Archive for July, 2014

Willie Nelson photo @ Annenberg Space for Photography in LA

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

photo: Les Leverett

 The exhibit “Country: Portraits of an American Sound” opens at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles on Saturday and will be on display until Sept. 28, 2014.
by:  James Estrin

With a glowing, handsome face, dramatic eyes and stylish hair, the subject of a Walden Fabry studio portrait looks like a matinee idol. That was in 1964, when Willie Nelson was trying to be a Nashville star.

Willie doesn’t quite seem comfortable in the role.

While he tried to fit the Nashville mold as a singer in the ’50s and ’60s, finding middling success, he eventually grew his hair long, moved to Austin, Tex., and became famous on his own terms by making the music he wanted to make.

This image is now the centerpiece of “Country: Portraits of an American Sound,” a new exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles that explores how the images were used to market country music.

This photo also resonated with me because in 2002 I was given one of my favorite assignments in my 35-year career: to take a five-and-a-half-hour ride with Willie on his customized tour bus from Austin to Fort Worth, where he was performing.

He was friendly and courteous, but it was evident he was not looking forward to being photographed for the next five hours straight. He asked if I liked chess, and although I knew I was not all that skilled at the game, we moved to a table and started playing.

It quickly became clear that he was much better than I, but somehow I managed to win two of the first six matches. I took a handful of photos, mostly from table level, while I tried to build a relationship so I could photograph him in the bus’s bedroom and backstage later.

Often when you photograph famous people it can be disappointing. Sometimes the ones you admire you end up not liking as people, and the ones you expect not to like turn out to be nice.

But he was exactly who I had expected: a fully realized Willie Nelson, authentically himself. He was funny and smoked pot throughout the chess matches. I don’t, but even if I did smoke, I certainly could not have done it while on assignment for The Times. Each time he offered I said I couldn’t because of work.

Willie Nelson on his tour bus from Austin, Tex., to Fort Worth, where he was performing at Gilley’s. Nov. 16, 2002.

Willie Nelson on his tour bus from Austin, Tex., to Fort Worth, where he was performing at Gilley’s. Nov. 16, 2002.Credit James Estrin/The New York Times

By the eighth match we both noticed that my playing was deteriorating rapidly in direct relationship to the amount of smoke hanging the air. I was getting a contact high. He opened the window and I continued to play, and lose. I took a few more frames from table level without looking through the viewfinder.

Whenever I tell the story, which is often, people are invariably pleased that the real Willie Nelson seemed to be like, well, Willie Nelson.

In the show at the Annenberg there are images of him in later years, after he became known as a good-hearted, pot-smoking grandfatherly eccentric. His changing image is a good starting point for the exploration of how images helped shape the public identity of country music performers and of the genre itself.

It can be difficult to define country music. Like Mr. Nelson, the genre has changed. Country started as “old-timey” music, then “hillbilly” music, and has more recently become, at times, indistinguishable from bland Top 40 pop.

Its roots goes back 300 years to the American folk music of the southern Appalachian Mountains that was shaped by the Irish and Scottish string instrument music of early settlers. What is known today as country music was influenced by the Western music that celebrated the life of cowboys and also by the blues as well as bluegrass, rockabilly, Western swing and honky-tonk music.

But it was with the rise of radio and the recording industry in the first half of the 20th century that the acoustic music that originated on the front porches and in living rooms of the South became viable commercially. It was only after World War II that the music became big business and the term “country music” became widely used.

Because country music is not really one single thing, curating a photography exhibition on the genre raises some difficulties, said Shannon Perich, who curated the show with Tim Davis and Michael McCall of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“Country music is hard to define sometimes,” she said. “But like pornography, you know it when you hear it.”

Farm Aid Coming to North Carolina (9/13/14)

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

by:  John Wood

RALEIGH–Farm Aid has announced the philanthropic music festival, a day-long concert which produces proceeds that benefit family farmers nationwide, will take the stage at Raleigh’s Walnut Creek Amphitheater on Saturday, September 13. Tickets go on sale to the public August 1, and prices will range from $49 to $174.

