Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Willie Nelson: “It’s a Long Story: My Life” Available in paperback, with new P.S. from Willie Nelson

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016


Willie Nelson’s book, “It’s a Long Story:  My Life”was released in paperback this month.  A year after it’s successful publication and becoming a national best seller (international, really), the book has been published in paperback.   For the paperback version, Willie wrote an update for us all:



Whether a singer of songs or a writer of books, an artist is always happy to have his work presented to the world. So I’m delighted that, a year after the publication of the hardback edition of It’s a Long Story, this paperback version is now available. To be honest, I was a little worried that my title might prove fatally prophetic — that my story would be, in fact, too long for anyone to bother with. Turned out I had nothing to worry about. Reviews were kind and readers even kinder. They put up with my long-windedness and kept my story on the bestseller lists for longer than I would have ever imagined. Thank you.

Well, I’m not going to push my luck and make this addition to the book any longer than it needs to be. I’ll just catch you up with my comings and goings this past year.

First and foremost, I’m still on this blessed bus, still “on the road again,” still loving the act of performing live — which is a lot preferable to performing dead — still grateful for every opportunity to visit with my friends and fans.

On the recording front, I’m happy to report that my last album, Django and Jimmie, a collaboration with Merle Haggard, hit number one on the country charts. Always love working with Merle. Our video, by the way, “It’s All Going to Pot,” was a YouTube sensation, generating millions of hits, pardon the pun.

Talking about pot, last spring I announced the launching of Willie’s Reserve, a cannabis brand reflecting my long-standing experience and commitment to regulated, natural, and high quality strains of marijuana in United States legal markets. I feel like I’ve bought so much, it’s time to start selling it back.

Beyond celebrating pot’s pleasures, though, I remain a staunch advocate of its vital agricultural and medical benefits. Along those lines, I’ve been encouraged to learn of parents traveling to Colorado and Oregon to legally obtain the marijuana derivative cannabidiol so that, under a doctor’s care, their children’s seizures might be effectively treated.

This past summer was the thirtieth anniversary of Farm Aid. It’s another reason why, as I move toward my eighty-third year on the planet, I’m happy to be alive and kicking. I’m also sad and pissed that, after all this time, the small farmer is still struggling.

In 1985, when this effort to help the small farmer began, we raised $7 million. Now that number has grown to $48 million. Our recent benefit concert in Chicago, in addition to including my sons Luke and Micah, featured the two great men who founded this effort with me three decades ago: Neil Young and John Mellencamp.

It’s a damn shame that the small farmer is still marginalized. On the other hand, I do think, in a small way, we’ve been able to help. Beyond the money raised, we’ve also raised the public consciousness. There’s awareness today about the challenges of farming and the benefits of buying products on a local level — especially organic food — that was missing thirty years ago. Farmers’ markets have sprouted up everywhere. People realize the downside of shipping in food from hundreds of miles away — wasting money on costly fuel — when wholesome food can be grown and bought close by.

Real progress has been made, especially when it comes to spreading information about farm products. The proliferation of social media, for instance, has generated intelligent discussion.

All forms of communication help, especially when it starts at the grass-roots level. Corporate-owned newspapers and magazines can be biased, but nowadays folks are looking beyond that. Folks are hungry for the truth. Consumers are educating themselves about where and how food is grown. And that’s a good thing.

Allow me to conclude this little P.S. on a couple of musical notes. I never like straying too far from the music. I recently recorded a tribute album to my dear friend Ray Price, one of my early mentors. Fred Foster produced. I worked with both the Time Jumpers — that supergroup of Nashville musicians that includes Vince Gill — and the fine arranger Bergen White.

I also just left the studio where I completed another new album, this one composed of Gershwin songs. Along with other geniuses like Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, the Gershwins are among America’s greatest songwriters. So when I learned that the Library of Congress was awarding me the 2015 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, I was deeply honored and decided to respond the best way I know how — musically. Interpreting Gershwin in my own peculiar way has been a big thrill and another career high point.

The award, according to the Library of Congress, “celebrates the work of an artist whose career reflects lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding.” I’m proud to stand along with previous awardees that include Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Carole King, and Billy Joel.

Enough talk about me.

