By Lisa Morgan
Having spent a life time building the dreams of prominent others around the world, Ron Wilcox, with his partner, 25 year executive chef John Fritch by his side, he will be celebrating a dream of his own. “I’ve spent the majority of my 40 years building well known restaurants around the world and have been part of their opening. I always wanted to open one of my own,” shared Wilcox. That dream has become a reality, but it did not come easy.
If you regularly travel between the low and high deserts on Highway 62, you can’t help notice the beautifully built Willie Boys restaurant and saloon. Many of us who make the drive frequently, couldn’t help but watch the marquee for new messages revealing the fate of the beloved venue. Little over a year ago, that marquee bore the message, “Rest in Peace,” reflecting the untimely death of the previous owner and the reason for its closed doors. For many months, we began to wonder if the closure would be permanent. Then suddenly, “Open Real Soon” appeared, and we all stayed tuned… for seven months.
Under the mother company, “Elevated Experience LLC,” with a tenured corporate chef, this team brings over 50 years of expertise with them on this venture. In the last year, after being awarded the contract for the Peak’s Restaurant at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Elevated Experience has incorporated fresh, seasonal variety to their menu, helping the community through the use of local vendors. They will be infusing this local approach while bringing their worldly wisdom into Willie Boys. “We’ve made quite a few changes to the menu,” shared Wilcox. “We still have brisket, pulled pork and smoked chicken, but we’ve added some new things as well. We’ll be offering fish, a good selection of salads, and several different kinds of potatoes, not to mention New York and Ribeye steak selections. The focus will be on creating a quality dining experience. Music will be part of that.”
Before they even opened their doors, Wilcox and Fritch had plans on giving back to the community with four community fundraisers scheduled throughout the year. “During the seven months I was cleaning out and refurbishing the restaurant, we had to overcome quite a bit. Since the previous owner had passed away, getting the liquor license back was difficult. Bill collectors were coming at us for their previous debts, and we had to defend ourselves just as we were getting started. Nobody knew us, but many people from the community came by and shared their encouragement and excitement toward the opening of the venue. We just want to give back.”
The official Grand Opening celebration will take place this Friday, Saturday and Sunday with special live music scheduled from 9 pm – 12 am, Friday and Saturday, and 7 – 10 pm on Sunday. Kicking off the celebration, will be 2016 CV Music Award’s “Best Country Band,” Lisa and the Gents (a band this writer is very familiar with since… well… I’m Lisa). Wilcox asked us to bring country and rock to the venue and that is what we plan to do. Lisa and the Gents will play country classics from artists such as Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and Tammy Wynette, to more current and classic rocking tunes from Elle King, The Pretenders, Janis Joplin, CCR, Steppenwolf and Kenny Wayne Shepherd (to name a few).
Saturday’s celebration will be headlined by Brad and Buddy Mercer. Seasoned performers, entertainers and musicians, Brad and Buddy come from good stock. The sons of the late famous Mercer Brothers, Bud and Jim Mercer, who starred in the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies for 11 years, valiantly carry on the family tradition of great music and good times. Buddy Mercer played with country greats Hank Penny, Tex Williams and Ernest Tubbs along with Pop singer Tiffany. He also played with great bands such as California’s “Stagecoach” and “Dark Horse”. He was also the winner of the “Gong Show” with Chuck Barris in 1975. Brad Mercer has recorded, produced and engineered six albums, toured with his own show throughout the nation as an Impressionist/Comedian in the Comedy Circuit opening for the likes of Jay Leno, George Carlin and Jeff Foxworthy. He is currently the creator and host of “Brad Mercer’s Bands ‘N Fans,” a syndicated radio show helping the unsigned and newly signed country and country/rock indie artists from all over the world get airplay in over 140 countries worldwide.
A good time is planned for all, and not just for this weekend. This ownership has what it takes to give us a venue we can enjoy for many years to come. For more information on hours and days open, and a peak at the menu, go to www.willieboysbbq.com