Archive for December, 2006

Happy New Year, Willie Nelson Fans!

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

(Thanks to Miss Tex for this cool graphic.)

Willie Nelson at the Mardi Gras, 2006

Sunday, December 31st, 2006


Willie Nelson served as Grand Marshall for the Krewe of Bacchus parade in New Orleans in 2006.

The Willie Nelson Doll, On the Road Again, the Village, New York City

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Willie Nelson Goes Home With Jimmy Carter (December 2004)

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

In a special homecoming event, CMT joins the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, for an intimate look at the small town that he still calls home and where he spends the holidays with wife Rosalynn, his children and grandchildren – Plains, Ga. In this one-hour documentary, CMT Homecoming: President Carter In Plains, premiering December 4 at 9 p.m. ET. President Carter welcomes his longtime friend, country legend Willie Nelson, to Plains for the reunion.

Nelson joins President Carter for a tour of his childhood home, his boyhood haunts, and the town that holds a special place in President Carter’s heart. The two friends swap stories of what it was like growing up in small towns and reminisce about their friendship that has lasted decade.

In honor of Plains, Nelson performs for everyone in the town, and the fans get a surprise when President and Mrs. Carter join Nelson on stage.

Ed Ward’s Willie Nelson Adventure

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Ed Ward’s first-hand account of Willie Nelson’s Complete Atlantic Sessions.

In June, Rhino Records issued a 3-CD box set called Willie Nelson, The Complete Atlantic Sessions Willie NelsonThe Complete Atlantic
Sessons. As always with such collections, there were extended versions of the issued albums. Not as always, I was anxious to hear them, at least the ones for 1973’s Shotgun Willie. After all, I’d been there when they were recorded.  I first became aware of Willie Nelson at Rolling Stone in 1970. (more…)

Willie Nelson, Jody Payne

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

After the Storm (Colorado, 12/2006)

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Finally got outside today, walked my dog, and took this picture of the tree in my yard.  It is beautiful outside.

Willie Nelson Interview, Scene Magazine (6/28/1981)

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Scene Magazine
The Dallas Morning News
June 28, 1981
On the Road Again
by Carlton Stowers

It was one of those ball-bearing cold nights in Wichita Falls in the mid-Sixties, when my reason for being there was to cover another unmemorable high school football game.  Unexcited about my mission and spending the night in another budget-rate motel, I suggested to the man at the registration desk that my spirits might improve dramatically if he could direct me to the nearest bar.

There wasn’t one in the motel, he said with little apology, but customers were entitled to guest memberships to a club up the road.  “It doesn’t open ’til dark, and it’s really just a honky-tonk,’ he said.  “Still, there’s cold beer and an occasional nice-looking lady to be found.  They’ve even got live entertainment on the weekends.  Some guy named Little Willie Nelson’s going on at nine tonight.”

My spirits reversed immediately.  The game’s kickoff was at eight p.m. Willie, I judged, would be going on just about halftime.  Some careful planning, not to mention bending of good journalistic judgment, obviously was in order.

At the stadium, I sought out a sportswriting friend who had no interest in country and western music and struck a cash-in-advance bargain.  I would man my pressbox post for the first two quarters, taking careful notes then beat it for the outskirts of time.  For ten dollars, my friend would call me at the pay phone in the Dew Drop Inn and tell what transpired in the second half.  Afterwards, I would place a call to my paper, dictate a story, and, with any luck, not miss more than a couple of songs.

The moment was not one of my proudest as a sportswriter, but, Lordy, Willie was cooking that night.  Sitting on a stool, playing his guitar with only a bass and drums as accompaniment, he sang them all — “Night Life,” “Crazy,” “Family Bible,” “Black Jack Country Chain,” “Hello, Walls,” “Funny How Time Slips Away” — for the dozen or so of us who had bothered to come to hear him.  The Dew Drop probably took a beating on the booking.  As many tables were empty as were occupied by beer-drinking kickers and rednecks — who wouldn’t even become familiar with those terms for another ten years.  If Willie, short-haired and wearing a western suit which was then the common uniform of country singers, ever bothered to take a head count, its effect didn’t show.  He was performing, singing his songs, and we listened as if he were playing church music.  Rapt response was what he fed on in those days, long before he had been judged a success after almost twenty years of one-night stands.  Long before he was playing Vegas and the White House, starring in movies and making the cover of Rolling Stone, Newsweek, and People.  Before his records were selling, and he was winning grammys and Academy Award nominations and country music Entertainer of the Year citations.  Before he drew acres of admirers to Fourth of july “picnics.”  Before he was able to buy his own private golf course and homes in four states.  Before he had his ever growing Family band and his own line of western wear and bodyguards were necessary to get him through wave after wave of admirers.  Long before he had become his field’s post laureate and a symbol of the state he still calls home.

