Archive for the ‘black and white’ Category
by: Woody Harrelson
“The first six decades of my life had been filled with drama,” Willie Nelson writes, with staggering, knee-buckling understatement, toward the end of his new memoir, It’s a Long Story (Little, Brown). Fifty-odd studio albums, more than a dozen film and TV roles, four wives, eight children, more awards and scrapes with the law than anyone can count—yeah, the first 60 years of Nelson’s life are to drama as the Pacific is to water. Deep with it.
But looking back, from his self-sustaining, solar-powered home in Maui, where he has lived for 30-some years, only soothes him for so long. “I just wanted to kick back, enjoy a smoke, and listen to the waves splash against the shore,” he writes. “But beautiful as it was, I couldn’t sit there for long. Something started calling to me. It was that same ‘something’ that had always been calling.”
Cue the guitar licks: “And of course it led where it always led: Back out on the road.”
At 82, Nelson (who wrote the song “On the Road Again,” among a thousand or more others) is the elder statesman of country music, a steadying and powerful voice in the industry and on environmental issues, and he’s still on the road much of the year. The music keeps calling.
In his unceasing, compulsive rambling about the country, the Depression-era baby and inveterate hustler from Abbott, Texas, has run with the best of ’em, smoked, jammed, and thrown bones with the rest of ’em. Over the course of his more than a hundred albums and 30 years of playing the Farm Aid concert, a benefit he created in support of family farmers, Nelson has played with everyone from Wynton Marsalis to Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash to Waylon Jennings. He’s appeared onscreen numerous times, including in the movies The Electric Horseman (1979), Honeysuckle Rose(1980), and Red Headed Stranger (1986), and on TV shows, including Monk and The Simpsons. At the poker or domino table, he has lifted a small fortune off his Maui neighbors and best buds Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson—all the while burning more grass than the plains states in a drought. (And yet he has the kind of snap-trap memory and continual, thrumming, joke-telling patter of a sage.)
In the process, Nelson has become an enduring figurehead—the outlaw rider; the hippie-redneck activist; the legalization advocate; the ruffian, poet beatnik—and an endlessly beguiling, elusive man. Willie Nelson is already a legend, and still he rambles on.
As he tells his pal and fellow fan of the pipe, Woody Harrelson, it’s been quite a ride. –Chris Wallace
WOODY HARRELSON: Willieeee, I miss you, brother! Where are you?
WILLIE NELSON: I’m in Biloxi, Mississippi.
HARRELSON: Biloxi, whoa. I’m in London, so we’re close. [laughs] When are you going back to Maui?
NELSON: Around Easter. Will you be there?
HARRELSON: That depends. When is Easter?
NELSON: First week in April, I think.
HARRELSON: Oh, I’ll be there. I’m going to be there for three months. I’m trying to get some time off.
NELSON: Heck yeah, we’ll play some poker, dominoes.
HARRELSON: I got a lot to win back.
NELSON: You win a few thousand every day, and it won’t take you long. [both laugh]
HARRELSON: People know you as an affable, great guy who started Farm Aid. Most people wish you were president, and they don’t realize that you’re a fucking hustler. [both laugh]
NELSON: Don’t tell them about that.
HARRELSON: I’m proud of building the Woody wing on your house there in Maui.
NELSON: Hey, thank you, man. Owen [Wilson] was just there. He contributed a little bit.
HARRELSON: Before we start, do you have, like, a jay sitting around? Or maybe a Volcano or the pen, some kind of vaporizer or anything going on there? Maybe we can get stoned together.
NELSON: I’ve got at least four of each of those things. [both laugh]
HARRELSON: I don’t even know why I asked that.
NELSON: Yeah, really.
HARRELSON: Okay. So tell me about your grandparents, because they were a huge influence on you.
NELSON: My parents divorced when I was about 6 months old, and my grandparents raised me and my sister, Bobbie. I think they did a good job. They spoiled the hell out of us, but that’s what we needed.
HARRELSON: Why did you go to the grandparents? Neither parent could take you?
NELSON: They went different directions, and neither one of them had a way to take care of us. Really they did us a favor just by leaving us with our grandparents.
HARRELSON: This was around the Depression?
NELSON: Yeah, I was born in 1933.
HARRELSON: Do you have any memories of the Depression?
NELSON: I didn’t think we were any worse off than all of the other folks around us. Everybody I knew had to work in the fields, pick cotton, pull corn, bale hay; that’s the way we paid our way through school and bought our school supplies and things. My granddaddy died when I was about 6 years old, I think. And my grandmother took a job cooking in the school lunchroom. So she did great. She made $18 a week.
HARRELSON: That must’ve seemed like a small fortune.
NELSON: Well, it was. It took care of us.
HARRELSON: You really have a fond kind of vibe for your grandmother.
