Willie Nelson, Lukas Nelson, Micah Nelson, for John Varvatos

April 24th, 2015

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This day in Willie Nelson history: Farm Aid VI (1993) (Ames, Iowa)

April 24th, 2015


All of America watched as the Flood of ’93 left thousands of Midwest families homeless. Heavy rains caused the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to rise up and overflow their banks, swallowing entire towns along the way. Eight million acres of crops were destroyed and 20 million acres were damaged. With their backs already against the wall due to heavy debt and low farm prices, Midwest family farmers had few resources left to deal with the effects of the flooding.

In response to the flood, Farm Aid created the Family Farm Disaster Fund to support organizations that worked directly with farm families stricken by the flood. When farmers needed help to avoid foreclosure due to losses from the flood, Farm Aid-funded groups were there to help them save their farms.

The 1993 concert included performances by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, the Highwaymen, Sawyer Brown, Bruce Hornsby, Martina McBride, the Kentucky HeadHunters, Marty Stuart, Dwight Yoakam, Ringo Starr, Waylon Jennings, Bryan Adams, Paul Simon, Travis Tritt, Ricky Van Shelton and many others.

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Neil Young, Willie Nelson, “Four Strong Winds” (Farm Aid IV) (April 24, 2015)

April 24th, 2015

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April 24th, 2015

Mardh 26, 2015 Whitewater in New Braunfels,Tx-3468

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Happy Shoeshine Friday!

April 24th, 2015

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Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard (Whitewater Amphitheater)

April 23rd, 2015

photos:  Jude Ramirez


Thanks to Jude Ramirez for sharing his photos from the sound check at Whitewater Amphitheater last month.  Jude is a musicologist, and also works with Scooterville, from time to time.


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Willie Nelson and Family on Tour

April 23rd, 2015

May 15, 2015 Starlight Theater Kansas City, MO
May 16, 2015 Mystic Lake Casino Prior Lake, MN
May 18, 2015 Paramount Cedar Rapids, IA
May 19, 2015 Foellinger Theater  Fort Wayne, IN
May 20, 2015 Miller Auditorium Kalamazoo, MI
May 22, 2015 The Venue at Horseshoe Casino Hammond, IN
May 23, 2015 North Star Mohican Casino Bowler, WI
June 17, 2015 Ogren Park (with Alison Krauss) Missoula, MT
June 19, 2015 Ford Idaho Center (with Alison Krauss) Nampa, ID
June 20, 2015 USANA Ampitheater (with Alison Krauss) Salt Lake City, UT
June 22, 2015 Mountain Winery Saratoga, CA
June 24, 2015 Britt Pavillion (with Alison Krauss) Jacksonville, OR
June 25, 2015 Les Schwab Amphitheater  (with Alison Krauss) Bend, OR
June 26, 2015 Edgefield Troutdale, OR
June 27, 2015 Marymoor Park (with Alison Krauss) Redmond, WA
July 4, 2015 zFourth of July Picnic Austin, TX
July 17, 2015 Thunder Valley Casino (with Alison Krauss) Lincoln, CA
July 18, 2015 Greek Theater (with Alison Krauss) LA, CA
July 19, 2015 Orange County Fair  (with Alison Krauss) Costa Mesa, CA
July 21, 2015 Vina  Robles Amphitheater ( with Alison Krauss) Paso Robles, CA
July 22, 2015 Santa Barbara Bowl w/Alison Krauss Santa Barbara, CA
July 23, 2015 Greek Theater (with Alison Krauss) Berkley, CA
July 26, 2015 The Chelsea Las Vegas, NV
August 12, 2015 Prospect Park (with Old Crow Medicine Show) Brooklyn, NY
August 14, 2015 Nelson Ledges Quarry Park (with Old Crow Medicine Show) Garrettsville, OH
Aug 15, 2015 Peach Music Festival
Scranton, PA
August 16, 2015 Borgata Hotel and Casino (with Old Crow Medicine Show) Atlantic City, NJ
August 18, 2015 Fraze Pavillion Kettering, OH
August 19, 2015 Merriweather Post Pavilion  (with Old Crow Medicine Show) Colombia, MD
August 21, 2015 Blue Hills Bank Pavilion (with Old Medicine Show) Bostin, MA
August 22, 2015 Simsbury Meadows PAC(with Old Crow Medicine Show) Simsbury, CT
August 23, 2015 Bank of NH Pavilion (with Old Crow Medicine Show) Gilford, NH
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April 23rd, 2015


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Willie Nelson at the Golden Nugget Casino

April 23rd, 2015


Thanks to Budrock, lighting director for Willie Nelson and Family, for sharing another photo from his collection.

