Wade Sapp Covers Willie Nelson’s ‘Whiskey River’ With Kendell Marvel at the Honky Tonk Experience

by Blake Ells
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(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Kendell Marvel’s Honky Tonk Experience wrapped a six-year run at Nashville’s Exit/In on Tuesday, and it included a fantastic Willie Nelson cover. Wade Sapp grew up all across the South. He was born in Florida before moving to Georgia. He eventually made his way to Nashville and established himself as one of the best young acts in the business.

Wade Sapp spent some time with Colter Wall on the road. And in 2022, he released his debut album, Radio Check. There’s a bright future ahead for the “The Boys We Were” singer and you can see it in this performance. Check out Wade Sapp offering his vocals to Willie Nelson’s “Whiskey River” below.

Kendell Marvel’s Honky Tonk Experience became a Nashville tradition years ago. The singer-songwriter has been a longtime collaborator with Chris Stapleton. The two teamed up this year for a single called “Don’t Tell Me How to Drink.”

But with his Honky Tonk Experience, he was able to invite friends to a small room in Nashville and celebrate country music legends like Willie Nelson. It’s mostly his own band on stage for the duration with other singers swapping in-and-out throughout the night. Among the biggest stars in the room last night was Elle King. The “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” singer teamed up with Fancy Hagood for a version of the John Prine classic “Angel From Montgomery.”

Honky Tonk Experience Pays Tribute to Willie Nelson and Other Legends

When Kendell Marvel invited Fancy Hagood to the stage, he joked of their unlikely friendship beginning at an industry party at Big Machine. Some of Rascal Flatts were there. It was just a lot of folks that weren’t likely to be in the same room.

But Marvel and Hagood remained friends despite what Marvel described as an odd mix of people. And Hagood belted out an incredible version of “Strawberry Wine” backed by Marvel’s band at the Honky Tonk Experience. Check out a clip of the performance below.

There was plenty to love about the bill. It also featured a pair of Red Dirt legends in Jason Boland and Randy Houser. Boland has Oklahoma roots, while Houser worked his way into the Red Dirt scene from Mississippi. Houser joined Kendell Marvel’s house band for a version of “T for Texas,” a tune originally penned by a fellow Mississippi native, Jimmie Rodgers.

Aside from stunning covers of Willie Nelson and John Prine, the most unexpected thing that happened at the Honky Tonk Experience was the performance by newcomer JD Clayton. He and his band were the night’s openers, and they were captivating. A true honky tonk band in every way, they opened with their single “American Millionaire” and blew through a brief set to warm up the audience. Their debut album arrives soon, but Side A is available now.

Unfortunately, this will be the last time Kendell Marvel’s Honky Tonk Experience exists in its’ current form. He’s hopeful that he can find a new way to do the annual show, but Exit/In will be closing its’ doors at the end of November. The iconic Nashville staple housed many artists over 50 years, but real estate developers are taking over.

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