Archive for March, 2008

Willie Nelson and Bill Wittliff

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Writer-Director Bill Wittliff with his star Willie Nelson on the set of “Red Headed Stranger.”

Bill Wittliff (Screenwriter/Co-Producer/Director) was born in Taft, Texas, in 1940, and grew up in the rural communities of Gregory and Blanco.

His first screenplay, “Barbarosa,” came to Willie Nelson’s attention in 1973, in the days when Wittliff “would go hear him at those chicken-wire joints where he’d play.  Chicken wire around the bandstand protected  the musicians form flying beer bottles.”  Wittliff and Nelson eventually brought “Barbarosa” to the screen in 1980, co-producing along with co-star Gary Busey.

“Red Headed Stranger” has been a dream of Wittliff’s and Nelson’s since the album release in 1975.  Never satisfied with Hollywood’s ideas about the project, they ultimately decided to produce the film independently and at home, in Austin, Texas.  The film is especially significant for Wittliff, since it marks his directing debut.

“I see what I’m writing as I’m writing it, so directing is just an extension of the whole creative process for me,”says Wittliff, whose own drawings served as the extensive storyboards used during production.

Willie’s People are the Best

Friday, March 28th, 2008

October 1987

Anticipation spills over with the first few notes from Mickey’s harmonica.  Then, as Willie takes the stage and sings “Whiskey River Take My Mind,” the audience responds as if each person there had just won the New York State Lottery.

This rapport increases throughout the show as Willie glides form Kristofferson gems to gospel, cowboy songs to blues, self-penned classics to ballads.  Whatever Willie sings, the people.  Funny how two hours slip away.

A Willie and Family Show is felt, not just seen and heard.  It’s a natural high for those lucky enough to be there.  Ad those people will be back for another show.

It’s easy to appreciate the efforts of Willie and the band members on stage.  They have given us top quality entertainment.  Not so visible, ie well-known, are the people involved backstage working before and after each show.

Willie and Family roll coast-to-coast on tires.  Five chocolate/tan customized Silver Eagle buses, painted in various Indian and western themes, drive into the shows parking area.  these carry the 27 or so experts, including band members, that work with Willie to keep the show running smoothly.  And smoothly it does.  Also on tour is a motor home with the concessions people, a rental truck, and a semi for equipment.

On tour with Willie can be 200 shows a year, covering up to 100,000 miles.  The buses soak up to 200 gallons at truck stops and that translates to about 6 or 7 miles per gallon.

Your ticket might give the show’s starting time as 8 p.m., but the first of Willie’s crew starts long before that.  The sound and lights technicians are setting up by 11 in the morning for an 8 p.m. show.

By 3 p.m. the security staff and stage manager are at work.  Look for the Wrangler bus around the same time.  the fourth bus, with the band members, comes over about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour before the show starts.

The big question is, of course, When Does Willie Get Here?  It varies.

It’s not unusual for Willie to arrive 30 minutes to an hour before show time.  Or, it just might be any time from 11 a.m. to 7:45; each show has it’s own circumstances.

Eventually the evening ends, Willie waves goodbye and exits the stage.  the audience also heads for home.

Willie’s crew, the same people that set up that morning, have another 2 to 2 1/2 hours of work to tear it all down.  When you have the best sound and light equipment available, it takes that long before everything is loaded and ready to roll.

One by one the Silver Eagles and trucks hustle down the highway to the next show and another city.

Many thanks to Wrangler’s Mell Parkhurst who took time at the Salem, Ohio show to answer all our questions.

Jean and Beth Dolezal
Evanston, Indiana

Folk Uke says, “Turn out the Lights!” Earth Hour 2008

Friday, March 28th, 2008


Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie, of the folk group Folk Uke are encouraging everyone to support Earth Hour 2008:   

On March 29, 2008 at 8 p.m., join millions of people around the world in making a statement about climate change by turning off your lights for Earth Hour, an event created by the World Wildlife Fund.

