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

This day in Willie Nelson history: ‘Brokeback Mountain’ soundtrack (12/9/05)

Saturday, December 9th, 2017

brokeback

The cowboy movie, “Brokeback Mountain” opened in theaters on December 9, 2005. The movie features music by Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Linda Ronstadt, plus Roger Miller’s “King Of The Road,” Tammy Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” and Merle Haggard’s “I’m Always On A Mountain When I Fall”

This day in Willie Nelson history: “On the Road Again” added to Grammy Hall of Fame (12/7/2010)

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

www.CMT.com

On December 7, 2010 single, the Grammy Hall of Fame announced that “On the Road Again,” is one of 30 songs joining the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Other selections include “Lovesick Blues” (1949) by Hank Williams with his Drifting Cowboys and “Steel Guitar Rag” (1936) by  Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys featuring Leon McAuliffe. Honored recordings must be at least 25 years old and be recognized for their “lasting qualitative or historical significance,” according to press materials. Recordings are reviewed annually by a committee of recording industry professionals and final approval is made by the Recording Academy Trustees. The list now totals 881 recordings.

This day in Willie Nelson history: “Highwayman” recorded in Nashville (December 6, 1984)

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

highwaymen

On December 6, 1984, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson record “Highwayman” at Nashville’s Moman Studios. Among the musicians on the session is guitarist Marty Stuart.

This day in Willie Nelson History: John Lennon 75th Birthday Concert, NYC (Dec. 5, 2014)

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Willie Nelson, Yoko Ono, Sheryl Crow, John Fogerty celebrate in NYC #JohnLennon75

theowargo

photo:  Theo Wargo

www.rollingstone.com
by:  Sarah Grant

Kevin Bacon hosted the tremendous, star-packed event — airing on AMC on Saturday, December 19th at 9:00pm ET/PT — which hit every note of Lennon’s songwriting personality, his interests, concerns and loves. In the first half of the show, Sheryl Crow played a rollicking serenade of “A Hard Day’s Night,” the Killers’ Brandon Flowers conducted an effervescent sing-along to “Instant Karma,” Latin pop sensation Juanes sang “Woman” wearing Lennon’s famous New York City shirt, and Train frontman Pat Monahan impressed the crowd with an acrobatic rendition of “Jealous Guy.” John Fogerty, the biggest Beatlemaniac in the room, kicked off the night with a striking one-two acoustic punch of “Give Peace a Chance” and “In My Life.”

“Rock & roll is here to stay!” Yoko Ono asserted on the stage of the Theater at Madison Square Garden Saturday night, telling the audience that’s what her late husband would have said in response to “Imagine: John Lennon 75th Birthday Concert.” Steven Tyler, Eric Church, Aloe Blacc, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow and Tom Morello were just a few of the multi-generational luminaries who came together onstage to pay homage to the revolutionary Beatle — the Liverpool songwriter, lionhearted political activist, peacemaker and musical treasure, who would have been 75 years old on October 9th and who died 35 years ago this month. Put on by Blackbird Presents and AMC, the show benefited the poverty-fighting organization

The most memorable performances were by the least-well-known artists. R&B artist Aloe Blacc held the notes of “Steel and Glass” for breathtaking stretches. The song, from Lennon’s dark 1974 solo album, Walls and Bridges, is about psychological extremes. “How does it feel to be off the wall?” Blacc wondered with gravitas, standing in a zippered leather jacket with arms folded behind his back. Nashville singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton, who made a splash at this year’s CMAs, gave a titillating, bluesy take on “Don’t Let Me Down,” flanked by Crow and Flowers. Alt-rock band Spoon offered 10 minutes of full-octane rock & roll.

Lennon’s activist anthems shone especially bright. The Roots gave “Julia” a hip-hop treatment, while working-class heroes Kris Kristofferson, Tom Morello and harmonica legend Mickey Raphael performed a sobering, stripped-down set in front of a picture of Lennon towering over them with his arms crossed. Morello came back for an anthemic rendition of “Power to the People” with the New York Freedom Choir, which includes representatives of nine different charity organizations in the state. This was the peak performance for so many reasons. Morello’s guitar playing was incendiary. He raised his fist to the crowd in solidarity, and, more movingly, simply pointed upward toward the sky. He played his guitar flipped over so it revealed the word “IMAGINE” in all capital letters on the back, and then, after a climactic, toe-curling solo, rested the instrument on the stage in a symbolic gesture of laying down arms.

