Archive for the ‘This Day in Willie Nelson History’ Category

This Day in Willie Nelson history: Grand Ole’ Opry Debut

Monday, November 28th, 2016

On November 28, 1964, Willie Nelson made his Grand Ole Opry debut, as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Grand Ole Opry

The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly Saturday night country music radio program broadcast live on WSM radio in Nashville, Tennessee. It is the oldest continuous radio program in the United States, having been broadcast on WSM since November 28, 1925. It is also televised and promotes live performances both in Nashville and on the road.

History

The Grand Ole Opry started out as the WSM Barn Dance in the new fifth floor radio station studio of the National Life & Accident Insurance Company. The featured performer on the first show was Uncle Jimmy Thompson, a fiddler who was then 77 years old. The announcer was program director George D. Hay, known on the air as “The Solemn Old Judge.” He was only 30 at the time and was not a judge, but was an enterprising pioneer who launched the Barn Dance as a spin-off of his National Barn Dance program at WLS Radio in Chicago, Illinois. Some of the bands regularly featured on the show during its early days included the Possum Hunters, the Fruit Jar Drinkers, the Crook Brothers and the Gully Jumpers. They arrived in this order. However, Judge Hay liked the Fruit Jar Drinkers and asked them to appear last on each show because he wanted to always close each segment with “red hot fiddle playing.” They were the second band accepted on the “Barn Dance.” And, when the Opry began having square dancers on the show, the Fruit Jar Drinkers always played for them.

In 1926, Uncle Dave Macon, a Tennessee banjo player who had recorded several songs and toured the vaudeville circuit, became its first real star. The name Grand Ole Opry came about in December, 1927. The Barn Dance followed NBC Radio Network’s Music Appreciation Hour, which consisted of classical music and selections from grand opera. Their final piece that night featured a musical interpretation of an onrushing railroad locomotive. In response to this Judge Hay quipped, “Friends, the program which just came to a close was devoted to the classics. Doctor Damrosch told us that there is no place in the classics for realism. However, from here on out for the next three hours, we will present nothing but realism. It will be down to earth for the ‘earthy’.” He then introduced the man he dubbed the Harmonica Wizard — DeFord Bailey who played his classic train song “The Pan American Blues”. After Bailey’s performance Hay commented, “For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera. From now on we will present the ‘Grand Ole Opry.’” The name stuck and has been used for the program since then.

As audiences to the live show increased, National Life & Accident Insurance’s radio venue became too small to accommodate the hordes of fans. They built a larger studio, but it was still not large enough. The Opry then moved into then-suburban Hillsboro Theatre (now the Belcourt), then to the Dixie Tabernacle in East Nashville and then to the War Memorial Auditorium, a downtown venue adjacent to the State Capitol. A twenty-five cent admission began to be charged, in part an effort to curb the large crowds, but to no avail. In 1943, the Opry moved to the Ryman Auditorium.

On October 2, 1954, a teenage Elvis Presley made his first (and only) performance there. Although the public reacted politely to his revolutionary brand of rockabilly music, after the show he was told by one of the organizers that he ought to return to Memphis to resume his truck-driving career, prompting him to swear never to return. Ironically, years later Garth Brooks commented in a television interview that one of the greatest thrills of playing the Opry was that he got to play on the same stage Elvis had.

The Ryman was home to the Opry until 1974, when the show moved to the 4,400-seat Grand Ole Opry House, located several miles to the east of downtown Nashville on a former farm in the Pennington Bend of the Cumberland River. An adjacent theme park, called Opryland USA, preceded the new Opry House by two years. Due to sagging attendance, the park was shuttered and demolished after the 1997 season by the Opry’s current owner, Gaylord Entertainment Company. The theme park was replaced by the Opry Mills Mall. An adjacent hotel, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, is the largest non-gambling hotel in North America and is the site of dozens of conventions annually.

Still, the Opry continues, with hundreds of thousands of fans traveling from around the world to Nashville to see the music and comedy on the Opry in person.

Willie & The Wheel

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

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

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

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

www.cmt.com
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.

This day in Willie Nelson history: “Blue Eyes Crying on the Rain” #1 on Billboard Country Chart (Oct. 4, 1975)

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

On October 4, 2013, Willie Nelson’s recording of ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain’ was declared number one on the Billboard Country Music Chart.

Willie recorded this Fred Rose song on February 9, 1975,  as part of his “Red Headed Stranger” album, at Autumn Sound in Garland Texas.  The song was included in his “Red Headed Stranger” album.

This day in Willie Nelson History: “If You’ve Got the Money; I’ve Got the Time” #1 (9/20/1976)

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

On this day in 1976, Willie Nelson’s “If You’ve Got The Money I’ve Got The Time” was the #1 song in the land.

