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

Willie Nelson at the Palomino (August 7, 1971)

Friday, August 7th, 2020

LOS ANGELES – AUGUST 6: Country singer/songwriter Willie Nelson performs onstage at the Palomino Club on August 6, 1971 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Willie Nelson & Family in San Francisco (August 8, 1997)

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

Willie Nelson & Family, Augusta, Georgia (Dec. 4, 2012)

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020
Willie-Nelson-website

http://m.chronicle.augusta.com
by: Don Rhodes

Some 30 years ago in Nashville, singer-songwriter Paul Williams was the keynote speaker at the annual Nashville Songwriters Association International banquet.

He began his remarks by singing, “Worry? Why should I let myself worry? Wondering, what in the world I should do.”

It was interesting that he chose to open his speech by singing lines from Willie Nelson’s classic ballad Crazy (made famous by Patsy Cline) rather than lines from one of his own million-selling compositions such as You and Me Against The World, The Rainbow Connection (from The Muppet Movie), Close To You or Evergreen (from the Barbra Streisand movie A Star Is Born).

But then again, Williams respects other great songwriters, and they don’t come much better than Nelson.

For his song Night Life, made famous by Ray Price in 1963, Nelson wrote, “When the evening sun goes down. You will find me hanging round. Oh, the night life ain’t no good life, but it’s my life.”

And for Hello Walls, made famous by Faron Young, Nelson wrote, “Hello, walls. How’d things go for you today? Don’t you miss her since she upped and walked away? And I’ll bet you dread to spend another lonely night with me, but lonely walls I’ll keep you company.”

And for Funny How Time Slips Away, made famous by Billy Walker, Nelson wrote, “How’s your new love? I hope that he’s doin’ fine. I heard you told him that you’d love him till the end of time. Now that’s the same thing that you told me. Seems like just the other day. Gee, ain’t it funny how time slips away?”

Chances are that Nelson will sing all of those songs when he returns to Augusta for a concert at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Bell Auditorium just a few months before his 80th birthday. Tickets are $35, $45, $65 and $85 from the James Brown Arena box office, georgialinatix.com or (877) 428-4849.

Nelson is larger than life. He’s sold millions and millions of recordings. His songs have been covered by scores of famous singers.

And he has starred or co-starred in successful movies such as The Electric Horseman, Honeysuckle Rose and Barbarosa and acted in such TV series as The Rockford Files, Miami Vice, Nash Bridges, The Dukes of Hazzard and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

And yet he is remarkably laid-back and down to earth.

During a visit to Augusta in the 1980s, he checked into the Landmark (now Ramada Hotel) on Broad Street and immediately set out walking the length of the street for exercise with only one of his tour members. He nodded and said hello to all of those who recognized him along his walk.

He is known for saying kind things and doing kind things for many people, including the many American farmers he has helped through the Farm Aid concerts that Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young began in 1985.

Grand Ole Opry star Minnie Pearl told me about Nelson coming up to her in October 1976 at the Country Music Association’s awards show.

“I knew Willie years ago when he first came to Nashville,” the country comedy star said, “but I hadn’t talked with him in recent years. Willie looked at me, touched my arm and told me in a soft voice, ‘You have always been one of my favorites, Minnie.’ Then he added, ‘I just wanted you to know I love you,’ and he walked away.”

Besides his own lengthy list of solo hit recordings, Nelson also is known for his many hit duets and group recordings.

Those include The Highwaymen album with Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings and Wanted: The Outlaws album with Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser, and the We Are The World video with Michael Jackson and lots of others.

His list of duet recordings include After the Fire Is Gone with Tracy Nelson (no relation), Heartbreak Hotel with Leon Russell, Faded Love with Ray Price, Old Friends with Roger Miller, Reason To Quit with Merle Haggard, To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before with Julio Iglesias, Seven Spanish Angels with Ray Charles, Outskirts of Town with Keb’ Mo, The Harder They Come with Ryan Adams, Beer for My Horses with Toby Keith, If I Were a Carpenter with Sheryl Crow, Baby, It’s Cold Outside with Norah Jones and This Train with Ziggy Marley.

Once, on his tour bus in 1980 after an Augusta concert, Nelson parted the curtains of a window near where I was interviewing him to look out at a large group of fans who were shouting, “We want Willie! We want Willie!”

Nelson turned back to me and said, “Those people out there like good music. They don’t stop and ask themselves, ‘Is it country or rock and roll.’ If they like it, they will tell you.”

Some things you may not know about Willie Nelson:

• He has performed at the White House several times and supposedly smoked marijuana on the White House roof. He is co-chair of the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

• His latest book is Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings From The Road.

• He played football, basketball and baseball for his high school in Abbott, Texas.

• He sold bibles, vaccuum cleaners and encylopedias door to door.

• He joined the Grand Ole Opry as a cast member in 1965.

• He holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

• His Martin N-20 classical guitar is called Trigger after Roy Rogers’ horse.

• He has been an advocate for better treatment for horses, has been campaigning for the passage of the America Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, has been against cruel living conditions of calves raised to produce milk for dairy products and has become co-owner of bio-diesel fuel plants in Oregon and Texas.

• He lives in a community in Maui, Hawaii, where the homes only use solar power.

• He has been married four times and has seven children.

• He was inducted into the Country Music Association’s Hall of Fame in 1993 and was honored by the Kennedy Center in 1998.

Willie Nelson and Family @ Airway Heights, WA (July 31, 2011)

Friday, July 31st, 2020
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Photos by Matt Auclair

http://checkitoutmusic.com

Opening his set with “Whisky River” Willie Nelson kept the music train rolling for us on the last night of July 2011. The sun was shining down on us with the perfect breeze as the crowd sat in their seats and respectfully loved every song Willie Nelson performed for us tonight. It was a relaxing night of music, that often I caught myself swaying my hips too.  The only thing that was missing was a dance floor.

I couldn’t believe that Willie Nelson still plays “Trigger!” For those of you unfamiliar with Trigger, it is Willie Nelson’s Martin N-20 Guitar; which is so old it has a hole in it! If you can ever get close enough Trigger is even inked with over 100 signatures. Such a cool piece of Willie Nelson.