In a recent television interview, author Larry L. King, self-appointed chronicler of things Texan, was asked what triggered the almost passionate affair easterners are having with his homeland.  King, the not-so-modest good o’ boy from Putnam, said there were two things, actually:  first, there was the enormous, big-bucks success of his play, “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”  second, there was the late-in-coming explosion of Willie Nelson’s music.

And on the West coast?  “Wille’s the most interesting thing I’ve seen out here since the right-turn-on-red,” says a regular at the Palomino, LA’s most popular country-and-western establishment.  “People in Hollywood are getting to know a lot about him in a hurry,’ adds his agent, Jim Wiatt.  “He’s gaining momentum fast.”  Already Nelson has shared the screen with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in ‘The Electric Horseman,’ starred in “Honeysuckle Rose,” with Dyan Cannon and Amy Irving, has a supporting role in “Thief,” with James Caan, and recently has finished work on ‘Barbarosa,” filmed in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas.  Depending on which gossip columnist you believe, six to ten other movie projects involving Willie are on the drawing board.

Willie Nelson has made it.  In spades.  And seems to be less surprised by it than most.  Hell, he says, he’s had it made “since the time back when i was making two dollars a day chopping cotton and then one night got paid eight dollars for playing guitar in a polka band down at the Night Owl between West and Abbott.,  I was eleven then,” he remembers.  “That was the big turning point.  Playing music, i figured out right quick, was better than chopping cotton was ever going to be.”

But the road from the cotton fields to the station in life the 48-year-old Nelson now enjoys was jammed with dead ends and detours.  If dues-paying is part of stardom’s master plan, Willie Nelson paid until it hurt.

He was born in the worst year of the great Depression, the son of an Abbott mechanic who did more traveling than his wife deemed necessary.  When, finally, he didn’t bother to return, she also took to the road, leaving Willie Hugh Nelson to be reared by a blacksmithing grandfather and a grandmother who encouraged him in learning the Scriptures and music.

The music interested him more.

He learned simple chords on a mail-order guitar, and became the featured entertainer down at the barbershop, where the proprietor allowed him to emulate the voices he had heard on the “Grand Ole Opry” or run through a gospel number his grandmother had taught him.  If a customer flipped him a dime, it was a bonus.  Even at the ripe old age of five, the picking and singing were more important than the financial reward they might bring.  By age thirteen, he had formed his first band.  His grandfather played the fiddle, sister Bobbie (who remains with his musical entourage today) was on the piano, and the high school football coach blew a mean trombone.  Willie remembers one dance they worked for a percentage of the gate:  they each pocketed eighteen cents.

“But when nobody’s got much of it, money doesn’t really get your attention,” he says.  “And back then, I didn’t know anybody who had any.  But, no, I don’t have any negative memories of growing up.  It was being grown up that started to be a problem.”

If, as writer Pete Axthelm says, Willie’s songs tell the stories of hooch, heartbreak and hallelujah, of whiskey rivers and Bloody Mary mornings, they are little more than musical entries in a lifetime diary.  The man now called the King of Country Music knows of what he speaks.

He graduated from Abbott High at sixteen and joined the Air Force, but was discharged after eight months because of back problems.  He enrolled at Baylor, where, as he puts it, he spent a semester majoring in dominoes and playing with a local band for minor wages before marrying a Waco carhop named Martha Matthews.

“She was,” Willie recalls, “a full-blooded Cherokee, and every night was like Custer’s Last stand.  We’d live in one place a month or so and then pick up and move as soon as the rent came due.”

Briefly, Willie tried to make ends meet by selling vacuum cleaners, encyclopedias and Bibles.  “Selling just didn’t suit me,” he says.  “I never felt right trying to sell an expensive set of encyclopedias to people who didn’t even have any furniture in their living rooms.”

He and Martha traveled on to Pleasanton, Near San Antonio.  There, assuring the manager of a small radio station that he was an experienced disc jockey, Willie landed a job paying $40 a week.  The trail eventually wound to Fort Worth, where he hosted a country music radio show by day and played the riotous honky-tonks along the Jacksboro Highway by night.  On Sundays, he taught Sunday school — until the preacher learned of his night life and suggested he choose between performing in beer joints and reading BIble stories to kids.

Willie chose the Jacksboro Highway, where the clientele was so rough that chicken wire often was strung as a barrier between the bandstand and the audience, to protect entertainers from flying bottles and chairs.

‘There was this one place,” says Paul English, longtime drummer, pal and business manager for Nelson, “Called the County Dump, and we played there six nights a week.  They hired us to play loud enough to cover up the noise of the dice game they were running in the back room.  Paid twenty-four dollars a week.  We worked there nine months and saw two good kilings and at least one knock-down, drag-out fight a night.”

