48 Hours in Atoka Remembered

Willie and Waylon showing each other their Atoka badges. (Photo courtesy of Ronald Mckeown, editor of Buddy Magazine)

By Jan Sikes 

Atoka, Okla., is a sleepy little town with a population of about 3,000 situated in the southeastern corner of the state. But what occurred on Labor Day weekend in 1975 changed it forever. It is now known as the home of Oklahoma’s Woodstock music festival.

On a recent visit to the Atoka Museum and Civil War Cemetery, I found a modest display commemorating an event that was destined to never happen again.

So, what went wrong? Well, I think it would be easier to list what went right rather than what went wrong.

The music artists who performed at this festival were some of the top names around at that time. Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Freddy Fender, David Allan Coe, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jessi Colter, Hoyt Axton, Larry Gatlin, Freddy Weller, Johnny Duncan, Red Steagall and many more provided the entertainment.

A very young Reba McEntire performed two songs, “San Antonio Rose” and “Invitation to the Blues.” The next year, McEntire signed with Mercury records and began her journey on the road to a long and successful career. The Atoka Museum has a great McEntire display worth seeing.

That’s a stellar lineup, and there is no disputing that the music part of the event was comparable to none other except perhaps Willie Nelson’s famed Fourth of July Picnics.

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48 Hours at Atoka locals viewing in front of stage.
48 Hours at Atoka viewing crowd on horseback.
Willie during Atoka festival in 1976. (Photos courtesy of Ronald Mckeown, editor of Buddy Magazine)