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Willie Nelson causally stood on stage singing and playing his guitar the entire night. He had a stripped down band on stage with him that featured a harmonica player, bass player, occasional piano player, and a gentlemen on a smaller drum setup. Sometimes the audience was so excited, after or even sometimes before songs would start , they would stand up and scream “We love you Willie” or wave at him. He is quite the legend to have come to Spokane.  At the age of 78 Willie’s still kickin’ right along!

Willie Nelson performed a song for Waylon and one for Hank, along with “Crazy,” “Whiskey River,” “On The Road Again,” “Still Is Still Moving to Me,” “Always On My Mind,” “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” “Georgia On My Mind – Hoagy Carmichael,” “Hey Good Lookin’,” “Move It On Over,” “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” “Beer For My Horses” and many more. Every song sounded fantastic!

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On our way out the door a guy was telling us how pissed he was that he got kicked out from the show for his “good reefer.” We told him we were sorry, but honestly he probably could of just sat by his car and heard the last few songs… it is an outdoor venue. Besides, it’s a Willie Nelson concert no one should get kicked out for that.

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Photos courtesy of Matt Auclair.

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Willie Nelson and BB King, Chastain Park, Georgia (July 27, 2008)

Monday, July 27th, 2020
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Willie Nelson at Woodstock 99 (21 years ago this weekend)

Sunday, July 26th, 2020

www.NYMusic.com
by: Peter Mason

21 years ago this weekend, the festival calamity known as Woodstock 99 took place at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, NY. If you know anything about Woodstock 99, you likely know about the festival-ending fires and mild rioting that took place in the concert grounds, built out of a weekend of frustration with festival pricing and lack of an adequate infrastructure.

Over Friday and Saturday, the festival seemed to be your typical late 20th century festival – bands playing mostly on schedule, an amalgam of various groups of music lovers, basic amenities and little in terms of technological infrastructure. This was a time where cell phones were a luxury item and resembled Zack Morris’ brick phone.

There was the giant plywood wall that surrounded the grounds, which gave you a feeling of being trapped inside, with only two or three entry points where you’d be searched at security’s leisure. Once inside, prices were high, even by today’s standards. Four dollars for a bottle of water, eight dollars for a hamburger, nine dollars for a cheeseburger, ten dollars for a chicken sandwich and twelve bucks for a small personal pizza.

If you were lucky, you found a lemonade stand where the drinks cost only two dollars, but if you wanted alcohol, you had to drink it in the beer garden, which was devoid of shade or quality sound, and put you in a direct line of fire from people slinging mud through the chain link fence.

The musical lineup was as solid as it could be for 1999. In alphabetical order, you’d be able to catch Bush, Chemical Brothers, Creed, Sheryl Crow, Dave Matthews Band, DMX, Everlast, Guster, Ice Cube, Korn, Jewel, Limp Bizkit, Live, Los Lobos, Megadeth, Metallica, moe., Alanis Morissette, Willie Nelson, The Offspring, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rusted Root, Sugar Ray and The Tragically Hip, among many others

Two stages that were a long, long walk from each other separated the acts. If you wanted to see someone on the West Stage, you’d be sacrificing a great deal at the East Stage, and vice versa. The schedule was staggered, but surely this could have been organized better. At least moe. got a set.
Read more at NYS Music…

“It seems to me the whole reason Woodstock ’99 failed was because of the kids. Kids from all over came to Rome and had no sense of authority, and did not care about anyone but themselves. The promoters should be held to blame, but also the irresponsible people who attended. It seems a strange contradiction. The week before Woodstock 99, 120,000 people gathered in Oswego, New York to see the rock band Phish. The event was in more cramped quarters, and was just as hot, and to my understanding no major problems were reported. Maybe if people behaved like they did at the Phish event this wouldn’t have happened.”

Pharmer’s Almanac, Volume 6

While Pataki’s remarks are off by around 90,000 ‘Camp Oswego‘ attendees, it does highlight the weekend prior where similar conditions of oppressive heat and humidity did not lead to the same circumstances as they did in Rome from July 22-25. How can two festivals, 80 minutes apart, be so diametrically opposite? You’d have to factor in an audience from mixed walks of life, many of whom may not have been to a multi-day music festival prior to this, and festival promoters who came up short in every single area – from bathrooms to food, safety to water, and layout to operations.

Skip ahead to Sunday, July 25, and on the main East Stage, you’d catch Al Green, Willie Nelson, Brian Setzer Orchestra, Everlast, Elvis Costello, Jewel, Creed, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Genre-wise, in order, you could catch gospel/soul, country, swing, rap, rock, pop, ‘hard’ rock and pure rock ‘n’ roll from the Chili Peppers. Quite a variety to see in one day.

Long lines at the limited vendors that had food to serve coupled with very long lines for water, overflowing portos and litter seemingly everywhere, finally hit a tipping point. Add in the aforementioned oppressive heat and humidity plus a complete lack of shade, and a powder keg was ready to burst. The plywood fence around the venue was already being torn down casually throughout the day by concert-goers taking out their frustrations, which led to more seeking a piece of memorabilia.

During the day, in an odd bit of cosmic irony, anti-gun violence group Pax (now the Center to Prevent Youth Violence), distributed candles to those who stopped by their booth during the day. The original intent was for a candlelight vigil during “Under the Bridge,” but instead some used the candles to start bonfires, and when coupled with the thousands of empty water bottles that littered the East Stage field, there was plenty of fuel to light the grounds on fire from stage to stage.

At some point towards the end of the Chili Peppers set, the audio tower caught fire, and the fire department had to be called in. The festival was over thankfully, and many had left during the day, but for the thousands needing to vacate the grounds while emergency personnel were arriving, the scenario had to be frightening. CBS News reported:

The three-day concert climaxed into a frenzy about a quarter mile from the main stage when several concertgoers set fire to twelve parked tractor-trailers.

Several people pulled cases of soda and merchandise from the trucks and fed the flames with debris. Others toppled light stands and speaker towers, while another group tried to destroy a radio station truck.

via CBS News
Read more at NYS Music…

As a result of Woodstock 99, it would be a number of years before a festival with pop bands reaching a broad audience would take place. Jam festivals were already on the rise, and while the lineup for Bonnaroo 2019 looks little like that of Bonnaroo 2002, the key to the festival formula was in building a lineup for a defined audience, not gathering an audience towards a known lineup.

