Voice of Big Tex silenced over contract violations




Posted on March 28, 2013 at 6:42 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 28 at 11:36 PM

DALLAS -- While the State Fair of Texas is remaining quiet about why it has ended its relationship with the voice of Big Tex, there are new clues as to what happened.

After 11 years, Billy Bragg is no longer the man who brought Big Tex to life because, in his own words, he loved his job a little too much.

Inside his own home recording studio (where he would often become Big Tex), Billy Bragg almost got himself in trouble, again. He started to play for News 8 a recording of audio he had taped for the State Fair of Texas last year. But then we suggested he might not want to do that for our camera.

We had just read a copy of his old contract with State Fair, which protects the Big Tex trademark and restricts him from personifying the icon he represents. Bragg confessed it's a piece of paper he never really read.

"I was just so doggone happy to get the job,” Bragg said. “If signing a contract is what it took, then fine, and I would just always do what was in it."

Bragg admits he was repeatedly warned about representing himself as the voice of Big Tex without official permission from the State Fair. He said the final straw apparently came was two days ago, when he agreed to emcee an event for the American Cancer Society.

Being a cancer survivor himself, he said he forgot about the contract, and said yes.

"Well, I guess I'm a little too close to it, and love it a little too much," Bragg said.

A day later, his boss at the State Fair of Texas, Sue Gooding, called with the bad news.

"Mr. Bragg was not fired,” said Sally Wamre, a spokesperson with the State Fair. “His contract was not renewed. It was not a Sue Gooding decision, it was a State Fair decision."

Wamre also said applications to replace Bragg are already pouring in. But the next voice of Big Tex may be prohibited from doing what Bragg loved to do in his spare time at the Fair: pose for picture, after picture, after picture.

Because he never read his contract, Bragg never realized he was not authorized to be the unofficial ambassador -- the living mascot of the Fair. Why did he do it?

“Look at the faces on these kids,” Bragg urged. “Are you going to say no to those kids? I can't say no to those kids."

Bragg said he will miss the smiles, the good times, and being the voice of Big Tex.

He said he will not miss that piece of paper and the legal jargon that took it all away.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com