NELSON: And my granddad, too. He was a blacksmith, and I hung out in the blacksmith shop with him when I was a kid, watching him shoe horses. In fact, he got kicked by a horse one time, and he had to wear one of those rupture belts all the rest of his life. They were hard workers.
HARRELSON: Was he a disciplinarian?
NELSON: Well, he spanked me one time. I had to be 4, 5 years old, and I ran away from home. They brought me back and he whipped my little butt. He had one of those razor strops. You know, one of those wide, leather razor strops that you sharpen your razor on. And he hit me a few times with that. It sounded real terrible, but it didn’t hurt that much.
HARRELSON: But I’m sure you made a lot of crying noises so he’d stop.
NELSON: Oh, yeah. I screamed. [both laugh]
HARRELSON: You had that actor in you back then, didn’t you?
NELSON: Hustle! I had that hustle.
HARRELSON: When did you get your first guitar?
NELSON: I was about 5 or 6 years old, and I bought this guitar out of a Sears, Roebuck catalog. I think it was a Harmony guitar. My sister played the piano. She’s two years older than me, and I always wanted to play something. So my grandmother got the guitar for me, and showed me a couple of chords to start off. And then I got me a book. Next thing you know, I was playing along with sister.
HARRELSON: So when you graduated high school, around 1950, you joined the Air Force. What was that like?
NELSON: I didn’t care for it at all. The day I got in, I started trying to get out. I didn’t like taking orders that much, and I didn’t like getting up at dawn and marching and all that horseshit. I didn’t make a very good soldier, I’m afraid.
HARRELSON: I can’t imagine you taking orders.
HARRELSON: I mean, except from Annie [Nelson, Willie’s wife], obviously. [both laugh] So you weren’t a part of the Korean War?
NELSON: I never did go overseas. I spent all my time in Biloxi, Mississippi, right here where I’m at now. I took basic training down in San Antonio, at Lackland Air Force Base, and in Wichita Falls, at Sheppard Air Force Base. Then I spent my last few months in the Air Force here. I come back here to Biloxi quite a bit. I like it here.
HARRELSON: So out of the Air Force, you went to Baylor University?
NELSON: Yeah, I had some G.I. Bill coming. So I took what I had and went to Baylor there for a while, majored in dominoes. [both laugh]
HARRELSON: That’s what I want to know. When did you become a hustler?
NELSON: I’ve been playing dominoes all my life. When I was really young, the old men in Abbott all played dominoes. And when one of them would have to get up and go somewhere, they’d get me to come sit in. If I’d make a mistake, they’d yell at me and throw shit at me. So I learned to play dominoes pretty good. And some friends of mine, like old Zeke Varnon up in Hillsboro, who is the best dominoes player I ever met, showed me a lot of stuff. He was a card hustler, dominoes, pool … You name it, Zeke was good at it.
HARRELSON: I guess those are the people I have to thank for all the—what do you call it?—remuneration I’ve thrown your direction.
NELSON: I think remuneration is the word for it, yeah. [both laugh]
HARRELSON: Oh, man. I’ve experienced more pain in your house than I think anywhere.
NELSON: But you take it well, Woody. That’s what I tell them all.
HARRELSON: You notice how there’s just no shift from when I’m winning or losing—I just don’t care. I’m happy. So were you an encyclopedia salesman?
NELSON: I sold encyclopedias door-to-door. I also sold Singer sewing machines.
HARRELSON: Did you do well with that? Because I’m imagining Willie Nelson coming to my door to sell me something, whatever it is, I’m going to buy it.
NELSON: The big deal was to get in the door. When I would sell encyclopedias, I would drive down the road looking for a house with a swing set in the back, and I’d say, “Oh, those folks got kids. They need some books.” I’d knock on their door and sell them a set of encyclopedias, and those books were from $300 to $600. I’d look around the house, and if there wasn’t that much furniture in the house, I felt a little bad about selling a $600 set of books to people who couldn’t afford a couch. So I didn’t last at that job very long.
HARRELSON: The overly compassionate salesman. You just weren’t meant to do that, I think. How did you end up in Nashville?
NELSON: Well, when I was growing up, Nashville was the place to go if you had songs to sell and thought you had talent and wanted to tour and be on Grand Ole Opry [radio show]. It was the big deal back in those days to play the Grand Ole Opry. And you could travel around the world saying, “Hi, I’m Willie from the Grand Ole Opry.” And back in those days, it really helped you book dates. I had to quit the Opry because they insisted that you play it 26 weeks out of the year. They still do, I guess. But I was playing in Texas a lot, so it was hard on me to get back 26 weeks out of the year. I’ll always regret it.
HARRELSON: You were just driving back and forth?
NELSON: Yeah, and my good days were Friday and Saturday, so it was really cutting into my income to have to go all the way back to Nashville to play the Opry, and I was kind of torn between the two.