And while Woodstock 50 never even got off the ground and Woodstock 99 was a stain on music festival history, the original and even the 1994 edition bear the torch for a name still synonymous with peace, music and love.

The nine-episode podcast Break Stuff: The Story of Woodstock 99 from The Ringer gives a detailed breakdown of the festival. Listen here.



Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings (July 25, Spartan Stadium,1982)

Saturday, July 25th, 2020

“Poncho and Lefty” is #1 (July 23, 1983)

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

On July 23, 1983, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s recording of “Pancho And Lefty” moved to number one on the Billboard country chart.

Willie Nelson in Santa Cruz (July 15, 1979)

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

Thanks, Phil Weisman, for finding this cool old poster.

Willie Nelson interview, with Chet Filippo (Rolling Stone July 13, 1978)

Monday, July 13th, 2020
www.RollingStone.com by: Chet Filippo July 13, 1978 The saga of the king of Texas, from the night life to the good life The desk man at the Greensboro, North Carolina, Holiday Inn shook his head when I asked for Willie Nelson. “Got no Willie Nelsons today.” He turned away officiously and resumed cleaning his fingernails with a Holiday Inn matchbook. He was about as encouraging as my cab driver had been: “You goin’ to see Willie Nelson? Man, he was a no-show last week. They had to haul that Wet Willie in; he play instead. You see Willie Nelson, you tell him for me, ‘Man, you die fast in this town.’ I went back to the Holiday Inn desk man: “See here, I was really looking for the party of Fast Eddie and the Electric Japs.” “Well, goddamnit, why dincha say so.” He started thumbing through registration forms: “Lemme see, Mr. Eddie ain’t here yet, but Mr. Snake is, Mr. Poodie is, Mr. Beast is . . . ” “Okay, gimme Snake’s room number.” Poodie, who is Willie’s road manager, and Beast, his cook and caterer, would, I knew, be over at the coliseum setting up for the night’s concert. But Snake would be here, taking care of business. I would be hard pressed to say what Snake’s duties are exactly. He’s a lean, rangy ex-paratrooper who, if you ask him point-blank what he does, will reply with a slight smile: “What do you want done?” He is one of about twenty persons whom Willie Nelson has handpicked over the years to help him in his calling. The Electric Japs, a.k.a. Willie Nelson’s Family, a.k.a. the Rolling Smoke Revue, are a devoted crew, all loyal to the point of being ready to jump forward and take the bullet – if, that is, Fast Eddie weren’t so proficient with kung fu that he himself would have already wiped out the gunman. If, that is, there were a gunman. Because everybody, it seems, loves Willie Nelson these days. It wasn’t always thus, I reflected as I went off in search of Snake. Ten years ago, Fast Eddie couldn’t even get himself arrested in Nashville, despite the fact that he was the best songwriter to hit Music Row since Hank Williams, the king of them all. Everybody else was having hits with Willie’s songs – Rusty Draper with “Night Life,” Jimmy Elledge and Johnny Tillotson with “Funny How Time Slips Away,” Patsy Cline with “Crazy,” Faron Young with “Hello Walls,” Andy Williams with “Wake Me When It’s Over” and Roy Orbison with “Pretty Paper,” to name a few – but Willie’s own records went nowhere. Good writer, no singer, said Nashville’s establishment. Now he rules country music. Oddly, the album that brought him the wide audience he now enjoys was not composed entirely by him. He wrote only five of the fifteen cuts on Red Headed Stranger, the brilliant allegorical album that forever changed Nashville’s idea of what is and is not country music. He wrote none of the songs on his current album, Stardust, a collection of “my favorite ten songs.” His record company, CBS, was not real hot about either album. Willie was supposed to be a country singer, so what the hell, they wondered, was he doing with these off-the-wall albums? But then, I remembered as I knocked on Snake’s door, Fast Eddie got his nickname by doing the unpredictable. Rules don’t mean a lot to him. Snake opened his door: “Damn, I didn’t know you were coming. I guess it’s okay if you didn’t bring too many women. C’mon, Eddie’s just down the hall.” Fast Eddie Nelson was in room 326, sitting barefoot, in jeans and a blue T-shirt, reading the trade magazines. “Shit, Eddie,” said Snake. “Stardust is seventy-six on the pop charts. We’re gonna sell 24 million.” Willie laughed softly, as he always does. I told him about the cabdriver: “And not only do you die fast, the driver said: ‘Shoot, I ain’t gonna pay no $8.95 for Stardust. Those old songs, I heard them before.’” Willie fell over laughing. “Why, hell yes,” he finally said. “Why buy old songs?” “What happened to your beard, Willie?” I asked. He fingered his chin gingerly. “Aw, I shaved it for the summer. Gets too hot. How you doin’? Ready to go ride the bus with me, son?” With the beard, Willie had always reminded me of a benign patriarch. Without it, the forty-five-year-old singer resembles a proud Indian chief: stark, chiseled profile, flowing red hair, deeply lined face and piercing brown eyes. Eyes that don’t miss much. He is not the most talkative person around – lending credence to the theory that the best writers are watchers, not doers. Willie Hugh Nelson, a.k.a. Fast Eddie, is an intense watcher. I always get the feeling around him that he’s sizing me up: am I a potential song or just another disciple? He gets plenty of both. Disciples are many and fanatical now that he positively exudes spirituality. I have heard first-person tales of marriages saved, of nervous breakdowns averted, of illnesses healed by the power of Willie’s music. He was a Sunday school teacher in a Baptist church in Fort Worth when he had to decide about his career. Fort Worth in the 1950s was a shining jewel on the Bible belt, and some of the Baptists there felt that Willie’s singing in honky-tonks on Saturday night and then teaching God’s word on Sunday morning were incompatible callings. The Baptists suggested that he make a choice. He chose music. “I had considered preaching,” he now laughed, “but preachers don’t make a lot and they have to work hard.” Still, he didn’t protest strongly when I suggested that he is pop music’s only preacher. “I have met people,” I said, “who have driven hundreds of miles just to touch the hem of your garment. Literally.” He looked a little uncomfortable at the thought. “Maybe you’re exaggerating. I am religious, even though I don’t go to church. I believe in reincarnation. We’re taught to believe that all men are created equal and yet we know that one guy is born without eyes and one guy is born with eyes. So that’s not equal. They had to be born together in the beginning. At one time, we were all born at the same time. God imagines everyone, so we’re all images of him – in the beginning. He made us all in the beginning and since then we’ve been coming back and forth. First time we came in we knew a lot and we’ve lost it along the way. Being down here is kinda like goin’ through the university: you go through one grade at a time and if you fail, you gotta go back and take those tests again.” He laughed at the analogy and fell silent for a moment. “But I know what you mean about fans,” he continued. “And I know what they’re doing. In their minds, they’re relating the music to something else, and I appreciate that. There are answers in music. Poems and music about our problems and situations are good for us to hear – how other people react to the same problems and live through them and survive. This is all put in songs; I guess the history of the whole world is in songs and poems.” Willie has compressed a fair amount of history in what I think is his best work – his three “concept” or storytelling albums. The first, the early – Seventies Yesterday’s Wine, is an obscure masterpiece. Wine was so far beyond anything out of Nashville that RCA was befuddled by it. At the time, Willie’s house in Nashville had burned – there’s an oft-quoted story that he rushed back into the flames to save his guitar case, which contained an impressive quantity of marijuana – and he moved to Bandera, Texas. RCA called him on a Friday and said his contract called for him to be in Nashville on Monday to cut a new album. He had no new songs whatsoever, but flew into town, took an upper and stayed up writing songs