Earth Hour was created by WWF in Sydney, Australia in 2007, and in one year has grown from an event in one city to a global movement. In 2008, millions of people, businesses, governments and civic organizations in nearly 200 cities around the globe will turn out for Earth Hour. More than 100 cities across North America will participate, including the US flagships– Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix and San Francisco and Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

We invite everyone throughout North America and around the world to turn off the lights for an hour starting at 8 p.m. (your own local time)–whether at home or at work, with friends and family or solo, in a big city or a small town.

Join people all around the world in showing that you care about our planet and want to play a part in helping to fight climate change. Don’t forget to sign up and let us know you want to join Earth Hour.

One hour, America. Earth Hour. Turn out for Earth Hour!

Willie Nelson, Glasgow, Scotland 2005

Friday, March 28th, 2008


Thanks to ba’s on the slates’ photostream  for this great photo.

Willie Nelson Before His Time

Friday, March 28th, 2008



Willie Nelson, Norfolk, Virginia (3/18/08)

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Thanks again to Carol S., from New York, for sharing this picture she took of Willie earlier this month in Virginia.

Paula Nelson in a kick-ass grrl rawk moment

Friday, March 28th, 2008
by Mike, Montclair State U

And the verdict is in: the video of Paula Nelson, Willie Nelson’s daughter, kicking a drunk guy offstage during a live set in Texas is 100% staged.  Jimmy Kimmel aired the clip on Jimmy Kimmel Live! a few days ago, and it has since ‘gone viral,’ as they say.

Apparently, the drunkard in the clip is Paula’s boyfriend Jeff Schwan, the stunt coordinator for Friday Night Lights. Schwan told COED that he and Paula wanted to pull a prank on their friends at the bar, so they set up a quick fracas to startle them. No foul play here.

The kick, that has been promoted as some sort of kick-ass grrl rawk moment, is nothing more than a gag. Well, that’s about as grrl rawk as…wait, she really is a black belt? Forget it, she’s validated – and she’s still Willie’s daughter, which gives her eternal badass-ness.

Furthermore, the parties involved never claimed the video was real. They were only trying pull a fast one on their friends, not the entire internet.

And if you missed it:


Happy Birthday, Budrock!

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Why Willie’s Still Cool, by Joe Nick Patoski

Thursday, March 27th, 2008



Why Willie’s Still Cool
by Joe Nick Patoski
A Texas Monthly Magazine Tribute to Willie!
April 2003

Ever since I was a kid, when his grinning visage first flickered at me over the black-and-white on Channel 11 live from Panther Hall, in Fort Worth, Willie Nelson has been a fixtrue in my life.  I swear I heard him introducing 45’s when he was a disc jockey on KCNC-AM, my first exposure to country and western music.  Like him, I saw the neon Stars and Stripes that once flew over the Tarrant County courthouse at night.  Like him, I was moved by the blind couple who sold pencils in front of Leonards Department Store downtown (Willie paid tribute to them by writing “Pretty Paper,” the best Texas Christmas song ever).  Growing up in Texas back then, you couldn’t help but hear Faron Young’s recording of “Hello Walls” and Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” jukebox staples that never went away; Willie wrote the lyrics of both songs.  When I finally met him fact to face in the offices of KOKE-FM, in Austin, the station that revolutionized radio by playing a brand new mix of music called progressive country.  I remember thinking that he was unlike any musician — any person, for that matter — I’d ever seen or heard. 

Who’d have guessed that after all these records, picnics, scandals, and road miles later, he’d still be so much in his prime?  At a time when his peers have either hightailed it to Branson or are being wheeled out onstage to show they’re still alive, Willie’s till Willie — on the road again, on the bus again, worthy of tribute songs and accolades and whatever else you can throw at him.

Which raises the question:  What keeps him going?  What makes Willie Willie, who turns seventy on April 30, more of an icon that ever?  Everyone has his opinion.  Willie surely has his own.  Here’s mine.

