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

This day in Willie Nelson history: “Songwriter”

Friday, October 9th, 2020


Today in 1984, the movie, “Songwriter,” starring Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson premiered in Nashville.

Willie Nelson at the Superdome (10/3/99)

Saturday, October 3rd, 2020

Willie Nelson on Jimmy Fallon

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020
Willie Nelson appeared on the Jimmy Fallon Friday, September 30th. This picture was from his appearance with Lukas Nelson in 2012. They performed “Just Breathe” together.

Sunday, September 27th, 2020

“Harvest the Hope” (Press Conference) (9/27/14) (#NO_Keystone_Pipeline)

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The press was well represented at the press conference outside the barn of Art and Helen Tanderup, the landowners who hosted last Saturday’s “Harvest the Hope” concert with Willie Nelson and Neil Young, on their farm north of Neligh, Nebraska.  The coverage has been great, google Willie Nelson, Neil Young or Harvest the Hope and real all the fine stories, and great photos from this event.

The strong, growing coalition protesting the movement of crude black tar from Alberta, Canada, through Canada and the United States, to the gulf of Mexico was represented,  including Bold Nebraska, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Cowboy & Indian Alliance, Sierra Club,Farmers, Ranchers, Artists, people in the suburbs, people in the city, unions (one at least), politicians, Canadians, people around the world — all protesting the movement of crude black tar from Alberta, Canada, through Canada and the United States, to the gulf of Mexico.

A lot of people worked very hard to make that concert happen, and work to fight against the Keystone XL pipeline, and work in support of small, community-based clean energy projects on farms and tribal land.

Read about what is happening, the dangers to the air, water and quality of life of citizens living near the pipeline carrying the crude tar when it breaks, and support their work, if you can.

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Jane Kleeb, of Bold Nebraska, escorted Willie Nelson and Neil Young.  They hold the ceremonial blankets presented them at a ceremony honoring them, before the press conference.

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Elaine Shock, Willie Nelson’s publicist, arrives with Willie Nelson and Neil Young for the press conference.

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The youth were well represented, and makes you feel optimistic about the future

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Lukas Nelson, Frank Wahn, Micah Nelson

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Willie Nelson @ Soap Creek (September 20, 21, 22, 23, 1976)

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020
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Willie Nelson & Family (Sept. 21)

Monday, September 21st, 2020
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Willie Nelson at the Chicago Theater (September 20, 2012)

Sunday, September 20th, 2020
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Farm Aid 2017 in Burgettstown, PA (September 17, 2017)

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

www.FarmAid.org

Each year, Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews host a Farm Aid concert to bring together a wide variety of artists, farmers and fans for one mission: keeping family farmers on the land. Farm Aid is an all-day festival that brings together incredible music, good food and hands-on activities to get folks in touch with the roots of our food. Since 1985, Farm Aid has raised more than $50 million to help family farmers thrive all over the country while inspiring millions of people to take part in the Good Food Movement.

The lineup:

Farm Aid features the best that music has to offer, while remaining true to its ultimate mission.

Great music, supporting farmers, and strengthening America since 1985

Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on the land. Dave Matthews joined the Farm Aid Board of Directors in 2001. Farm Aid has raised more than $50 million to promote a strong and resilient family farm system of agriculture. Farm Aid is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to keep family farmers on the land.

Learn more about Farm Aid’s work in this video:

Farm Aid accomplishes its mission by:

Promoting Food from Family Farms

We know that to keep family farmers on the land we have to increase the number of people buying their good food. From our annual concert event that features family farm food and unites farmers, artists, and concerned citizens, to our inspiring and informative tv, radio, mail and web campaigns (including our HOMEGROWN.org website), we are building a powerful movement for good food from family farms.

Growing the Good Food Movement

In order for family farmers to thrive we have to create more markets for them, giving more people the opportunity to access family farm food. Farm Aid fosters connections between farmers and eaters by growing and strengthening local and regional markets and working to get family farm food in urban neighborhoods, grocery stores, restaurants, schools and other public institutions.

Helping Farmers Thrive

Since 1985, Farm Aid has answered 1-800-FARM-AID to provide immediate and effective support services to farm families in crisis. Now Farm Aid’s online Farmer Resource Network connects farmers to an extensive network of organizations across the country that help farmers find the resources they need to access new markets, transition to more sustainable and profitable farming practices, and survive natural disasters.