HARRELSON: But at the time, most anybody would have been frickin’ thrilled to be playing the Opry.
NELSON: Oh, yeah.
HARRELSON: I’ve got to backtrack. When did you say, “This is what I’m going to do”?
NELSON: I always knew that I wanted to do this. My first job was in a Bohemian polka band, the Rejcek family polka band in Abbott. The old man in the band had another blacksmith shop in Abbott, but he liked me. All he had was horns and drums, and I was set up over there with my little guitar with no amps or nothing. I would play as loud as I wanted to, and nobody could hear me. He paid me $8 or $10. I had been working in the fields all day for $2, baling hay, so that was a lot of money for me. He took good care of me. He had 20 children, I think, and they were all musicians.
HARRELSON: 20 kids, and I’m guessing different wives?
NELSON: Well now, that I can’t tell you for sure.
HARRELSON: I mean, you’ve got, like, 27 children and how many wives? Is it too early for that question?
NELSON: I don’t know how people handle 20 kids. I got a few, who I love dearly, but 20? Maybe if I went around the world, I’d have 20. [both laugh]
HARRELSON: You got at least 20 out there you don’t even know about.
NELSON: Lord willing! [both laugh]
HARRELSON: But officially, you have how many?
NELSON: Officially, we have Lana, who’s standing right here by me, my oldest, and her sister, Susie, and I had a son named Billy. He passed away. And Paula and Amy, from me and Connie. And Lukas and Micah, from me and Annie. I got a bunch of good kids.
HARRELSON: That’s a goodly number though. I lost track of how many that was …
NELSON: The boys are playing in the band with me tonight. Micah’s a great drummer, and Luke plays great guitar and sings, and they’re really helping us out on this tour.
HARRELSON: So tell me about this fellow Hank Cochran. He had a major influence on your life.
Read entire article, see more photos:
by Sherri Hayes
Willie Nelson and Family played what you might call a pre-New Year’s Eve party in Lafayette, Louisiana, on December 30 before going on to Houston to appear with George Jones at the Summit on the 31st. After being at his Lafayette concert, several thousand Lousianians were ready to follow Willie to Texas to keep on partying.
Willie and Family appeared at the newly built $60 million Cajundome, which opened in November 1985. According to Cajundome box office figures, Willie drew a crowd of over 6,000 fans; but from the noise they made for him, you’d have guessed that 12,000 were there.
Many country entertainers these days come on stage only after a huge build up with lots of fanfare, drums rolling strobe lights flashing and a booming announcer’s voice. Willie doesn’t do that. Without any introduction whatsoever, he just walks out with his Family and picks up his battered old guitar. Willie doesn’t need any fancy introduction. His fans are on their feet before he ever hits the first guitar lick.
One of the most unique of Willie’s new recordings is on his “Half Nelson” album, a duet with Hank Williams, Sr. entitled “I Told a Lie to My Heart.” The recording was produced by Willie Nelson and Bill Ivey for the Country Music Foundation.
In a December 2, 1985, inerview Willie told Maria Shriver that “to find out that there was a new Hank Williams’ song that no one had heard, that had never been released and that I could possibly sing with him, was quite a thrill.”
Bill Ivey located the recording by Hank Sr. that had been cut as a demo in 1946 or 1947 direct to an acetate disc. It had been in a record collection in California for years, undiscovered, a previously unknown Hank Williams song.
Bill took Willie Nelson into the past and added Willie’s harmony vocals and lead guitar. Ivey explained, “Not like we took Hank and brought him up to the present; but as though we took Willie, put him in a time machine, sent him back to 1946 or 1947, and he was suddenly standing there in a little studio recording that simple demo performance with Hank.”
Linking the past with the present is what this recording is all about — giving life to the past through “I Told a Lie to My Heart.” The entire “Half Nelson” album is great, but this one is magnificent.
Among Willie’s other new projects is a partnership with Wrangler jeans. Future ads will focus on Willie’s “Wrangler life style.” Then there’s the “Red Headed Stranger’ movie that will be in the theaters in a few months. And, of course, there was Willie’s 1985 Farm Aid concert which raised approximately $ million. When asked if he’d do another, he said that June of ’86 is “way to far in advance for me to think”; but he didn’t rule out the possibility.
With Willie Nelson almost anything is possible. Not many other country artists could have attracted 6,000 fans to a concert the night before New Year’s Eve as Willie did.
Demonstrating their admiration for him, many people tossed Willie hats and caps for him to put on as he sang. This has been a tradition at Willie’s concerts for years. But the Lafayette group got a little rowdy. One man threw his sports coat, which hit Willie’s microphone, causing it to sway precariously. Another sent a neck tie flying. Willie caught it in mid-air and wore it too before throwing it back. By the end of the concert Willie had a stack of caps and hats at his feet.