“In North Carolina and across the Southeast, family farmers have struggled to stay on the land, but they have also pioneered new roads to economic sustainability. This region knows the value of its farmers and offers increasing opportunities for new farmers to build a strong regional food system,” said Farm Aid president Willie Nelson in a released media statement. “On the Farm Aid stage [in September], we’ll celebrate family farmers and the healthy communities they’re growing for all of us.”

According to Rolling Stone, the first Farm Aid was inspired by offhand comments Bob Dylan made about struggling family farmers at Live Aid on September 22, 1985 at Champaign, Illinois’ Memorial Stadium. Since 1985, Nelson and Farm Aid have helped millions of farmers around the world.

Along with Nelson, the following artists will perform at this year’s festival:

  • John Mellencamp
  • Neil Young
  • Dave Matthews.
  • Jack White
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band
  • Jamey Johnson
  • Delta Rae
  • Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
  • Carlene Carter
  • Pegi Young & The Survivors
  • Insects vs Robots

“I think North Carolina has always been an important part of small family farms dating back to the Civil War,” Mellencamp told the Raleigh News & Observer this week. “We come down there with respect for the hard work people have done there.”

Mellencamp has grown to love the Triangle area, ever since he developed a homegrown connection to North Carolina.

“John’s son, Hud, having come down [to Duke University], was definitely a pull for him,” Jennifer Fahy, Farm Aid’s communications director, told the Durham Herald-Sun. “John was interested in having us here. He has really come to know this area.”

Mellencamp’s son is a member of the Blue Devil football team.

Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center had the pleasure of hosting last year’s Farm Aid, and it was the last major public appearance by Pete Seeger.

Tickets go on sale August 1, 2014 at 10:00am EST. You can buy tickets at,, and

Willie Nelson interview (AARP)

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Willie Nelson: What I Know Now

Willie Nelson, 81, country music singer-songwriter, actor and activist — exaggerating a little— “feels about 20.”
— David McClister


In this day of genetically modified food and growth hormones, the best solution is to shop at your local farmers market. Better still, find somewhere you can plant your own organic crops.

Two on the bus

Annie and I have been married since 1991 and found a way to make it work. Annie travels with me now. The longest I’ve been off the road is a month. That’s why I’ve been married four times! It’s too much to ask the wives to stay home while you’re running around the world.

Ties that bind

I value family most. My sister, Bobbie, has been on the road with me for 50 years; my daughters Amy and Lana travel with me. When me and my sons, Micah and Lukas, play together, that’s about as good as it gets.

 Unlikely duo

I wanted to do a duet with Barbra Streisand for 20 years, and she finally had a song written For us. I met her on the set of A Star Is Born. Once, between scenes, she sat on the floor of my bus, and I sang to her. Kris Kristofferson couldn’t understand why we got along so well, but I liked her!

Hat trick

I learned a lot from Leon Russell, who may be the best entertainer ever. He’s the first guy I saw throw his hat into the audience. That’s where I got the idea to do that. Ripped him off pretty good!

Move it or lose it

I don’t feel 81. I feel about 20. I’m exaggerating a little, but I just got my fifth-degree black belt in [the Korean martial art].

The power of positive thinking

When you think a negative thought, it releases poison in your system. Next thing you know, you wind up with cancer or other diseases. I try to live in the moment without regrets.

A toke a day keeps the doctor away

I’ll probably take a couple of hits before or after the show tonight. It relaxes me, and the medicinal form of pot can cure everything from stress to cancer. It’s a shame that it was thrown in with the other hard drugs. Now that the legalization has proven successful in Colorado and in Washington state, it’s just a matter of time before it’s legal everywhere. There’s a lot of money to be made from it, number one.

