Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: August 21, 2023 Shop Talk

Q&A: A 77-year-old live music legacy at the Nashville of the North

Photo | COURTESY OF INDIAN RANCH Crowds at a concert at Indian Ranch in Webster

During the summer, an otherwise quiet corner of South Central Massachusetts comes alive, attracting music fans who line up in cars and on foot to gather where the western entrance to the Douglas State Forest meets the eastern shores of Webster Lake. They’re heading to Indian Ranch, a 77-year-old concert venue overlooking the water, home to a cruise boat, restaurant, and campground. Once nicknamed the Nashville of the North, Indian Ranch is known for hosting best-selling country acts and tribute bands, although the venue’s repertoire has since expanded.

A bio box on Indian Ranch President Suzette Coppola
A bio box on Indian Ranch President Suzette Coppola

How did Indian Ranch come to be in the first place?

Indian Ranch has been hosting live outdoor entertainment since 1946, making it one of the oldest concert venues in the country. In 1946, a local Native American promoter created a humble resort called Indian Ranch. He booked live entertainment, which initially consisted of vaudeville acts, plays, and hillbilly music.

Indian Ranch evolved into New England’s premier country music destination. Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Charlie Daniels, George Jones – the giants of country music – are all part of the Indian Ranch tradition. The current lineup of shows has a mix of country, classic rock, pop, and more.

Over time the property was developed into a campground for RVs, a function hall was added for banquets and weddings, the Indian Princess for boat cruises, and most recently the Samuel Slater’s Restaurant, which opened its doors in the summer of 2018.

Webster is a small town surrounded by small towns. What's it like attracting talent and customers to a semi-rural area?

While Indian Ranch isn’t in a major city, the location is close to Worcester and is easily accessible from Providence, Boston, Springfield, and Connecticut. Artists like playing Indian Ranch because of our beautiful and unique setting right on the lake, and because we have so many passionate music fans who appreciate great music. For both fans and the artists, the venue feels very intimate. There is no bad seat in the house.

Charlie Daniels played Indian Ranch an amazing 28 times. The Mavericks have been to Indian Ranch for 10 consecutive seasons. Aaron Lewis played for the first time last year and loved the venue so much, he has two shows at the end of this season.

How has live music changed alongside the music industry?

Indian Ranch used to be the only venue around supporting country music. Over the past two decades, country music has developed mass appeal; more country stars that can sell out big stadiums and large amphitheaters. With the increased demand to secure country talent, Indian Ranch has added other types of music to its programming. That being said, Indian Ranch has had a great summer of country music with shows from Kip Moore, Chase Rice, and more already in the books. Upcoming country artists include sold-out shows with Cole Swindell and two with Aaron Lewis. Riley Green is a rising star, and his show is likely to sell out soon too.

Is there a particularly memorable concert the Indian Ranch community reminisces about?

A few of my top picks are Willie Nelson and ZZ Top. It’s fun watching the crowd dance to The Mavericks from the first song all the way to the end. An all-time favorite who we miss dearly is Charlie Daniels. When his bus pulled into town, it was like family coming to visit.

Indian Ranch includes Samuel Slater's Restaurant, the Indian Princess boat, and the campground. How do these parts of the business work together?

The three parts of the business operate independently and in synchronicity. On concert days, the restaurant becomes the Slaters Concert Club, and the Princess hosts a pre-concert cruise. The campground is almost completely seasonal residents. The campers, as part of their rental, receive tickets to the shows. We have a couple of trailers we rent out by the week or by the day.

Where does the nickname Nashville of the North come from?

It was basically the only venue in the area playing country music. Indian Ranch has been the launching pad for emerging country artists working their way to stardom. Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, LeAnn Rimes, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, and Blake Shelton are all names that paved the path for the future of country music from Indian Ranch.

Our lineup has expanded to feature classic rock, pop, roots, rock, blues, and acoustic music, with artists such as The Mavericks, Barenaked Ladies, Huey Lewis and The News, ZZ Top, Peter Frampton, Gavin DeGraw, 38 Special, Melissa Etheridge, B.B. King, Pat Benatar, and The Beach Boys.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Correspondent Monica Benevides.

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners


Order a PDF