Archive for the ‘Crew’ Category

Willie Nelson and Family (photos by Neil Leifer)

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Willie Nelson and Family

Portrait of Willie Nelson and Family during photo shoot at the Golden Nugget Hotel.
Las Vegas, Nevada 8/1978
(Image # 1151 )

Willie Nelson

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Tunin’ Tom, tuning Neil Young’s piano at Farm Aid 2015 (Chicago)

Monday, September 21st, 2015


Tunin’ Tom, a/k/a  Thomas Hawkins, has been tuning Bobbie Nelson’s piano for years, and here he is tuning Neil Young’s piano before the Farm Aid concert in Chicago on 9/19/15.

Thanks to Kevin Smith, Willie Nelson’s bass player, for sharing this photo of his fellow Willie Nelson & Family Member, Tunin Tom.

“So that 5,000 people can listen to Willie, and it sounds like he’s playing on their front porch,” — Bobby Lemons

Saturday, September 5th, 2015


“One night an old man walked up behind me and looked at my mixing station,” begins Lemons. “He asked, ‘Why do you need all this stuff for Willie Nelson?’ I told him, ‘So that 5,000 people can listen to Willie, and it sounds like he’s playing on their front porch.’ He just nodded and walked away.”
by:  Frank Hammel

AUSTIN, Texas — Bobby Lemons, FOH engineer for Willie Nelson, credits PreSonus’ ADL 700 for help him bring the music to Nelson’s fans.

More details from PreSonus (

If you’re a live-sound engineer who can handle the lifestyle, you might wish you had Bobby Lemons’ gig handling front-of-house for Willie Nelson. Nelson and his Family Band tour almost constantly, and Lemons loves it. But as hard as he works, he says he is doing his job right if you don’t realize he’s there. Indeed, that’s the biggest reason Lemons uses the PreSonus ADL 700 tube channel strip.

“One night an old man walked up behind me and looked at my mixing station,” begins Lemons. “He asked, ‘Why do you need all this stuff for Willie Nelson?’ I told him, ‘So that 5,000 people can listen to Willie, and it sounds like he’s playing on their front porch.’ He just nodded and walked away. That’s when I realized that I’m trying to be invisible. The same with the equipment, and that’s where the ADL 700 comes in. It’s like a rhythm guitar: You don’t notice it’s there until you take it out—but then you notice.”

Lemons got his start as a banjo player in a bluegrass band. He owned the PA and quickly figured out he could make more money renting out the system when the band wasn’t working than he made as a player. “It was easily as much fun mixing the shows,” he muses. “I grew up with electronics; I was one of those kids who wanted a soldering iron for my tenth birthday, not a baseball glove. So after college, I got more PA gear and started mixing around Austin, and I got to know everybody. I did a show with Willie Nelson and Guy Clark before they were big, and I eventually hooked up with B.W. Stevenson, who was a hell of a singer.”

Later, Lemons became tour manager and front-of-house engineer for Jerry Jeff Walker. “We were the opening act for a lot of artists, and we all toured together, so everyone in Austin knew me,” recalls Lemons. “Willie had some dates, and his regular engineer was out doing the Commodores, so they called me. I lived right down the road. We went out for 3 days, and that turned into 12 days; then Willie asked, ‘Can we keep this guy?’ I’ve been with him ever since.”

Lemons could use any processing he wants on Nelson’s voice, and he has tried other solutions, but now he sticks with the ADL 700. “Willie has an incredible voice, with amazing control,” Lemons observes. “It’s a little bit peaky, and he wanders a bit with it, and I was looking for something that was unobtrusive—something transparent—but that also gave me choices. The ADL 700 turned out to be a great solution, and it still is.”

Nelson trusts Lemons to make the decisions about the mix, mic selection, and vocal processing. “Once you get a feel for what he wants, then he trusts you to do it,” Lemons explains. “Trust is the whole game. If you don’t have the confidence of the artist, no matter how technically good you are, it won’t work.” Part of that trust comes from Lemons’ deep respect for Nelson’s ears and preferences. “Willie listens to a lot of show recordings, and anytime I come up with something different, I’ll sit with him, and we’ll listen to recordings together. When I started using the ADL 700, he heard a difference, and he liked what he heard.”

The ADL 700’s FET compressor is a particular favorite. “I’m using more compression than it sounds like,” Lemons reveals. “I’ll put 7 or 8 dB of compression on Willie’s voice. With a lot of compressors, that would not be musical, but the ADL 700 compressor is still transparent. Any compressor can do a couple of dB without being noticeable but if you can get 5 or 7 dB without it being noticeable, then it’s great.”

Although Lemons would rather not use EQ, he generally does use the ADL 700’s semi-parametric EQ on Nelson’s voice. “As much as I like the big console, I prefer to keep the input strip on Willie’s mic neutral and use the EQ on the ADL 700,” he explains. “With the ADL 700, I can reach over and turn the knob just an eighth of a turn, and I notice a big difference.” He also takes advantage of the ability to swap the order of the compressor and EQ. “The ADL compression is so smooth, I generally use it ahead of the EQ,” he says, “but sometimes I use the EQ first. It depends on how much EQ I’m using.”