Though going nowhere fast, Willie Nelson was bound to a life of country music.  He had even begun writing songs. “I’ll never forget,” says daughter Lana, “One day when we were still living in Fort Worth, and he came home to tell Mom that he had sold a song called ‘Family Bible,’ for fifty dollars.  I was little then, but I can still remember the excitement in the house.”  The song  would become a country music classic, recorded over the years by numerous artists selling millions of records.  But Willie would not enjoy a dime’s worth of additional revenue until, years later, when he would record it himself.  In 1961, he sold another classic-to-be, “Night Life,” to three Houston investors for $150.  (It has since been recorded by over seventy artists and has at last count, sold over thirty million copies.)

Willie, however, couldn’t get his own career out of low gear.  His best-selling single had been prophetically titled “No Place to Go,” which he recorded, produced and paid for himself while working as a disc jockey in Vancouver, Washington.  Aware that his boss might frown at self-promotion on company time, Willie used his middle and last names on his first-ever recording. “I had 500 copies pressed,’ he says, “and sold them over the air for a buck apiece.  Eventually sold 2,000 copies of that sucker, throwing in a glossy eight-by-ten to boot.” (more…)

Willie Nelson fans visit Luck, Texas

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

KG, Ruthie, PJ, Missie, Bill, and Dan posed for this picture yesterday in Luck, Texas.    They have gathered in Austin to bring in the New Year.  Happy New Year, you guys!

The Willie Nelson Special, TV Special with Ray Charles (1994)

Friday, December 29th, 2006


Willie Nelson welcomes Ray Charles to the Austin Opera House for a live musical event filled with classic songs, powerful performances, and intimate moments. Together they perform such American classics as “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Angel Eyes,” and “Georgia On My Mind.” Willie also welcomes jazz guitarist Jackie King for a lively rendition of two swing classics, “There Will Never Be Another You” and “My Window Faces South.” Willie Nelson displays staggering originality and emotion as he sings with Ray Charles in this historic musical event recorded in May of 1984. [60 MIN.; COLOR; NOT RATED]


  • On The Road Again – Willie Nelson
  • Always On My Mind – Willie Nelson
  • Angel Eyes – Willie Nelson with Ray Charles and Jackie King
  • Seven Spanish Angels – Willie Nelson with Ray Charles
  • I Can’t Stop Loving You – Willie Nelson with Ray Charles
  • Georgia – Willie Nelson with Ray Charles
  • Mountain Dew – Willie Nelson with Ray Charles
  • My Window Faces The South – Willie Nelson with Jackie King
  • There Will Never Be Another You – Willie Nelson with Jackie King
  • To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before – Willie Nelson
  • Without A Song – Willie Nelson
  • Who Will Buy My Memories – Willie Nelson
  • Whisky River – Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson

Friday, December 29th, 2006

Snowbound in Colorado; Baking banana bread, and watching President Ford’s Funeral on TV.

Friday, December 29th, 2006

   My dog loves the snow.      Dusty in the backyard

  My front yard.    Last week it was all shoveled out, and now its got to be done again.

Why do we watch funerals on television?  I guess President Kennedy’s was the first one I ever saw.  Yesterday, I saw part of James Brown’s  final procession to the Appollo Theater, past thousands of fans who’d come to pay their respects.  Today, there is a service for President Ford in California.  Mrs. Ford, on the arm of a military escort and her family, but without President Ford, after 58 years of being together.  Then, his body is being flown to Washington D.C., then to Michigan for his interrment.  Three funerals on TV.

We’ve got another blizzard here in Colorado and I’m at home, snowed in, still in my pajamas.  Office is closed in Boulder, but I couldn’t make it even if it were open.  I brought work home, but so far all I’ve done is some baking:  banana bread and muffins.  I’ve got Willie Nelson music on loud, and the television with the funeral broadcast turned low.  Maybe I should play some of Willie and Bobbie’s gospel music, but the “Sourjourns” from the “Revolutions of time…the Journey 1975-1993” cd set is appropriate.  Really, I wouldn’t mind it playing at my funeral.  This album, like so many of Willie’s songs are like a soundtrack to a life:  Summertime; Faded Love; Night Life; Old Friends; In the Jailhouse Now; Everything’s Beautiful in It’s Own Way; How do you Feel About Foolin’ Around?  All good.  I don’t think President Ford would object to my music selection for his service.

The banana bread is done.  I’m waiting for my neighbor and her girls to showshoe over to share it with me.  I hope they get here before I eat it all.

I wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year, filled with music and fellowship.