Taking Action to Change the System

Farm Aid works with local, regional and national organizations to promote fair farm policies and grassroots organizing campaigns designed to defend and bolster family farm-centered agriculture.We’ve worked side-by-side with farmers to protest factory farms and inform farmers and eaters about issues like genetically modified food and growth hormones. By strengthening the voices of family farmers, Farm Aid stands up for the people upon whom we all depend. Farm Aid’s Action Center allows concerned citizens to become advocates for farm policy change.

Learn More

Willie Nelson on QVC (September 12, 2013)

Saturday, September 12th, 2020

On this day in Willie Nelson history in 2013 performed livhe e on QVC in support of his album, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”

Willie Nelson & Family in Concert at the Grand (September 11, 12, 2012)

Friday, September 11th, 2020
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Willie Nelson – the Top Balladeer (New York Times) (September 9, 1981)

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

WHY is Willie Nelson, who wears his long, graying hair in braids, dresses like a hippie and was singing honky tonk music in Texas roadhouses as long ago as the l950’s, America’s most admired pop balladeer?

Kenny Rogers sells more records with his saccharine love songs and stagey whisky-rasp, and Frank Sinatra is certainly still a force to be reckoned with, but it is Willie Nelson who has turned chestnuts like ”Georgia on My Mind,” ”Stardust” and ”Mona Lisa” into recent pop hits, and Mr. Nelson draws a more diverse audience than either Mr. Rogers or Mr. Sinatra. The last time he performed in New York, pot-smoking rock fans were sitting next to middle-aged businessmen and their wives and a few grandmothers, and all of them were hanging on to Willie Nelson’s every word.

The release this week of ”Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits” (Columbia records) offers some clues, both in the music it includes and in what it omits. On first hearing, Mr. Nelson’s dry, reedy tenor can sound deceptively thin, but listening to his hits back to back, one soon notices a sinewy strength that’s barely hidden behind his apparently vulnerable sound and casual delivery. One also notices that most of his hit records have used a sound, a kind of musical formula, that refers to several traditions, including country music, rock, folk and middle-of-the-road pop, without really belonging to any of them. Their most characteristic sound is a softly strummed acoustic guitar, a wailing harmonica played by his band’s most prominent soloist, Mickey Raphael, and Mr. Nelson singing, straightforwardly and with just a hint of melancholy, about faded loves, rejection in love, and men who are drawn to the open road and can’t seem to help themselves, men who live like cowboys not because they want to but because that’s what they are. A Land of Cowboys

Cowboys – there’s a clue. America needs its cowboys. There’s a cowboy in the White House, a cowboy who likes living on his ranch and gives press conferences with his boots on. There were latter-day cowboys in ”Urban Cowboy,” one of the most successful films and record-album soundtracks last year. There are more and more countryand-western clubs opening, and more and more city slickers in western shirts and boots to go to them, even in Manhattan. And Willie Nelson is a cowboy.

He’s still a convincing cowboy at the age of 48. He crisscrossed Texas for years, playing in roadside honky tonks. He peddled his songs in Nashville, and some of them, most notably ”Crazy” and ”Funny (How Time Slips Away),” became country standards. But record producers in Nashville didn’t think he could sing, and when he did get a chance to record, he was saddled with string orchestras and inappropriate material. By the time he finally became a full-fledged country star, in the mid-70’s, he had been branded an ”outlaw” by Nashville’s conservative country-music establishment, and although he has long since become a pop star, with a fistful of platinum albums and singles and several film roles to his credit, he still projects that outlaw image.

This is a curious thing. What one sees is an outlaw – a cowboy gone wrong. What one hears, especially on Mr. Nelson’s recordings of ”Stardust” and other standards, is a weathe red but reassuring voicesinging the old songs as if they really matte r to him, against a simple, folksy musical backdrop. Apparently, American pop consumers won’t buy records of songs like ”Stardust” when they are performed by entertainers who project an old-fashioned, sophisticated showbusiness image, but they will buy them wh en the singer is a longhaired, pot-smoking rebel.

