Best Texas Music Festival Ever

Best Texas Music Festival Ever
Back in 1998 there was a small gathering of musicians and fans at the Melody Mountain Ranch in Stephenville, Texas. Tommy Alverson’s Texas Music Family Gathering was born. In the following 20 years the event grew consistently and took place on various festival grounds. In 2003 there were already more than 4000 fans coming to the Tres Rios River Ranch in Glen Rose, Texas. In 2017, when the event happened for the last time under Tommy Alverson’s leadership, musicians and fans expressed their regrets (see CountryStyle issue # 88, November 2017).

Thanks to Gary Newell, a.k.a. “The Captain”, who was the festival manager during all 20 Gatherings, we celebrated the 25th anniversary reunion at the original venue. Melody Mountain Ranch is now owned by Larry Joe Taylor. All artists and staff that I asked in October 2017 about their feelings regarding the end of the Gathering, were happy to tell me their excitement that this reunion caused. Here’s what they told me. Thomas Michael Riley was in Switzerland at the time but had sent me a soundclip of his statement.

Gary Newell (Festival Director): “I thought about this anniversary event during the past years. When I talked to Tommy about it, he said: Oh no. No chance. I said: Wait. You don’t have to do anything but get on stage and play. He immediately agreed to the idea. It’s been a lot of work, but previous festival-staff was more than happy to help again. Even musicians begged me they could come and play. We had about 350 songwriters and bands over the 20 Gatherings. And we wanted as many as possible who attended at least a few past events or even the first one in 1998. I think we achieved our goal”. (Editor: 46 songwriters and bands in three days).

James Mills (MC): I was the stage manager during 19 of the 20 Family Gatherings. When Gary asked me if I wanted to do this again, I was thrilled. Look at that lineup during these three days. It is indeed a reunion of one great family. It’s also great to meet so many of the fans again after those five years since the last event. And to be at the venue where it all started puts the icing on the cake. Thanks to Gary, who put so much work into this festival, we can now enjoy all those great artists”.

Ed Burleson ( “I am happy that they asked me to be part of it. After I played most if not all of the 20 events, I was really excited about the invitation. Tommy, as you know, is the main reason that I am even in the music business after having had to retire from Rodeo due to my injuries (Editor: see interview in CountryStyle issue # 140, August 2022). I even made a set list for today, something I normally never do. I look forward to get on stage and I want to thank you, Tommy, for all you did for me”.

Steve Helms ( “In 2017 I was sad to hear that this great event was coming to an end. Now I am so happy to be part of it again. If I remember correctly, I played approximately ten of the Gatherings. Maybe this is really the last one, but it’s an honor that I was asked to be part of it. Many thanks to Gary Newell and Tommy Alverson for letting me be a part of it”’

Jamie Richards ( “I was very surprised to hear back then, that it would be over. But I understood why, considering that Tommy had a few health issues at the time. Now we are back and I am excited to see how many fans I recognize again. So many that I haven’t seen since 2017. And now they are all back. It’s really a great family. I don’t know if this is now definitely the last Gathering, but I hope that somehow it may one day come back yet again. Gary does a great job. He handles everything perfectly, from setting up the event, treating musicians and fans. Just great”.

Thomas Michael Riley ( “Can you believe that it’s been 25 years since the first Gathering. As you know, I predicted this in 2017 and said it would not be over. It wasn’t that hard to predict. After all, the Eagles came back and Jesus came back, too. And I think Jesus whispered in Tommy’s ears and said: I am not done with you yet, Tommy Alverson. Music brings people together. And like I grew up in a big family, Tommy welcomed me to his family. I always felt like being at home at his events. Music can heal you and feed your soul and help you to make life worth living. So a big thank you from Switzerland to Tommy Alverson for bringing us all together again. Congratulations to the 25th anniversary.

Tommy Alverson ( “Me and my family got here on Wednesday. I was very surprised to see how many campers were here already. And the number grew constantly. We are here where the first two Gatherings took place, back when the ranch was owned by Willie and Loretta. When I ended the Gathering in 2017 due to my health issues, I never thought that we would be together in such big numbers again five years later. It’s great that Gary made the 25th anniversary happen. He is my best friend ever. And the best thing of all is, that I had nothing at all to do, but just get on stage and play”.

Before we all left to go home, I asked Gary Newell if he already started thinking about the 30th anniversary event. He laughed and said: “Never say never. But I think I may need five years to heal my bones and muscles from all the work we put in this year”.

Thousands of fans and friends, myself included, are already looking forward to 2027, when we hopefully will see the 30th Anniversary Family Gathering taking place somewhere.