Archive for August, 2015
In 1983, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard recorded the hit album “Pancho & Lefty,” the cover of which shows the two country legends against a desert backdrop, Nelson smiling and Haggard working his characteristic stoic grimace. The best of friends.
The title song, however, was written in 1972 by the late Townes Van Zandt, and explores the consequences of betrayal. When Nelson and Haggard pull into the York Fairgrounds this Friday as part of their Last of the Breed Tour, they will no doubt perform the song along with numerous other hits.
Country-rocker Steve Earle once called Van Zandt the greatest American songwriter ever, “and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” Van Zandt is rumored to have replied that he had met Dylan and his bodyguards, and that there was little chance Earle would ever get near his coffee table.
Despite his well-known sense of humor, Van Zandt wrote some of the most hopeless and haunting songs in the country and folk songbooks. He was an American poet of the first order. Thorny, witty and relentlessly self-destructive, he was one of those artists who achieves ultimate recognition through the work of others.
Van Zandt was one of the songwriters every country crooner wanted to be, and “Pancho and Lefty” is the song everyone sang, including Emmylou Harris, Hoyt Axton, Delbert McClinton and bluegrass supergroup Old & In the Way. Â
Nanci Griffith gave a teary version on national television shortly after Townes died of heart failure in 1994.Â Dylan has even performed it on several occasions, the ultimate nod. Nelson and Dylan played it together on their recent tours together.
But perhaps the most memorable version of the song is the one Nelson and Haggard took to the top of the country charts. While the rest of the album is filled with workmanlike (though never unpleasant) efforts, the duo’s version of “Pancho & Lefty” remains strong today.
The song is the ultimate Old West fable, professing the lessons of loyalty and betrayal, the inescapability of consequence and the twisted nature of notoriety.
<iframe src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/JxzJAF1BxP4″ width=”500″ height=”315″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen=”allowfullsc
In 1983, Nelson and Haggard were near the zeniths of their popular careers, ensconced in middle age, though in fine voice, and rapidly approaching a time when they would seem anachronistic next to mainstream country artists. Together they sing “Pancho & Lefty” as if spinning a yarn from some lonely barstool: Pancho was a bandit boys/ His horse was fast as polished steel/ Wore his gun outside his pants/ For all the honest world to feel.
Pancho is finally killed, we are led to believe, by Mexican police with the assistance of a man called Lefty. Even if he didn’t pull the trigger, Lefty is somehow complicit in Pancho’s death.
Lefty escapes to Cleveland with money nobody can account for. There he grows old, forgotten and living in a cheap rooming house, while Pancho, whose dying words no one heard, is celebrated in song and verse: The poets tell how Pancho fell/ Lefty’s livin’ in a cheap hotel/ The desert’s quiet and Cleveland’s cold/ So the story ends we’re told.
The final verse implores the listener to say a few prayers for Pancho, but to save some for Lefty, too, because he “only did what he had to do.”
When Nelson and Haggard perform the song this week, some will be listening for the prophetic overtones of men growing old and passing their winter years with memories of triumph and regret. But unlike Lefty, the sacrifices of these two performers have yielded great results.
Haggard has always been candid about the twists and turns in his life: how he fought off temptation when offered the chance to escape from a California jail, having been in and out of correctional facilities for much of his youth. Haggard chose not to escape, vowing instead to turn his life around through music.
Nelson nearly gave up on music when he couldn’t fit in with Nashville’s “countrypolitan” scene of the early 1960s. He found refuge in Texas and the outlaw movement of the 1970s.Â Nelson’s more recent public stand regarding his marijuana use and a fiercely anticonservative streak through his work with Farm Aid have no doubt cost him a few fans in Middle America.
But despite their choices, or perhaps because of them, Haggard and Nelson will themselves be the subject of song for future generations of poets like Van Zandt.
Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, at the York Fairgrounds, 334 Carlisle Ave., York. The concert opens the 2007 York Fair, which runs through Sept. 16. For more information, call 848-2596.
If you are ever in Nashville, be sure to visit the Willie Nelson General Store. If you can’t make it you can see their collections and buy souvenirs from their giftshop at:
“We would like to thank everyone who came out this summer to see Willie Nelson and Family along with Old Crow Medicine Show.
OCMS is a great combination of musical talent featuring Ketch Secor, Critter Fuqua. Kevin Hayes, Morgan Jahnig, Chance McCoy and Cory Younts. Everyone had a musical blast together and we can’t wait for another paid summer vacation.
If you’re really looking for some good country music go see Old Crow Medicine Show. These guys are a lot of fun on stage and put on an fabulous concert. So until next time, Rock me Mama like a wagon wheel…”
by: Mike Snider
Willie Nelson is asking you to buy his memories again, with his memoir It’s a Long Story (*** out of four).
Those who do will be treated to a smooth-spoken recollection of the country legend’s childhood and his eight-decade-long musical career.
