Quint Davis, producer-director of Bayou Country Superfest and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, always intended to make Superfest’s fifth anniversary a big year.
With that in mind, Davis booked two of country’s biggest stars, Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean, as headliners for this weekend’s Superfest stand at Tiger Stadium.
But then Davis noticed that George Strait, the Texas singer-songwriter known as the king of country, would play the grand finale of his two-year-long “Cowboy Rides Away Tour” June 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Louis Messina’s Houston-based Messina Group, a co-producer of Superfest with AEG Live and the New Orleans-based Festival Productions BCM, is Strait’s exclusive concert promoter. Messina also works with Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney, both of whom appeared at previous Superfests.
“I’m thinking, ‘June 7 in Dallas?’ ” Davis recalled. “We’re in Baton Rouge on Memorial Day Weekend. So I asked Louis to see if George would like to do it.”
Strait said yes, which prompted Davis and Superfest to add, for the first time in the festival’s history, a third day to Superfest’s usual Saturday and Sunday of country music. Strait headlines Friday and Reba, another classic country artist, precedes what may be the Texas singer-songwriter’s final Louisiana concert.
The addition of a third day means the festival’s fifth year will be its biggest year yet. Tickets sales have been strong for all three days, Davis said. As of press time, a limited number of tickets remained.
“George, he’s one of the most important and historic artists that I’ve ever had for anything I’ve done,” said Davis, who’s been booking Jazz Fest for 45 years. “George’s place in not only country music history but American music, is unique. He’s been so productive and so respected and beloved over such a long time. That’s why they call him the king of country.”
Strait turned 62 on May 18. Although he’s retiring from touring following his “Cowboy Rides Away Tour,” he will play selected shows and continue recording for MCA Records, the label he signed with in 1980. Former Baton Rougean Casey Kelly co-wrote the song Strait named his farewell tour after, “The Cowboy Rides Away.” Strait released his recording of the song as a single in 1985.
After Strait committed to Superfest, Davis sought Reba for Friday’s lineup.
“Reba, like Dolly Parton, is an icon,” Davis said. “And not just a recording artist. She’s had a TV show. She’s made movies. She’s got her own clothing line. Very few people are at that level. So the idea of pairing George and Reba was a thrill. And she was interested right away.”
With Superfest starting less than three weeks after Jazz Fest, April and May are become intensely busy times at Festival Productions in New Orleans.
“We’ve started putting the floor down on the entire stadium today,” Davis said last week. “And we still have a field full of stuff at the Fair Grounds Race Course. We’re busy. Obviously, we work on these all year in the office, but that’s not like being in it. Now we’re in it.”
Davis wouldn’t have it any other way.
“That’s what we do,” he said. “To do a job that you love, that you wouldn’t rather do anything else but, that’s really the blessing.”