by: Kellie Lambert
Willie Nelson is 83 years old. And the octogenarian is like no other musician before or after him.
Here are 10 things you may not know, or remember, about Nelson, who will showcase six decades in the music business when he takes the stage at College Street Music Hall in New Haven on Saturday.
1. THE BRAIDS
With long braids, a weathered face and trademark bandanna, the Texan’s trademark look lasted most of his incredibly long career. In 2014, Nelson’s braids were one of 2,000 things auctioned off as part of the late Waylon Jennings’ estate. The braids, fetched $37,000.
The braids were given as a gift to Jennings at a party in 1983 to celebrate his sobriety. The party was hosted by June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash.
2. THE IRS
In 1990, the Internal Revenue Service claimed Nelson owed several million dollars. To pay off his debt, Nelson released an album in 1992 titled “The IRS Tapes: Who Will Buy My Memories?”
The profits of the double album were given to the IRS. The album, which was originally sold via mail order and later in stores through a deal with Sony Music, earned $3.6 million. An auction of his assets cleared his debt; many fans and friends bought the items and returned them to Nelson.
3. THE LOVE OF FARMS
In 1985, Nelson partnered with Neil Young and John Mellencamp to host the first Farm Aid concert to promote awareness to the loss of family farms in America. The funds raised from the concert would help keep farm families on their land and operating. The first show featured 54 artists.
Since then, Farm Aid has organized 26 concerts, raising more than $43 million to keep family farmers on their own land.
Nelson, along with Mellencamp, also testified on Capitol Hill in 1987 about the farm crisis. Soon after, Congress passed the Agricultural Credit Act saving countless farms from foreclosure.
4. THE SMOKING
Nelson, who once claimed he smoked a joint on the roof of White House when Jimmy Carter was president, is a strong advocate for the legalization of marijuana. He has been arrested several times for possession. He’s a member of the advisory board for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
After his arrest for possession of marijuana in 2010, Nelson created the TeaPot party. The party motto was “Tax it, regulate it and legalize it!”
5. THE MUSIC
Nelson has celebrated 16 No. 1 songs in his career, seven Grammy Awards and an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was in the supergroup The Highwaymen with Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash.
His 1978 album “Stardust,” a collection of pop standards, was on the country album chart for 10 years. He has appeared on approximately 200 albums and is a prolific songwriter, and even penned the Patsy Cline hit, “Crazy.”
In June, a new album with Merle Haggard titled “Django And Jimmie,” debuted in the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Country album chart and at No. 7 on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart.
6. THE TOUR BUS
Nelson has a customized tour bus, called “Honeysuckle Rose,” which runs not on gas, but biodiesel – his own biodiesel, in fact. Nelson owns the brand Willie Nelson Biodiesel, known as “Biowillie,” created from soybeans and vegetable oils.
7. FAMILY BUSINESS
Nelson has several offspring in the music business. Nelson’s sister Bobbie plays piano in his band.
His daughters Paula and Amy are in their own bands. His son Micah is an artist but also performs in a California band called The Reflectacles.
And son Lukas Nelson – who performed a song of his dad’s in a television public service announcement to not litter in Texas – is part of the group Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, which backed Neil Young on his last album.
8. THE BIG (AND SMALL) SCREEN
Nelson made his big-screen acting debut in the 1979 film “The Electric Horseman,” starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. One year later, he starred in the film “Honeysuckle Rose.” He has also appeared in “Wag the Dog,” “Stardust” and others.
He has also been on television in “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” “Monk,” “Miami Vice” and “The Rockford Files.”
9. THE AUTHOR
Nelson has written several books, starting with his first book, “Willie: An Autobiography,” published in 1988.
He continued with “The Facts of Life: And Other Dirty Jokes,” a personal recollection of tour and musical stories from his career and song lyrics, in 2002; “Farm Aid: A Song for America,” celebrating the 20th anniversary in 2005; “The Tao of Willie: A Guide to Happiness In Your Heart,” co-authored with Turk Pipkin, in 2005; “On the Clean Road Again: Biodiesel and the Future of the Family Farm,” in 2007; “A Tale Out of Luck,” in 2008, a fiction book co-authored by Mike Blakely; “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings From the Road,” in 2012; and “It’s a Long Story: My Life,” in 2015.
10. THE CONCERT
It’s likely that on Saturday, when Nelson takes the stage at College Street Music Hall, he will perform the tune “On the Road Again,” a live staple.
Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show, headlined by Willie Nelson & Family. Robert Ellis opens the show. Tickets range from $63 to $175.
The event is all ages. For information, visit collegestreetmusichall.com.