Country Music

How Willie Nelson & Charley Pride Integrated East Texas

Willie Nelson's Conroe buddy Larry Butler was not only a performer, he also ran a series of clubs in the area over the past 50 years, including Willie Nelson's Night Life on FM 1960 during Willie's IRS problem years.

And while Butler has some fond memories of IRS agents hanging around Willie's Night Life gigs waiting to garnish the singer's pay, he thinks maybe one of the most exciting -- and trying -- times he had in the club business was when he owned a joint on Highway 105 in Cut and Shoot called Pat's Longhorn Ballroom.

Along with Vidor, Cut and Shoot and nearby Conroe were long known as strong East Texas redoubts of the Ku Klux Klan and the segregationist movement. Cut and Shoot was also notorious for its "Hanging Bridge."

"Willie calls me and says he's got this guy who's been doing some shows with him who's great and that I need to book him," says Butler. "Willie and I both had this love for Hank Williams and, according to Willie, this fellow was as good at doing a Hank Williams song as anyone he'd ever seen.

This fellow was Charley Pride and, Butler says, "finally, Willie got around to telling me that Charley was a black man."