The crowd didn’t neglect the other members of Willie’s Family, which include his sister Bobbie Nelson Fletcher on piano, Jody Payne on guitar, Bee Spears on bass, Mickey Raphael on harmonica, Paul English on drums and percussion and Grady Martin on guitar.
Immediately after the show the fans charged up to the stage hoping to get an autograph, a handshake and a chance to get closer to Willie and his Family. However, the security was tight, and only a select few got backstage with passes to see Willie. Quickly, after some handshakes, hugs, photos and autographs, he made his way out the back door toward the waiting tour buses, one of which is named “Honeysuckle Rose” after his movie.
From Lafayette, they were headed to the Summit for New year’s Eve with Geroge Jones. About 5,000 people in the Cajundome wished that they were going to Houston also.
All of Willie’s shows are consistently well planned, organized, engineered and staged. For this, much credit must go to the technical crew. I made a point of watching the men who worked the lights and sound, and I was amazed at their skill. They made everything about the concert flow with such ease.
Willie’s long time stage manager, Poodie Locke, is not only a technical genius, but also a fine fellow who wasn’t too busy to stop and chat with us for a minute. People such as Poodie who work with Willie clearly demonstrate the aspect of “Family” that shows so strongly in his stage performances.
All in all, this particular concert was a thrilling experience. You know, I think Louisiana loves Willie as much as Texas does.
Blues guitarist BB King has told fans he is receiving hospice care at his home following a short stay in hospital.
The 89-year-old has lived with type II diabetes for more than 20 years, and has had several spells in hospital in recent months.
A message on his website said: “I am in home hospice care at my residence in Las Vegas.
“Thanks to all for your well wishes and prayers.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
Known for such hits as The Thrill is Gone and Every Day I Have the Blues, he had been touring up until last year.
But he was forced to cancel the remainder of a tour last October when he fell ill during a show, and was later diagnosed with dehydration and exhaustion.
by: Andrew Roush
by: Andrew Roush
It took me a long time to get to know Willie Nelson. My first introduction to him was not as the suit-wearing Nashville upstart, nor as Shotgun Willie, the outlaw, nor as the post-legendary collaborator and wise old sage. It wasn’t even as a country musician. My introduction to the red-headed stranger was as Willie Nelson, crooner.
Growing up, my parents had a certain affinity for Stardust, the 1978 album in which Willie covered the jazz-pop standards of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. It’s a blissful record, and it remains on my desert-island list to this day. It also planted the seed of an idea that would come into full bloom as I absorbed Willie’s full catalog: Like Stardust’s star-spangled record sleeve painted by Susanna Clark, Willie contains multitudes.
It’s worth reflecting on the many faces of Willie, as today marks his 82nd birthday. We know many of them. The soft-fingered Spanish guitar picker, the thundering bandito, the friend of the family farm, the marijuana aficionado. And many know him as Willie Nelson, friend of UT.
Yes, he never went to UT. He served a brief stint at that private detention facility on the Brazos known as Baylor University. But a school which famously banned dancing until 1996 was never a good fit for an outlaw like Willie. Austin, where the Armadillo Club brought together the rednecks and the hippies, and dancing was like walking, was much more his speed.
In Austin he struck up a surprising and deep friendship with Darrell K Royal. They golfed regularly and Willie dragged the coach to concerts. Together, like Sonny and Cher and Crockett and Tubbs, they were the perfect embodiment of a special place and time. The hard-nosed football coach, full of folksy adages, and the country rebel, full of rolicking songs and, well, pot smoke. Royal appreciated talent and craft, and encouraged, in his own coach-ish way, others to do the same.
After Willie’s first show at the Armadillo Club in 1972, the duo attended a party at the Crest Hotel hosted by Edwin “Bud” Shrake and Gary Cartwright. Willie began picking his guitar, and Royal, it’s reported, nearly kicked Cartwright out of the room for talking during the performance. “Leave or listen,” Royal commanded. Cartwright chose to listen. As should we all.
When Royal died in 2012, the Alcalde asked fans and alumni to share their memories of Coach. Unsurprisingly, memories of Willie were intertwined. Geralyn Blanda Vine, BJ ’73, remembered seeing Willie perform for the first time at a honky tonk in Round Rock. Royal sat in a metal folding chair, front row center.
“He was there for the whole show and sang and laughed and drank beer with everyone else while Willie entertained,” she recalled. “It was quite a night for me.”
Last year, Willie’s friend-of-UT status was cemented when he donated a huge collection of memorabilia and papers—documents, not those papers—to UT’s Briscoe Center for American History. And UT gave the love right back, putting some of the items on semi-permanent display in the north end zone area of the stadium named after his friend.
So the next time you reflect on Willie the beer-drinking balladeer, or Willie the outlaw, or even Willie the crooner—and I hope you do—think also of Willie the Longhorn.
Happy birthday, Willie. And hook ’em.