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

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

Friday, December 6th, 2019
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: Kennedy Center Honors (Dec. 5, 1998)

Thursday, December 5th, 2019
kennedyhonors photo: Khue Bui Life Magazine December 5, 1998 Award winner Willie Nelson and his wife arrive at the Department of State for the Kennedy Center Honors Gala dinner Saturday, Dec. 5, 1998, in Washington. The center honored comedian Bill Cosby, musician Willie Nelson, composer and conductor Andre Previn, songwriting team of Fred Ebb and John Kander, former actress and ambassador to Czechkoslovakia Shirley Temple Black.

Grady Martin (January 17, 1929 – December 3, 2001)

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

Session guitarist Grady Martin was born on January 17, 1929, was born in Chapel Hill, Tennessee. Before he joined Willie Nelson & Family, Grady had played with Patsy Cline, Marty Robbins, Elvis Presley and Ray Price. He also wrote the song sung by Ronnie Milsap, “Snap Your Fingers.”

grady2

*Article originally printed in the August, 1984 edition of Country Song Roundup magazine.

Young country fans know Grady Martin as the lead guitarist in Willie Nelson’s band, but he is much, much more. His contributions to the development of the Nashville Sound as a studio musician in the 1950’s and 1960’s have been incalculable.

Put bluntly, there would be no Nashville music industry as we know it, were it not for Grady Martin. Country entrepreneur Tillman Franks thinks Grady belongs in the Country Music Hall of Fame. “There are five great musical geniuses that made Nashville Music City U.S.A.,” he says. “They are: recording studio innovator Owen Bradley, music publisher Fred Rose, Grand Ole Opry superstar Roy Acuff, and musicians Chet Atkins and Grady Martin. Of these five, Grady MArtin is the only one not in the Country Music Hall of Fame. As a charter member of the Country Music Association, I hereby nominate Grady Martin for the Hall of Fame in 1984.”

Franks said that in December 1983, at a tribute dinner held in Martin’s honor by the Nashville Music Association On that occasion, Grady was lauded by his peers and given the first Master Tribute Award, designed to honor the unsung heroes of music: the backup instrumentalists. On hand were Brenda Lee, Floyd Cramer, Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, The Jordonaires, and a ballroom of other celebrities. Willie Nelson hosted the tribute to his friend and bandmember.

Studio musicians got their due at long last that night. Finally it was stated publicly that Grady Martin was the session leader for the hundreds of hit productions that put Nashville on the map. He was a chief architect in the building of Music City.

Grady Martin was born 55 years ago, Jan. 17, 1929, 50 miles south of Nashville on a farm between Lewisburg and Chapel Hill, Tennessee. He grew into a strapping six-footer, but he always preferred making music to doing his farm chores. “My dad played the jug,” he chuckles, remembering his musical youth. “And my mother played the piano. My brother had bought a guitar for eight dollars and he wouldn’t let me fool with it much. I had to slip away to get it.” Maybe that’s why he took up the fiddle at age 13. “There was an old fella down the road named John Davis who played his fiddle at night on his porch. He went down to all the local dances and played.”

He inspired Grady so much that the youngster was soon one of the most accomplished fiddlers in the area. When Nashville radio star Big Jeff Bess came south for a show, Martin was played for him backstage. Impressed, Bess offered the 15 year-old a job.

“We had an early-morning radio show, and just played schoolhouses and anywhere we could. Four or five dollars a night was a good night’s pay. This was during World War II.” Bess was the husband of the legendary Hattie Louise “Tootsie” Bess, later immortalized as the owner of Nashville’s Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge Bar, across the alley from the Ryman Auditorium downtown, mother church of the Grand Ole Opry.

“I went up to the Opry one Saturday night and met manager Jim Denny. I was just askin’ for a job with somebody on the show. And he turned me on to The Bailes Brothers. So I traveled and appeared with them for awhile.” At the time the group was riding the crest of a wave of hits that included Dust on the Bible, I Wanna Be Loved (But Only By You), and As Long As I Live.

Martin toured with such Opry headliners as Jamup & Honey and Uncle Dave Macon. When he began appearing with trick fiddler Curly Fox and “The Sophie Tucker of Cowgirl Singers,” Texas Ruby, he switched to guitar. Thus, on that instrument he made his recording debut when Fox took him into a studio in Chicago.

He joined the band of Red Foley then about to become the biggest star of his generation of country vocalists. [A] 1949 Nashville recording session produced Foley’s huge number-one hit Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy. It was the first of many million-sellers that were to feature Grady’s guitar. “We recorded that at the Old Castle Studio that was in the Tulane Hotel on Church Street in Nashville.”