kevinmazur

photo:  Kevin Mazur

“John Lennon wrote music that mattered because it said something,” said country star Eric Church, who called the evening a ‘bucket list’ night before launching into one of Lennon’s moodiest songs, “Mind Games.” Church rekindled the declamatory spirit with his new Nashville brother, Steven Tyler, his partner on a blazing “Revolution.” Everyone went wild for Tyler’s reprisal of his druggy role as frontman of Future Villain Band from the 1978 musical film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

“Every song has a story,” Ono said to the audience, sporting a whimsical bowler hat and Sgt. Pepper–style blazer with golden epaulets, after a clip played of the Plastic Ono Band singing “Attica State” on a talk show. Lennon and Ono sat on the show’s red step, singing about freedom with razor-sharp intent. The archival footage seemed to foreshadow 2015, a year marked by social violence in the United States. The song, like so many others shared that night, carried a message of brotherhood, solidarity and peace: “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” brought cheer with a children’s choir and a Peter Frampton–Crow-Blacc trio. Legendary storyteller Willie Nelson offered a magnificently serene “Imagine,” conveying the lyrics in a such a stark, plainspoken way, it was as if the song were being sung for the first time.

Yoko Ono; Birthday; Lennon
Theo Wargo/Getty

“Happy birthday, beautiful boy,” Paul McCartney said in a prerecorded video. It was a touching reminder of one of the last songs Lennon gave to the world, “Beautiful Boy,” an ode to paternal love that ends with Lennon whispering to his young son Julian, “See you in the morning, bright and early.” Hope, joy, and camaraderie filled the theater when the all-star roster joined together to deliver the simplest, truest advice Lennon offered in his lifetime: “Love is all you need.”

kevinmazur2

photo:  Kevin Mazur

 

This day in Willie Nelson history: Grand Ole’ Opry Debut (Nov. 28, 1964)

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

Willie Nelson on 11/28/1964

Willie Nelson, November 28, 1964
photo by Les Leverett

www.WillieNelsongeneralstore.com

“We’re very proud at the Willie Nelson Museum is to announce an exciting new Les Leverett photographic exhibit opening very soon – an historic country music photographic collection taken by long-time Grand Ole Opry photographer and Nashville resident Les Leverett.

Les Leverett’s photographs have been seen on hundreds of album covers, books, magazines, newspapers and video. Les’ photographic career at the Grand Ole Opry spanned more than 32 years. His love of the Grand Ole Opry and its many stars are evident throughout the images captured through the lens of his trusty Nikon camera.

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 Nelson in Kansas City, MO (11/26/08)

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

 

Photo:  Scott Spychalski, from the Willie Nelson and Family, and Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters concert at the Midland, in Kansas City, MO, on November 26, 2008.

 

Willie Nelson’s Set List:

Whiskey River
Still Is Still Moving To Me
Beer for My Horses
Funny How Time Slips Away
Crazy
Night Life
Piano instrumental
Me and Paul
If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time
Help Me Make It through the Night

Me and Bobby McGee
Good Hearted Woman
Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain
Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
Angel Flying Too Close To the Ground
On the Road Again
You Were Always On My Mind
Will the Circle Be Unbroken/I’ll Fly Away
Down Yonder
Georgia on a Fast Train
Georgia on My Mind
The City of New Orleans
To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before
Milk Cow Blues
Bloody Mary Morning
Jambalaya (On the Bayou)/Hey, Good Lookin’/Move It On Over
Seven Spanish Angels
Superman
You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore
I Saw the Light
Take Back America

This day in Willie Nelson history: “Wanted: The Outlaws” — 1st country album to go platinum (11/24/76)

Friday, November 24th, 2017

On November 24, 1976, “Wanted: the Outlaws” became the first country album to receive the new platinum certification, signifying one million units shipped.

The album, featuring Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser and Jessie Colter was certified gold on March 30, 1976.

Willie Nelson in Concert (November 21, 2013) Little Rock, AR

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

ericcamp

Thank you, Eric Camp, for the poster picture.

This day in Willie Nelson History: Mickey Mouse Turns 50 Celebration (November 19, 1978)

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

On November 19, 1978, Willie Nelson joined others to wish Mickey Mouse Happy 50th birthday, on a televised special. Other guest appearance on the show were made by: Gerald Ford, Billy Graham, Lawrence Welk, Gene Kelly, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Edgar Bergen, Jodie Foster, Goldie Hawn, Eva Gabor, Anne Bancroft, Jo Anne Worley, and Burt Reynolds.

The Life and Music of Willie Nelson (On Point interview with Tom Ashbrook) (11/19/12)

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

http://onpoint.wbur.org
by Tom Ashbrook

This is a rebroadcast which originally aired on November 19, 2012.

We sit down with the one and only Willie Nelson for some Willie Nelson tales and some Willie Nelson music.