Keepin’ on

There’s a song on my new album, Band of Brothers, called “I’ve Got a Lot of Traveling to Do.” It’s true. For years I’ve said, “This might be my last tour.” But as long as I’m healthy and it’s fun and people show up, I’d like to keep doing it. It’s like the old saying, “Don’t slow down — they might be gaining on you.”

—Reported by Alanna Nash

Willie Nelson and Family on Tour

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014


August 8, 2014 Grand Casino Mille Lacs Onamia, MN
August 9, 2014 Grand Casino Hinkley Events Center Hinkley, MN
August 10, 2014 Big Top Chautaqua Bayfield, WI
August 12, 2014 Sangamon Auditorium Springfield, IL
August 13, 14, 2014 Potawatomi Bingo Casino Milwaukee, WI
August 16, 2014 Brown County Fair Aberdeen, SD
August 17, 2014 Deadwood
Deadwood, SD
August 21, 2014 Foellinger Theater Ft. Wayne, IN
August 22, 2014 Eaton County Fairgrounds Charlotte, MI
September 7, 2014 LockN Musical Festival Arrington, VA
September 9, 2014 9:30 Club Washington, DC
September 10, 2014 Grand Opera House Wilmington, DE,
September 11, 2014 FM Kirby Centr Wilkes-Barre, PA
September 13, 2014 Farm Aid 2014 Concert Raleigh, NC
September 15, 2014 The Palladium Carmel, IN
September 16, 2014 Benedem Center Pittsburg, PA
September 17, 2014 Ridgefield Playhouse Ridgefield, CT
September 19, 2014 Harrah’s Atlantic City, NJ
September 20, 2014 Indian Ranch Webster, MA
September 21, 2014 New Jersey PAC Newark, NJ
October 10, 2014 Scheldegger Center for Arts St. Charles, MO
October 11, 2014 First Council Casino and Hotel Newkirk, OK
October 12,, 2014 Missouri Theater Colombia, MO
October 14, 2014 Shrine Mosque Springfield, MO
October 16, 2014 Grand Casino Shawnee, OK
October 17, 2014 Floore’s Country Store Helotes, TX
October 18, 2014 Floore’s Country Store Helotes, TX
November 14, 2014 Grand Opera House Galveston, TX
November 15, 2014 Windstar Casino Thackerville, OK
November 18, 2014 House of Blues Houston, TX
November 20, 2014 Mississippi Coliseum Jackson, MS
November 21, 2014 Horsehoe Tunica Robinsville, MS
November 22, 2014 Horseshoe Casino Riverdome Bossier City, LA
November 23, 2014 Majestic Theater San Antonio, TX
November 25, 2014 Pharr Events Center CANCELLED Pharr, TX

***** Always check with the venue or to confirm any shows listed here.

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014


Show your support for people standing up for Climate Action to reduce carbon emission #ActOnClimate

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014


Hundreds of citizens are set to testify in support of climate action at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) hearings this week in Washington.  People are speaking out in support of the EPA’s recent proposal to reduce the nation’s biggest source of polution blamed for climate change — carbon emission from power plants.  This plan is the EPA’s boldest, most promising proposal  todate,  part of an aggressive effort to cut climate change-causing pollution by 30% by 2030.

Everyone is invited to get involved and become part of the conversation. Go to: to record your own comments and opinions on the proposal during the 120 day period.

You can show your support – submit a public comment before they step up to the podium: #ActOnClimate

Music Legend Willie Nelson Live @ the PAC, Santa Clarita Valley (4/5/14)

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014


Thank you so much to Ruth Hegley, of Scooterville, the Franks Brothers Traveling Willie Nelson & Family Store, for sending me a beautiful collection of brochures and pamphlets from Willie Nelson & Family shows around the country. Willie plays in some incredibly beautiful venues, and Ruth collects show programs and magazines announcing Willie’s shows, and kindly shares them.


