This article is part of Texas Monthly’s special fiftieth-anniversary issue. Read about the other icons that have defined Texas since 1973.

Bob Phillips, the longtime host of Texas Country Reporter, produced the show’s first episode in 1972. In 2021 Texas Monthly bought Phillips Productions, which creates TCR. Bob and his wife, Kelli, still run the show, which is broadcast on 28 TV stations in Texas. (You can also find segments on our website.)

In the early days of Texas Country Reporter, the nation had just come through tumultuous times, which were occupying most of the news media. We were a group of local TV news reporters saying: Wouldn’t people like some good news?

Folks weren’t used to seeing big-city newspeople show up in their little town. In one of the very earliest episodes, I went into a little cafe just south of the Red River, and the staff refused to serve us because they thought we were hippies. Another time, we were setting up a shot for a sunset in a beautiful pasture and a guy walked up on us with a shotgun and wanted to know, “What is that contraption you’re pointing at my cows?” 

That kind of skepticism went away over the years because people got to know the show. It didn’t take very long before they realized we were pretty harmless in the grand scheme of things.

We’ve logged over three million miles in Texas at this point, and we’ve seen some changes. Certainly, there’s less farmland and ranchland.

Still, if you fly over the state, you look down and see mostly wide-open spaces. How long can it stay that way? Hopefully I’ll be gone by the time it’s gone.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

This article originally appeared in the February 2023 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “ On the Road, Again and Again.” Subscribe today.