Lemons repeatedly emphasizes that his job, and that of his gear, is to be invisible. “If Willie is tired or doesn’t feel well, the ADL’s input gain can help a bit, but I make no music here,” he insists. “If the band is on top of it, I can hardly screw it up, and if it’s not happening onstage, there’s nothing I can do to make it happen. I’m a delivery system, and I try to make the sound as clean as possible; I don’t even use reverb. If nobody notices that I’m here, so the focus stays on Willie, then I’ve won. The ADL 700 fits that philosophy perfectly.”

For more information about the PreSonus ADL 700, please visit

Hear Willie Nelson and the ADL 700 in person. For tour dates, visit


Three wild and crazy guys: Willie Nelson’s Band and Crew

Monday, August 24th, 2015


Thanks to Budrock “The Illuminator” Prewitt for sending along this photo of him and bassist Kevin Smith and Sound Engineer Bobby Flaco Lemon.  They work so hard, and still have time to have fun and take a goofy picture!

David Anderson at Willie Nelson’s Picnic

Friday, July 17th, 2015


David Anderson, long time tour manager and Willie Nelson & Family member, has been off the road for some personal time, and everyone was happy to see him on the 4th of July in Austin. Ray Wiley Hubbard greated David with a big smile and a big hug.

Welcome Alex Blagg

Saturday, June 20th, 2015


“Introducing Alex Blagg. What started out as a temporary Lighting Directory job during Budrock’s injury absence and recovery has turned into a permanent position as Stage Manager. Welcome Alex. Thanks for your help and Attention”

“Greetings from Missoula”

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015



Thanks, Budrock, for the postcard shot from the show in Missoula, Montana.

Willie Nelson and Family are back on the road again.

Happy Birthday, Aaron Foye

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014


Best wishes to Aaron, monitor engineer for Willie Nelson & Family. Many happy returns of the day.


Pretty Cool, huh?

Thursday, August 14th, 2014



Margie, wife of Bobby, Willie Nelson’s sound engineer, shares the excitement of the Willie Nelson Rolling Stone cover.

Thanks, Margie, for sharing your love letters from the road, and the sound board.

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.







Ben Dorsey, at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic

Monday, July 7th, 2014

hotos:  Janis Tillerson

Lovey enjoyed the music from the side of the stage.


Thursday, July 3rd, 2014


Janis and I walked around the Stock Yards tonight, and watched the lights being hoisted above the Picnic Stage. Getting ready for the show tomorrow!

Next Stop: Forth Worth, Willie Nelson’s 4th of July PIcnic

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014


“Copper the dog just took Dad to work for the first time today. Next stop Ft Worth Stockyards, Willie’s Annual Fourth of July Picnic. With Jimmy the driver , Budrock the (injured) Great Illuminator, Aaron Foye must have been fastening his seat belt because I didn’t see him or Kenny.” — Margie Lemons

We’re sure all going to miss seeing Buddy and Margie in Fort Worth.


“Band of brothers, and sisters, and whatever” — Willie Nelson

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

The title track from Willie Nelson’s new ‘Band of Brothers’ album could be a theme song for his motley group of players and friends. The singer has released a video for the song that showcases the crew having fun backstage and off stage. During this ToC video premiere, fans get a look at a more relaxed — almost silly — country music legend.

Much of the ‘Band of Brothers’ video is focused on a high-stakes game of dominoes that involves family, friends and actor Woody Harrelson. A few dollars get tossed around during the contest, and creative stop-motion camera work shows the game’s pieces turning into various characters, like a peace sign.

“We’re a band of brothers and sisters and whatever / On a mission to break all the rules / And I know you love me cause I love you too / But you can’t tell me what to do,” Nelson sings during the ‘Band of Brothers’ chorus. Poker and chess are also played, and one woman takes to skateboarding.

The new album — released on June 17 — features nine new songs co-written by Nelson. In total there are 14 tracks, including a cover of Vince Gill‘s ‘Whenever You Come Around’ and Billy Joe Shaver’s ‘The Git Go,’ a collaboration with Jamey Johnson. The album comes after the success of ‘To All the Girls,’ Nelson’s first Top 10 album in 30 years. The 80-year-old continues to tour and shows no signs of bringing his studio work to an end.

Read More: Willie Nelson’s ‘Band of Brothers’ Video Goes Backstage |

Willie Nelson’s Crew: Tunin’ Tom

Saturday, May 17th, 2014


I love when Budrock sends pictures of the crew, hard at work setting up for a Willie Nelson and Family Show that night.  These are the guys that make it all happen, so that Willie Nelson and his band can come out and perform for us fans.  This is Tunin’ Tom, a/k/a Tom Hawkins.  He must have an amazing ear to do that job for so long, so well.