Santa Clarita Valley
A Legend Comes to Town

By: Stephanie Struyck Elgin
Photos:  David McCuster

He’s the longhaired, bandana-wearing  guitarist who captured the hearts of audiences worldwide and changed the face of country music.  A pioneer of outlaw country, Willie Nelson’s rough and tumble grit, coupled with raw emotion and honesty, breathe life to his songs, making him a legend in his own right.

Born in Abbott, Texas, Willie Nelson has an impressive six-decade career with over 60 studio albums in addition to live recordings, soundtracks, and collaborations with other artists and more.  One of the most decorated musicians of all time, Willie is a seven-time Grammy Award winner, and has  received numerous accolades for his work.

Known as a songwriter of rare and precise elegance, Willie was the mastermind behind 1960’s classics like Crazy (Patsy Cline), Hello Walls (Faron Young), and Night Life (Ray Price), to name a few.  In the 1970’s, however, Willie’s unique style didn’t fit the traditional classic country mold, making him an “outlaw” in the country music scene.  Despite  his resistance to confirm, Willie’s popularity continued to grow, and in 1975, his first album for Columbia Records titled The Red Headed Stranger, catapulted Willie into stardom.  Just a few years later, he released Stardust, a multi million dollar album and contributed to the compilation Wanted:  The Outlaws, which featured legendary greats like Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter.  Willie and Waylon’s popular collaboration Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be cowboys earned the two artists a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group in 1978.

By the end of the decade, Willie was a musical phenom, revolutionizing outlaw country  His success continued into the 1980’s, topping country charts and also making a name in pop music.  On the Road Again and Always on My Mind were some of the many songs that emerged during this decade.  Willie collaborated with Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash to form the group The Highwaymen.  The group recorded and toured for a number of years.

While Willie Nelson has etched his name in music history, he is also the co-founder of Farm Aid, an annual series of fundraising events, which began as an all star benefit concert in 1985, to raise money for American family farmers.  Having grown up on the farm himself, Willie continues to lobby against horse slaughter and produces his own blend of biodiesel fuel.

Throughout out the years, Willie has continued to make music, collaborating with other musicians, and in 1993, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Willie has also appeared on the big screen, starring in many films including The Electric Horseman and Honeysuckle Rose, to name a few.

In May of 2012, Willie released Heroes, his first album for Legacy Recordings.  The album spent five weeks at a number one on the Americana Radio Chart.  The same year, he released his book, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” which landed in the Top 10 on the New York Times’ Best Seller List.

Recently, the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center announced that one of the greatest entertainers of all time, Willie Nelson, will be coming to the Santa Clarita valley for the special event, “Willie Nelson and Family:  Live in Concert”.

“The PAC will be the place to be on April 5, and we are thrilled to have him in Santa Clarita, if only for just one night,” states Evy Warshawski, Executive Director of Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center.

College of the Canyons Chancellor Dr. Dianne Van Hook adds, “Featuring an icon like Willie Nelson at the Performing Arts Center demonstrates our commitment to bringing the best in entertainment to Santa Clarita.”

With his 1969 Martin N-20 named “Trigger” in tow, signature braided ponytails, bandana and outlaw country tunes, I, too, look forward to welcoming the legendary music icon to our stage.



Virginia Willie Nelson

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014


Thank you, Dee Boutilier Sulenski, for sharing a photo of your license plate!   One of my faves, for sure.



Dee Sulenski remembers the moment when she finally decided to give her left leg to Willie Nelson.

On a trip to Connecticut in 1998, she chatted with her favorite cousin, a biker adorned with multiple tattoos, about the process of getting inked. Once her cousin explained that tattoo artists can use stencils to create designs from almost any printed source, Sulenski was sold.

Back home in Virginia, the devoted Willie Nelson fan headed to Gloucester and had his autograph etched above her left ankle.