Willie Nelson picked cotton as a boy and sold encyclopedias as a young man.  Wrote hits in Nashville before most Americans were born.  Hit the road as the pig-tailed, Red Headed Stranger in middle age, and just kept rolling.  With his own sound, his own way.

Now he’s thinking big.  The great beyond and what remains.  His latest is “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die.”

This hour, On Point: Willie Nelson.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guest

Willie Nelson, country music singer-songwriter. His new book is “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die: Musings From The Road.” His most recent album is “Heroes.”

Sample of Nelson’s Songs


Nelson covered Coldplay’s “The Scientist” for the short, animated film “Back To The Start,” which Chipotle commissioned to illustrate the importance of a sustainable food system. During our conversation with him, Nelson said he loved the song and the video and that it offered a great lesson to everyone:

From Tom’s Reading List

American Songwriter: Book Review: Willie Nelson, ‘Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die: Musings From The Road’ – “With a twinkle in his eyes, a laugh in his belly, a sagacious nod, and a deep love for life, Nelson takes us for a rollicking ride along the highways and byways of his long life and career in this rambunctious, hilarious, reflective, and loving memoir. With his rapscallion smile, Nelson regales us with tales of life on the road, his life in Maui, his early years in Texas — he was smoking and drinking by the time he was six — his love of dominoes — he plays with Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson in Maui — and golf, his deep and abiding love for his family, and his deep respect and enduring admiration for the songwriters and musicians with whom he has performed and who have influenced him, from Ray Price and Leon Russell to Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.”

Linda Ronstadt and Willie Nelson in Concert Together (November 18, 1977)

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

ronstadt

“1977.   Not my first Willie show as a fan, but the FIRST Willie show that I was the Lighting Director. That was awhile back and I’m still here. Lucky, I guess.
Greatful, for sure.”

— Budrock “the Illuminator” Prewitt,
Lighting Directory, Willie Nelson and Family

This day in Willie Nelson history: Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (Nov. 18, 2015)

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

11-18-2015 Library Of Congress Gershwin Honors Willie Nelson-106
photo: Janis Tillerson

PBS to Broadcast All-Star Concert on Jan. 15

http://goldrushcam.com

November 29, 2015 – The Library of Congress is celebrating Willie Nelson’s 60-year career and his selection as the 2015 recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in Washington, D.C., with a series of events, culminating in a star-studded concert tonight.

The two-day celebration began with a presentation and special display on Tuesday, November 17, 2015 in the Library’s historic Thomas Jefferson Building with a group of the nation’s lawmakers, who recognized Nelson for his contributions to popular music. “Everywhere you look in this magnificent building there are symbols of knowledge, creativity and invention so it is fitting at this time to honor one of the world’s most creative and inventive people, this year’s award recipient, Willie Nelson,” said Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao.

“It is truly a privilege to have Willie Nelson with us in our nation’s capital and to be able to recognize him for the immense contributions he’s made to the culture of America through music,” said U.S. House of Representatives Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress Gregg Harper.

“It is a great honor to be receiving the Gershwin award,” said Nelson to the group of well-wishers. “I have been a fan of Ira and George Gershwin’s music since I was a little guy and in appreciation for the award—and also I wanted to make some great music—I’ve just recorded a complete Gershwin album. It’s called Summertime.”

In honor of the legendary songwriting team, the Gershwin Prize recognizes a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding, entertaining and informing audiences, and inspiring new generations. Previous recipients are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King and Billy Joel.

President Jimmy Carter said in a letter that Nelson’s music has “enriched the lives of people far and wide for decades” and that he is truly worthy of this “prestigious and well-deserved award.”

Steeped in the roots of country music, Nelson’s songs have a universal appeal and embrace the rich musical language of the American experience. A diverse group of the world’s pre-eminent performers is paying homage to Nelson’s musical genius— showcasing some his most memorable songs—tonight at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

The concert will feature performances by Edie Brickell, Leon Bridges, Rosanne Cash, Ana Gabriel, Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, Cyndi Lauper, Raul Malo of The Mavericks, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Paul Simon, Neil Young and Buckwheat Zydeco. Nelson will also perform some of his favorite tunes. The master of ceremonies for the evening festivities will be actor Don Johnson.

“I could not have wished for a more complete source of inspiration in life, and in music, than my father,” said the country music icon’s son Lukas Nelson, also a singer, songwriter and guitarist. “I count myself as one of the luckiest people alive to have been born to such a noble, loving, and gifted human being.”

During the evening’s event, Nelson will be presented with the prize by the Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao, U. S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Richard J. Durbin, U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, U.S. House of Representatives Chairman of the Committee on House Administration Candice S. Miller and U.S. House of Representatives Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress Gregg Harper.