One of the sweetest memories of this past year concerns one of my best friends, who left this world in 2002. I’m talking about Waylon Jennings. I helped put together an all-star tribute show to Waylon that was fi lmed and, by the time you’re reading this, should be widely distributed. Everyone showed up to sing songs associated with Waylon — Kris Kristofferson, Toby Keith, Eric Church, Kacey Musgraves, Alison Krauss, Bobby Bare, Waylon’s wife, Jessi Colter, and his son Shooter. I cherish the memory of the grand finale — all of us all singing “Luckenbach, Texas,” the song that, in Waylon’s words, “recaptures a world where everyone is welcome and love never dies.”

That’s the world — at least on this bus — that I’m living in today. For that reason, and many others, I consider myself a very fortunate man.

Hope to see you sometime soon,


From the book It’s A Long Story: My Life by Willie Nelson with David Ritz.  Copyright © 2015 by Willie Nelson. Postscript copyright © 2016 by Willie Nelson.  Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York.  All rights reserved.

Books to read about Willie Nelson, by Dave Thomas

Friday, April 29th, 2016

Dave Thomas continues his week-long celebration of Willie Nelson’s birthday and see more photos
Willie Week: Want to know the Red Headed Stranger? Read these books

By Dave  Thomas

If you’re not an anti-marijuana crusader, if you don’t have a Justin Bieber poster above your day bed, there’s a pretty fair chances you like Willie Nelson. But being a Willie Nelson superfan requires a little more education.

It’s easy to like “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” It takes commitment to know all the words to “I Never Cared for You.” It’s easy to know Willie’s guitar is named “Trigger.” It takes some research to know the name of the fellow that takes care of it on the road. It’s easy to remember Willie Nelson was born in Abbott and lives near Austin. But do you know his connection to Fort Worth? San Antonio? Bandera?

12-29-15 Willie Nelson performs during the Willie Nelson & Family New Year concert at ACL LIve at the Moody Theater. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

12-29-15 Willie Nelson performs during the Willie Nelson & Family New Year concert at ACL LIve at the Moody Theater. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Willie Nelson performs during the Willie Nelson & Family New Year concert at ACL LIve at the Moody Theater on Dec. 29, 2015. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Fortunately, the Red Headed Stranger is no more a stranger than he is red-headed these days. All you have to do is want to learn and Willie Nelson U. is in session. Here is your required reading:

“The Facts of Life And Other Dirty Jokes” and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road,” by Willie Nelson: When Willie rolled out the “Roll Me Up and …” book to go along with his 80th birthday and his “Heroes” album, everyone else got the memo: “Don’t be a critic, the man is 80 years old. Just say it’s great.” But this one jerk couldn’t be dissuaded from saying “Hey, it’s the same book he released 10 years ago! Right down to the same golf jokes!” I couldn’t help it. It was true. Pick either book for a mix of philosophical musings, history and humor, but you don’t need to read both.

“Willie Nelson Family Album” by Lana Nelson and “Willie Nelson: Heartworn Memories” by Susie Nelson:The “Family Album” is essentially a scrapbook, a trove of not-seen-elsewhere photos, some news clippings a little biographical exposition and enough song lyrics to pad out the effort to a respectable thickness. But “Heartworn Memories” is a surprisingly effective effort, written through the perspective of a daughter who saw a side of Willie even the most dedicated biographer couldn’t reach. Surprisingly frank at times, it’s the go-to source for understanding Willie’s tumultuous home life.

“It’s a Long Story: My Life” by Willie Nelson: The latest entry on this list and, for the superfan, superfluous. However, this relaxed and comfortable conversation with Willie is the perfect entry-level bio for the curious. A fast read, it covers all the bases, but doesn’t linger long on any.

“Willie Nelson: The Outlaw” by Graeme Thomson: Written by an Englishman, “The Outlaw” offers up a whole new perspective on Willie Nelson, albeit one with an odd spelling every few pages. Thomson left no stone unturned in conducting interviews, talking to heavyweights such as Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard in addition to longtime associates such as Zeke Varnon, Larry Trader and Johnny Bush. In only a few pages, the book offers perhaps the most definitive look at the most off-limits topic in the Willie universe — the suicide of his son Billy.

