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

This day in Willie Nelson history: Grandy Ole’ Opry Debut (Nov. 28, 1954)

Saturday, November 28th, 2015

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.


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.

This day in Willie Nelson history: Willie Nelson & Family performs for Leroy Bank depositors (11/14/1988)

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

On November 14, 1988, Willie Nelson performed a concert to benefit the Leroy Bank customers in Waco.

August 19, 1988

Waco (AP) — A Willie Nelson concert to benefit the depositors of a failed bank is back on track and scheduled for another coliseum, after the Baylor University president canceled the original show.

Plans for the singer to perform at the Ferrell Special Events Center were abandoned after Baylor University President Herbert Reynolds, citing “concern for the health and well-being of the American people,” canceled the program.

But concert promoter Tom Gresham of Austin said Wednesday that Nelson authorized him to proceed with plans for a concert at the heart O’ Texas Coliseum to benefit the depositors of the failed Leroy Bank, a private bank northeast of Waco.

Some of the 600 depositors who lost their savings at the bank responded happily Wednesday after hearing the news.

“Knowing Willie like we do and him being a local person, we though he’d find anothe rplace to have his concert,” said Otis Richardson.  “He’s a kindhearted fellow, not a greedy man.”

Nelson grew up in Abbott.  Gresham estimates the concert could raise $35,000 for the depositors.

The show is scheduled for Nov. 14.

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.

This day in Willie Nelson history: “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” (Nov. 12, 1969)

Thursday, November 12th, 2015


On November 12, 1969 Willie Nelson appears on CBS’ “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.  He  sings with Campbell on “Hello Walls”, “Crazy”, “Night Life” and “Funny How Time Slips Away.”

This day in Willie Nelson history: “Come Early Morning” soundtrack (11/10/2006)

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015


On November 10, 2006, the Ashley Judd soundtrack to the movie “Come Early Morning” was released. The soundtrack features Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Eddy Raven, Don Gibson, Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan, Jim Chesnut, Emmylou Harris and Billy Joe Shaver.


Killing the Blues
Malcolm Holcombe
End of the Wine
Jack Blanchard, Misty Morgan
Going to See Cal
Alan Brewer
The Way I Am
Merle Haggard
Don’t Knock
Taylor Grocery Band
An Invitation and a Kiss
Alan Brewer
Silver Wings
Merle Haggard
Frog Leg Chomp
Alan Brewer
I Got Mexico
Eddy Raven
Goodnight Lucy
Alan Brewer
Oh Lonesome Me
Don Gibson
Movin’ Out, Movin’ Up & Movin’ On
Troy Cook Jr.
Argument in the Parking Lot
Alan Brewer
I’m Going Nowhere
Troy Cook Jr.
What’s Done Is Done
Jeannie Max Lane
Owen Is Leaving
Alan Brewer
Jesus on the Main Line
Taylor Grocery Band
Gaining Strength
Alan Brewer
Get Back to Loving Me
Jim Chestnut
Daddy and Daughter
Alan Brewer
Leavin’ Ain’t the Only Way to Go
Eric James Jochmans
Somebody Pick Up My Pieces
Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris
Lucy Is Free
Alan Brewer
Old Chunk of Coat
Billy Joe Shaver
If Anybody Asks You (Callin’)
Shannon Boshears

This day in Willie Nelson history: “On the Road Again” #1 on Billboard singles (Nov. 8, 1980

Sunday, November 8th, 2015


On November 8, 1980, Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” rose to #1 on Billboard Country Singles chart.

Willie Nelson performs “On The Road Again” live at the US Festival, 1983. “On the Road Again” became Nelson’s 9th Country & Western No. 1 hit overall in November 1980. In addition, the song reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming his biggest pop hit to that time. Nelson won Grammy Award for Best Country Song a year later. Buy the entire concert here at:…

This day in Willie Nelson history: “Come Early Morning” soundtrack (10/31/2006)

Saturday, October 31st, 2015


On October 31, 2006, the Ashley Judd soundtrack to the movie “Come Early Morning” was released. The soundtrack features Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Eddy Raven, Don Gibson, Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan, Jim Chesnut, Emmylou Harris and Billy Joe Shaver.  The movie came out in November 2006.

Nov 10, 2006

1. Killing the Blues – The Malcolm Holcombe Group
2. End of the Wine – Misty Morgan/Jack Blanchard
3. Going to See Cal
4. The Way I Am – Merle Haggard
5. Don’t Knock – Taylor Grocery Band
6. An Invitation and a Kiss
7. Silver Wings – Merle Haggard
8. Frog Leg Champ
9. I Got Mexico – Eddy Raven
10. Goodnight Lucy
11. Oh Lonesome Me – Don Gibson
12. Movin’ Out, Movin’ Up and Movin’ On – Troy Cook Jr./The Long Haul Band
13. Argument in the Parking Lot
14. I’m Going Nowhere – Troy Cook Jr./The Long Haul Band
15. What’s Done Is Done – Jeannie Max Lane
16. Owen Is Leaving
17. Jesus on the Main Line – Taylor Grocery Band
18. Gaining Strength
19. Get Back to Loving Me – Jim Chestnut
20. Daddy and Daughter
21. Leavin’ Ain’t the Only Way to Go – Eric James Jochmans
22. Somebody Pick Up My Pieces – Willie Nelson/Emmylou Harris
23. Lucy is Free
24. Old Chuck of Coal – Billy Joe Shaver
25. It Anybody Asks You (Callin’) – Shannon Boshears

This day in Willie Nelson history: Opening of Patsy Cline Theater, in Winchester, VA (10/29/2009)

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

On October 29, 2009, Willie Nelson and Family performed in Winchester, West Virginia, at the official grand opening of the Patsy Cline Theater. Patsy’s husband and daughter attended the festivities.

