Written by Brett Gibbons
Chances are, you’ve at the very least heard of Billy Bob’s Texas. It’s world-famous for a reason and therefore an apt candidate for the first installment of our new weekly series, Music Venue Monday.
Nestled right in the middle of the ever-popular tourist attraction Fort Worth Stockyards (located in Fort Worth, Texas), Billy Bob’s is crowned the World’s Largest Honky Tonk. It’s become a rite of passage for local artists and a bucket-list venue for those outside the Lonestar State.
About Billy Bob’s Texas
Billy Bob’s opened its doors in 1981 after being renovated from a defunct department store and an open-air cattle barn before that (seriously). Since its opening and 1988 re-opening, hundreds of acts have graced the stage and placed their handprints in concrete, which are then displayed around the venue.
Legends like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Alabama, Waylon Jennings, Alan Jackson, Willie Nelson, and dozens of others have made their mark at Billy Bob’s (see the complete list here, note: list is outdated). More recently, superstars like Kacey Musgraves, Riley Green, and Luke Combs have taken the stage.
On any given weekend, you can find Texas favorites like Josh Abbott, Cody Johnson (posing with his handprint above), and Aaron Watson performing for thousands of people. Another great mark of Billy Bob’s includes the esteemed guests that stand side stage (or even sit in the crowd) to enjoy shows. Lately, Randy Travis has made himself a regular at shows and Koe Wetzel stood in attendance for Kolby Cooper’s debut.
There’s a large dance floor, dozens of pool tables, a pit (modified with a hundred tables during the pandemic), and several bar tops inside the venue; they even feature an indoor rodeo pit. If you’re in town for the day, entrance for a much-recommended self-tour is just $3. However, nothing beats a Friday night show, priced anywhere between $15-$25 for general admission up to $100 for seats in the pit.
What makes Billy Bob’s great
If you’re into history and prestige, Billy Bob’s is the place for you. Despite being over 100,000 square feet, it feels like your local smokey bar complete with dim neon lighting, pool, and dusty bars.
It provides a versatile experience that fits everyone. The back half is for GA tickets and provides a laid-back atmosphere where you can listen to the artist while also enjoying a night at the bar. The front half is reserved seating and the pit for a truer concert experience. There’s also plenty of TV screens around the place so you won’t miss what’s going on.
The Wall of Fame (or, more accurately, walls) is world-famous and includes the handprints of everyone who’s performed at Billy Bob’s. These cast handprints include George Strait, Tim McGraw, and Loretta Lynn (see the linked list above).
Tips for your visit
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, bring a jacket if you plan to attend a concert– especially if you plan on sitting and watching the show. The AC units are on full blast at all times and you’ll freeze wearing a t-shirt. If you have GA tickets and plan to walk around, drink, and play pool, you might be okay.
If you don’t have a reserved ticket, get there early. Billy Bob’s has a series of house bands that provide plenty of entertainment before shows (main acts usually begin at 10:00pm) and there’s limited unobstructed views. Even with reserved seating, buy your tickets early. Roughly half of all reserved seats in the venue have some sort of obstruction– posts, low ceilings, the list goes on.
If you’re visiting from out of town, don’t plan to walk up to the ticket office and grab tickets to that night’s show. More often than not, shows on Friday and Saturday will be sold out several hours after going on sale weeks prior.
Come hungry! Billy Bob’s has a kitchen that excels in pizza, burgers, and BBQ during shows.
Music Venue Monday
The thing I love most about country music is the live show; nothing beats a Friday night seeing your favorite artist play their heart out on stage. As good as an artist might be, the venue in which you see them at is equally important. A great venue can turn a solid concert into a memorable one and a terrible venue can ruin the show entirely.
I’ve been to over 100 concerts at dozens of venues, and I’ll be sharing my favorites each Monday for the foreseeable future.