Since then, that first tattoo has been joined by four more elaborate pieces done in Richmond by renowned tattoo artist Tom Renshaw. Two are portraits of Willie as an adult; another is of him as a boy. A final tattoo is of Nelson’s trusty acoustic guitar.

All five pieces decorate Sulenski’s lower left leg.

“I liked Willie so much I knew I wanted it,” she says, thinking back. “Someone asked me, ‘What if you stop liking Willie?’ I said, ‘I’ll be dead, so it won’t matter. It’s not going to happen.’ ”

The tattoos attract attention.

“It’s funny to watch people stare — they don’t think you see them staring. But most people are impressed with the artwork. I’ve never had a negative reaction.”

That includes the main man himself, who’s admired the tattoos in person several times.

“He is genuinely pleased,” she says.

Clearly, 53-year-old Dee Sulenski is a Willie Nelson superfan. Aside from the tattoos, she’s made her tidy Toano home a shrine honoring the soft-spoken country outlaw.

Her den is Willie Central — walls covered with autographed photos, posters, magazine covers and devotional art such as a small, colorful “velvet Willie” painting — but you’ll find bits of memorabilia in almost every room in the house. Even bathrooms are decorated with framed Willie Nelson autographs.

Sulenski has given all six of her cats Willie-related names, Abbott for Nelson’s hometown in Texas and Trigger for Nelson’s well-worn guitar.

Her car’s license plate reads WLE NLSN.

Sulenski has successfully surrounded herself with reminders of the red-headed Texan. And very soon, their worlds will intersect again.

Tonight, Sulenski will attend her 100th Willie Nelson concert at The National theater in Richmond. Tomorrow, she’ll take in No. 101 at The NorVa in Norfolk.

Will she be in the balcony or near the stage at the shows?

OK, that’s a dumb question.

“Right down front,” she says without hesitating. “I want to see every bead of sweat.”

Sulenski first fell for Nelson in a movie theater.

“I saw the movie ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ right before I left for Coast Guard boot camp in 1980,” she says. “I don’t know if the timing had something to do with it, but from that point on, it was all Willie.”

Looking back, Sulenski isn’t clear on what exactly flipped her switch, Nelson’s gentle music or his laid-back charisma.

“I can’t explain it,” she says. “I don’t think it’s possible to explain what happened. I love his music, but he’s such a wonderful, generous man. He’s genuine. There’s absolutely nothing fake about him


“He really pays attention to his fans. If he’s talking to you, it’s like you’re the only person in the world.

“He’s really a kind person.”

She’s met Willie Nelson countless times — but always in structured musician-fan situations.

She says she’s careful not to invade his privacy.

“I care for Willie sincerely, and I’ve always been very respectful of his time,” she says. “I would never do anything to make him uncomfortable.”

Their first close encounter was after a 1989 performance at Scope in Norfolk. She gave her camera to a random passer-by who took a snapshot that’s become one of Sulenski’s most prized possessions. It shows the pair cheek to cheek, both beaming.

Their second meeting, at Kings Dominion outside Richmond, is where she scored the autograph that now adorns her leg.

“We kissed spontaneously,” she remembers. “Then I said, ‘I need a picture! Can we do that again?’ ”

The photo, taken by her husband Marion Sulenski, is on the wall of her den.

It’s not easy to be the spouse of a superfan. Marion admits to feeling a twinge of jealousy when he saw the print of that particular photo. But with reassurance from Dee, he’s come to terms with his wife’s obsession.

Despite the fact that he prefers classical music to country, he’s accompanied Dee on most of her Willie Nelson adventures — including a stint in Branson, Mo., where they saw two shows a day for three straight days.

“It makes her happy and that’s what makes me happy,” he says. “She enjoys it so much it hasn’t been hard to be a good sport.”

The couple has been married for 18 years — a period that spans much of his wife’s Willie Nelson infatuation. Marion says their outings have strengthened their relationship. More than anything, though, he’s a realist. He knows he couldn’t change his wife if he tried.

