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Billy Bob Barnett on Working in the Entertainment Industry

Texas entrepreneur Billy Bob Barnett was raised in central Texas and attended Texas A&M University. Throughout college, he was an avid basketball player and was named to the Basketball All Southwest Conference Team each year. During his college basketball career, he was awarded the achievement of Most Valuable Player, earned two Southwest Conference Championships, and […]

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Texas entrepreneur Billy Bob Barnett was raised in central Texas and attended Texas A&M University. Throughout college, he was an avid basketball player and was named to the Basketball All Southwest Conference Team each year. During his college basketball career, he was awarded the achievement of Most Valuable Player, earned two Southwest Conference Championships, and remains on the Career 1,000+ point scorers list with 1,064 career points. Barnett also played football for one year at Texas A&M and is one of only a few players to letter in basketball and football. After attending Texas A&M, Barnett went professional and was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2nd round, 61st pick. He later went on to play for the Chicago Bears.

After his career in sports came to an end due to an injury, Billy Bob Barnett decided to start a career in the entertainment and food & beverage industry by opening The Bucket in Austin, Texas. An entertainment facility, The Bucket would become the largest Budweiser account in the college distribution system in the United States.

Another entertainment venue opened and run by Billy Bob Barnett was Billy Bob’s Texas, a country and western nightclub located in the Historical Fort Worth Stockyards. Over the years, Billy Bob’s Texas has become a beloved icon of the state, hosting live bull riding as well as numerous country and rock musical acts such as Garth Brooks, George Strait, Alabama, Willie Nelson, ZZ Top, Tina Turner,  B.B. King and Bob Hope, and even acting as the filming location for several Hollywood movies and television series including Dallas.

Overall, Billy Bob Barnett’s talent, creativity, business acumen, and larger than life personality have allowed him to succeed and make a name for himself in Texas. Barnett’s keen knowledge of the entertainment, music, and food & beverage industries as well as the local and national political field has led to the development of some of the most successful entertainment venues in the Southwest United States, including Billy Bob’s Texas, Dallas Alley in downtown Dallas, The Cat’s Meow in New Orleans, Louisiana, and The Bucket in Austin, Texas .

Billy Bob Barnett was inducted into the Texas Trail of Fame in 2017 and has his star in the sidewalk next to the front entrance of Billy Bob’s Texas.

Tell us a little about your industry and why you chose to be an entrepreneur in the entertainment industry?

The entertainment industry in Texas is like no other. I knew as soon as I finished in professional sports that this was the industry I wanted to get in to, and Texas was where I wanted to do it. I also knew that I wanted to be my own boss, so opening up my own entertainment venue was the perfect way to achieve all of these goals.

What surprised you the most when you started your career, what lessons did you learn?

When I first started my career, I thought I could do everything myself. I quickly realized that you need to accept help from others and work with the community if you want to achieve true success, especially in a place like Texas. At this point, my career has spanned over 40 years and more than anything else I remember all of the people who have impacted me, from former business partners to the hundreds of thousands of patrons that have walked through the doors of my venues over the past four decades.

What is one piece of advice you would give someone starting in your industry?

If you don’t like the way something is done, change it. I encountered many roadblocks with nearly every venue I opened. However, I took on each challenge and made it my mission to overcome it, even if it meant changing the law. In fact, I helped to pass several legislative agendas for the benefit of my business and others in Texas. For example, I helped introduce the Long Neck Beer Bottle to Dallas, I helped legalize horse and dog racing in the state of Texas, and I helped legalize local option liquor by the drink in Addison, Texas. Overall, there is always something that can be done to get what you want, so long as you’re willing to put the work in.

If you could change anything about your industry what would it be and why?

There’s not a single thing I would change about the entertainment and food & beverage industry in Texas. The industry as a whole, not to mention the other local business people in the industry who I’ve become friends with, have never shown anything but love and respect towards me. I’m extremely grateful for getting to work in this vibrant and supportive community.

How would your colleagues describe you?

Almost everyone that knows me would describe me as having a larger than life personality. I tend to attract a lot of attention wherever I go and I simply love meeting new people. Growing up in Texas has certainly made me the man I am today. A hard worker who doesn’t stop.

How do you maintain a solid work life balance?

For me, it’s all about having hobbies. Early on in my career, I didn’t take the time to figure out what I loved to do so instead I hung around my venues nearly all the time. Eventually, I realized that I needed to take some time for myself and find something I loved outside of work. I’ve always loved sports, so when I need to unwind I box, play basketball, or lift weights. I also enjoy  catching a good football game with my fiance and friends.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

One piece of advice my parents used to give me was “luck comes from hard work.” I truly believe people aren’t just born with luck or talent, they need to work hard to get what they want. I’ve worked hard my entire life…that is the only way I was able to achieve what I did.

What does success look like to you?

Success is measured by one’s accomplishments. I am a firm believer in setting clear goals and doing whatever you can to achieve those goals. I am proud of everything I have accomplished in my career, from opening up several successful entertainment venues, to changing the law by helping to pass many legislative agendas. One of my greatest accomplishments was when I helped secure $100 million in funding from the federal government to preserve the Fort Worth Stockyards, which I, alongside many, consider to be a vital part of the history of Texas. 

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