Willie Nelson, An Epic Life” by Joe Nick Patoski: This is the definitive biography, though, like every other book on this list, it kinda skates through everything that happened after the IRS thing was settled. Still, when I’m old and gray, I’m going sit in my South Texas barn every morning and read a little bit from the gospel of Patoski-describes-Willie-in-Austin-in-the-1970s.“Willie” by Willie Nelson with Bud Shrake: This 1988 book was the top word for a long time, if you liked your Willie recollections unsullied by tiresome and lengthy examinations of his IRS troubles (which happened in the early 1990s). The genius — and the lasting significance — of the book is that most chapters are followed by “The Chorus” … stories, explanations, memories by his friends and family. Particularly telling is the one from first wife Martha, who clarifies that she did not sew up a passed-out Willie in a bed sheet and beat him with a broom handle: “The truth is, I tied him up with the kids’ jump ropes before I beat the hell out of him.” Sewing, she says, would’ve taken much too long.

@waterloorecords #austintx #sxsw

Monday, March 14th, 2016

photo: J Micah Nelson

New Non-Fiction: Willie Nelson, “It’s a Long Story: My Life” @BoulderBookStore

Saturday, February 6th, 2016


Always fun to see Willie Nelson’s book on the shelf.  Boulder Bookstore has it front and center, so you walk by  and there he is.

Willie Nelson, “It’s a Long Story: My Life”

Saturday, December 5th, 2015


Danny Clinch photographs on sale

Saturday, November 28th, 2015


Photographer Danny Clinch is having a sale for his incredible photographs at his website, including several of Willie Nelson.  Also, his great book, “Still Moving” is also available.


This day in Willie Nelson history: “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” published (11/13/12)

Friday, November 13th, 2015

Willie Nelson’s book, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” was published on November 13, 2015.
Nashville Skyline
Chet Flippo

Willie Nelson’s new memoir is largely episodic, made up of randomMusings From the Road, as the book’s subtitle reads. In many ways, it reads like cloudy memories and sudden observations churned up during a dreamy, long, twilight reverie fueled by thick clouds of fragrant ganja smoke.

The fully-titled Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die also includes many photographs from over the years. Many of these are also dreamlike images and have never been published before.

The book itself is slim and modest, perhaps 6 by 9 inches, even in hardback, and — at only 175 pages long — is almost the size of a prayer book. I’m sort of surprised that this book wasn’t published on special rolling papers bound into a deluxe hemp folder.

It is best read episodically, a tiny bit at a time, rather than being absorbed in one rapid gulp. Small bites are good, like nibbles of popcorn during a leisurely, slow-paced movie.

By now, so many decades into his fabled life and career, Willie fans pretty much know what to expect from him. And he does not let his readers down with his Musings From the Road.

Kinky Friedman’s foreword to the book also does not disappoint. In summing up Willie’s abandonment of Nashville for Texas, he writes, “Willie told the Nashville music establishment the same words Davy Crockett had told the Tennessee political establishment: ‘Y’all can go to hell — I’m going to Texas.’”

Willie’s voice in the book is that of a gentle and knowing, but aging wise-ass. With a sense of humor. Here’s one of his jokes I can repeat here:

“A drunk fell out of a second-floor window. A guy came running up and asked, ‘What happened?’ The drunk said, ‘I don’t know. I just got here.’”

This amounts to a surprisingly succinct account of Willie’s life and career, told through his remembrances and sections told by his wife, children, other relatives, his band and many of his friends. And also many of the lyrics to his songs. It amounts to a scrapbook summary of his childhood, his adulthood, his family, his band and his life in music.

He begins with memories of a happy childhood in Abbott, Texas, where he and sister Bobbie were raised by their grandparents after their parents more or less went their own way. They grew up in an atmosphere of love, the church and music. Bobbie is still in Willie’s band and cooks for him on the bus. They return to Abbott as often as possible.

Willie recalls he began drinking and smoking at age 6. He would gather a dozen eggs, take them to the grocery store and trade them for a pack of Camel cigarettes. He preferred Camels, because he liked the picture of the camel on the pack. “After all, I was only 6. They were marketing directly to me!”