Artists like Carl Smith, George Morgan, and Little Jimmy Dickens began using him on their sessions. Hall of Fame member credits Martin and guitarist Jabbo Arrington for developing his hit sounds= with their twin-guitar playing.

Martin even played (fiddle) on a Hank Williams session. He also accompanied Williams to “The Kate Smith Show” in New York in 1952, country music’s debut on prime-time, nationwide network TV.

As Red Foley’s airplane pilot and lead guitarist, Grady Martin accompanied Foley on his commutes to Springfield, Missouri. There he became the band leader on the Foley-hosted “Ozark Jubilee,” the first network TV country variety series.

He maintained his ties to the infant recording center in Nashville, however. Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubb, Webb Pierce, and dozens of other Nashville pioneers featured him on their hit records.

“I guess the person I played the most hit licks for was Marty Robbins,” says Martin wistfully of his old friend. That’s Grady’s Spanish-style picking embellishing El Paso, and on Don’t Worry he developed the electric fuzz-tone sound that was to influence an entire generation of psychedelic electric-guitar stylists.

He played vibes on Floyd Cramer’s timeless Last Date. He played dobro/guitar on Wilma Burgess’ lovely Tear Time. He banged tambourine and played the banjo lick on Wings Of A Dove by Ferlin Husky.

“On sessions that produced, like Johnny Horton’s Battle of New Orleans or Jimmy Dean’s Big John, I just went ahead and started it up without the producer. He trusted me and I loved it. When he’d come in later, we’d have a hit arrangement worked out.”

Grady also arranged (and wrote) Joe Henderson’s Snap Your Fingers (1962), perhaps Nashville’s first black top pop hit. The following year, he arranged and published Our Winter Love, one of Music City’s biggest ever pop instrumentals.

He played on all the hits of Patsy Cline and on all the worldwide million-sellers of Brenda Lee. He’s on Elvis Presley’s movie soundtracks. He’s on Gone (Ferlin Husky), Saginaw Michigan (Lefty Frizzell), Waterloo (Stonewall Jackson), Uncle Pen (Porter Wagoner, Grady’s last major session as a fiddler), Devil in Disguise (Elvis), Oh Pretty Woman (Orbison), I’m Sorry (Brenda) and For the Good Times (Ray Price).

Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash, Dottie West , Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Larry Gatlin, and Kris Kristofferson records all feature Grady Martin. In fact, it would be easier to name the Nashville stars that he has not accompanied in the studios than it would be to list all he has.

“We worked round-the-clock back then. It was like being in a submarine. You’d ‘submerge’ and stay ‘down’ for hours, all night long and sometimes the next day, too. If you got tired you curled up under a piano for awhile and got up and played some more.”

Surrounded by such “A-Team” pickers as Bb Moore, Buddy Harman, Ray Edenton, Harold Bradley, Hank Garland, Pig Robbins, Pete Drake, Floyd Cramer, Tommy Jackson, The Anita Kerr Singers, The Jordonaires, and a handful of others, Grady Martin forged a sound and style. Never before or since in the annals of popular music have so few been so responsible for so many hits.

It was hard work, but what Grady remembers most are the good times the pickers shared in the good old days of Nashville recording. Today, he says those historic sessions are “all a blur to me. You can ask me anything except about dates and song titles.”

At his peak, his reputation spread to pop musicians like Perry Como, Al Hirt, Theresa Brewer, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Henry Mancini, Tab Hunter and Burl Ives, all of whom used his talent on records, Martin’s own recording group, The Slewfoot Five, was a pop/jazz act.

As the 1970’s dawned , Grady MArtin returned to playing live on the road. He served a stint in Jerry Reed’s band before Reed made so many movie-making commitments. Requested by Willie Nelson to play on the soundtrack of the film Honeysuckle Rose in 1979, Martin wound up serving as the model for the Slim Pickens character in the movie. He has remained with Nelson in the 1980’s, both touring and recording with the superstar. Nelson remembers Grady from when he played on a then-green songwriter’s first album. Now Martin plays guitar on such huge Nelson hits as the Merle Haggard duet, Pancho & Lefty.

That the spotlight is finally falling on him after years in the darkness of recording studios won’t change good ole Grady a bit. He remains a Buddah-like, lovable, modest country character without a trace of pretense. “Chet’s a star. I’m not a star,” he says. “Makin’ a good record and havin’ it accepted, just bein’ part of havin’ a hit record, that’s what mattered to me.”

Martin’s modesty might be one reason he has received so little recognition before now. “I really don’t do interviews. I never saw why anybody would want to write anything about me. I’m just a factory worker in the studio.”