The conversational tone echoes Nelson’s singing style. It’s natural, as if you were sitting across from the 10-time Grammy winner in his tour bus. As he spins his yarn, you can picture him occasionally puffing on a marijuana e-cigarette.
Nelson, who recently announced that his Willie’s Reserve boutique cannabis brand will soon go on the market, goes into his renowned use of weed here, including his tale of smoking a joint on the roof of the White House. “Unlike booze, (pot) never made me nasty or violent,” he writes.
A Long Story begins in 1990 when the Internal Revenue Service takes possession of his assets, telling him he owes $32 million in back taxes thanks to bad management. “My resources were few. The IRS’s resources were unlimited,” he writes.
Then he flashes back to his childhood in central Texas. Throughout the book, Nelson returns to his tax battle every few chapters.
Nelson’s singing style comes across in the telling and adds to the authenticity of the memoir. As a boy, Nelson is drawn to Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Ernest Tubb, all of whom sang conversationally.
As a pre-teen, he begins playing guitar in a polka band, then in a country swing band with his sister Bobbie and her husband, while also working at a radio station. He also sells encyclopedias before and after heading to Nashville in 1960.
Fans of his music will especially enjoy his insights into the songwriting process. “When songs fall from the sky,” Nelson writes, “all I can do is catch them before they land.”
For instance, he offers up the genesis for the song Night Life: “I heard myself ruminating … It ain’t no good life, but it’s my life. … It happened because I was living it.”
Eventually Night Life and other songs such as Hello Walls, Funny How Time Slips Away and Crazy will become hits for other artists.
Unable to achieve success on his own terms in Nashville, Nelson returns to Texas. “In Nashville, I’d caught hell for my idiosyncratic singing,” he writes. “For years, I’d heard producers tell me that my phrasing was off.”
But while recording 1973’s Shotgun Willie, famed producer Jerry Wexler tells Nelson “your phrasing reminds me of Ray Charles and Sinatra.”
What others considered a fault, Wexler “was calling an asset,” Nelson writes.
Nelson, who just turned 82, becomes a music legend, a movie star and a touring machine. Later, he records the double-disc The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories to help pay off the agency, which agrees to a settlement.
He remains prolific. Over the last decade or so, he’s performed on average 150 shows a year, and released no fewer than 17 albums including Django and Jimmie, due out June 2, an album of duets with Merle Haggard.
Near the book’s end, Nelson offers his refreshing take on the music industry today: “The only money I’ve ever counted on is the money I make when you buy a ticket to my show. And if hearing my record on your laptop or your smartphone motivates you to come see me, I’m a happy man.”
Just like this book — and its subject — direct and genuine.
It’s A Long Story: My Life
Willie Nelson with David Ritz
Little, Brown, 392 pp.
3 stars out of 4
AUSTIN – Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard are set to tour this fall in support of their recent ‘Django and Jimmie’ album, according to Rolling Stone.
Nelson, 82, and Haggard, 78, will tour in mid to late-October, with Nelson performing an additional solo show Thanksgiving weekend in Fort Worth.
Dates for the ‘Django and Jimmie’ Tour:
- Oct. 15: Florence Civic Center; Florence, S.C.
- Oct. 16: Berglund Center Coliseum; Roanoke, Va.
- Oct. 17: Santander Arena; Reading, Penn.
- Oct. 21: Indiana University Auditorium; Bloomington, Ind.
- Oct. 23: Eastern Kentucky Expo Center; Pikeville, Ky.
- Oct. 24: Milwaukee Theatre; Milwaukee
- Oct. 25: Theatre at the Resch Center; Green Bay, Wis.
- Nov. 28: Billy Bob’s Texas; Fort Worth (without Merle Haggard)
Go here for more information from Nelson’s website
To All the Girls (Legacy)
1.Dolly Parton – From Here To The Moon And Back
2.Miranda Lambert – She Was No Good For Me
3.Secret Sisters – It Won’t Be Very Long
4.Rosanne Cash – Please Don’t Tell Me
5.Sheryl Crow – Far Away Places
6.Wynonna Judd – Bloody Mary Morning
7.Carrie Underwood – Always On My Mind
8.Loretta Lynn – Somewhere Between
9.Alison Krauss – No Mas Amor
10.Melonie Cannon – Back To Earth
11.Mavis Staples – Grandma’s Hands
12.Norah Jones – Walkin’
13.Shelby Lynne – Til The End Of The World
14.Lily Meola – Will You Remember Mine
15.Emmylou Harris – Dry Lightning
16.Brandi Carlile – Making Believe
17.Paula Nelson – Have You Ever Seen The Rain
18.Tina Rose – After The Fire Is Gone
Feb. 13, 1984
by Chet Flippo
Is it true that when cowboys die, they go to Texas? Tonight is cowboy heaven for sure — as two forever young good ole boys named Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson smile and press the flesh and inch their way through phalanxes of ecstatic fans on their way to the bandstand. Out front, a couple thousand of the faithful are whooping it up and pouring down the Lone Star beer at Austin’s Opry House, a true shrine of C&W. It was here that Willie put modern Country on the map in the early ’70s when he gave up on Nashville’s establishment and drifted on down to Austin to forge an alliance between hippies and rednecks.