He became addicted to both cigarettes and drinking and finally kicked both habits — especially after his lungs began hurting — and traded them for a life of weed. After he was busted in Texas for weed, he formed the Teapot Party, which advocates legalization and he writes quite a bit about that in the book. He has, he writes, lost many friends and relatives to cigarettes and alcohol, but he knows of no marijuana fatalities.

He is happiest now, he writes, in his house’s hideout room on Maui, which his brother-in-law named “Django’s Orchid Lounge.” The “Orchid Lounge” part, of course, is obvious, from the Nashville beer joint where Willie got his Nashville start. “Django” is from the great gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, whom Willie feels is the greatest guitarist of all time. Ray Price, by the way, is Willie’s choice for the greatest country singer of all time.

Willie loves to sit in his Django’s Orchid Lounge and play dominoes and poker and chess with many of his Maui friends and such visitors as Ziggy Marley and Woody Harrelson while wife Annie cooks for everyone.

In addition to the photographs, Willie’s son, Micah, contributes several drawings.

Since the book is episodic, I can be, too. Here is my favorite self-description by Willie: “I have been called a troublemaker a time or two. What the hell is a troublemaker? you ask. Well, it’s someone who makes trouble; that’s what he came here to do, and that’s what he does, by God. Like it or not, love it or not, he will stir it up. Why? Because it needs stirring up! If someone doesn’t do it, it won’t get done, and you know you love to stir it up. … I know I do.”

Listen carefully to the music and the words of Willie. He is one of the few true giants to inhabit country music, and — when he and his few remaining fellow giants are gone — there’ll be no live artists remaining to remind the world of the true truth and majesty of great country music.

“It’s a Long Story, My Life”, by Willie Nelson

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

by: P. A. Geddie

It’s a Long Story: My Life
by Willie Nelson with David Ritz
Little, Brown and Company
ISBN 978-0-316-30629-4
(signed edition)

I’ve read a few Willie Nelson books through the years and certainly many, many articles. We interviewed him a few years ago for a cover feature in County Line Magazine and reviewed one of his ex-wives tell-all books on him, one in which he said he deserved everything she dished out.

I’ve read and heard many stories on Willie’s “outlaw” ways but I was not prepared for the man I got to know in this book. It’s raw. Made me blush every now and then. But overall, Willie’s big heart comes through like gang busters.

Willie says of the book, “This is the story of my life, told as clear as a Texas sky and in the same rhythm that I lived it.

“It’s a story of restlessness and the purity of the moment and living right…. It’s the story of true love, wild times, best friends, and barrooms, with a musical sound track ripping right through it.”

That’s my favorite part of the book — the way it weaves his songs through the story. It’s very interesting to learn where he was and why and how he came to write the songs like “The Party’s Over,” “On the Road Again,” and one of my favorites “I Never Cared for You.” He also talks about the times in his life when he wrote “Pretty Paper,” “Mr. Record Man,” and we find out who Paul is in “Me and Paul.”

I also enjoyed learning more about his causes and the beginning of his Fourth of July and Farm Aid concerts and learned about the Dripping Springs Reunion of 1972 that started Willie’s annual Texas gatherings, this one with Buck Owens, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, and many other traditional artists and big country stars.

It was a three-day outdoor concert and some called it country music’s answer to Woodstock. It brought together all kinds of people, young and old, country cowboys and the longhairs as Willie called those leaning towards a more hippie-type lifestyle he’d started to embrace. People from very different lifestyles bonded over the music like they do where Willie’s concerned.

“It’s a Long Story” is full of moments that stirred my own memories as I recalled going to several of his concerts and songs that hold special meanings for me as I’m sure they do for many.

His book was one of eight or so I read this summer and as I was preparing to pass them over to my almost 90-year-old mother to read, I decided to hold his book out because of Willie’s colorful language and somewhat descriptive sexual escapades that I thought my mother might find offensive. Somehow it landed in her hands anyway, and despite my warning, she decided she wanted to read it anyway. She said she’d skip over the “bad stuff.”

When she got to the pages talking about the Dripping Springs Reunion in 1972 she had to call to tell me that she had been there!


My dad was a musician and active in bands during that time and they went with a friend. I remembered they talked for years about their trip to Dripping Springs and meeting Buck Owens but never in my wildest imagination did I connect that trip to one of Willie’s parties. It’s fun for both of us to think we’re a tiny little part of Willie’s story.

