Love and War hosts benefit for Wier

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Even with chilly winter weather all around local country music artists came together in an outdoor benefit concert to warm the heart of a Texas music icon.

Tye Phelps and Travis Shull co-owners of Love and War in Texas, a Texas style restaurant with two locations in Plano and Grapevine, put on a benefit concert for Rusty Wier on Nov. 23 in Plano. They also took the time to honor Wier with the first Love and War Lifetime Achievement Award.

Phelps said the Love and War Lifetime Achievement Award was created to honor a prominent Texan every year, whether it is a singer/songwriter, Texas Ranger, politician or teacher. It is for anyone who spends their life time contributing positively to Texas.

“It is very fitting that Rusty gets the first one,” Phelps said. And in honor of the Texas musician he said they would even call the award itself the “Rusty”, much like the Academy Awards call their award the “Oscar”.

The night was not only about honoring Wier’s contribution to music, but it was a time for a close nit community of musicians and fans to come together and support someone who many consider family.

“Rusty is apart of our family. Whether playing or not, he always comes by,” Phelps said. Wier was recently diagnosed with colon cancer that has spread to his liver. He has already gone under one treatment of chemotherapy. Treatment for the cancer is why the benefit concert was organized, to help Wier raise money to pay for his rising medical costs.

Phelps said he was saddened when he found out about Rusty’s illness because “He is one of the greatest guys you will ever meet.”

Michael Martin Murphey, a cowboy music singer, echoed those sentiments in a letter he wrote for the benefit. He said, “Knowing Rusty Wier has been like one long sunny day.”

Setting up the benefit concert has been a real grass roots effort, Phelps said. Once the community found out about the benefit, they called him up to see what they could do to get involved.

Many donated items for auction or sales. Others came to sing a song or two. The few who could not make it sent along messages of memories and gratitude for Wier, which were read to the audience.

Items up for auction included a guitar signed by Wier and all of the musicians that came that night. It sold for $1,200, and all proceeds from at the door donations to the auction items went to Wier’s medical funds.

In between auctioning off items different musicians would get on stage to sing and reminisce about first meeting Wier and what he means to Texas music. Darryl Lee Rush, lead singer of the Darryl Lee Rush band, said, “The thing about Rusty is he has been around for a long time. He is just an institution in Texas country music.”

Not that Wier would allow himself to be pegged as any style of music. He plays a Texas-country-rockin-folkin-blues-gospel. “Which pretty much leaves me open for pretty much everything,” Wier said.

Wier’s exposure to different types of music growing up in Austin contributed to the eclectic style he has created. “Well, I started with spoons on pots and pans, according to what my mom and dad would say,” he said. And by 10 years old he received his first drum set and has been playing ever since.

He did not grow up poor, but he said once he moved out and started pursuing music that all changed quickly. Not that being poor ever bothered Wier. He was never one to search out the fame and fortune that went to his outlaw country counterparts in Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Wier said he was more of an entertainer than player. “I want to make people smile, and if you smiled once while I was up there than I did my job.”

Many of Wier’s fellow musicians commented on his ability to put smiles on people’s faces. The laid back friendly demeanor endeared him to many of the local musicians playing at the concert. Andie Kay, lead singer for the blacktopGYPSY said, “He is a great entertainer and an icon on everything that is Texas music.”

Singer/songwriter Mark David Manders said that he remembers Wier as one of the first big names to he opened for. He said he was shocked when he heard about Rusty’s illness.

“I still think of Rusty as being 21,” Manders said. “He taught me how to drink tequila.”

But sitting there looking out into the audience of fans, friends and family, Wier said that it is a truly humbling experience for him

“I have never been so famous in my entire life,” he said.

Wier has a long road ahead of him with treatments for his cancer. He said the first week of chemo was exceptionally hard on him. But, he is always looking forward and plans on continuing to play music and entertain his fans.

“Going to try as long as I can,” Wier said.

Those who want to contribute to Wier’s medical expenses can donate a http://www.rustywier.com/.

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