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Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger

April 22nd, 2015


We revisit Nelson’s 1975 concept album Red Headed Stranger – his first release on Columbia Records, a record giving Nelson total creative control, and one that tells the story of a fugitive on the run after killing his wife and her lover, told with brief song-poems and minimal backing.



During the mid-1970s, the country music coming out of Nashville was slick, polished, and heavy on string sections. By that time, Willie Nelson had recorded over a dozen albums for RCA, and he’d had enough of Music Row, where ‘they took him seriously as a songwriter, but not as a performer,’ says Mickey Raphael, Nelson’s harmonica player of over 40 years. Nelson moved back to Texas, his home state, and released two albums on Atlantic, including his first concept album, Phases And Stages, only to be dropped along with the label’s other country artists when Atlantic closed its country division. In 1973, when Columbia Records put an offer on the table, Nelson and his manager, Neil Reshen, put it in writing that Nelson would have full creative control over his music, and that the label would accept the finished product as is. The label, of course, had no idea that the result, the stripped-down concept album Red Headed Stranger, recorded with his band, would go against the grain of everything that they had in mind for their first project with the artist, and everything that encompassed the way Nashville made records.

‘Willie wasn’t bending the rules, he was breaking them,’ says Raphael. ‘Using his road band on a record? That was never done. We weren’t studio musicians, so for him to do that was kind of a “stick it to Nashville” coup. And the label turned it down. They said, “This is a great demo. We want to add some voices and strings.” Willie said, “No. This is it. This is the finished product.” They said, “Let’s put this on the shelf. For your first record for Columbia, do another one the way we want you to do it, and then we’ll put out Red Headed Stranger.” Willie basically said “Fuck you.” He said, “My contract says you’ve got to put out what I’m giving you,” and they had to — very reluctantly.’

The concept for Red Headed Stranger began with the title track, a song that Nelson did not write, but that he often sang during his years as a radio disc jockey in Texas. With the song as his centrepiece, Nelson created the story of a man on the run after killing his wife and her lover. Love, infidelity, guilt, remorse, redemption, and love rediscovered are the album’s themes.

Nelson and his band — drummer Paul English, guitarist Jody Payne, bassist Bee Spears, pianist Bobbie Nelson, and Raphael — recorded the album at Autumn Sound Studios in Garland, Texas, with engineer Phil York, who was hired on Raphael’s recommendation. ‘I lived in Dallas at the time, and I had been doing jingles and commercials, which is how I met Phil,’ says Raphael. ‘I had known him for several years. I was working out of Summit Burnett Studios with [banjo player] Smokey Montgomery, one of the original [Dallas-Fort Worth western swing band] Light Crust Doughboys. I was in junior college at the time and I would hang out at the studio after classes. I was really interested in recording and I loved being there. I would sit in the lobby, and people would come in to cut demos and book sessions. The recording engineer would say, “Do you need a harmonica player? Do you want harmonica on this?” If they said yes, he would bring me in. So I’d been in the studio for three or four years by the time we made the album. The fact that Willie wanted to record with the band was pretty exciting.’

Nelson didn’t know Phil York, but he took Raphael’s word, as well as the availability of a modern room in which to work. ‘It was a good studio, so it was, “I’ve got this record to do,” and “Well, I’ve got a studio we can use,”’ says Raphael. ‘It was a brand new, high-tech studio, but it wasn’t a soundstage. It was intimate and small enough that we could see each other. Piano and drums might have been in other rooms, but Bee, Willie, and I were sitting and facing each other.’

The sessions marked the first time that the musicians recorded with Nelson, and the first time that they heard the new songs.