Willie Nelson is one of the most authentic people on the planet and this book made me feel like he was sitting across a table from me sharing his ups and downs over a cup of coffee in a diner perhaps with his music playing on the jukebox in the background as he tells the tales. It is a long story, but it never gets old and at the end of the day, through good times and bad, it’s a life and a book well done.

Willie Nelson and Turk Pipkin donate copies of, “The Tao of Willie”

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

By Willie Nelson, with Turk Pipkin

Authors Willie Nelson and Turk Pipkin donated signed autographed of their book, “The Tao of Willie” to wounded warriors at Walter Reed Hospital last Christmas Day.



Willie Nelson: The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes
by Willie Nelson
Published by Random House in January 2002

They say writing the first line of a book is the hardest part. Thank God that’s over. Roger Miller said it must be true that the longer you live with your pet, the more you look alike. My neighbor came over this morning and chewed my ass out for shitting in his front yard. Thank you, Roger. I also have you to thank for the opening of my last book-“I didn’t come here and I ain’t leaving.”

My daughter Lana just asked me if I wanted a couple of ibuprofen. I said no, I save my pain for the show. We are in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a concert at Cains Ballroom, where Bob Wills and countless other great bands have performed in the last fifty years. The last time we were here, we had to move it to a larger place because of ticket sales, so we decided to do two days at Cains this time.

Lana, Kinky Friedman, and I are responsible for the contents of this endeavor, which is to be one-part song lyrics, one-part photographs, and ten-parts bullshit. That’s where I come in. I seem to be doing very well. I have ripped off my friend Roger twice already, bragged about how well we draw in Tulsa, and exposed my daughter Lana for offering me drugs before the show. How do you like me so far?

“You do know why you’re here?”

“Yes. There’s great confusion on earth, and the Power that is has concluded the following: Perfect man has visited earth already, and his voice was heard. The voice of imperfect man must now be made manifest, and I have been selected as the most likely candidate.”

“The time is april, therefore you, a taurus, must go. to be born under the same sign twice adds strength. this strength, combined with wisdom and love, is the key.”

Where’s the Show?/Let Me Be a Man
Explain to me again, Lord, why I’m here
I don’t know
I don’t know
The setting for the stage is still not clear
Where’s the show?
Where’s the show?
Let it begin, let it begin
I am born
Can you use me?
What would you have me do, Lord?
Shall I sing them a song?
I could tell them about you, Lord
I could sing of the loves I have known
I’ll work in their cotton and corn field
I promise I’ll do all I can
I’ll laugh and I’ll cry
I’ll live and I’ll die
Lord let me be a man
Please, Lord, let me be a man
And I’ll give it all that I can
If I’m needed in this distant land
Please, Lord, let me hold to your hand
Dear Lord, let me be a man
And I’ll give it all that I can
If I’m needed in this distant land
Please Lord, let me be a man

Lana, David Anderson, sister Bobbie, L.G., and Gates are regulars along with me on the bus, Honeysuckle Rose III. Ben Dorcy is not with us. Ben is now being preserved for trips in the near Austin area. At seventy-six-years young, he is cutting his world tours considerably. But for all the millions of Ben Dorcy fans, Ben is alive and well. Well, alive anyway. Thank you, Ben, for many years of faithful service and wisdom-“If you need a friend, buy a dog.” We’ll see you in Austin.

Cains Ballroom was good tonight. The crowd was loud, which I like. The girls were pretty, which I like, and the guys were friendly. I forgot the words to “Crazy” and that’s a first. Sammi Smith came by and sang “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” Her son, Waylon, and Waylon’s dad, Jody Payne, joined in on “Hey, Good Lookin’ ” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” Sammi’s still singing like an angel.

On the Road Again
On the road again
I just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
I can’t wait to get on the road again
On the road again
Like a band of gypsies
We go down the highway
We’re the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turnin’ our way
And our way
Is on the road again
I just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again

I wrote this song on an airplane with Sydney Pollack and Jerry Shatzberg. We were talking about needing a song for the movie Honeysuckle Rose. Sydney was the producer and Jerry was the director. So I said, “What do you want the song to say?”

