This story has been updated, please see below.
Jamey Johnson is quickly making a reputation for himself for not backing down, and standing up firmly for things he believes in. Earlier this week, on July 23rd, much was made about Jamey’s decision to refuse to walk through metal detectors at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, resulting in the show being canceled abruptly last minute.
On Saturday, July 29th, during Jamey Johnson’s headliner set at the Tumbleweed Festival just outside of Kansas City, a similar ultimatum was handed down by Jamey, but this time from the stage.
Throughout the festival, one concertgoer was carrying a tall flagpole with an American flag, but in a black and white color as opposed to the traditional red, white, and blue, along with another black and white flag below it on the flagpole. During Jamey Johnson’s set, the flags were swinging back and forth to the side of the stage and it caught the eye and ire of Jamey.
Shortly after playing his Top 10 hit, the Gold-certified “In Color,” Jamey Johnson aggressively called the flag out from stage. “I don’t know what the fuck that is, but this is the American flag,” Johnson said, hoisting an American flag Johnson he had displayed at the back of the stage. Johnson demanded the off-color flag be taken down. “I’m fucking serious, I will stop playing,” he said.
Luckily for the attendees and Tumbleweed, the flag owner complied without any serious incident and the show went on. The first song Jamey Johnson played after the interruption was his slowed down version of “This Land Is Your Land.”
Saving Country Music was unable to track down the flag owner to confirm the symbolism of the particular flag being displayed, but it appeared to be a black and white flag with a blue line in the center, called a “Thin Blue Line” flag, or a “Blue Lives Matter” flag. According to USFlags.com it is a flag that, “represents the officer and the courage they find deep inside when faced with insurmountable odds. The Black background was designed as a constant reminder of our fallen brother and sister officers. The Line is what police officers protect.”
Obviously Johnson wasn’t coming out against the cause of the particular flag, because he said he didn’t know the symbolism behind it. Johnson was taking exception with changing the flag to support any particular cause—something that is commonly done it today’s politically-charged environment. Jamey served 8 years in the United States Marine Corps as a mortarman, and achieved the rank of Corporal before becoming a country music songwriter and performer. The crowd at Tumbleweed was especially pro-military from the promoters Borda Productions allowing all active duty service members and veterans to attend for free.
Jamey Johnson’s headliner set at the Tumbleweed Festival felt especially spirited among a large crowd of like-minded country music fans who had traveled from across the country for the festival. It included many covers, including multiple rock songs such as Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page,” and “The Shape I’m In” by The Band. Cody Jinks and Whitey Morgan—who were also primary headliners on the Tumbleweed lineup, joined Johnson on stage to sing backup on multiple songs to the joy of the Tumbleweed crowd.
Jamey Johnson’s band now has swelled into the double digits, with two guitar players, “Cowboy” Eddie Long on pedal steel, a backup singer, bass, two drummers, and a horn section.
A bigger recap of the Tumbleweed Festival from Saving Country Music is forthcoming. You can also see photos from the festival on Instagram.
Saving Country Music has spoken to the flag owner, who is a active, South Texas police officer, and has been in law enforcement for 18 years.
“We had those flags up from the moment we got there on Thursday,” she tells SCM “I had people come up to me all weekend—military and law enforcement—and shake my hand and tell me ‘thank you.’ That was cool, but not what I was there for. I was there to have a good time, meet some cool people, and have a great time. And we did all that. We had so much fun.”
There was no incident with the flags all weekend until Jamey decided to call them out from the stage during his Saturday evening set.
“He threw a fit, and caused a big problem for me and all the people in my area. As soon as it started to happen, I immediately started lowering the flags. But there were people that were rushing us from all different directions and it was too late. I had a guy threaten to beat my ass, trying to rip stuff from my hands, and I had to physically push him off. Luckily, we had made friends with all the people in our area.”
After the incident, she says Jamey Johnson’s people attempted to confiscate the flag from her.
“After I lowered the flag, I had people from Jamey’s entourage try to get me to give the flag over to him, and I just refused to give it to him. [The incident] really killed the vibe for us, and put a bad taste in our mouth. I understand the whole, ‘My flag is red, white, and blue,’ I get that. I’m a very proud American, and a proud Texas, and I’m proud of what I do. I was absolutely pushing no agenda, and it’s not Blue Lives Matter. I took it down, but I wasn’t going to give it to anybody. That was just over the line.”
Jamey Johnson has also implemented a “No Flag” and “No Sign” policy at all of his shows since the incident, with signs posted at the venues he performs at.
— Levi Stork (@levistork) July 31, 2017