‘Willie would sit there with pieces of paper, start playing these songs, and kind of teach them to us while the tape was rolling,’ says Raphael. ‘The reason the album is so sparse is mainly because we were a small band, and we were hearing everything for the first time, listening and reacting. It wasn’t like he drilled the songs into us, and we rehearsed and recorded them. He was pretty much playing them stream-of-consciousness, and we played the songs a couple of times at the most. They’re easy to play, and I was just glad to be in the studio with him because I love the recording process, but as you can see, nobody is showboating. It wasn’t a vehicle for anyone to show off and play. We really took it seriously. There is just simplicity and so much silence on that record because we were all enamored of Willie and of how beautiful and simple the project was.’

Clocking in at 33 minutes, Red Headed Stranger became Nelson’s breakthrough album, peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and selling over two million copies. His version of Fred Rose’s ‘Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain’ became his first number one single on the Billboard country charts, and the next single, ‘Remember Me’ reached number two.

Over the years, much has been made about the fact that Red Headed Stranger was recorded and mixed in a matter of days, but that timeline is not unusual for Nelson, according to Raphael.

‘We do an album now in five days,’ he says. ‘A week for Willie is a long time. I think we cut Teatro in half that time. With Red Headed Stranger, maybe he was still writing it at the time, or we were gigging at night and might have had just a few hours in the day to do it. Regardless, we didn’t rush at all, but those songs were done pretty close to live — first, second, or third takes. Even now, Willie will sing four or five passes at the most, and the band gets it in a couple of takes.’

Raphael and his band mates had no idea that they’d recorded what would become an iconic album.

‘We weren’t doing anything like what they played on the radio, so I thought, “Oh boy, they’re not going to like this one,”’ he says. ‘But the people liked it. Willie chose ‘Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain’ as the single, and radio picked up on it. There was a buzz already around Willie when the album came out. We were playing the Fourth of July picnics and he was like the King of Texas. When we’d play the Opry in Nashville — not the Ryman, but where they do the television show — all the diehards were there and we weren’t the most popular. But in Texas, the crowds were big. The single went to number one and we began playing bigger dance halls. We were touring all the time. Columbia saw that it was a hit, so they were promoting us, they were working the radio end of it, and now all of a sudden it’s their idea; what a great idea theyhad.’

Legacy Recordings reissued the album in 2000 with four bonus tracks: ‘Bach Minuet In G,’ ‘I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)’, ‘A Maiden’s Prayer’, and ‘Bonaparte’s Retreat’.

‘They were outtakes, not part of the album sessions,’ says Raphael. ‘It’s always good to include some bonus tracks on a reissue, and just because we didn’t release those songs before doesn’t mean they should be thrown away. When we go into the studio, we warm up with songs like ‘Bonaparte’s Retreat’. Willie will start doodling around and playing and see what direction we’re going in. Now, he’s got a set list of songs he wants to do, but back then we were a little less focused.’

For Willie Nelson, the road never ends as he continues logging countless tour dates every year. Raphael lovingly calls him “the benevolent dictator,” noting, ‘because, in a subtle way, he’ll tell us what he wants. He doesn’t ever really tell you what to do, but we know he’s obviously the boss, but in a very gentle way. Case in point: I love the accordion, it’s my favorite instrument, so I pulled my accordion out onstage, I’m playing it on some ballad, and I thought it was brilliant. Very diplomatically, he turned around after a couple of nights of me playing the accordion, and he goes, ‘You know, Mickey, I really like the way you play the harmonica.’ And I got it. I understood what he was trying to say. He’s a great guy to be around. I love his music. I love his guitar playing. I love his writing. I’m a fan.’

Between touring and recording with Nelson, and doing session work, Raphael is working on a special project: a DVD/three CD live box set of The Highwaymen: Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. The DVD is a remastered two-hour concert, 35 songs, from a 1990 concert at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York. The original concert, shot on film, has been transferred to HD; Raphael mixed it in surround sound. The audio is also captured on two CDs, with the third disc featuring nine songs from Farm Aid. The box set, not yet titled, is expected in time for a summer 2015 release.

40 years later, ‘Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain’ remains a staple in Nelson’s concerts, while Red Headed Stranger has cemented its place in music history.