Sydney says, “Something about being on the road.”

“You mean something like, ‘On the road again, on the road again, I just can’t wait to be on the road again? The life I love is making music with my friends, I can’t wait to be on the road again?’ ” I said the words kinda bland I guess, maybe without any feeling or emotion.

Sydney and Jerry kinda stared at each other, and Sydney said, “But what about a melody?” I said, “I’ll come up with one before we get to the studio.”

At the time they were not that knocked out with the song. Of course they couldn’t hear the whole song like I could. They were very gentlemanly about the whole thing, not wanting to hurt my feelings and trying to act like they weren’t worried.

I think the more I talk about my hometown, Abbott, Texas, the better. Not only is it the only hometown I have, it is by far the most educational spot on the planet. I honestly believe I learned more in my first six years in Abbott than I’ve learned since. Smoking, drinking, and cussing are definitely three subjects in which I excelled.

Miss Brissler, our next-door neighbor, and my grandmother, Mama Nelson (who raised me and sister Bobbie from the time I was six months old), had already told us that if we drank beer, smoked cigarettes, and cussed, we were hell bound. At six years old I was well on my way. However, the first songs I remember singing were gospel songs. “Amazing Grace” was the first song I learned.

My first public appearance was in Brooken, Texas. We were at the annual Brooken Homecoming, with all-day singing and dinner on the ground. I was five years old. My poem was given to me by Mama Nelson to recite at the singing and performing part of “singing and dinner on the ground.” I guess I was nervous, because I started picking my nose until it started bleeding all over my little white sailor suit, trimmed in red. I did my poem . . .

What are you looking at me for?
I ain’t got nothing to say.
If you don’t like the looks of me
You can look the other way!
I have never had stage fright since.

There was always music in our home. My grandparents, Alfred and Nancy Nelson, were both musicians. They took music courses through the mail from the Chicago Music Institute. I could hear them at night practicing their music lessons. My grandfather, Daddy Nelson, was a voice teacher at one time, and they both knew a lot about music. We lived in a little house on the edge of Abbott, and I could hear every note they sang. I could also see the stars through the holes in the roof of that house. It was all very beautiful!

Soon after that time, I was given my first guitar. Up until then I had only written a few poems. Now I was able to learn to play guitar and write songs. It was a Sears and Roebuck Stella guitar. The strings were very high off the neck, so my fingers bled a lot. But they eventually got tough. Kinda like life . . . (more…)

Watching Willie Nelson’s Back

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

by:  Joe Nicki Patoski

Paul English was talking about breaking someone’s legs, cheerily using the threat as a means to get to the punch line of a story. The four men listening to him in the back of the touring bus hung on every word—because it was Paul, because it was very difficult deciphering his nasal mumble filtered through a twang, and because whatever he said was likely to be true.

“I told Lana we could do something,” Paul was saying. “We could break his legs. We have to do something to him. We cain’t go and leave him walking. We’d of done that to him. That’s nothing.”

He was discussing the shoot-out at Ridgetop back in 1970, just outside of Nashville, when Willie Nelson and Paul English defended a house full of family against Willie’s daughter’s husband and his gun-toting brothers, one of many larger-than-life incidents that have been burnished into legend over the course of the career of Paul English’s boss and best friend, Willie Nelson. In this particular story, Willie’s daughter Lana’s  husband, Steve, had hit her, prompting Willie to go over to their house and slap Steve, pissing off Steve so much that he and his brothers drove over to Willie’s house and started shooting. The altercation ended with Paul firing .380-grain bullets from his M1 rifle into the bumper of Steve’s car to “get him to go on, goodbye.”

When Steve returned to apologize the next day, Paul told him he was glad he had kept driving away. “Otherwise, I would’ve had to aim to kill, rather than shoot to miss,” Paul said in a low growl that suggested a ruthless predatory killer, followed by a sharp cackle. Everyone hearing the story laughed. But Paul wasn’t kidding.

For almost fifty years, Paul English has spent his nights literally watching Willie Nelson’s back, as his drummer. The rest of the time he has functioned as Willie’s more figurative back—a job that runs 24/7.