He’s a family man.  Four marriages and what can be charitably described as an unconventional lifestyle explain why a lot of people thing Willie and family values don’t go together.  They’re wrong.  He’s the epitome of family.  It’s not just that he’s a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather or that his sister plays piano in his band or that his eldest daughter goes out on the road with him and writes the band’s official Web site diary (  Not for nothing is his band called Willie Nelson and Family; they’ve stayed together longer than most blood relations.  His steadfast followers are likewise called family.  To them, he’s more than a star; he’s a combination of daddy, patron, sage, boss man, fearless leaders, beloved outlaw, and benevolent shepherd tending his flock. 

He’s a uniter, not a divider.  The original cosmic cowboy came to Austin and brought rednecks and freaks together, mainly because he’s a little of both (he was the first hippie I ever saw wearing a diamond pinkie ring).  His audience today is the face of America, bringing together folks who’d never darken the same door — from baby boomers to yahoos, academics to convicts — and making them want to stay all night and a little longer.

He’s the Teflon Troubadour.  From unpaid bar tabs and pistol down payments to high-dollar lawsuits and high-profile tax hassles, he has nimbly stepped around buckets of excrement without getting any on him in a manner unrivaled this side of Ronald Reagan.  Think about it:  In just ten years he seamlessly segued from IRS target to A-plus patriot, leading the likes of Tome Cruise and Julia Roberts in a stirring rendition of “America the Beautiful” on the nationally televised post-9/11 telethon.

He’s loyal.  It works in the White House.  It works in the Mafia.  And it works in Willie’s world, where the operating rule of thumb is Darrell Royal’s “Dance with the one who brung ya.”  Following the first Willie Nelson Picnic, in Dripping Springs, he severed ties with the hippie crew from the Armadillo World Headquarters who’d helped put on the show after hearing one of them complain about his pal’s toting firearms backstage.  “If my friends aren’t good enough for you,” Willie told them, “then I’m not good enough for you either.”

He’s an activist without being overly political.  He championed small, independent farmers by starting Farm Aid, a no-brainer fit of inspired populism that pays back the culture he was part of growing up in Abbott.  On almost the opposite end of the spectrum, he has had a thirty-year relationship with NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), making a public service announcement here and there.  And he’s even raised money to rebuild the fire-damaged Hill County courthouse in Hillsboro.  yes, he lends his name to causes, bu the causes don’t define him:  his Williness transcends all controversy.

He’s a jack-of-all-trades.  No one slides in and out of so many musical skins.  He’s country as all-get-out, but he’s also a folkie for the ages, a great gospel artist (look no further than Family bible and Healing Hands of Time), a connoisseur of pop standards (Stardust is one of the best-selling albums of all time), and an organic-rocker who can take a jam on on a trip farther out than even .  The Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead may have preceded him in their two-drummer setup, but only Willie Nelson’s band has sported two bass players as well.  Reggae?  Been there (though the album has yet to be released).  Sentimental schmultz?  Done that (“On teh Sunny Side of the Street?) Dance times?  Yes, thsoe were disco whistles you heard on a recent single, “Maria (Shut Up and Kiss Me).”  He has sung credible duets with Julio Iglesias, Ray Charles, Paul Simon, Little Joe, Dolly Parton, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt; B. B. King, Kid Rock, and Nora Jones.   Now that’s versatility.

He’s an extraordinary talent.  He can jump from genre to genre so effortlessly because he’s so gifted musically — the greatest all-around Texas player born in the twentieth century. He writes songs that have already withstood the test of time and taste.  He’s a first-class picker, so consistent and well-practiced that he was worn a hole in Trigger, his celebrated acoustic guitar.  As a singer, he’s surpassed only by Sinatra.  He’s an American original, right up there with Hank, Miles, and Elvis.

He’s a crossover dream.  unlike Mariah Carey and Madonna, he has managed to transition form music to movies (Honeysuckle Rose, Wag the Dog) and television (the edgy detective series Monk) without being ridiculed — mainly because he’s smart enough to  play a version of himself, if not the real thing, and act naturally.  What you see is what you get.

