18th Annual LJT’s Texas Music Festival

LJT’s Texas Music Fest is held each April at Melody Mountain Ranch in Stephenville, TX. Many folks feel as though it is the premiere event for our kind of music and I’d have to agree. This year it will be held April 25-29 and among those performing are: Cross Canadian Ragweed, Randy Rogers Band, Brandon Rhyder, Jason Boland & The Stragglers, Stoney LaRue, Hayes Carll, Cooder Graw, Bonnie Bishop, Bruce Robison and many, many more.

Eighteen years ago, Larry Joe Taylor set out to produce a festival that was 1/3 Willie’s Picnic, 1/3 Terlingua Chili Cookoff, and 1/3 Kerrville Folk Festival. Through venue changes and a growing crowd each year, Taylor has finally realized his goal. LJT’s Texas Music Fest and Chili Cookoff represents the finest in acoustic music and singer/songwriter snobbery combined with the let loose good time vibes of a rocking mainstage act all set to the backdrop of a true Texas original…the chili cookoff. It has grown to a 6 day event that showcases all that is great about our state and music.

For the uninitiated LJT’s Festival is a lot like being an Aggie and trying to explain the allure of College Station. You can’t really explain why you must go to this place, you just know its right. Coined “Redneck Woodstock” by Roger Creager onstage at the 2000 festival, LJT’s Texas Music Festival is the ultimate festival for Texas and Red Dirt musicians and fans. Depending on how long you choose to stay, it’s several days of music, mullets, BBQ, chili, tents, flags, music, doctors, lawyers, college kids, high school kids, music, hippies, rednecks, old friends, new friends, “Goodnight Moons”, “Tequila Sunrises”, campfires, tents, boats, RV’s, campers, music, newcomers, legends, cowboys, fun, music and much, much more. Every crowd is represented and respected. The young college revelers are respectful of the older music fans and vice versa. The police are cool to you as long as you’re not being a jackass. The staff is extremely helpful and courteous. As Creager said in 2003, “Hell they should pay us to come play this thing, it’s the best gig we do all year.”

You’re as likely to hear the best song you’ve ever heard from the guy camping next to you as you are to hear Reckless Kelly perform onstage. Cody Canada has been performing at LJT’s since he was a teenager. And it just might turn out the guy camping next to you and bumming beers is some guy named Boland or Edmondson. Music starts each day at noon with acoustic acts under a listening room tent where idle conversation is discouraged. The music transitions to the mainstage around 5PM for some of the most energetic sets from some of the best bands you’ll see all year. The nightcapping sets can grow pretty rowdy and are a ton of fun. Additionally, this is the one festival where the artists truly hang out in the crowd the whole time and enjoy being a fan. At the 2005 Festival, Randy Rogers and Brady Black rode around on the hayride shuttle after their mainstage set until nearly 4AM; just hanging out and playing tunes with regular folks. It’s Texas Music nirvana, the event of the year, every year. Days full of no worries except making sure you get to the stage with enough beer to make it through the show. No cell phones, laptops or other such modern nuiscances. Just the open Texas sky, a sea of thousands of like-minded music fans from all over the country, and true serenity. The crowd is filled with people who know that Stoney LaRue has better pipes than anyone in Nashville. Alas, there are no beer drinking horses or sexy looking tractors. Just good music, good friends and good times. Pulling in your first day there is like being a kid on Christmas morning; leaving is like a trip to the dentist. My best friends and I attend every year and I intend to be one of the old hippies still attending 30 years from now when Pat Green and Cory Morrow are headlining the acoustic tent on a Friday afternoon.

Words cannot express how special the Larry Joe Taylor festival is or how important it has been in exposing new talent and developing this scene. Larry Joe, his wife Sherry and their son Zack, along with all the countless volunteers, sponsors and vendors make this a smooth run event with nothing but fun to be had. I hope you’ll consider joining us this year. This will be Galleywinter’s second consecutive year to be an official sponsor on the mainstage and my ninth year to attend. I will be backstage doing interviews and taking pictures in order to bring details to those of you unlucky enough to miss out and those of you who will be too drunk to remember.


Brad Beheler

Raised in Waco, refined in the Hill Country, escaped from DFW. I've worked in just about every facet of the music business for 20 years. I like to write about it all. e-mail Brad Editor-in-Chief

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