The counterculture of the 60’s has become the mainstream culture of the 80’s, an d Mr. Nelson is the one American popular singer who gives the impress ion of being part of both the counterculture and the mainstream at the same time. Back to Honky Tonk

Interestingly, ”Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits,” a double album that includes two previously unreleased performances, has only one of his performances of pop evergreens on it -his hit version of ”Georgia on My Mind.” The rest of the album concentrates on hits that are clos er to country music and to country rock. There are several live performances recorded with his wonderfully idiosyncraticband, which l ayers electric guitars and back-country church-style piano over he avy bass and the two-beat cowboy drumming of Mr. Nelson’s long time sidekick, Paul English. There are tributes to Mr. Nelson’s honk y-tonk roots, including a fine reworking of Lefty Frizzell’s ” If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time” and two numbers, ”Fa ded Love” and ”Stay a Little Longer,” that were associated wi th the late Bob Wills, ”King of Western Swing” and probably the most popular Southwestern entertainer or all time. Mr. Nelson’s most celebrated duet with his fellow country ”Outlaw” Waylon Jennin gs, ”Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” is here, too.

So ”Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits” is really the best of Willie Nelson, country singer, an album for his hard-core fans. Perhaps he feels that with his albums of pre-World War II pop standards and his movie appearances, he has been neglecting the people who made his reputation in the first place. At any rate, he is still a winning country stylist.

And it is somehow reassuring, at a time when most country entertainers can’t wait to get that first pop hit and start wearing tuxedos and playing Las Vegas, to find one who knows who he is and what he comes from. Maybe that’s why his fans accept the long hair and the rumpled clothes; they are outward indications that no matter how successful he becomes, the inner Willie Nelson is not about to change.

Willie Nelson and Van Morrison at Outlaw Festival (September 8, 2018)

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

www.timesonline.com
by: Scott Tady

BURGETTSTOWN — Well, it was a marvelous night for a moon dance Friday, with Van Morrison at KeyBank Pavilion singing many of his classic songs.

Not that the lazy fans in the second-tier seats got up on their feet to shake and groove until the very end, though it looked rather lively on the lawn.

Granted, Morrison’s 90-minute performance got off to a slow start, bringing initial fears of, wow, what if the 45-year wait to see the Northern Ireland legend on a local stage didn’t meet expectations? Morrison and his band sounded too quiet, especially compared to the guitar-shredding set of alt-country artist Sturgill Simpson that had preceded them.

Morrison seemed to notice it, too, making a few upward pointing gestures, as in, hey, turn up the volume. Morrison played sax on “Benediction (Thank God For Self Love),” and he and his lightly jazzy pop-rock band sounded OK on “Magic Time,” but they were still too quiet and in need of more energy. Sporting a dark suit, tinted glasses and stylish hat, Morrison added harmonica to the blues standard “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” which perked up things. Everything finally started to click — evidently volume adjustments were made — as Morrison’s signature, soulful voice got good and peppy on “Here Comes The Night” by his 1960s band Them.

From there, it truly was a marvelous experience, as the band began to assert itself, including soothing female backing vocals on “Carrying a Torch” then the classic “Moondance,” somewhat re-arranged, with a prominent bass line behind Morrison’s jaunty vocals.

Van The Man even cracked a smile during “Broken Record,” where he and the band imitated a broken record, complete with a scratching, stuck needle sound effect, and him repeatedly singing “broken record, broken record, broken record…”

The excitement grew with a back-to-back “Days Like This” and the classic “Wild Night,” while Morrison played piano for “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

And talk about an epic ending, with the famed “Brown Eyed Girl” sparking the crowd to sing “Sha la la la la la la la la la la, dee dah” — just like that — and then a spry “Gloria,” in all its G-L-O-R-I-A glory, getting even those spectators in the pavilion’s second tier to stand and dance.

Not only did local Morrison fans get to a cross an item off their bucket list, they saw a fine performance.

For many of the 17,500 or so spectators, Morrison was the main draw, though six other acts made memories at this Outlaw Music Festival, including headliner Willie Nelson, who at 85, still has a charming stage presence. With a huge Texas flag unfurled behind him, Nelson, armed with his trusty and battered acoustic guitar, chugged through classics like “On The Road Again,” “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and his set-launching “Whiskey River.”

Nelson’s son Micah played drums with brushes, giving the sound a nice country-western shuffle, with Willie’s other boy, Lukas, bringing some smoking guitar and a voice similar to his dad’s on the high notes during “It’s Floodin’ Down in Texas.”