The Lefty Frizzell cover was off of Nelson’s second Columbia Records album, The Sound in Your Mind.

This day in Willie Nelson History: Farm Aid 1999 (Bristow, Virginia) (9/12/1999)

Monday, September 12th, 2016

September 12, 1999
Bristow, Virginia Farm

In 1999, Farm Aid ventured into the Washington D.C. area for the first time. The concert energized farmers and advocates and became a rallying point for a flurry of events. Hundreds of farmers came to Washington bearing an urgent message for legislators: “Act now to stop the destruction of family farms!”

Their primary target was the “Freedom to Farm” bill that had been in place since 1996. This bill had resulted in record profits for multinational grain traders and big food manufacturing companies while leaving family farmers bankrupt. The Farm Aid events inspired farmers to keep on fighting for fair prices and educated the public about important farm issues.

The concert aired live on CMT: Country Music Television for the second time. The stellar lineup included Susan Tedeschi, Keb’Mo’, Deana Carter, the Barenaked Ladies, Dave Matthews Band, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and others. The music was so good that it went on for an extra half hour!

This day in Willie Nelson history: Patsy Cline records Willie Nelson’s, “Crazy”

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

On August 21, 1961, Patsy Cline records Crazy at the Bradley Film & Recording Studio in Nashville

This day in Willie Nelson history: “Beer for my Horses” wins Video of Year Award (5/26/2004)

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

On May 26, 2004, music video to Toby Keith and Willie Nelson song, ‘Beer For My Horses’ wins best video award at CBS’ 39th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay.

Country Weekly
October 14, 2003
by Chris Neal

Like a lot of great country music tales, this one begins with whiskey. Willie Nelson and Toby Keith were on Willie’s bus, passing the bottle back and forth — to be precise, a bottle of Willie’s own signature brand, Old Whiskey River. They were having fun, but Toby had a serious question for his hero.

“I’ve got a project I’d love to talk to you about,” he offered. “It’s singing the second verse on a song that I think fits you like a glove.”

“What’s the name of it?” asked Willie. “Whiskey for My Men; Beer for My Horses,” replied Toby.

“Hell, let’s go cut it!” Willie exclaimed with a laugh. “It’d be hard to have a bad song with a title that good.”

Many months later, Willie’s judgment turned out to be right on. “Beer for My Horses” shot to No. 1 and stayed there for six weeks.

“Johnny Cash said one time that all that’s wrong with any of us can be cured with a No. 1 song,” said Willie. “And I think he was about right. I’m almost cured of everything.”

The ride actually began many years ago, way back in mid-Sept. 1976. Toby, then 15, made his way backstage when Willie was appearing in concert at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., as part of an “Outlaws” tour with Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser.

At the time, Toby already idolized Willie, who was then riding high with the No. 1 Waylon duet “Good Hearted Woman” – a song Toby himself would sing with Willie months after Waylon’s death in 2002.

Toby still remembers meeting Willie that night, 27 years ago. “He was his usual polite self,” he smiles. “Willie is a real sweetheart. He takes care of everybody and wants everybody to have a piece of him.”

By the time they met again in the ‘90’s, Toby had followed in Willie’s footsteps to become a star himself. It happened that Toby’s guitarist, Joey Floyd, had played the part of Willie’s son in the 1980 movie Honeysuckle Rose, and still kept in touch. Joey made the introductions — and Toby and Willie’s friendship was off and running.

“I’d already heard his music before I met him,” recalls Willie. “I think he’s a great talent. He’s one of those guys coming along — well, I don’t know how young he is. Younger than me for damn sure.” (Toby is 42.)

“Probably the thing that ties us together most is the music,” says Toby. “But he’s got a great sense of humor, and so do I. We call each other all the time and tell our latest jokes, and we really have a good time when we’re hanging out.”

Perhaps the most notorious occasion the two spent “hanging out” was during this year’s ACM Awards. Tongues wagged after Toby was named entertainer of the Year at the evening’s end, but wasn’t around to accept it because he’d already left.

Where was he?

“I was up in my room, at the same hotel where the show was going on,” explains Willie. “I was watching it on TV. Next thing you know, there’s a knock on my door and there’s Toby. He said, “Hell, I ain’t gonna win.” I said, ‘OK, come in here and we’ll write a song or something.” So we got the whiskey bottle going around — again — and we were having some fun.”

“You can tell when it’s your night,” explains Toby, “And it didn’t feel like it was my night.”

So Toby figured that spending time with his friend and idol sounded better than waiting around to not win an award.

“That’s important to me, getting a chance to enjoy some of the stuff I grew up wanting to do,” he says. “But I did feel real bad when they said my name and “Entertainer of the Year.”