nonstop. The result was a moving collection of songs that Willie describes as “before life and after life.” Phases and Stages, released by Altantic in 1974, was a compassionate account of a failing marriage, told from both the man’s and woman’s points of view. Atlantic was phasing out its country line at the time and didn’t promote the album. Exit Phases and Stages. Willie moved on to CBS and hit gold with Red Headed Stranger, a deeply moving, very moral tale of sin and redemption. Columbia Records President Bruce Lundvall, along with other CBS executives, thought it underproduced and weird, but it, and the single off the album, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” broke the C&W crossover market wide open. (It also recently brought Willie a movie deal with Universal for a filmed version of Stranger and a movie based on Willie’s life.) After the success of Stranger, RCA brought out The Outlaws, a compendium of material by Willie and Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser. It sold a million copies right out of the chute, and Nashville, which was accustomed to patting itself on the back for selling 200,000 copies of a C&W album, found its system obsolete. Willie and Waylon, after being outcasts for years, were suddenly Nashville royalty. And Willie started telling CBS what he wanted done, rather than vice versa, which had been the Nashville way of doing business. But Willie’s success really goes back further, back to a dusty pasture in central Texas in the summer of ’72. When I met Willie Nelson then, backstage at the Dripping Springs Picnic on July 4th, 1972, I didn’t even know it was him. That picnic was a real oddity: a bunch of Dallas promoters booking Nashville singers into a cow pasture in Dripping Springs under an unmerciful Texas sun. The crowd was a hostile mix of young longhairs looking for their own Woodstock and traditional country fans who just wanted to get drunk. The truce was an uneasy one, broken by beatings of the longhairs by both the drunks and the security goons. I was standing backstage, talking about all this to a shorthaired guy who was wearing a golf cap and oversized shades. I didn’t know who he was until Tex Ritter walked over and introduced him to me as Willie Nelson. I was properly embarrassed, but Willie just laughed about it. We retired to the shelter of an air-conditioned Winnebago to have a beer and to talk. He said he was tired of Nashville and had moved back to Texas for a while. He told me his history: born in Abbott, a wide spot in the road south of Dallas, April 30th, 1933; parents separated; raised by his grandparents. As a boy, he worked in the cotton fields for three dollars a day. At age ten, he started playing guitar with polka bands in the Bohemian towns of central Texas, where German and Czech immigrants had settled. He tried for a baseball scholarship at Weatherford Junior College, failed. Did a stint in the air force. Tried being a business major at Baylor University, but preferred playing dominoes and music. Dropped out. Sold Bibles door-to-door. Sold encyclopedias door-to-door. Became a disc jockey, kept playing music on the side. Taught Sunday school till that became a conflict with playing honky-tonks. Disc jockeyed all around the country. Played every beer joint there was. Taught guitar lessons. Finally sold a song in Houston for fifty dollars – Family Bible” – and decided to take the money and head for Nashville, “the big time.” Traveled there in a ’51 Buick that sank to the ground and died once he got there. Hung out drinking in Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge behind the Grand Ole Opry, where he met songwriter Hank Cochran, who liked his stuff and got him a publishing contract. Other people had hits with his songs but his own recording career languished. “I’m not worried, though,” he laughed as we emerged from the Winnebago just before his set. “I’ll do all right.” Indeed he did. That picnic was pretty much a disaster, but Willie was carefully watching everything that was going on. Half a year later, he had long hair and an earring and was a cult figure in Austin rock clubs. The next July 4th, we were all back at Dripping Springs for “Willie Nelson’s First Annual Fourth of July Picnic,” with performers like Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Doug Sahm. This time, the longhairs weren’t beat up. It was the watershed in the progressive country movement. Prominent state politicians mingled with longhaired kids. University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal had his arm around Leon Russell. Peaceful coexistence had come to Texas, thanks to Willie’s pontifical presence. Two years later, for his 1975 picnic, the Texas Senate declared July 4th “Willie Nelson Day.” From that first 1973 picnic, he had to take out a bank loan to cover his losses – too many gate-crashers – but he was established. Texas was his. That picnic was also the first time that I had witnessed the uncanny ability of Fast Eddie to appear – or disappear – at exactly the right time. When the picnic ended at about four in the morning and the 50,000 or so people there were jamming the two-lane highway that led back to Austin, I decided to find a back way out. I took off driving across flat ranchland and, finally, miles away, found an alternate highway. But between me and that highway was a locked cattle gate. I was just revving up my Chevy to ram the gate when, from out of the ghostly blackness, a Mercedes came roaring up beside me. Willie got out, nodded hello and held up a key. He unlocked the gate, smiled goodbye and drove off. I still don’t know how the hell he pulled that one off, but timing has been the key to his career. Right place at the right time. Seemingly, everything he has done has been wrong. His vocal phrasing is off the beat, the songs he writes are unconventional, his albums are unpredictable, his guitar playing is a startling mixture of Charlie Christian and Mexican blues picking (“Maybe I am half-Mexican,” he says, half-jokingly), he does not hang out with the right people, and he has never compromised himself, so far as I can tell, in his entire life. “I don’t think he ever has a bad thought,” his harp player, Mickey Raphael, told me. Such people aren’t supposed to be successes in the opportunistic world of popular music. But, though it took years, Willie Nelson managed to do it. Viewed in retrospect, his body of songs is remarkable, a unified world of transgression and redemption, human suffering and compassion and joy, all told by an anonymous Everyman. “Willie understands,” is the most-heard quote from his fans. There is really no one to compare him to, for his songs and his style are bafflingly unique. Take a fairly obscure one: “I Just Can’t Let You Say Goodbye,” written in 1965, is the only song I know about strangling one’s lover. No wonder Nashville didn’t know what to do with him. Some of the lyrics: The flesh around your throat is pale Indented by my fingernails Please don’t scream, please don’t cry I just can’t let you say goodbye. Willie’s explanations of his songs sound almost too simple: “I’d been to bed and I got up about three or four o’clock in the morning and started readin’ the paper. There was a story where some guy killed his old lady and I thought, well, that would be a far-out thing to do.” He laughed. “To write this song where you’re killin’ this chick, so I started there. ‘I had not planned on seeing you’ was the start, and I brought it up to where she was really pissin’ him off, she was sayin’ bad things to him and so he was tryin’ to shut her up and started chokin’ her.” All very matter-of-fact. Did he consider alternate forms of murder? “Ah, well, chokin’ seemed to be the way to do it at the time.” Much of his earlier work is equally bleak: “Opportunity to Cry” is about suicide, “Darkness on the Face of the Earth” is a stark and frightening song about absolute loneliness, “I’ve Got a Wonderful Future behind Me” means just what it says. Some of Willie’s best misery songs, written during his drinking days of the Fifties and Sixties, were inspired by his past marriages. “What Can You Do to Me Now?” and “Half a Man” resulted from incidents like the time Willie, the story goes, came home drunk and was sewed up in bed sheets and whipped by his wife. Most Nashville songwriters were content with simple crying-in-my-beer songs, while Nelson was crafting his two-and-a-half-minute psychological dramas. His characters were buffeted by forces beyond