managed to never visit the stockyards, a major Fort Worth attraction. My Beautiful Mystery Companion decided to rectify this omission by booking an anniversary weekend for us at the Stockyards Hotel — and reserving us a table at Lil’ Red’s Longhorn Saloon to see Dale Watson perform. We could park our vehicle and walk everywhere, which is appealing even if the temperature hit 105 degrees. As they say, it’s a dry heat.

For dinner, we never ventured outside, opting to eat at an acclaimed restaurant connected to the hotel. We were seated in back under a ceiling fan that blew frigid air and forced me to switch seats to avoid frostbite. At the end of the room, a gas log fireplace was going full blast. Only in Texas would a business turn down the air-conditioning and crank up the fireplace at the same time. No matter. The grilled trout and wilted spinach were wonderful, the just-baked load of bread so delicious we grabbed a to-go bag. It would be my breakfast.


Dale Watson has a snow-white pompadour, a constant toothy smile and a stage presence that belies his modest stature. He calls his music “Ameripolitan,” a mixture of rockabilly, Western Swing, honky-tonk and outlaw. That’s a mouthful of genres, and the subgenres below those are even lengthier. Perhaps the simplest explanation is that Ameripolitan encompasses the type of music one will never hear on commercial radio — especially what passes for country these days. If I pass the rest of my days never hearing another song about pickup trucks and girls in tight blue jeans, it will be just ducky with me. Watson about 15 years ago wrote a song titled, “That’s Country, My A**.” It dovetails with my sentiments.

Watson is well known in the Austin music scene, where he lived until recently moving to Memphis, decrying the ever-increasing cost of trying to make a living in Austin. He tours 300 days a year with the Lone Stars. The band is comprised of a drummer, stand-up bass player and a steel guitarist, along with Watson on lead guitar. They all appear to love every minute playing in honky-tonks large and small.


At 9 p.m. (approaching my normal bedtime), Watson took the stage. Craig Copeland, aka Lil’ Red, took the stage to introduce Watson. Lil’ Red wore overalls, a starched white snap-button shirt and a straw cowboy hat. After, Lil’ Red meandered through the crowd, shaking hands and thanking patrons for coming.

Watson and his band played for more than two hours, while couples two-stepped across the dance floor, upon which a worker had shaken sawdust a few minutes earlier. Watson did something I have never seen before. When folks approached the stage, cell phones in hand, Watson would crouch forward so he was behind the selfie-takers — all the while continuing to play guitar, not missing a lick. He would dash back to the microphone when it was time to sing, and then oblige another selfie-taker (usually women) during the instrumental breaks, a smile constantly on his face.

About midway through his set, Watson played his most famous song and had the crowd singing along with the chorus:

Oh I lie when I drink, and I drink a lot,
Don’t believe me when I’ve had a few.
Oh I lie when I drink, and I drink a lot,
I only drink when I’m missin’ you. 


It is a funny, classic honky-tonk tune. Here’s a link to Watson’s performance of “I Lie When I Drink” at Austin City Limits. Watch his facial expressions; they add an extra dimension to the song: https://tinyurl.com/y8hel6kt.

Speaking of imbibing, Watson and the Lone Stars were plied by fans with tequila shots and bottles of Lone Star Beer (a sponsor) throughout their performance. If he had truly downed all offered, I don’t see how he could have been standing, let alone singing and picking. I figured out he was taking a polite sip of each shotglass or beer bottle, then setting it aside.


Watson and the band wrapped up the set, no encores, and another band took the stage. We hung around a bit, then decided to head back to the hotel. It was well past our bedtime.

And we ran right into Dale Watson, heading back inside. I asked if I could take a photo of him with my BMC. Instead, he grabbed her phone and took a selfie of all three of us. He clearly has done this a few thousand times, and the photo was framed perfectly.

That was an excellent way to end a fun time in the Stockyards.

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