Thanks again to Christian Schweiger, co-producer of the event, for sharing with me about the show, and sending me one of the programs and post cards from the

Local singers opened the show for Willie Nelson and his band, and they got the shirts to prove it.

Photo by:  Rick Foster

“I recorded a song called “I Fall to Pieces,” and I was in a car wreck. Now I’m worried because I have a brand-new record, and it’s called “Crazy”!”-Patsy Cline



Thanks to Christian Schweiger, Schweiger/Dearing Production, for sharing artwork  for the dedication of the Patsy Cline Theater in Winchester, VA in 2009.


This day in Willie Nelson history: “Good Hearted Woman”

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Oct 21, 1971 Willie Nelson records a solo version of “Good Hearted Woman” in an afternoon session at Nashville’s RCA Studio B. A duet version of the song with Waylon Jennings becomes a standard four years later

This day in Willie Nelson history: “Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran” concert (10/16/2012)

Friday, October 16th, 2015


On October 16, 2012, Jamey Johnson’s “Living for a Song:  A Tribute to Hank Cochran” was released in Nashville with a concert at the Ryman Auditorium, with performances by Willie Nelson, Allison Krauss Ronnie Dunn, Emmylou Harris and more.


This day in Willie Nelson history: Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (Oct. 14, 1973)

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015


On October 14, 1973 Willie Nelson was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame, along with Jack Clement (“Ballad Of A Teenage Queen”), Don Gibson (“I Can’t Stop Loving You”), Harlan Howard (“Busted”), Roger Miller, and Ed and Steve Nelson (“Bouquet Of Roses”).

Willie Nelson, inducted 1973

Former Occupations:
cotton picker, encyclopedia salesman,
farmer, saddle maker, plumber,
vacuum cleaner salesman, disc jockey,
U.S. Air Force (during the Korean War)

High School–Abbott High School (graduated in 1951)
College–Baylor University (studied agriculture and business)
College–Waco University (from 3/54 to 7/54)

This day in Willie Nelson History: SiriusXM radio opens Austin Studio (10/12/2012)

Monday, October 12th, 2015


On October 12, 2012, Willie Nelson helped Sirius/XM radio celebrate the opening of their studio in Austin.

Hosted by Dallas Wayne, the two-hour special featured music and conversation with Willie Nelson, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell (center), Melissa Etheridge, Jerry Jeff Walker, Kinky Friedman, Jesse Dayton, Junior Brown, Johnny Bush, Amber Digby, Darrell & Mona McCall, Justin Trevino and Tommy Alverson.



This day in Willie Nelson history: “Always on My Mind” and “The Last Thing I Needed (first thing I needed)”

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

On October 11, 1981, Willie Nelson recorded “Always On My Mind” and “The Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning” at his Pedernales Studio outside of Austin, Texas

This Day in Willie Nelson History: Merle Haggard & George Jone’s “Yesterday’s Wine” is #1 on Billboard (10/9/1982)

Friday, October 9th, 2015

On October 9, 1982, Merle Haggard & George Jones recording of Willie Nelson’s, “Yesterday’s Wine,” to #1 on the Billboard country chart.

This day in Willie Nelson history: Johnny Cash Music Festival (Oct 5, 2012)

Monday, October 5th, 2015


On October 5th, 2012 Willie Nelson, Dierks Bentley, Rosanne Cash and The Civil Wars performed at the Johnny Cash Music Festival, a benefit in Jonesboro, Arkansas, that raised $200,000 toward the restoration of Johnny Cash’s boyhood home.

The second annual Johnny Cash Music Festival raised approximately $200,000 to help fund the restoration of his boyhood home in Dyess, Ark., and to support a scholarship fund established in his name. His daughter, Rosanne Cash, hosted second annual festival at Arkansas State University.

For more information on the projects and fundraiser:


On August 16, 2014, after years of fundraising and restoration work, Johnny Cash’s boyhood home in Dyess, Arkansas was opened to the public as a museum. Hundreds turned out for the dedication ceremony at the Dyess Administration Building. Featured in the video are Arkansas State University System President Chip Welch, daughter Rosanne Cash, brother Tommy Cash and Dr. Ruth Hawkins, who oversaw the project as executive director of ASU’s Arkansas Heritage Sites program. Johnny Cash often spoke about the impact his childhood in Dyess had on him and many of his songs, including “Five Feet High and Rising” and “Pickin’ Time” were set there. You can see a slideshow of photos of the home at:…