“It would be like standing on a beach with a bucket and trying to keep the tide from coming in,” he says. “You just can’t do it.”


This day in Willie Nelson History: Democratic National Convention (7/29/04)

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

On July 29, 2004, Willie Nelson performed “Living in the Promiseland”, on the night presidential candidate John Kerry accepts the nomination at the Democratic National Convention” at Boston’s Fleet Center.  Carole King and Mavis Staples also performed.

Monday, July 28th, 2014


Willie Nelson Art

Monday, July 28th, 2014


Willie Nelson Guitar Pick of the Day: Farm Aid 2014

Monday, July 28th, 2014


Thank you, Guthrie Thomas, for sending this photo of Budrock “The Illuminator” Prewitt, and his own handsome self, along with news that the Farm Aid 2014 Guitar Pick is in the works! The guitar pick elves at are hard at work.

Now, who says you never hear any good news any more?

Willie Nelson & Family, Woodstock, NY (1999)

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

How’s Budrock “the Illuminator” Prewitt doing?

Sunday, July 27th, 2014


“I miss my job. I miss the entire road Family. I miss my bus. I miss setting up the lights and hanging the flag. I miss Dinner at 5:30. I miss my routine.

I miss the excitement of the crowd at their first sight of Willie as he strolls onstage, I miss seeing the Texas Flag coming out of it’s bag at the beginning of the show.

I miss telling the spotlight operators to make sure and get a good shot of Bobbie when she does her piano solos and to get ready because Mickey is next and to watch out because he does not stand still.

I miss lighting up the audience and letting Willie see his fans singing back to him and them knowing he is catching their energy. I miss me chasing Willie. I miss those quick left turns he sometimes takes.

I miss it all, but mostly I miss the bonus of getting to see and hear Willie play and sing almost every night while I work. It is Fun. It’s my normal………and I can’t wait to get back.”

— Budrock
Only a biker knows why a dog sticks his head out the car window.

I called down to Texas to visit with Budrock “The Illuminator” Prewitt, Lighting Director for Willie Nelson & Family, to see how he was healing from his injury in June.  Buddy was injured working at a Willie Nelson show, when a freak accident caused him to break his heel, sprain some things and tear up some other things.  He has been home, off the road, waiting for the swelling to go down so surgeons and other medical experts can work on it and help put him back together for the road.   Most recent xrays in July show no change from June, and the doctors are still telling him to stay put for a couple months.

“I have a wheelchair, Crutches, 2 Knee Scooters(One for upstairs), & a golf cart, but none of em have the ability to keep up with the bus.  I can now drive again but not very far because I can’t get the foot comfortable in the truck. I did get a handicap placard for my vehicle, so I don’t have to crutch it too far when I do get out.”

I am used to making things happen… a hurry and efficiently. There is nothing going on here that seems to be an immediate priority. I feel like a grain of sand in the desert.

Cabin Fever is setting in.







Support Family Farmers! Get your Ticket to Farm Aid 2014

Sunday, July 27th, 2014


Farm Aid is coming to Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in Raleigh, North Carolina on September 13! The concert lineup features Willie Nelson & Family, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Jack White and more.

Get Your Tickets

Farm Aid 2014 Ticket Presale

Our ticket presale starts at noon EDT on Friday, July 25 at A $50 Farm Aid Presale Pass (replacing our membership program*) gets you access to buy the best seats in the house a week before they go on sale to the public.

Farm Aid 2014 Ticket Sale

Tickets for Farm Aid 2014 will go on sale to the public on Friday, August 1, at 10 a.m. EDT. Tickets will be available at, the Walnut Creek Amphitheatre box office, all Ticketmaster outlets or by phone at 800-745-3000. Tickets range in price from $49 to $175.

Farm Aid 2014 VIP Tickets

A very limited number of VIP tickets for the first ten rows will be available starting July 25 at noon EDT. Please contact for more information.

Connect with Farm Aid

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