He’s wrong. He’s much more than a “factory worker.” He’s 0ne of the creative geniuses in the history of country music.

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

Thursday, November 28th, 2019
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)

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019
photo: Scott Spychalski

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

The business of Being Willie Nelson (Chicago Tribune, November 25, 1986)

Monday, November 25th, 2019

photo:  Ron McKeown.

www.Chicago Tribune.com
November 25, 1986
By Wes Smith

After completing 115 holes of video golf in little more than 9 hours, executive W.H. Nelson put aside his toys and directed the driver of his mobile office to roll.

As chief executive officer of Red-headed Stranger Ltd., president of Farm Aid Inc., owner of the Pedernales Country Club, board member for the United Theological Seminary and honorary “Man of the Year“ for the United Jewish Appeal, it was time for Nelson to entertain a client or two, or three- or four-thousand

“My portfolio?” asked the boss with a toss of his auburn pony-tail. “I never wear one.”

There is no business like the business of being Willie Nelson. By no stretch of the headband is Nelson a baron of Wall Street. But with an annual income estimated conservatively at $15 million, Nelson himself is a big business deal.

Since “Williemania” struck in full force in the late 1970s, Nelson, 53, has become a one-man entertainment industry. He is a successful singer-songwriter-actor-author-record and movie-producer and Farm Aid fund-raiser. Look for his autobiography (“I wanted to do it before someone else did it”) and his own brand of soup to be introduced in coming months.

Although royalties from his songs pay Nelson enough for a comfortable life, record sales are now his main producer of revenue. His “Stardust”
album is still on the charts after seven years and climbing again as result of compact disc sales. Two of Nelson`s albums have sold more than 3 million copies, three albums sold more than a million and 10 albums sold more than 500,000. He now gets $1 million for recording an album with CBS records plus 35 percent of sales.

To promote the album sales, and because he easily gets stir crazy, Nelson tours about nine months of the year, bringing in another $12 million annually. From that he nets about $6 million before his personal expenses. Last August, he signed a $7 million, three-year contract that allowed Blue Bell Inc., the maker of Wrangler jeans, to promote 100 of Nelson`s concerts annually and hand out front-seat tickets to Wrangler denim dealers at the shows, said Paul English, Nelson`s business manager, longtime friend and drummer.

Willie & Family, as the band is known, travel in four or five customized buses with two truckloads of equipment trailing behind. The Willie Nelson road show is a family operation with a country store flavor. Nelson shares his bus, the mahogany-paneled “Honeysuckle Rose,“ with his older sister Connie, who plays keyboards. English`s son, Darnell, is assistant road manager on the tour, and Billy English, Paul`s brother, is a percussionist. Most members of the band and road crew–which total about 30 including the T-shirt hawkers –have been with Nelson at least 10 years.

While Nelson uses his computer keyboard to play video golf for hours on end while touring, his road manager, lanky, long-haired David Anderson, takes care of the payroll, day-to-day logistics and communications for the tour on his own personal computer.

Anderson is a native of Park Ridge, Ill. (“We moved when I was 28-days-old.“) The 30-year-old road manager must fold his 6-foot-4 frame into a cramped workspace not much larger than a doghouse. His mobile office, tucked in a space under a bunk bed, is packed with an IBM XT personal computer and printer, a check writer, a 3M Fax machine, a Cannon copier, a modular phone system and an Uzi submachine gun “for security reasons.”

Willie Nelson and Friends: 7th Annual Maui Music Festival (November 24, 2004)

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

Willie Nelson on Prairie Home Companion (aired 11/23/85)

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019
prairiehome

November 23, 1985

Live from Bridges Auditorium at the Claremont Colleges in Claremont, California, with Chet Atkins, Willie Nelson, Johnny Gimble, El Mariachi Los Galleros de Pedro Rey, Saw Player David Weiss and Peter Ostroushko. 