Willie Nelson, New York Times Interview (12/30/2005)

Friday, December 29th, 2006


His Car Smelling Like French Fries, Willie Nelson Sells Biodiesel
Danny Hakim
Published: December 30, 2005

Willie Nelson drives a Mercedes.  But do not lose faith, true believers. The exhaust from Mr. Nelson’s diesel-powered Mercedes smells like peanuts, or French fries, or whatever alternative fuel happens to be in his tank.

While Bono tries to change the world by hobnobbing with politicians and Sir Bob Geldof plays host to his mega-benefit concerts, Willie Nelson has birthed his own brand of alternative fuel. It is called, fittingly enough, BioWillie. And in BioWillie, Mr. Nelson, 72, has blended two of his biggest concerns: his love of family farmers and disdain for the Iraq war. (more…)

interview with Steven Cantor, filmaker, “Still is Still Movin'”, with Willie nelson

Friday, December 29th, 2006

AMERICAN MASTERS Online presents an interview
with “Willie Nelson” filmmaker Steven Cantor.


Q: What first got you interested in doing a film on Willie Nelson?Steven Cantor: Willie is an American icon whose fascinating life story and day-to-day experiences had never been revealed in an intimate and personal way, so in my mind it was a film that was screaming to be made before it was too late.The film’s producer, Turk Pipkin, is a longtime friend of Willie’s, and he is the one who put me together with Willie and got things started. From there, it was a natural step to take the film to [AM Series Creator] Susan Lacy, as American Masters has really become the gold standard for biographical documentaries.

Q: When did you first become aware of Willie Nelson?

SC: Three days after I learned to tie my shoes.

Q: While making the film, did you learn anything that surprised you about the subject?

SC: Willie is full of surprises and many of them are in the film. He has a wicked sense of humor, plays a mean game of chess, gets his black belt in Tae Kwon Do while we were filming. He is a dynamic guy who is constantly pushing himself in different and unexpected directions.

One of the more incongruous sights I have ever seen is Willie playing golf. It is very hard to marry the image one has of Willie Nelson – this blue collar, hard-living voice of the people with the game of golf, but he’s actually pretty damn good.

Q: Are there any interesting anecdotes about the filming or the interviewees?

SC: There are more anecdotes from this film than any I have worked on. As you can imagine, traveling around with Willie is a life-changing experience. Probably my most thankful moment occurred in Hinckley, Minnesota, at a casino where Willie was playing with Waylon Jennings opening for him. Knowing that Waylon was an important part of Willie’s early career, we tried to schedule an interview with him that day, but his representatives informed us that he would prefer to do it the following day. We were in a quandary, as Willie had invited me and my cinematographer, Paul Dokuchitz, to travel with him on his bus to Fargo, North Dakota after the show.

Initially we decided to go with Willie, afterall he is the primary subject of our film, and get Waylon another time. But, after some consideration, we decided to stay over in Hinckley and interview Waylon the next morning. That turned out to be fortuitous, as Waylon gave a wonderful and funny interview. It would also turn out to be the last one he ever gave. He had his foot amputated the following week because of complications with diabetes and he passed away soon thereafter. (more…)

Willie Nelson, Webb Pierce, “In the Jailhouse Now” (9/1982)

Thursday, December 28th, 2006


Webb Pierce was one of the most successful country artists of all times. The career of this “ultimate honky-tonk singer” peaked in the 1950’s and early ’60’s, when Webb Pierce was extremely popular among C&W fans, racking up more number one hits than similar artists like Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, Lefty Frizzell, and Ernest Tubb. Pierce — with his lavish, flamboyant Nudie suits — became the most recognizable face of country music, as well as all of its excesses; after all, he boasted about his pair of convertibles lined with silver dollars and his guitar-shaped swimming pool. He had mostly retired from the music industry in the late ’70s, having serious drinking problems, when Willie Nelson got him back into the studio to record the duet that became the title track of the album In the Jailhouse Now. The sessions took place on June 8-9, 1981 in Pedernales Recording Studio, Spicewood, TX and in Moman’s Recording Studio, Nashville, TN. The Nelson/Pierce recording of “In the Jailhouse Now” is a remake of the same Jimmie Rodgers song that was a big hit for Pierce in 1955. It scraped the bottom of the country charts when the album was released in September 1982. Pierce died from cancer in 1991.

Richard Manuel is listed as one of the musicians on “In the Jailhouse Now”. The only singing voices seem to be Nelson’s and Pierce’s, so there has been some confusion about what Richard does on the album, especially since Leon Russell is also credited. The 1995 Willie Nelson box set Revolutions Of Time: The Journey 1975-1993 clears this up, as the booklet credits Richard for playing piano, and gives these details about the recording: (more…)