From the drummer’s chair, English sees everything, just like the catcher on a baseball team. His oversight goes far beyond maintaining the odd, minimalist beats that guide Willie’s music. For him, the drummer’s chair is the perfect perspective for running the most storied touring organization in country music. More important than being Willie’s drummer, or his best friend, is Paul English’s combined role as the road boss of Willie’s traveling company, tour accountant, protector, collector, and enforcer, roles embellished by his proud past as a hoodlum, pimp, and police character. For all the good vibes that the Red Headed Stranger imparts at his Fourth of July picnics, Farm-Aids, and wherever he plays “On the Road Again,” there’s an understanding shared by one and all in this band of gypsies: Mess with Willie Nelson and the next thing you’ll see is the wrong end of a gun held by the Devil himself, Robert Paul English.

Say what you want about economics, ethics, efficiencies, legalities, and proper ways of conducting commerce in the world of entertainment. Anyone who’s survived six decades in the music business understands the value of having a police character in your organization. As Willie explained to an associate who’d wondered why he kept an asshole like Paul on the payroll, especially when he couldn’t keep time as a drummer: “He’s saved my life.” More than once. Besides, as the singer Delbert McClinton has observed, “Everyone in this business needs an asshole.”

That sort of explains why the asshole drummer who can’t keep time was once the highest-paid sideman in the business, getting 20 percent of all of Willie’s action as well as a fat salary for drumming and for doing the books, which he has done since he signed on in 1966.

Those songs, such as “Nightlife” and “Family Bible,” that Willie famously sold for fifty bucks a pop, giving up his publishing rights? Paul got them back.

No telling what his method of persuasion might have been, but with Paul there is always, always—to this very day—the veiled threat of violence bubbling under the surface. Often as not, the perception is tied to Paul’s fondness for guns, at least one of which is always somewhere on his person.

Largely thanks to Paul, Nelson was able to survive on the rough and rowdy honky-tonk circuit traveled by Nashville recording artists in the 1960s. He was also instrumental in running the road part of the business when Willie ascended to one-name superstar status in the 1970s and 1980s.

At eighty-two, a year older than Willie and four years off a minor stroke, Paul has slowed down considerably. But in the musical subgenre known as outlaw music, where country and rock have mixed it up ever since Waylon and Willie and the boys stepped forward, Paul English is that rare bird who really is an outlaw, a hoodlum-made-good as sideman, sporting so much character for a character that his boss wrote not one but two songs about him: the autobiographical “Me and Paul” and “Devil In A Sleeping Bag,” complementing Leon Russell’s tribute, “You Look Like the Devil.”

As his son Paul Jr. observed, “If you’re writing songs about shooting people, it’s nice to have a guy who’s shot people up there onstage with you.”

The high cheekbones, long sideburns, thin beard and goatee, the widow’s peak and slicked-back hair framed by designer glasses (whose tinted lens mask a glass eye) all telegraph Beelzebub, despite his age. Although he no longer wears the black satin cape with red lining that was once his trademark on stage, and he doesn’t appear to carry his “bidness” in his sock anymore, darkness shrouds Paul’s lanky frame—black shirt, black slacks, black hat, and black boots. It’s his favorite color, he’ll tell you.

Paul English at Willie Nelson’s Atlantic Session. © Estate of David GOf all the characters in the merry-prankster rolling revue known as Willie Nelson and Family, no one—not even Willie—casts a shadow like Paul, Willie’s shadow for life. He first drummed for Willie on the fly in 1955, on Willie’s radio show on KCNC in Fort Worth, and he drums for Willie today, assisted for the past thirty years by his younger brother Billy, who also plays percussion.

Inside the Family, Paul is the ultimate authority. He’s the Judge. It’s the same role he played back in Fort Worth in the 1950s and early 1960s when the Dixie Mafia ruled the underworld. If two hoodlums had a beef that they couldn’t take to the police, they’d go to Paul. No matter what he decided, his word was accepted as law, because Paul English had the reputation among characters as a man who was even-handed, judicious, and demanded respect.

“I was a good street hustler because I treated it as a business,” he explained. (more…)

Willie Nelson: “It’s a Long Story: My Life”

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

by: Blair Jackson

aving devoured Joe Nick Patoski’s entertaining and tremendously detailed biography, Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, a few years ago, I wondered what Willie’s own autobiography (actually his second; the first came out in 2000) could add to my understanding of this wonderfully idiosyncratic artist. The answer is: plenty!