00:00 Logo
00:11 Rebroadcast Announcement
00:57 Hello Love/ Hello Walls
03.11 GK Talk; Riding ‘Round the Country’
06:53 Corinna, Corinna (Willie Nelson; Peter Ostroushko)
10:32 Larry Airlines
11:41 Seven Spanish Angels (Willie Nelson; El Mariachi Los Galleros de Pedro Rey)
14:57 GK Talks to Mariachi Band
15:54 El Gusto (El Mariachi Los Galleros de Pedro Rey)
18:49 El Gailiero Wapangiero (El Mariachi Los Galleros de Pedro Rey)
23:31 Turkey in the Straw
28:48 Powdermilk Biscuit Break
30:11 Oh What A Beautiful Evening
30:59 GK Intros Saw Player David Weiss
32:47 Danny Boy (David Weiss)
34:39 David Talks About Saw, Sweet Georgia Brown
37:14 Texas Truck Drivers
40:04 Greetings
41:57 Bertha’s Kitty Boutique; For All the Cats I Loved Before (GK, Willie Nelson, Johnny Gimble, band)
44:11 Do You Ever Think of Me (Willie Nelson, band)
47:33 Crazy (Willie Nelson, band)
51:30 Glacier Ox Cars
52:09 GK Talk; Paradise Song, into Twinkle, Twinkle
54:21 Twinkle, Twinkle (Willie Nelson, Chet Atkins, band)
57:54 Segue to Intermission
58:06 Intermission; Dinah, Limehouse Blues
1:01:56 Welcome Back
01:02:48 You Gave Me A Song (Willie Nelson)
01:06:45 Monologue
01:31:19 GK Thanks Claremont Colleges
01:31:53 Take Your Burdens to the Lord (GK, Willie Nelson, Chet Atkins, Johnny Gimble, Peter Ostroushko, band)
01:35:56 Poor Butterfly (GK, Chet Atkins, John Gimble, band)
01:40:32 Mexico Vive – Mariachi Band (Willie Nelson; El Mariachi Los Galleros de Pedro Rey)
01:46:00 Oil Rig Dishwashing Liquid for Men
01:47:09 More Greetings
01:49:12 GK Brings Back Willie Nelson, Blue Eyes Crying (Willie Nelson, band)
01:52:41 GK Thanks Guests, Riding ‘Round the Country’ reprise
01:54:57 Final Credits, Thanks to Stations
01:55:55 Closer into Applause
……………………………………………………..
Audio editing credit: Scott Rivard

Willie Nelson and Linda Ronstadt at the Super Dome (November 18, 1977)

Monday, November 18th, 2019
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

Willie Nelson & Family headline Billy Bob’s Texas 35th Anniversary Concert (November 12, 2016)

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
bb35

Willie Nelson at the Ritz (November 11) ($2.00)

Monday, November 11th, 2019

Willie Nelson and Family Live Album released November 8, 1978

Friday, November 8th, 2019

September 8, 1997

Willie Nelson’s Willie and Family Live album certified quadruple platinum

This album was recorded live at Harrahs, at Lake Tahoe, in April 1978.  It was remastered, and re-released in honor of Willie’s 70th birthday, and additional tracks were added.

Song List:

Disc One:

  1. Whiskey River
  2. Stay A Little Longer
  3. Funny How Times Slips Away
  4. Crazy
  5. Night Life
  6. If You’ve Got The Money I’ve Got The Time
  7. Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
  8. I Can Get Off On You
  9. If You Could Touch Her At All
  10. Good Hearted Woman
  11. Red Headed Stranger Medley:
    • Time Of The Preacher
    • I Couldn’t Believe It Was True
    • Blue Rock Montana/Red Headed Stranger
    • Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
    • Red Headed Stranger
    • Just As I Am
  12. Under The Double Eagle

Disc Two:

  1. Till I Gain Control Again
  2. Bloody Mary Morning
  3. I’m A Memory
  4. Mr. Record Man
  5. Hello Walls
  6. One Day At A Time
  7. Will The Circle Be Unbroken
  8. Amazing Grace
  9. Take This Job And Shove It (with Johnny Paycheck)
  10. Uncloudy Day
  11. The Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line
  12. A Song For You
  13. Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms
  14. Georgia On My Mind
  15. I Gotta Get Drunk
  16. Whiskey River
  17. The Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line

Bonus Tracks:

  • Till I Gain Control Again (Previously unreleased)
  • Georgia On My Mind (Previously unreleased)

Willie Nelson & amily at John T. Floore, celebrating 60 years (October 30, 2014)

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019
floores2

Willie Nelson & Dianne Reeves at T. J. Martell Fundraising Gala (10/28/2009)

Monday, October 28th, 2019

On October 28, 2009, Willie Nelson and jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves performed at the T.J. Martell Foundation’s 34th annual fundraising gala at the Hilton New York Hotel in New York City. The foundation is devoted to research to find cures and treatments for leukemia, cancer and AIDS. The gala also honored Michael Jackson with the organization’s Legend Award. Jackson is the single largest donor in the T.J. Martell Foundation’s 34-year history.

This day in Willie Nelson history: Willie Nelson & Family at the Sportatorium (October 26, 1974)

Saturday, October 26th, 2019
brooks