‘I think it speaks the truth, and you can’t argue with that,’ says Raphael of the album’s continued success. ‘And maybe people were ready for a change, for a whole new paradigm, when it came out. The establishment at that time, the big acts of the day — George Jones, Mel Tillis, Marty Robbins, Ray Price, Eddie Arnold — those guys are classics and I love them, but it was slick, cosmopolitan country. There was a formula for making records in Nashville, and the audience was ready for something different. You had five musicians on a record instead of twelve. It was simple. It brought things back to basics. There’s a lot of breathing room on that album.’


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Willie Nelson: It’s a Long Story My Life

April 22nd, 2015


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Willie Nelson’s next gig: Willie’s Reserve

April 22nd, 2015



by: Ben Rooney

Willie Nelson has been singing the virtues of smoking pot for decades.

Now, the country music icon has his own personal brand of marijuana that will be grown and sold wherever it’s legal to get stoned without a doctor’s note.

The brand will be called “Willie’s Reserve” and will feature “high quality strains of marijuana,” according to a news release Monday. It will be grown and sold in Colorado and Washington, where recreational marijuana is legal. Nelson will work with “master growers” and local retailers in both states to establish a set of “quality standards” for his special reserve.

“I am looking forward to working with the best growers in Colorado and Washington to make sure our product is the best on the market,” Nelson said.

There are plans to expand the brand in other U.S. states that have legalized recreational marijuana.

Nelson, 81, has been an outspoken supporter of marijuana legalization and an advocate for industrial hemp production.

He founded the company out of a desire to get involved in the growing market for legal pot, according to a spokeswoman for “Willie’s Reserve.”

“He will serve as more than a figurehead,” the spokeswoman, Elaine Schock, told CNNMoney. “His values and vision set the bar for everything the company does.”

Specifically, she said Nelson will focus on the quality of the products, encouraging responsible use and pushing for legalization.

The announcement comes on April 20, or 4/20, unofficially declared as National Weed Day. It also coincides with the release of a new song by Nelson and fellow country star Merle Haggard entitled, “It’s All Going to Pot.”

Nelson is not the first musician to lend his name to a marijuana brand. Last year, the estate of Jamaican reggae icon Bob Marley struck a deal with a private equity firm to market and sell marijuana and other products under the name “Marley Natural.”

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Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard music video for, “It’s All Goin’ to Pot” (whether we like it or not)

April 22nd, 2015


You can pre-order it, or get it from your local independent record store in June.



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April 22nd, 2015

Mardh 26, 2015 Whitewater in New Braunfels,Tx-3470

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Willie Nelson, the Decemberists Headline Inaugural Pilgrimage Festival

April 22nd, 2015


by:  Stephen Betts

Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Will Hoge and newcomer Rainey Qualley are among the country-flavored artists set for the inaugural Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, held this fall in Franklin, Tennessee, just south of Nashville.

But the music and arts event is far from just a country concert. Indie rock acts the Decemberists and Weezer, along with Americana darlings Neko Case and Iron & Wine, soul band St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members Jimmy Cliff and Dr. John are also on the bill. Slated for September 26th and 27th, the festival will take place at the Park at Harlinsdale, a 230-acre, century-old horse farm that is now a city-owned park.

Better Than Ezra lead singer — and Franklin, Tennessee, resident — Kevin Griffin is one of the founders of the festival and a frequenter of the park’s jogging trails. According to a statement announcing the festival, Griffin had an epiphany on a trail one September morning a few years ago “surrounded by those rolling hills and natural amphitheaters: this is the perfect setting for an amazing, unique music festival.”

Griffin and festival co-founders W. Brandt Wood and Michael Whelan, all born and raised in Louisiana, were heavily influenced by the long-running New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. In a nod to Jazz Fest, which celebrated its 45th anniversaary last year, the diverse lineup of acts represents a wide variety of the Southern musical landscape.

Pilgrimage will also take place during the day, with many of the acts performing acoustic sets. Another unique aspect of the two-day event, which includes a “Little Pilgrims” stage to spotlight young performers, will be the “Pilgri-mashups,” pairing artists together on stage for special one-time collaborations.

More performers are expected to be announced throughout May and June. See the current lineup and learn more about Pilgrimage here.

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