Ray Wylie Hubbard celebrated his 70th Birthday Bash with special guests Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams

Most people celebrate a birthday by going out to eat, throwing a party, or attending a concert. If you’re an entertainer, though, you work on your big day. And when you turn 70 and Texans regard you as a state treasure, you have a birthday bash and let the party come to you.

That happened Thursday night at the intimate Kessler Theater in Dallas. A full house was on hand on the first night of a two-night gig to give best wishes as Ray Wylie Hubbard became a septuagenarian.

Getting the party started was Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams. The husband-and-wife duo livened up the early-arriving crowd with robust vocals from Teresa and superb musical backing from Larry.

Campbell played many years with Bob Dylan and then Levon Helm, adding immense musical knowledge along the way. Teresa has a country/blues/folk/gospel voice that delighted the crowd. “You’re Running Wild,” “You’ll Never Again Be Mine,” and “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed” all showcased their individual abilities and their tight chemistry together.

The Birthday Boy then came out and immediately began entertaining with “Rabbit” and the singalong song “Snake Farm.” He told a story of reading a book of French poetry that had the moral of “You get more attention burning down the barn than carrying out the trash,” which led to “Drunken Poet’s Dream.”

Ray has learned how to put together a show of music, stories, and making the audience feel like they were right there with him during some of his illicit escapades. That feeling carried into “Down Home Country Blues” and “Train Yard.”

“Mississippi Flush” told how a royal flush is the best possible hand in poker, but any five cards and a small revolver beats it every time. “Mother Blues” was about the famous, or infamous, nightclub in Dallas where the real party started after the club closed. He even ended up marrying the door girl from there.

The beautiful Liz Foster from The Trishas then came onstage to help sing “Count My Blessings.” Her country-blues voice combined wonderfully with Ray’s, and Lucas Hubbard’s guitar solo turned this into a jam. Hubbard’s son continued to strum the blues on “Meeting Mr. Musselwhite.”

Talking about mortality and stating, “I hope God grades on a curve,” RWH and band played the darker “Stone Blind Horses.” The theme quickly turned around as a song he wrote with Cody Canada, “Cooler-N-Hell” lightened the mood. It segued into “Crazy Mama,” a crowd-sung song that Ray said was “Most righteous!”

One of the ultimate singalong songs was his signature hit “(Up Against The Wall) Redneck Mother” to the ecstatic crowd. Ending at this point would have capped a remarkable evening, but were the band kept playing.

An audience-led chorus of “Happy Birthday To You!” preceded the great concert song “Wanna Rock And Roll,” a hit for Cross Canadian Ragweed. It morphed into another big hit, “John The Revelator,” with its guitar solo and jam that kept the crowd at a fever pitch.

Ray finished the set with a story about his grandmother being a fortune-teller for carnivals that was the basis for “The Messenger.” It’s poignant lyrics, and laid-back melody showed the depth and range of the skilled writer and singer.

Hubbard didn’t even make it completely off the stage before the crowd’s demand of an encore brought him back to the microphone. “Choctaw Bingo” was a continuous story set to music that covered the gamut of rural life everywhere.

Another signature song and unofficial state anthem was the final number, “Screw You, We’re From Texas.” Lucas jammed on guitar and drummer Kyle Snyder laid down what Ray called “a groove beat you can hammer nails with” to end the Birthday Bash.

Hubbard is an entertainer in the true Texas style. His songs always tell a story and can be either touching or light-hearted. He’s not above telling a few tall tales between songs, either.

After one of his shows, you feel like you’ve not only experienced part of his life but met many of the people who’ve been an influence on him. You also find that being a Texas Troubadour is more than being a musician, it’s a way of life.

Ray tours regularly and you can catch him as he’s currently scheduled to play until Christmas.

Thanks to Jeff, Karen, and Garrett at Kessler Theater as they always go above and beyond to help.

Joe Guzman of National Rock Review was on hand to capture the event.

Ray Wylie Hubbard
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Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams
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Kessler Theater
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Event Date: 10-Nov-2016