He’s Ours.  Willie is Texas and Texas is Willie, pure and simple, no one represents the brand like he does.  The spiritual descendant of Bob Willis, who blazed trails by welding together seemingly incompatible styles to invent western swing.  Willie is responsible for birthing this think called Texas Music and taking Texas to the world.  Bonus points for making red-bandanna headbands, braids and running shoe symbols  fTexas culture.

He’s cool.  He has lived a thousand lives and died a thousand deaths, having been wrongly written off more times than any other cat in showbiz.  While he could be resting on laurels that include a discography ofmore than two hundred albums, he’s plahying 145 nights ayear, cranking out sets in excess of two hours, while on the side pitching booze (Old Whiskey River Kentucky Straight Bourbon), financial services (Frost Bank), and blue jeans (the Gap) in television commercials and on a billboard overlooking Broadway.

Wilie and blue jeans?  Could there be a more perect match?  It isn’t so much that the was made for them as they were made for him.  And you can’t get any cooler than that.

[Joe Nick Patoski is author of soon-to-be-released book about Willie called, “Willie Nelson: An Epic Life.”  It’s slated to be released 4-21-08.

The Essential Willie Nelson

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson Willie Nelson and Friends: “Outlaws & Angels” – Show, Wiltern Theatre Los Angeles, California United States May 5, 2004 Photo by Lester Cohen

Willie Nelson, in Oklahoma (3/8/08)

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Dirk Fowler has re-printed his letterpress concert poster for Willie’s concert in Norman, OK on 3/8/08.  It is 18″ x 24″, has an edition of 130, and is $30, and you can purchase it at

Willie Nelson and Family in Casper, WY (8/24/08)

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

County music legend Willie Nelson is scheduled to play in Casper on Aug. 24.

Nelson’s publicist, Elaine Schock, of Shock Ink, confirmed the date listed on Nelson’s Web site.

The American music icon last performed in Casper on Sept. 2005 at the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds. For this visit, he is slated to perform at the Casper Events Center.

For those fans making their vacation plans around seeing Willie, Casper is four hours from Jackson Hole, and 3 hours from Denver.  So, you could see Willie in Jackson Hole on the 23rd, drive to Casper and see him on the 24th, drive to Denver and see if you could somehow attend Willie’s concert at Invesco Field on the 25th (difficult to impossible, because of Democratic National Convention; security will be crazy down there) and then end your vacation at Red Rocks on August 26th.  Sounds like a good time to me.

A Vote for Willie Nelson is a Vote for Farm Aid

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson
Farm Aid
CMT One Country celebrates giving back to the community through acts of great kindness, civic participation and volunteerism. In this spirit, we are donating $2500 to the winners in each category of the 2008 CMT Music Awards for the charity of their choice. Now it’s your turn to demonstrate the power of one by choosing your favorite artists and charities who you would like to win on April 14. Find out more below and then cast your vote.

Willie Nelson has selected Farm Aid as his charity of choice:

Farm Aid’s mission is to keep family farmers on the land. Our goal is to bring together family farmers, citizens and consumers to build a strong and resilient family farm-centered agricultural system. Family farmers ensure healthful food, protect natural resources, and strengthen local economies. Vote Now

I think Willie Nelson is the greenest

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Willie Nelson charts at #2 on Billboard Magazine’s list of the top ten green artists, included in the March issue of their magazine, dedicated to green issues.

Billboard says, The Top 10 green musician activists from the past year were chosen by overall positive impact on the environment; the extent to which the artist integrates a green approach into all aspects of his/her career; perceived sacrifice of choices; and trailblazing nature/originality of ideas.”

10. The Roots
  9. Missy Higgins
  8. Radiohead
  7. Serj Tankian
  6. Pearl Jam
  5. K.T Tunstall
  4. Dave Matthews Band
  3. Mana
  2. Willie Nelson
  1. Jack Johnson

Bands were considered for everything from their choice to eat local and organic to fueling tour buses with biodiesel and raising money for eco-worthy causes.  Also included in the issue are stories on the touring industry, green merchandise, green venues, green instruments, green festivals, and more.