Bob and Kelli Phillips have traveled every paved road in every county in the state of Texas for the past 50 years.
This means that they have been to the Odessa-Midland region several times.
The Texas-loving husband-and-wife duo made a career out of it by traveling around the state, speaking and interviewing others while co-hosting 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 out of staying in constant contact with the audiences they’ve built over their nearly lifelong careers in communications.
The two will be in the Permian Basin next week when they take part in a special concert with the Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale titled “A Texas Tribute.”
The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. on March 19 at the Wagner Noël Center for the Performing Arts.
The special concert celebration coincides with the Texas Country Reporter’s 50th anniversary.
The Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Gary Lewis, will present a night of Texas Tunes, history, culture and humor with live narration from Bob and Kelli Phillips.
“This Texas Tribute is something I’ve dreamed of doing for a few decades,” Bob Phillips said. “I always had the idea of telling stories about Texas between what I like to call Texas patriotic music played by an orchestra. We are in the midst of the 50th season of our television show, which is the longest running independently produced television show in American television history. We thought it was the right time to do it.
The music for “A Texas Tribute” was arranged by composer David Lovrien, a Texas Country Reporter fan 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 tell stories about history, the culture and tales of Texas from their half-century of travels.
David volunteered to compose the soundtrack for the project, and Bob began writing a script with Texas Country Reporter senior producer Mike Snyder.
“So we spoke to people at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and asked for help from professionals in that community. One of the guys volunteered to write an underscore to the part that Kelli and I are going to read on stage. We’ve come across symphonies all over the state, starting a few years ago because they send out their schedules so far in advance. We met with them and made a list of symphonies in pretty much most of our TV markets, Midland-Odessa being one of them. That’s why we come there.
This will be the fifth show that Bob and Kelli Phillips have done.
“We started in Dallas, then we moved to Wichita Falls, then Abilene, then Richardson and now we’re coming out in Odessa-Midland.”
There are seven main moves from “A Texas Tribute” spread throughout the concert and interspersed with other favorite Texas and western themed selections. The first, entitled “Texas Revolution”, describes the beginnings of our state, from the declaration of independence of Texas to the Alamo.
“It’s not your typical symphony,” Kelli Phillips said. “One of the things that Bob was saying is that we hope people can come to the symphony who have never been there. What we are doing is almost like a Texas history lesson from a certain way because we go through the whole Texas process of becoming what Texas is. We talk about Texas culture, history and a bit of humor. It’s definitely a funny night. We almost hope someone shows up in overalls.
Bob Phillips added that he hopes someone who has never attended a symphony before will show up at this event.
“I want someone who has never been to a symphony before and never thought they would, to want to come to this so badly that they show up in their jumpsuit,” Bob Phillips said. “We haven’t had that officially yet, but one of these days it’s going to happen. We know 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 back.
The whole idea of the show, Bob Phillips said, is that it’s not about him and his wife. This is the state of Texas.
“It’s (also) about the symphonies, especially during the COVID years,” Bob Phillips said. “The symphonies need a lot of help and they are designed to be fundraisers. We are not paid to do this. We do this simply because we want to tell these stories about Texas and we want to bring people to the symphony and we want to help local symphonies as much as we can.
Bob Phillips began his professional career while still a student when he was hired by KDFW-TV in Dallas at the age of 18 and a freshman first semester at Southern Methodist University where he later graduated his BFA and MLA degrees.
He was a television news cameraman, film editor, editor, journalist, producer and presenter during his 16 years at KDFW.
During this time, he performed general assignments and also covered the political beat where he followed stories ranging from city council meetings to the state legislature to national political conventions.
“I went to work at the CBS affiliate in Dallas as a cameraman and then as a reporter and news anchor,” Bob Phillips said. “I started when I was barely 18 when I was still in college.”
In the early 1970s, Bob Phillips and a group of KDFW reporters started the “4 Country Reporter” program as a means of covering news in small towns and remote locations.
“In 1972, me and a bunch of other people from the TV network had the idea to do this show, so we started it and I became the host of the show,” Bob Phillips said. . “He belonged to the television channel for 15 years. I left the station and was able to take the show with me and produce it in my own company. It’s been like this since 1986.
The program quickly became a feature film about everyday Texans and was an instant hit with Bob Phillips as producer and host. The show will soon be called Texas Country Reporter and is seen by more than one million people each week on 26 different television channels in 19 Texas markets.
“I started producing it myself and that’s when we syndicated it statewide and in 2000 we syndicated it nationally on RFD-TV and in across the country,” said Bob Phillips. “We just travel the country telling stories about amazing people doing amazing things or passionate people, people loving their life or loving what they’re doing with their life. This is what we do. Everything is positive. This is not news. It’s just telling a story.
The program is produced by Dallas-based Phillips’ production company.
The couple get out and travel across the state together and find heartwarming stories about different people and that’s their favorite thing about Texas Country Reporter.
“We can date and travel together in Texas as a married couple and we meet amazing people every day,” Kelli Phillips said. “You turn on the news and you think the world is coming to an end. We can go out there and meet and talk and visit the fabric of Texas and that’s what we love. One of the things people say is “oh, you’re on TV, so it must be about all of you. It’s not about us. We’re the lucky ones who can share the stories of others and the people we meet, that’s what the show is about.
Having traveled all over the state over the past 50 years, it’s safe to say that Bob and Kelli Phillips have been to the Permian Basin several times.
“We didn’t just visit every county, we visited every city,” Bob Phillips said. “We’ve done I can’t tell how many fusses in the Permian Basin. We have done a lot. We were just in the plains of southern Lubbock, doing 15 stories for next season.
Bob Phillips says one of the reasons he and his wife like to come to Odessa is the lack of humidity.
“It’s dry and we like it,” Bob Phillips said with a laugh. “This region is the true epicenter of entrepreneurship. It’s based in the oil fields and those companies, but it’s so much more than that. There are people who are independent and know how to work with others. They are people who know how to do things and do things and make them happen. We like the kind of people we meet in this region and we hope to be able to meet some of these people at this symphony.
As Bob and Kelli Phillips celebrate 50 years of The Texas Country Reporter, they say that despite changing eras, they’ve always kept the same format throughout the year.
“We really haven’t changed,” Kelli Phillips said. “We kept up with the technology, but other than that, we’re still telling the same stories we did about people.”
If you are going to
- What: A Texas tribute.
- When: 7:30 p.m. on March 19.
- Or: Wagner Christmas Center for the Performing Arts.
- Where to buy tickets: tinyurl.com/2p97xkhd