The Stagecoach festival, aka the “country Coachella,” drew both old-school and new-school artists to the California desert this weekend, from Tanya Tucker and Garth Brooks to Kelsea Ballerini and Florida Georgia Line. But one of the biggest crowd-pleasers hailed from the newest of the new-school, Eleven-year-old Mason Ramsey — the “Walmart Yodel Boy” that recently came to fame via footage of him singing at an Illinois Walmart — joined Florida Georgia Line for their Mane Stage headlining set and managed to draw even more thunderous applause than FGL’s other big surprise guests, Jason Derulo and Jake Owen.
Wearing his signature “Little Hank Williams” old-school suit (“the coolest look in country music,” according to FGL), Ramsey performed “Lovesick Blues,” the 1949 Hank Sr. classic that first made him a viral sensation. “I’m going to do my song that I’m famous for. If my hat goes flying out in the audience, would you please catch it for me?” Ramsey quipped, referring to the desert winds. Ramsey also charmed the crowd with “Famous,” his brand-new debut single with a more modern country sound, which was co-written by Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard.
The past four weeks have been quite a whirlwind for the yodeling prodigy raised on his grandparents’ vintage country records. Since Ramsey’s Walmart video practically broke the internet on March 27, he has signed to major label Atlantic Records/Big Loud (which released “Famous” on Friday), appeared on Ellen (twice!) and at the Grand Ole Opry, and amassed nearly 2 million social media followers.
And his wasn’t even Ramsey’s first performance on Indio’s Empire Polo Field grounds: Two weeks ago, he made a surprise appearance at the actual Coachella festival, during Chicago DJ Whethan’s set, while another onetime YouTube child star, Justin Bieber, looked on.
Way over on the other end of the spectrum, one of Stagecoach Sunday’s biggest delights was a certain 79-year-old folk-rock legend, who greeted the Palomino Stage with: “Hi, I’m Gordon Lightfoot, and the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated!” He then played a 15-song soft-rock set, which included “If You Could Read My Mind,” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” “Sundown” and “Carefree Highway,” with the enthusiasm a man a third his age.
And finally peaking of the old-school (and of children), second-generation country-rocker Lukas Nelson celebrated the 85th birthday of his father, Stagecoach veteran Willie Nelson, onstage at Stagecoach Sunday by lighting up a joint from his family’s “new, legalized marijuana company,” Willie’s Reserve. “This is for Dad. Happy birthday, Father!” he declared to great applause. Surely the elder Nelson would be proud.
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