Reading It’s a Long Story: My Life feels a little like sitting at a neighborhood bar (or, perhaps more apropos, sharing a joint) and listening to Willie spin tales. It’s casual and conversational, irreverent and self-effacing, but also soulful and deep in places. It is also relentlessly upbeat and nice to just about everyone who gets mentioned in its brisk 375 pages. He has nothing but good things to say about his various wives (the breakups were usually his fault, he admits), his children (all of whom he adores), and every musician who’s ever played with him or influenced him. He paints himself as an iconoclastic screw-up who somehow managed to persevere and eventually thrive, even though he never quite fit in with the mainstream—all true.

You learn about the magic he heard in Django Reinhardt and Lefty Frizzell and Frank Sinatra, and the importance of his piano-playing sister Bobbie on his development and musical stability. His old pal Waylon Jennings helped him escape the clutches of a Nashville establishment that wanted to change him and tame him. (Producer Chet Atkins was one of many who did not “get” what was special about Nelson.) Moving back to his home state of Texas ultimately saved him and his career (his later IRS woes also get a lot of ink).

One thing this book does really well is describe how the details of his life affected his songwriting every step of the way. He goes almost line by line through songs such as “The Night Life,” “Crazy,” “Bloody Mary Morning,” and “The Party’s Over,” drawing parallels with his mindset at the time he wrote them. He also discusses how and why various songs he covered by other writers through the years resonated with him so strongly. His description of the more than two dozen diverse albums he recorded in the past decade alone speaks of his restless artistic nature and also his current relevance.

And then there’s his now-legendary beat-up old Martin classical guitar, which he nicknamed Trigger “thinking of the closeness between Roy Rogers and his beloved horse,” he writes. When Nelson’s spread near Nashville went up in flames in December 1970, “I managed to make it to my bedroom where, dancing between the flames, I grabbed two guitar cases. One contained Trigger and the other two pounds of primo Colombian pot.”

He writes plenty about weed, of course, but in the end not as much as he does about his abiding faith in Jesus. This is one complex fellow, filled with multiple conflicting impulses. And this book lays them out unflinchingly for all the world to see.

It’s a great read.

– See more at:

Willie Nelson reviews his own book, “It’s a Long Story: My Life”

Sunday, September 13th, 2015


“It’s too long,” — Willie Nelson

When KSAT 12 News reporter Paul Venema asked Willie Nelson what he thought about his new autobiography, Willie said it was ‘too long’.  I don’t disagree with him often, but he got it wrong this time.   We fans can never get enough and love to read about Willie Nelson, his family, his band, his crew, all his good works, his music, his songs, his stories, his adventures.    I’m looking forward to his next autobiography.

“It’s a Long Story: My Life” — Willie Nelson

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

by:  Paul Venema

BRIARCLIFF, Texas – Sitting on his ranch in part of what was once the set for the 1980’s movie “The Redheaded Stranger,” country music legend Willie Nelson discussed his latest venture into the literary world, a book titled “It’s a Long Story – My Life.”

“It’s a story of true love, wild times, best friends and barrooms,” Nelson wrote in the liner notes of the book that was released earlier this year.

Writing and singing songs that tell of love, hurt, happiness and just about everything in between have always been his strengths. The book, which he co-wrote with David Ritz, tells stories with those elements that make up the 82-year-old entertainer’s life.

“I’m not ashamed of anything back there,” Nelson said in an interview with KSAT 12 News reporter Paul Venema.

The book takes readers through Nelson’s youth in the small Texas town of Abbott to his friendships with world leaders and giants in the entertainment industry. Nelson openly shares his ups downs, his successes and failures — from broken marriages, skirmishes with the law, his IRS troubles, to his rise to the top of the country music world.

Modest and unassuming, Nelson joked about the book’s length of nearly 400 pages.

“It’s too long,” he said. “Don’t read it all. Just a few chapters, then put it down.”

Critics like Vanity Fair disagree with Nelson, calling him a “legend … one of those rare American icons that you’re not allowed to dislike.”

The book debuted at No. 5 on the New York Times best-seller list.

See the video here:

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015