Willie Nelson’s Picnic in Tulsa

One of my favorite things in the world is when people that were alive before I was born tell me about things that happened before I was born. I mean it. I really do love old stories. I got one today from the kind older manager at Red Robin.

It started when my mom and I were talking about the different plans we have for our summer. One thing my family has planned is a concert in May with Steve Miller Band and MR. PETER FRAMPTON! Trouble was I couldn’t for the life of me remember the Steve Miller Band half of the performance.

The man came over to our table and said, “Don’t beat on my table, now. What’s wrong?” Only then did I realize I must have been visibly upset I couldn’t place the name. So, I asked him, just in case he might know. After teasing that he’d have to charge for his knowledge, he offered up the correct answer, much to my relief.

But that wasn’t the extent of the information he felt like sharing. He continued on to say, “I remember seeing Peter Frampton in his hay day,” with fond admiration. “But my favorite show I ever saw was at Willie Nelson’s Picnic in Tulsa.” Guys, you wouldn’t believe, but he said over one hundred thousand people showed up! That’s 100k. 100,000! One with five zeros. 

It went something like this: The biggest names of the 70’s came together to play music. Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, and Mr. Nelson himself, of course, were on the lineup. The music was never-ending, as were the drugs. Marijuana, Speed (or black beauty, as he called it), but the worst, he said, was cocaine. Everywhere and clean cut. Potent. 

It had people taking off their clothes, making out with strangers, and most notably, climbing the 20ft high light poles. Thick wooden posts…naked… Ouch. He remembered being far too young to be at a concert like that, surrounded by things he wasn’t even close to of age for. The best part, he said, was that he felt like he got a small taste of what Woodstock would’ve been like. That comradery. That fellowship. That crazy ass shit.

Later, when he was interested in passing the story on, he went looking for newspaper stories about it, but couldn’t find a single one. None of the newspapers in Tulsa ever reported. Which I found odd. As I’m sure you do, too. 

So, I went researching, and found a timeline of all the years Will Nelson did the picnic since 1972, the year he debuted a “prototype” of the concert. Firstly, none of the years had an attendance of 100,000. One year was reported to expect that much, but only 80k showed. Now, that could be easily overlooked as a memory slight. 

Secondly, Ted Nugent and Aerosmith weren’t mentioned in the year that 80,000 showed up, much less any other year. Could they have come and just not be listed? Sure, but doubtful. And finally, none the concerts were held in Tulsa, or even Oklahoma that I could tell. Most all of them were in Texas.

I really loved the man’s story, but I can’t put much stock in it. He might have been mixing multiple experiences. He might have heard the story and associated with himself over the years. Memory is a funny thing. Either way, thank you for a delightful trip down “memory lane”.


Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic timeline 


2 thoughts on “Willie Nelson’s Picnic in Tulsa

  1. There was a Willie Nelson Picnic in Tulsa. July 4, 1977 at the Fairgrounds. No Nugent, no Aerosmith (perhaps he was thinking of Texas Jam the same year. ) The headliners obviously were Willie, but the highlight, by a long shot, was Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was pre plane crash Skynyrd and just a short time before releasing Street Survivors and had the full Steve Gaines era line up. They were honestly a live music machine.

    Liked by 1 person

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