Bert Montgomery: Willie, State and an Ole Miss conspiracy

August 3, 2009 9:59:00 AM

Bert Montgomery -


One of the best concerts I''ve ever been to was on April 22, 1992, at the amphitheater on Mississippi State''s campus. It was the Allman Brothers Band with Blues Traveler, and it was incredible. I even have "bootleg" cassettes of that show (if anybody has upgraded this show to digital, I''d be glad to provide a couple of blank CDs . . .). 


Because I''ve been living in other states for most of the last decade, that''s also the last concert I''ve been to in Starkville. Now that I''m back in town, I''d like to see more concerts at the amphitheater. 


May I suggest the very next one? 


Willie Nelson. 


Yep, good ol'' Willie. Twice in the past six months he has announced concerts in our great state, and twice they''ve been canceled. The first one was at a casino down around Philadelphia; the second was to be at the Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson. About the time I start making my plans to attend, the concerts get canceled. 


There is a very smart woman I know who is absolutely convinced that Ole Miss is the source of everything that is wrong with the world. She won''t even go to Oxford to pull for the Bulldogs when we play the Rebels because she says the "darkness" there is too strong; instead, she just cheers for the Dogs from Starkville as they, like Don Quixote, "march into hell for a heavenly cause."  


I think the arguments of this friend are beginning to get the better of me. For example, I have no hard evidence to prove this (actually I have no evidence of any kind at all), but I can''t shake the hunch that Ole Miss is somehow behind the cancellation of Willie Nelson concerts in Mississippi.  


It''s a fierce accusation, I know, and I am ready to apologize to my Ole Miss neighbors if I''m proven wrong. The basis of my suspicion rests in a topic that we''d rather just not talk about, but since, as Willie himself has sung, "there''s always somebody who says what the others just whisper," I''m going to point out the obvious: Ole Miss has a monopoly on federal-government-approved pot farming; and, again, just being honest, a Willie Nelson concert in Mississippi may somehow be construed as, well, "unwanted competition." 


There. We''re all thinking it, and now we''ve all acknowledged it, so let''s just move on.  


Leaving the Ole Miss conspiracy out of it, a Willie Nelson concert at Mississippi State makes perfect sense for several reasons: 


(1) Willie loves farmers, and MSU is an agricultural school. Maybe Willie might even talk to a class or two about farming matters (he really knows quite a bit about farm issues).  


(2) Willie unites people. From beer-drinking rednecks to the aforementioned-Ole Miss-crop -loving hippies; from politicos like Mike Huckabee to Jesse Jackson (both Baptist preachers, by the way, who like to be seen with Willie); from conservatives to liberals; from anarchists to socialists; from atheists to Pentecostals; from Jews to Catholics; from Hindus to Buddhists; from poor folk to rich socialites; from hard-core rockers to blues lovers and from jazz devotees to fans of the golden-days of the Grand Ole Opry - Willie brings everybody together, and he brings out the best in everybody.  


(3) Who else but Willie can honky-tonk at the amphitheater on a Saturday night, and then lead us in the grand ol'' hymns and rafter-shakin'' spirituals on a Sunday morning? (Willie, my Sunday morning pulpit is yours, if you should feel so led).  


I don''t know who on State''s campus is in charge of booking concerts, but dear Madam or Sir, please sign Willie . . . and soon! I''d go to the Humphrey Coliseum or Dudy-Noble Field if you want to make it that big; but nothing, and I mean nothing, will beat the intimacy of an evening outdoors at the amphitheater. 


As a personal note to Willie: regardless of whether or not Ole Miss is to blame for the cancellations of your last two Mississippi performances, rest assured that you can trust your friends at MSU. I''ll bet the University will even present you with a genuine MSU cowbell for you to ring at this year''s Farm Aid. 


And, to you, Dear Readers, lest any of you be concerned about this pastor writing about Willie, I guarantee you that I won''t be the only minister present singing along with everything from "Good-Hearted Woman" to "Uncloudy Day." Besides, as one of my favorite authors - an ordained Baptist preacher, no less - once declared, "Thanks be to God for Willie Nelson!"

Bert Montgomery is an author, MSU religion/sociology instructor, and pastor and lives in Starkville. His e-mail address is [email protected]