their control, but they accepted their fates with stolid resignation, as in “One Day at a Time”: I live one day at a time I dream one dream at a time Yesterday’s dead and tomorrow is blind And I live one day at a time. “I don’t know whether I’ve ever written any just hopeless songs,” he said. “Maybe I have, maybe I’m not thinking back far enough. I’m sure I have. Songs I’m writing now are less hopeless. I started thinking positive somewhere along the way. Started writing songs that, whether it sounded like it or not, had a happy ending. You might have to look for it. Even though the story I’m trying to tell in a song might not necessarily be a happy story to some people. Like ‘Walking’: ‘After carefully considering the whole situation, here I stand with my back to the wall/I found that walking is better than running away and crawling ain’t no good at all/If guilt is the question then truth is the answer/And I’ve been lying to thee all along/There ain’t nothing worth saving except one another/Before you wake up I’ll be gone’ – to me that’s a happy song. This person has resolved himself to the fact that this is the way things are and this is what ought to be done about it. Rather than sitting somewhere in a beer joint listening to the jukebox and crying. I used to do that too.” Is writing his form of therapy? “Yeah, it’s like taking a shit.” He laughed his soft laugh. “I guess a lotta people who can’t write songs, instead of writing songs they’ll get drunk and kick out a window. What I was doing was kinda recording what was happening to me at the time. I was going through a rough period when I wrote a lot of those songs, some traumatic experiences. I was going through a divorce, split-up, kids involved and everything. Fortunately now I don’t have those problems. But I went through thirty negative years. Wallowing in all kind of misery and pain and self-pity and guilt and all of that shit. But out of it came some good songs. And out of it came the knowledge that everybody wallows in that same old shit – guilt and self-pity – and I just happened to write about it. There’d be no way to write a sad song unless you had really been sad.” Fast Eddie got up from his Holiday Inn bed and put on his blue Nike jogging shoes. “Gonna go out and run three miles,” he said. “Wanta come along?” “I can’t do 300 yards,” I replied. He laughed. Three miles later, Willie and entourage boarded his Silver Eagle bus for the drive to the coliseum. Willie, reading The Voice of the Master by Gibran, assumed his usual seat, beneath the bus’ only poster, an illustration of Frank Fools Crow, the chief and medicine man of the Lakota Indian Nation. Underneath Crow is the Four Winds Prayer, which Crow once recited onstage at a Willie concert. The prayer, which is addressed to grandfather God, asks for mercy and help from the outsiders encroaching on his people’s land. Without even asking Willie, I know why that poster is there. He and Chief Fools Crow are both throwbacks, remnants of the American West, honest men who try to tell the truth and who believe in justice. I thought of a Willie Nelson song, “Slow Movin’ Outlaw,” that talked about that: The land where I traveled once fashioned with beauty, Now stands with scars on her face; And the wide open spaces are closing in quickly, From the weight of the whole human race; And it’s not that I blame them for claiming her beauty, I just wish they’d taken it slow; ‘Cause where has a slow-movin’, once quick-draw outlaw got to go? Symbolism with Willie is too tempting, I reminded myself, as the Silver Eagle threaded its way through Greensboro’s evening traffic. Still, I couldn’t avoid thinking of another song as we arrived at the coliseum and Willie plunged into a backstage crowd that was one – third Hell’s Angels, one-third young people and one-third middle-aged folks in leisure suits. All of them said the same thing: “Wil-lie! Wil-lie!” Some wanted autographs, some wanted to touch him, some just wanted to bask in his presence. The song I was thinking of was “The Troublemaker:” I could tell the moment that I saw him He was nothing but the troublemaking kind His hair was much too long And his motley group of friends Had nothing but rebellion on their minds He’s rejected the establishment completely And I know for sure he’s never held a job He just goes from town to town Stirring up the young ones Till they’re nothing but a disrespectful mob.2 The song’s about Jesus, in case you didn’t guess. The Hell’s Angels, working as volunteer security, parted a way for Willie and his band to pass through: Bobbie, his sister, who plays piano; guitarist Jody Payne, another ex-paratrooper; Chris Ethridge, who played bass with the Flying Burrito Brothers; harmonica player Mickey Raphael; and drummer Paul English, who’s been with Willie since 1954. English was once what used to be called “a police character” in Texas, and not too long ago the FBI is said to have tailed Willie Nelson and band for a year because they were after a notorious police character that English once knew and they thought he might show up on the tour. Leon Russell once wrote a song about English, called “You Look like the Devil.” He does, too, and he’s still the only country drummer to appear onstage all in black with a flowing black-and-red cape, goat’s-head rings and a five-inch-wide black leather belt embedded with silver dollars. Used to really freak out the country fans, but he’s as kind a man as you could hope to meet. He could be Keith Richard’s father. Although the 17,000-seat coliseum was not full, it was a splendid evening of music: Billy Joe Shaver opened, followed by Emmylou Harris and then Willie. The bulk of his set was material from Red Headed Stranger, and when he started “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” in his powerful baritone, I heard actual gasps of awe from the front rows. Been a long time since I heard that. When Emmylou came out to join him for the encores, it turned into a gospel-camp meeting with their voices soaring in “Amazing Grace” and Willie pointing his right hand heavenward. One of Willie’s friends, for a joke, once showed up at a concert in a wheelchair in the front row. During “Amazing Grace” he began shouting, “I’m healed. I’m healed.” He dragged himself up out of the wheelchair and tottered a dozen steps before collapsing. There were “amens” from the folks around him. Another of Willie’s friends, a famous Houston attorney, once introduced one of Willie’s songs as evidence in a trial. He was representing a construction worker who had been maimed in an accident on the job. The lawyer recited Willie’s “Half a Man” and soon had the jury weeping: “If I only had one arm to hold you . . . ” Over the years I have known him, Willie Nelson has not been known as an extremely talkative interviewee. I am not the most garrulous person in the world, either, so a lot of our taped conversations amount to lengthy, very profound silences, punctuated by the wheeze of long tokes. One such exchange that seemed to take an hour: 1. Willie sang “Whiskey River.” 2. We both nodded affirmatively. No words needed. A toke. 3. Willie: “Went over to Peckinpah’s house.” 4. Me: “You talk to Dylan?” 5. Willie: “No. Dylan don’t talk a lot.” 6. Me: “I know.” 7. Willie: “He introduced himself to me and talked just a little bit. I saw him again the next night at a party over at Peckinpah’s house. He was a little shy, scared to death. They had him jumpin’ and runnin’on them horses down there and he ain’t no cowboy.” 8. Willie sang “Shotgun Willie.” 9. Me: “You write that?” 10. Willie: “Yeah.” 11. Me: “Good.” 12. Silence. 13. His daughter Paula Carlene came in. 14. Willie: “Go away. I’m busy.” 15. Paula: “Why can’t I stay?” 16. Willie: ‘Cause you’re a little ole girl.” 17. Paula: “Help me carry something.” 18. Willie: “I can’t. My legs are broke.” 19. A toke. 20. Silence. He does talk, of course, if you ask the right questions. After Greensboro, when we landed in Roanoke, Virginia, Willie sat down before his evening jog to talk a bit. “Wasn’t Stardust a real gamble for you, a big risk?” I asked. Willie settled himself in his Holiday Inn armchair. “Yeah, it was,” he said. “It’s too early to tell how it’ll do, but so far it’s outlived a few expectations. But it was a big gamble. I felt it’d either do real good or real bad. I had had the idea for some time but until I met Booker [T. Jones, who produced Stardust], I wasn’t really sure in my mind how well I could do these songs because of my limited musical ability, as far as writing down songs of this caliber. These are complicated songs; they have a lot of chords in them. I needed someone like Booker to write and arrange. Once I got with him it was easy to do the album.” After so many years of trying, has success changed Willie Nelson? Are you still writing songs? “Well, a lot of people think my writing career is over, that I’ll never write another song. But I do have one or two left in me.” He chuckled. “I do have some new ones, ‘She’s Gone,’ ‘Is the Better Part Over,’ ‘Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground.’ I don’t think success has hurt or helped me. I still write when I get a good idea. I don’t write as much depressive music now because I don’t feel that way anymore.” Do you feel any vindication now that you’ve succeeded when the Nashville establishment said for so long that you couldn’t be a singer? “I feel a lot of self-satisfaction. I don’t know if vindication is the right word. Just knowing that I had been on the right track.” During all those years of trying, did you ever have self-doubts, think of quitting, think you were wrong? “Not really. I never had any doubts about what I was trying to do, my songs or my music. I just felt it was good. I had some discouraging moments as far as record labels were concerned, and I thought about droppin’ out and quittin’ and never doin’ it again. In fact, I did quit several times. But it wasn’t because I didn’t think the music wasn’t good. I just thought it was the wrong time for me.” When you first got to Nashville, was there any kind of group of young songwriters? “Yeah, there was a bunch of us. Roger Miller, Mel Tillis, Hank Cochran, Harlan Howard, myself. We were pretty close all the time. Stayed at each other’s houses and partied a lot. This was before Kris came to town. By then I had already left Nashville, really. I had gone to the country and vowed not to return. Everything was goin’ wrong, and I just said fuck it all, I’ll never write again, never sing again, don’t wanta see nobody again, don’t call me. I stayed out in the country a year and didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t work any dates. I let my beard grow. Raised some hogs. I lost more money in hogs than anybody. I had some fat hogs, too. I fed ’em that high-priced feed. All they could eat of it. Feed prices kept goin’ up and hog prices kept goin’ down. I lost about $5000 in three months there. On one load of hogs.” Do you think what happened is that the public finally caught up to what you were doing? “Yeah, I do. I’ve been told that my songs and me were ahead of my time for so many years, but if the times are catchin’ up to me – and it seems like they are – and if I don’t progress, they could very well pass me too. “But I wasn’t considered commercial in Nashville because my songs had too many chords in ’em to be country. And they said my ideas, the songs were too deep. I don’t know what they meant by that. You have to listen to the lyric, I think, to appreciate the song. If you can hear one line of a song and have captured the whole of it and you can hum along for the rest of it, then those are more commercial. But mine usually tell a story. And in order to get the whole thought, you have to listen to the whole song. And that requires listening, which people didn’t do till recently. I really believe that the young people, that rock & roll music, all of it has been good because if nothing else it cleaned out the cobwebs in people’s ears to where you would listen to lyrics. The day of the writer and of the poet came. The Kristoffersons finally had a chance.” But, I pointed out, you paved the way for Kristofferson. “Well, Kris has agreed with that. He’d been listenin’ to me before he came to Nashville. Just as I’d listened to Floyd Tillman before I went to Nashville.” I’ll bet, I said, that you had thought for years about doing an album like Stardust. Didn’t you listen to Sinatra and Crosby? “Sure I did. Radio was the only thing I had growin’ up. We didn’t have TV. So I stayed with a radio in my ear all the time I was home. I turned the dial constantly, so I’d hear pop, country, jazz, blues, so I was accustomed to all types of music. My sister read music and took piano lessons and bought sheet music so I could learn the songs that way.” Was growing up in Texas a big influence on your music? “I think there’s a big freedom in Texas that gives a person a right to move around and think and do what he wants to do. And I was taught this way: anybody from Texas could do whatever they fucking wanted to do. And that confidence, shit, if you got that going for you, you can do almost anything. I believe that has a lot to do with it.” Besides Texas, what were your biggest influences? I know you heard Ernest Tubb and Floyd Tillman and you liked them. But what else? “Well, I used to work in the fields a lot, pick cotton alongside of niggers, and there would be a whole field full of niggers singing the blues. And I’d pick along and listen to that all day long. I loved to hear them sing.” (Author’s Note: If you find that offensive, you should be advised that Willie Nelson personally risked his career and reputation by starting the career of Charlie Pride, the only prominent black country singer, at a time when C&W fans were not favorably disposed toward black singers. Nelson personally escorted him through the South and occasionally kissed him on the cheek onstage. Doing that in Southern honky-tonks was a brave, brave move.) There is still argument in Nashville, I told Willie, over whether he beat the system or whether he made it work for him. What does he think? He answered seriously. “I think I made it work for me. There’s no secrets about it. I think I kinda let it work for me. I waited till the time was right. Fortunately, all those years of waiting, I had some songs that I’d written that I could live off of and that let me keep my band together and keep my show on the road. Or else I’da had to have folded long ago. Gone back to selling encyclopedias door-to-door.” He got up and we started walking down the corridor to the bus: time for another one-nighter. “Willie,” I asked, “do you think that what you have done has permanently altered the Nashville system?” He thought about that one for a long time: “The big change – now that we proved that country albums can sell a million units, naturally they’re gonna try to figure out how that’s done. No one had any idea there was that kind of market out there. Now they know that, and they’re firing at that market. Those guys just didn’t know that audience was there. That’s what happens when you sit behind a desk a lot. You don’t get out there and see what people are paying money to go see. I been playin’ beer joints all my life; I know what those people like to hear.” Two days later, I got a chance to see exactly what he was talking about. We arrived at Columbia’s Studio A in Nashville to find producer Billy Sherrill (one of the CBS executives who reportedly didn’t particularly like Stranger) sitting behind the board. He and George Jones had been waiting for two hours for Willie. George Jones used to be the undisputed king of country, the staunch defender of the traditional country sound. Now, he’s decided to cut an album of duets with such people as Willie, Waylon, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. He and Sherrill finally saw the writing on the wall. Jones and Nelson, those two giants of country, greeted each other warmly. After one run-through of “I Gotta Get Drunk,” it was obvious who was king now. Jones was nervous and holding back on his vocals. Willie tried to put him at ease: “You know something George? I wrote that song for you back in the Fifties but I didn’t have the nerve to pitch it to you.” “Hell, Willie,” said Jones, “I tried to find you once because I wanted to cut ‘Crazy’ but I couldn’t find you.” Even after a couple more run-throughs, Jones was still having trouble harmonizing with Willie, and Sherrill called from the control room: “Okay, Willie’s stuff is good and we can overdub George later.” They moved on to “Half a Man,” and Jones was still having trouble. “How the hell does Waylon sing with you,” he asked. “I’m used to singin’ right on the note. I could do two lines during one of your pauses.” Willie laughed. Jones left for home, Sherrill left for his houseboat and Willie drove over to Municipal Auditorium and walked onstage to thunderous applause: his triumphant conquest of a city that had long spurned him.

