Bob and Kelli Phillips have traveled on every paved road in every single county in the state of Texas for the past 50 years.
That means they’ve been to the Odessa-Midland area a few times.
The Texas-loving husband and wife duo have made it a career of traveling all across the state, talking and interviewing other people as they co-host the show Texas Country Reporter.
The Texas Country Reporter is the longest-running independently produced television show in American history.
Bob and Kelli Phillips share more than their love for each other, they share a love for people. Each has made a career of staying in constant contact with the audiences they have built in their almost life-long careers in communications.
The two will be in the Permian Basin next week when they will be part of a special concert with the Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale called “A Texas Tribute.”
The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. March 19 at the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center.
The special concert celebration coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Texas Country Reporter.
The symphony orchestra, led by Maestro Gary Lewis, will present a night of Texas Tunes, history, culture and humor with live narration by Bob and Kelli Phillips.
“This Texas Tribute is something that I have dreamed of doing for a couple of decades,” Bob Phillips said. “I’ve always had the idea of telling stories about Texas in between what I like to call Texas patriotic music played by an orchestra. We are in the midst of our 50th season of our TV show which is the longest running independently produced TV show in the history of American television. We thought this was an appropriate time to do this.”
Music for “A Texas Tribute” was arranged by composer David Lovrien who has been a fan of Texas Country Reporter since his family moved to Texas from Nebraska in the 1970s.
Bob and Kelli Phillips first met David at a concert in May 2018 where David was performing and Bob was emcee.
Lovrien’s arrangement of The Hill Country theme was included that day and after the concert Bob shared his dream with David which was to create a symphonic program where he and Kelli could narrate stories of Texas history, culture and tales from their half-century of travels.
David volunteered to compose the underscore for the project and Bob began writing a script with Texas Country Reporter senior producer Mike Snyder.
“So we talked to some symphony folks in Dallas and enlisted some help from professionals in that community. One of the guys volunteered to write an underscore to the part that Kelli and I will be reading on stage. We’ve met with symphonies all over the state, starting a couple years ago because they send their schedules so far in advance. We met with them and put together a list of symphonies in just about most of our TV markets with Midland-Odessa being one of them. That’s why we’re coming out there.”
This will be the fifth show that Bob and Kelli Phillips have done.
“We started in Dallas and then moved to Wichita Falls and then to Abilene and then to Richardson and now we’re coming out to Odessa-Midland.”
There are seven main movements of “A Texas Tribute” spread over the course of the concert and interspersed with other favorite Texas and western-themed selections. The first, titled “Texas Revolution,” describes the beginnings of our state from the Texas Declaration of Independence to the Alamo.
“It’s not your typical symphony,” Kelli Phillips said. “One of the things Bob was saying is that we hope people can come to the symphony that have never been. What we’re doing is almost like a Texas history lesson in a way because we go through the whole process of Texas becoming what Texas is. We talk about the culture, the history and a little bit of humor that Texas has. It’s definitely a funny evening. We’re almost hoping that we have someone show up in overalls.”
Bob Phillips added that he hopes someone who’s never been to a symphony before shows up to this event.
“I want someone who’s never been to a symphony before and never thought they ever would, want to come to this so badly that they show up in their overalls,” Bob Phillips said. “We haven’t had that happen officially yet but one of these days, that’s going to happen. We do know that we have a lot of people show up who have never been patrons of the symphony but they came to this one because it was something different and now they’re going to go back.”
The whole idea about the show, Bob Phillips said, is that it’s not about him and his wife. It’s about the state of Texas.
“It’s (also) about the symphonies, especially going through the COVID years,” Bob Phillips said. “The symphonies need a lot of help and these are designed to be fundraisers. We don’t get paid anything to do this. We just do this because we want to tell these stories about Texas and we want to bring people to the symphony and we want to help the local symphonies as much as we can.”
Bob Phillips started his professional career while still a college student when he was hired by KDFW-TV in Dallas at the age of 18 and a first semester freshman at Southern Methodist University where he later received both his BFA and MLA degrees.
He was a TV news cameraman, film editor, assignments editor, reporter, producer and anchor during his 16 years at KDFW.
During that time he did general assignments and also covered the political beat where he followed stories from city council meetings to the state legislature to national political conventions.
“I went to work at the CBS affiliate in Dallas as first a camera man and then as a reporter and a news anchor,” Bob Phillips said. “I started when I was barely 18 years old when I was still in college.”
In the early 1970s, Bob Phillips and a group of journalists at KDFW started the program “4 Country Reporter” as a way to cover news in small towns and out of the way places.
“In 1972, I and a group of other people at the TV station had an idea for doing this show so we started it and I became the host of the show,” Bob Phillips said. “It was owned by the TV station for 15 years. I left the station and was able to take the show with me and produce it out of my own company. That’s the way it’s been since 1986.”
The program quickly became a feature show about the lives of everyday Texans and was an instant success with Bob Phillips as the producer and host. The show would soon be called Texas Country Reporter and is seen by more than a million people each week on 26 different television stations in 19 Texas markets.
“I started producing it myself and that’s when we syndicated this in the state and in 2000, we syndicated nationally on RFD-TV and all over the country,” Bob Phillips said. “We just travel the country doing stories about extraordinary people doing extraordinary things or people with passion, people that love their lives or love what they’re doing with their lives. That’s what we do. It’s all positive. It’s not news. It’s just story telling.”
The program is produced by the Phillips’ production company that is based in Dallas.
The couple go out and travel throughout the state together and find heart-warming stories about different people and that’s been their favorite part about doing Texas Country Reporter.
“We get to go out and travel Texas together as a married couple and we meet incredible people each and every single day,” Kelli Phillips said. “You turn on the news and you think the world is coming to an end. We get to go out there and meet and talk and visit with the fabric of Texas and that’s what we love. One of the things that people say is ‘oh you’re on television so this must be about y’all.’ This isn’t about us. We’re the fortunate ones that get to share other peoples’ stories and the people we meet, that’s who the show is about.”
Traveling all over the state for the last 50 years, it’s safe to say that Bob and Kelli Phillips have been in the Permian Basin a couple of times.
“We’ve not only been to every county, we’ve been to every town,” Bob Phillips said. “We’ve done, I could not tell how many stories, in the Permian Basin. We’ve done a lot. We were just in the south plains out of Lubbock, doing 15 stories for next season.”
Bob Phillips says one of the reasons he and his wife love coming to Odessa is the lack of humidity.
“It’s dry and we like that,” Bob Phillips said with a laugh. “That area is the true epicenter of entrepreneurism. It’s based in the oil fields and those businesses but is so much more than that. There are people out there that are self reliant and people who know how to work together with other people. They’re people that know how to make things and do things and make them happen. We love the kind of people that we meet in that area and we’re hopeful that we can meet some of those people at this symphony.”
As Bob and Kelli Phillips celebrate 50 years of the Texas Country Reporter, they say that despite times changing, they’ve always kept the format the same throughout the year.
“We really haven’t changed,” Kelli Phillips said. “We’ve kept up with the technology but other than that, we’re still telling the same stories that we’ve been doing about people.”
If you go
- What: A Texas Tribute.
- When: 7:30 p.m. March 19.
- Where: Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center.
- Where to purchase tickets: tinyurl.com/2p97xkhd