There’s always the upcoming CMAs, where “Beer for My Horses” is nominated for Single, Song, Vocal Event — and Music Video of the Year, for it’s imaginative clip featuring Willie and Toby as father and son police detectives chasing a killer.

The two are lining up tour dates together, including a New Year’s Eve show. Willie is currently making a new album with Toby’s producer, which will include at least one song Toby wrote. And both men say they’re reading and willing to duet again.

“I’ve had a lot of fun singing with Toby,” declares Willie. “He’s one of us.”

But one question remains: Do horses really like beer?

“Good God yeah” says Willie. “It’s got wheat, barley, corn — why wouldn’t a horse like it? It’s horse soup.”

This day in Willie Nelson History: USO Show in Germany with Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey (May 23, 2005)

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

In 2005 Willie Nelson joined Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey on a USO tour to entertain the troops overseas at the Ramstein Airbase in Germany.  The show was filmed, and broadcast on television as  “Nick and Jessica’s Tour of Duty.”  Also on the tour:  Big and Rich,  and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.   Willie and Jessica treated the crowd to a duet from movie ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’,  the movie they starred in together, ‘These Boots are Made for Walking.”

Jimmey Kimmel talked about Willie at the show, and said, “I got to meet Willie Nelson.  He’s such a nice guy, he even let me carry his bags through customs for him.!”

This day in Willie Nelson history, “Just to Satisfy You” (with Waylon Jennings) #1 (May 21, 1982)

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

This day in Willie Nelson History: Austin City Limits Hall of Fame (April 26, 2014)

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

The first Austin City Limits Hall of Fame induction ceremony took place April 26, 2014. The Austin City Limits Hall of Fame is located at The Moody Theater and consists of a photo gallery, timeline/anthology mural and an interactive online library of Austin City Limits content.

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when Willie Nelson was not an American icon.

In the early ‘70s, Nelson was best-known for writing hits for other people. The Abbott, Texas native had a successful career as a Nashville songwriter (“Crazy,” “Hello Walls,” “Night Life,” etc.) but had not yet achieved recognition under his own name. In 1974 all that would change. With the release of 1973’s Shotgun Willie and 1974’s Phases and Stages, two imaginative and successful LPs, the stage was set for his career to take off.

Then on October 17, 1974, Willie and his Family band entered Studio 6A to record the pilot for Austin City Limits. Broadcast as part of the national pledge drive in March 1975, the show was one of the top programs on PBS that year, securing a future for ACL as a series.

Willie has appeared on the show 16 times, with six headlining slots (most recently in 2009), seven songwriters specials and three guest appearances with Johnny Rodriguez, Roger Miller and Asleep at the Wheel. Not only is he the artist who launched Austin City Limits, he’s also one of our most frequent – and favorite – guests.

This day in Willie Nelson history: Farm Aid VI, 1993 (Ames, Iowa)

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

farmaidvi

All of America watched as the Flood of ’93 left thousands of Midwest families homeless. Heavy rains caused the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to rise up and overflow their banks, swallowing entire towns along the way. Eight million acres of crops were destroyed and 20 million acres were damaged. With their backs already against the wall due to heavy debt and low farm prices, Midwest family farmers had few resources left to deal with the effects of the flooding.

In response to the flood, Farm Aid created the Family Farm Disaster Fund to support organizations that worked directly with farm families stricken by the flood. When farmers needed help to avoid foreclosure due to losses from the flood, Farm Aid-funded groups were there to help them save their farms.

The 1993 concert included performances by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, the Highwaymen, Sawyer Brown, Bruce Hornsby, Martina McBride, the Kentucky HeadHunters, Marty Stuart, Dwight Yoakam, Ringo Starr, Waylon Jennings, Bryan Adams, Paul Simon, Travis Tritt, Ricky Van Shelton and many others.

This day in Willie Nelson’s history (April 9, 2003)

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

On April 9, 2003, Willie Nelson hosted a birthday concert at the Beacon Theater in New York City, celebrating his 70’t birthday. The special aired on USA tv. He invited friends Paul Simon, Ray Price, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, ZZ Top, Leon Russell, Sheryl Crow, Kris Kristofferson and more.

This day in Willie Nelson history: Host of Saturday Night Live (February 21, 1987)

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

2.21snl

Willie Nelson delivers the opening monologue as host ofSaturday Night Live on Feb. 21, 1987.

churchlady

Willie Nelson (center) appears in the “Church Chat” skit with Danny DeVito, Nora Dunn and Dana Carvey on Saturday Night Live on Feb. 21, 1987.

This day in Willie Nelson history: Superbowl 2004 H & R Block “Tax Advice” Ad (2/1/2004)

Monday, February 1st, 2016

On February 1, 2004, Superbowl XXXVIII was played in Houston, Texas, and during the show H & R aired their Willie Nelson Tax Advice Doll commercial.