The Backyard 20th Anniversary Celebration (July 7, 2013)

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

WILLIE NELSON
LEON RUSSELL (JUST ADDED)
JOE ELY
FOLK UKE
A.J. CROCE
ZACH WALTHER
KIMBERLY KELLY
JASON BOLAND AND THE STRAGGLERS (JUST ADDED)
BLEU EDMONDSON

Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker @ Hofheinz Pavillion for KPFT Fundraiser (June 22, 1975

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Willie Nelson on Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (June 18, 2019)

Thursday, June 18th, 2020
….

Willie Nelson & Family at the Apollo Theater – London, England (June 17, 2010)

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020
opollo1

www.WillieNelson.com

opollo2

Willie Nelson on ESPN Sports Nation (June 16, 2014)

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020
Bristol, CT - June 16, 2014 - Digital Center 2 Plaza: Country singer Willie Nelson performs during an ESPN Newsmaker Luncheon (Photo by John Atashian / ESPN Images) Bristol, CT – June 16, 2014 – Digital Center 2 Plaza: Country singer Willie Nelson performs during an ESPN Newsmaker Luncheon (Photo by John Atashian / ESPN Images)

Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, legendary musician Willie Nelson drops by to chat about his love of sports and his latest album “Band of Brothers” which hits stores Tuesday.