Here’s an article from 2003 about Willie and Trigger, and Tom:

After 34 years, Willie Nelson and his strings are deeply attached

Los Angeles Times

HOUSTON — There are some things you just don’t do in Texas. You don’t ask ranchers how many head of cattle they have. You don’t try on another man’s hat. And whatever you do, you don’t step on Willie Nelson’s guitar.

At a honky-tonk show back in 1969, in a bustling country town, a reveler with a full tank of whiskey in him did just that.

Nelson rushed the crippled instrument to Shot Jackson, a friend in Nashville who could fix anything. “I can’t fix it,” Jackson told him. “But I’ve got another one here I can give you.”

“Is it any good?” Nelson asked.

The rest, as they say in Texas, is the Willie way.

Nelson has been performing for six decades. He has appeared on more than 200 albums and written more than 2,000 songs. The truth, though, or so Nelson has always claimed, is that he’s only really good at one thing: dumb luck.

So it was that a solitary, drunken misstep at a forgotten dance hall led to an extraordinary relationship. Willie Nelson, a practical man, became enchanted with a guitar, named it “Trigger” and, 34 years later, hasn’t put it down.

As the man known as the redheaded stranger goes gray and music aficionados celebrate his 70th birthday this year, it’s clear that this is no solo act, but a lovely duet entering its golden years.

“Even before I plugged it in the first time, just by strumming it, I knew I had something special,” Nelson said last week aboard his customized bus, the Honeysuckle Rose III. “I got a good one.

“They say it about Stradivarius violins and wine, that they get better and better each year,” he said. “That’s what you’re supposed to do, I guess. Some things just get better with age.”

Shortly after making Trigger’s acquaintance, Nelson made a pledge: The day the guitar gave out, he told friends, he would quit performing forever. Nelson chuckled when reminded of that vow. “That was pretty safe at the time,” he said. The guitar was fresh and new and Nelson, well, was not. He was touring hard and living harder.

Today, the pistol-packing Pied Piper of Outlaw Music has become Citizen Willie. He plays at least 200 dates a year, jogs, jumps rope, drinks soy-milk lattes and seems surprised that anyone is surprised that he made it to 70.

The guitar, meanwhile, looks like a disaster.

Trigger’s portage and care are entrusted to a man named “Tunin” Tom Hawkins. He was hired in 1979 during the filming of “Honeysuckle Rose,” in which Nelson essentially played himself in a movie about a musician torn between his family and life on the road.

Hawkins’ job was to tune the piano of Bobbie Nelson, whom Willie Nelson still plays with each night, habitually calling her “Little Sister Bobbie,” though she is his older sister, now 72 years old. Hawkins’ story seems to be the same as everyone else’s in Nelson’s entourage: “I just never went away,” he said with a shrug.

More than 100 musicians and friends, from Johnny Cash to Leon Russell, have signed and etched their names into Trigger’s amber face. The late Roger Miller is the John Hancock of the bunch; his scrawled signature dominates the lower third of the guitar. Nelson’s fourth wife, Annie, has her name on one corner.

“Here’s a little damage that appears to have been rectified with a half-inch bolt and some Superglue,” Hawkins said with a laugh, pointing to a section on the underside of the guitar. “It’s taken some abuse, just like the rest of us.”

Beyond its iconic status, Nelson believes the guitar has played an important role in the development of popular music.

Nelson’s career was gaining momentum — he had already written “Crazy,” a song Patsy Cline would make famous — but had not achieved a breakthrough. It happened shortly after he bought Trigger, when he left Nashville, moved back home to Texas and released a series of albums, “Shotgun Willie,” “Phases and Stages” and “Red Headed Stranger.”

The recordings featured Nelson’s spare and haunting picking of Trigger’s gut strings, and shook up what was then a conservative, production-heavy country-music establishment. The albums were hits and made Nelson a crossover star, popular on the pop charts as well as the country charts.

By 1973 or so, Nelson began to notice his audience was becoming a strange blend of American culture — straight-and-narrow rednecks and counterculture hippies, folks who wouldn’t normally be caught dead together, were attending his shows in equal number.

A new world of “Redneck Hip” had been ushered in, and Nelson was branded the first “Cosmic Cowboy.” He dumped his Nashville suits and short hair for braids and jeans and developed an inimitable and influential style that blended country, pop, jazz, gospel and blues. That evolution continues today, as creative and experimental musicians such as Beck and Ryan Adams fold traditional folk and country themes into popular rock songs.

“If you steal from enough people, somehow you wind up doing your own thing,” Nelson said. “Music changed. It had to. And the sound of this guitar had a lot to do with that.”

Said Hawkins: “At this point, they play together. They know each other, and it’s hard to imagine one without the other. There’s only one Trigger. And there’s only one Willie. And we’ve got to take care of them both. I think it can last forever.”