The concert will air on PBS stations nationwide at 9 p.m. ET on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 (check local listings). The program also will be broadcast at a later date via the American Forces Network to U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world. “Willie Nelson: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize” is a co-production of WETA Washington, D.C., and Bounce, a division of AEG. The executive producers of the program are Dalton Delan, David Mao, Michael Strunsky and Mark Rothbaum.

Major funding for “Willie Nelson: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song” is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers. Additional funding is provided by The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Fund and The Leonore S. Gershwin Trust for the benefit of the Library of Congress Trust Fund Board. Air transportation is generously provided by United Airlines. Additional funding for the Gershwin Prize events is provided by the Library of Congress James Madison Council.

Nelson is considered one of the top country singers of all time. His six-decade career has produced more than 200 albums and has earned him numerous awards and accolades as a musician, author, actor and activist. As a songwriter and performer, this iconic Texan became the voice of the heartland with such hits as “Crazy” and “Funny How Time Slips Away,” but he has continually pushed musical boundaries. He diversified his repertory and turned pop standards such as “Blue Skies” and “Mona Lisa” into country hits and such pop tunes as “Always on My Mind” and “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” into crossover favorites.

In June, Nelson released a new collaboration with Merle Haggard, “Django and Jimmie,” that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Album chart and in the Top 10 (No. 7) on the Billboard 200 Bestselling Albums chart. In the last five years alone he has delivered nine other new releases, one of which received a Grammy nomination; released a New York Times best-seller; appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine; headlined Farm Aid—an event he co-founded in 1985—and received his 5th-degree black belt in Gongkwon Yusul.

In 2013, Nelson released “Let’s Face The Music and Dance,” an album of pop-country repertoire classics performed with patented ease by Nelson and Family—his long-time touring and recording ensemble—and “To All The Girls …,” which features 18 duets with music’s top female singers. In 2014, he released “Band of Brothers,” a 14-track studio album of new recordings that debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Album chart and at No. 5 on Billboard’s Top 200 Album chart.

About Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson was born to Ira and Myrle Nelson in 1933 in Abbott, Texas. As early as age 7, Nelson started writing songs and playing the guitar, performing at church revivals and in local dance halls. After high school, Nelson joined the Air Force. He spent two years at Baylor University, but dropped out to pursue a career in music.In 1960, he moved to Nashville and Faron Young recorded Nelson’s song “Hello Walls,” which became a No. 1 hit on the country charts in 1961. Singer Patsy Cline recorded his song, “Crazy,” shortly afterward. It became a huge hit and a country-music standard. In the early ‘70s, Nelson became a key figure in “outlaw country” and charted his own career path. His reputation and success grew. He scored more than 60 Top-40 country hits over five decades. He has appeared in more than 30 films and TV shows and co-authored several books, including the recently released autobiography, “It’s a Long Story: My Life.”

Nelson has won seven Grammy Awards and received the Grammy Living Legend Award in 1990. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001. His album “Red Headed Stranger” was inducted into the Library’s National Recording Registry in 2009.

About the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song

The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song honors living musical artists whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with George and Ira Gershwin, by promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations.In making the selection for the prize, the Librarian of Congress consulted leading members of the music and entertainment communities, as well as curators from the Library’s Music Division, its American Folklife Center and its Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.

The Gershwin name is used in connection with the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song courtesy of the families of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. GERSHWIN® is a registered trademark of Gershwin Enterprises.
Source: Library of Congress

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This Day in Willie Nelson History: “Without a Song” certified platinum (11/14/1994)

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

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On November 14, 1994 Willie Nelson’s album, “Without a Song” was certified platinum

This album was originally released in 1983.

  1. Without a Song
  2. Once in a While
  3. Autumn Leaves
  4. I Can’t Believe to Tell You
  5. Harbor Lights
  6. Golden Earrings
  7. You’ll Never Know
  8. To Each HIs Own
  9. As Time Goes By
  10. Dreamer’s Holiday

This day in Willie Nelson history: “Where the Hell’s that Gold?” (November 13, 1988)

Monday, November 13th, 2017

He makes his living robbing banks.
She makes hers banking on robbers.

Release date: 13 November 1988

Willie Nelson stars with Jack Elam, and Delta Burke in this move about two outlaws on the run after stealing and hiding a large amount of gold.  The two find themselves travelling through 1895 Mexico on a train full of dynamite as rebels, Apache Indians, Wells Fargo agents, and Federal troops trail them. When they are captured by the Mexican authorities, they scheme to keep their ill-gotten riches with the help of a madam and her prostitutes. Willie Nelson, Jack Elam, Delta Burke star in this rowdy western.

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

Monday, November 13th, 2017

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.