Nelson, 81, is in his sixth decade in the music industry that began when he started writing songs that included hits like Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” “Band of Brothers” marks Nelson’s first album of mostly new, original content since 1996, whose single “Bring It On” can be heard here. Send your questions now and join Nelson Monday at 1:45 p.m. ET! Buzzmaster Willie will be here in a few minutes to take your questions!  Willie is here!
Lenny (San Diego)
You’ve had a long, legendary career, but is there still any spot on the globe that you haven’t played yet that you want to get to? Willie Nelson Well, I want to go back to Italy and play. For a lot of different reasons. I haven’t been there for a long time. I haven’t toured there much. I want to go back to Amsterdam too.
Tim (DC)
What is your songwriting process like? Are you able to write anywhere or do you need to have a certain surroundings?
Willie Nelson
I think a good songwriter should be able to write something about anything any time. Whether it’s any good or not, I don’t know. But if he’s a good writer, he should be able to come up with some rhymes.
Kevin (Boston)
what keeps you motivated to keep on touring and putting out albums?
Willie Nelson
I enjoy touring. I enjoy playing the music. As long as the fans keep showing up, we’ll keep doing it.
Daniel (Kansas)
Anyone in particular you would like to use your black belt skills on?
Willie Nelson
I’m making out a list!
willie wilbanks [via mobile]
What made you decide to do this new album? Are your kids on it as well?
Willie Nelson
I hadn’t had an album of a lot of original songs in a while. We got lucky writing and it just sort of happened.
Keith (Baltimore)
what do you think about the current state of country music? Anyone out there you enjoy listening to?
Willie Nelson
I am of the old school. I haven’t heard too many of the new guys. I’m sure there are some guys I should have heard about. Alison Krauss, Kacey Musgrave are great. Really some great talent out there. I hear Billy Jo is good on the new album.
Carly (Denver)
What do you do on those long bus rides when you’re on tour?
Willie Nelson
I sleep a lot.
Donna Wilbanks Tower [via mobile]
How do you keep that amazing voice? How do you keep going?
Willie Nelson
I use it, it helps, like the old commercial says, if you don’t use it, you lose it. It goes for anything.
Jason (Philly)
What was your friendship with Texas coach Darrell Royal like? Do you think we will see a relationship like that with a big-time head coach and a musician again?
Willie Nelson
Darrell was a good friend. We hung out and jogged together. He was the biggest country music fan ever. Another coach that is a good friend of mine is Don Nelson, we play poker a lot. He’s another good guy.
Ray/Indiana [via mobile]
Have you ever lost or misplaced “Trigger?” What will happen if you outlive Trigger or vice versa?
Willie Nelson
I don’t know. I’ve never lost him. A lot of people keep their eye on him all the time. I don’t even want to think about what I’d do without him.
Mary Benedict (Maryland)
Have you ever thought about making a new Highwayman album? Maybe having the newer bad boys of Toby Keith and Trace Adkins and maybe adding Shooter Jennings and John Carter Cash to honor their Dads, so the Highwayman songs can keep on living.
Willie Nelson
I thought about doing one with maybe me and Merle and Kris, Jamey. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve thought about it.
Neal (Miami)
What is one of your favorite memories of Johnny Cash?
Willie Nelson
Johnny Cash, he called me a lot and wanted me to tell him jokes. He liked my jokes. He was another good friend.
Jenny (Chicago)
What kind of athlete are you now? What about back in your youth?
Willie Nelson
I played all kind of sports, I wasn’t great in any of them but I enjoyed them. It’s still the same way. I run, walk, bike. Do martial arts. I just do enough to keep me going. I try not to overdo it. I think it’s important to do something.
Victor (Monroe)
What,s It Like Being in the country music hall of fame?
Willie Nelson
It was a great honor to be inducted into the hall of fame. It’s one of the best things that’s happened to me in my career.
Kevin (Miami)
How many songs do you think you’ve written in your life?
Willie Nelson
I don’t know. 3,000, 4,000.
Wally (KC)
What do you still remember about being on Miami Vice. Did you enjoy acting? Do you still enjoy it?
Willie Nelson
I had fun doing that. I saw that on rerun the other day. With Don Johnson. It was pretty funny. I enjoy acting. It’s a lot of fun.
Tampa Red (Parkersville)
Which late musician do you wish you done a duet with?
Willie Nelson
I would have loved to have played with Django. I am pretty lucky, I got to sing with a lot of the people I wanted to. I’ve been pretty lucky.
Erika (NYC)
Did you come up with the term “Outlaw Country”? If you didn’t, do you like that title?
Willie Nelson
That was started by somebody else in Nashville. I thought it was funny. I liked it from the beginning.
Will Emery (Texas)
Willie, thank you for the years and years of great music. How is your health? 81 going on 18?
Willie Nelson
Pretty much. I feel pretty good. I had a good show last night. Everybody showed up. Was healthy. Can’t ask for much more than that.
Derrick (Chicago)
Hey Willie, I gotta ask you, does too much marijuana ever impact your singing voice? Any long term issues you’ve noticed?
Willie Nelson
It makes me sound too much like Frank Sinatra. I can’t tell if it’s helped or hindered.
Clem Brown (Mineola, TX)
Any surprises for this year’s Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic in Ft. Worth? What’s the lineup this year? Good luck with your new album, can’t wait to hear it.
Willie Nelson
I don’t know. We have a lot of favorites from Texas. We have a lot of other acts booked. David Allan Coe. Ray Wylie Hubbard. If you have three names, I’ll put you on the list.
TimmyJim (Metter)
Even though everything’s better in Metter, which city is your favorite tour stop?
Willie Nelson
I am from Texas. I always look forward to playing in Texas.
QABill (V town)
Besides your own songs, what is your favorite song of all time?
Willie Nelson
My favorite all time song is “Moonlight in Vermont.”
Chris (Kenova, WV)
Your favorite NFL Team?
Willie Nelson
Dallas Cowboys.
Willie Nelson
I’m glad the fans are still all out there. Thanks for the questions.
Willie Nelson
And the USA has a good shot at winning in the World Cup. Good luck USA. Go get ’em!