I remember the first time I walked through the doors at Billy Bob’s Texas in 1982, about a year after it opened, to see Hank Williams Jr. More than 30 years later, it is still the first thing many out-of-state people think of when they hear the words “Fort Worth.”And Pam Minick is the reason for that. The longtime marketing director and part owner of Billy Bob’s is retiring officially as of today, when she turns 60. The last concert she’s promoting is Willie Nelson’s annual Fourth of July picnic, which gets underway in just a few days.Along with her husband, Billy, who retired as Billy Bob’s general manager two years ago when his son Concho Bill took over as president, the Minicks took a club that was the self-proclaimed “world’s largest honky-tonk” and turned it into the epitome of what tourists expect when they come to Cowtown to experience the Old West, country music, rodeo, drinking and dancing.Billy Bob Barnett opened his namesake nightclub on April 1, 1981, with Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers as the first concert. Veteran rodeo producer Billy Minick was hired to run the bull riding, and six months later he became general manager. When Barnett went bankrupt in 1988, the Minicks and several partners stepped in and took over.And now Billy Bob’s is the New York Yankees of country music clubs in the nation. It has won the “country music club of the year’’ award an outrageous nine times from the Academy of Country Music and three times from the Country Music Association. Pam and her staff promote upward of 120 concerts a year, more than two a week on average. Pam’s list of accomplishments is impressive. She’s a former Miss Rodeo America, was once the Women’s World Champion Calf Roper and qualified for the Women’s National Finals rodeo in team roping. She was the Coca-Cola Woman of the Year in pro rodeo in 1992, won the Lane Frost Award for enhancement of the sport of rodeo in 1994 and the Tad Lucas Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1999. She was inducted into Fort Worth’s National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2004.And she’s probably the main reason that despite all the cutbacks the newspaper industry has endured over the past few years, the Star-Telegram still has a rodeo writer. Pam just wouldn’t allow us to quit.The newspaper that represents Fort Worth must cover western events, she told me once when I suggested we might have to cut back our coverage, or that phrase displayed prominently at the top of Page One every day — “Where the West Begins” — really shouldn’t be there. We were having lunch at Billy Bob’s when she said it, and I was afraid if I said no she’d have them put me on top of a bucking bull until I changed my mind. So we continue to cover rodeo and cutting horse competitions on a regular basis, and we have a wonderful writer in Brett Hoffman, who has been doing it for the Star-Telegram since the 1980s and is one of the most respected experts in the country. There’s an old George Strait song I’m reminded of when I think of Pam leaving: This Is Where the Cowboy Rides Away. Change one word in that title and you’re talking about Pam. Just like the 61-year-old Strait, who announced his retirement from touring after his current tour ends, she has decided to go out on top.Strait was a couple of years behind me at what was then Southwest Texas State in San Marcos in the 1970s. I promise you won’t find two better people than George and Pam, so it’s fitting that they go out together.
Jim Witt is executive editor of the Star-Telegram. 817-390-7704 Twitter: @jimelvis