Hordes of both — now almost indistinguishable, what with their pierced ears and long hair and pounds of silver and gold jewelry and flowered shirts and skintight jeans (and that’s only the men) — are starting their “Willie” chant. Even though the concert footage has already been shot at the Opry House for Songwriter, the movie that Willie and Kris are filming here, Willie got cabin fever after awhile and decided he just had to do a show. Since he now owns the Opry House, along with a lot of other prime Austin real estate, it wasn’t too hard to set up. Austin can never get enough of Willie, especially since he now spends most of his time in Colorado or on the road. He is still a holy man in Texas.
Backstage, Willie, still in his “Doc Jenkins” black garb from the day’s shooting, smiles his guru smile and shakes the hands of preppies in blazers and bikers in leather and grandmothers in shawls and little children and clean-cut jocks and guys who look suspiciously like dope dealers and businessmen wearing suits and left-over ’60?s hippies and farmers and former University of Texas coach Darrell Royal. They are smiling at each other so much that, if you didn’t know better, you might think this is a mob of some kind of babbling religious freaks. But no, they’re just Willie fanatics.
Willie embraces Kristofferson, who is still wearing the black outfit of the “Blackie Buck” character in the movie. Kris and Willie are the old pros of progressive C&W and their lined faces and salt-and-pepper bears show a lot of years of being rode hard and put up wet. But, as a bystander points out, they fearlessly — and recklessly — went up against heavy odds in fighing Nashville’s establishment.
“And, bah Gahd, we won, didn’t we, Willie?” rasps Kris in his window-rattling rumble of a voice, hugging Willie amid the chaos. “Yeah, Kris, I guess we did,” Willie says quietly. Then he and his band hit the stage to plead: “Whiskey river, take my mind.”
The crowd erupts and doesn’t stop. It’s an old-fashioned hoedown with dancers and drinkers twirling and swirling thorugh hours of Willie and Kris, and Kris and Willie stripping down to black T-shirts and dripping with sweat by the time they turn Amazing Grace into a Country Mass — hundreds of europhoric worshipers jumping to their feet and pointing their fingers heavenward and singing along witha Texas sermon from Matthew, Mark, Kris and Willie. And not one fight. Remarkable for a honky-tonk.
“God, Willie’s great,” Kris says a few minutes after the show, back in his modest suite at the Ramada Inn, as he picks his way through stacks of toys for his children and calls room service to order himself some rabbit food and volcano water.
Ten years ago, when they were really living the lives of Doc and Blackie, Kris and Willie existed on shots of tequila and more shots of tequila, with the occasional night out on shots of Jack Daniel’s. They were living right out there “on the border,” as Kris sings in this movie. And they were slogging through the drugs-and-alcohol diet thought essential to capture the exquisite pain of country music.
No longer. Kris pulls off his T-shirt to reveal that he’s healthy now, rippling muscles and all that. Coherent. Sane. Everything that he is not inSongwriter. Doesn’t drink or drug anymore. Runs 10 miles a day. Plays golf with Willie. Eats right. Is writing songs again after a long drought.
“Yeah, things are going real good,” he says with a satisfied sigh from his easy chair, boots up on the table. “I got married. Wasn’t no big thing, but yeah, we got a little boy now. My wife’s named Lisa. She’s a lawyer. She was in law school at Pepperdine when I met her. We had a little boy on the seventh of October — Jesse Turner Kristofferson. ‘Jesse’ for an old football coach I had and ‘Turner’ for [band member] Turner Stephen Bruton.
“Wille’s got a great philosphy — about running, about golf, about everything. Kick it back to where you can enjoy it, you know? I’t like, if youre’ running too hard and you’re miserable, then ease off a little bit. He runs for pleasure, not to drive himself. I swear to God” — he laughts at the notion — “being around Willie is like being around Buddah. He gives off these positive attitudes. Next thing you know, you’re acting like him.”
He laughs again, shaking his head in wonderment as he pushes his room service tray aside. He turns and trains the full force of his intense, sky-blue deep-set eyes on his visitor and says seriously, “I’ll never be like him. I’ll never be able to walk directly from the golf cart to the stage. But I’ll never again put myself through the angst I used to. This film as changed my life as much as A Star is Born did. That was a real turning point because I saw that I had potential as an actor. It was enough to clean me up, to quit drinking, you know. And this move has justified my getting cleaned up. You always hope that working with friends will work, but working with Willie is a real bonus because the chemistry on the screen is so good. This has turned out to be the best experience of my life.”
Janis took this picture of Willie at Redrocks