From a Hank Williams medley to a lovely rendering of “Always on My Mind,” Nelson proved he’s still a quality entertainer.

His boys both got to play an afternoon set, with Micah, under the stage name Particle Kid, conjuring an intriguing sound that mixed twangy country, conga drums and psychedelic vocal effects. The crowd loved his “Everything is Bull—-” for which brother Lukas came on and added air guitar before seamlessly starting his own set that showcased exciting guitar and great songwriting.

Lukas and his band, Promise of the Real, connected with the crowd on “Turn Off The News,” a song that begins “I believe that every heart is kind/some of them are just a little underused” before getting to a message of skipping the TV news and doing something positive instead, like planting a garden or spending time with your kids. “We might feel a bit less hardened,” he says.

You’ll hear more about Lukas Nelson and Promise of The Real when they appear as the band in the much hyped “A Star is Born” reboot with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.

Compared to Lukas Nelson’s set, outlaw country artist Sturgill Simpson and his band seemed too sprawling and self-indulgent, though there were some thrilling moments amid their lengthy jams.

Maybe the finest performance of the day came from Brandi Carilie whose rocking band entertained and delivered a message. Carlile mentioned her two daughters and her wife, saying she feels compelled to talk about them on stage to assert their rights to be a family. Alone on stage at that point, she sang the touching song “The Mother,” with a cute line about her first-born: “the first things she took from me were my selfishness and sleep.”

Carlile uttered something about there being no junkies, just people suffering through hard times, as she set her full, warm voice loose on “Sugartooth,” a song she wrote about a friend who had a drug addiction and took his own life.

Carlile ended her set with an impressive, full-bodied rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You.”

The sparse crowd entering the gates by 2:45 p.m. saw a wonderful opening set by Pittsburgh’s own The Commonheart. Clinton Clegg’s soul-searching voice, backed by scorching guitar, shined on a few originals and an excellent cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” done Joe Cocker style.

WIllie Nelson in Salina, Kansas (September 2, 2005)

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

People Magazine (September 1, 1980)

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020
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People Magazine
September 1, 1980
by Cheryl McCall

Before he ever imagined the high life, the whiskey nights and the Bloody Mary mornings to follow, Willie Nelson yearned for the road and its promise of freedom.  As a Texas school boy, chopping cotton for $1.5o a day, he listened to the gospel songs of the field hands and daydreamed about moving on.  “I didn’t like picking cotton one bit,” he recalls.  “I used to stand in the fields and watch the cars go by and think, ‘I want to go with them.’”

Today, nearly four decades and a million miles later, Willie, 47, continues to heed the call of the highway.  Overtaken by success a mere five years ago with the release of his album Red Headed Stranger, he simply picked up the tempo and put his foot to the floor.  Once branded an outlaw by Nashville’s rhinestone-encrusted music establishment, Nelson has lately become an inadvertent and unassailable national monument.  No one really objected when Willie dropped a lyric from The Star-Spangled Banner at the recent Democratic National Conveniton.

Since Stranger went platinum in 1976, Nelson has added two more platinums, two double platinums, four golds and a whole atticfull of Grammys and Country Music Association awards.  Currently, with seven LPs on the charts plus his new double LP Honeysuckle Rose, Willie has taken his guitar and his low-key persona and is trying his hand at being a movie star.

As he tells it, his starring role as Buck Bonham in Honeysuckle Rose is one he could play almost from memory.  “I never did know you had to the trained to have your picture made,” drawls Willie.  “Maybe that’s the whole point — not knowing anything is maybe better than just knowing a little.  Besides, I can sympathize with Buck,” he adds. “He’s a married guy who succumbs to temptation on a potholed highway.  I’ve been that route myself.”

It shows.  On-screen, Willie projects the same earthy sex appeal and relaxed masculinity that give his life performances tension.  His face is as brown and creased as a walnut, the reddish hair and beard dusted with gray.  But the camera dimisses the etchings of age and lingers instead on the soulful brown eyes and the effortless smile.  When Nelson is teamed with Dyan Cannon, who plays his lusty wife, Viv, in Honeysucke Rose, the movie crackles with high voltage.  “Willie does it like a real person, which is what an actor is supposed to do,” says the film’s director, Jerry Schatzberg.  “He’s very natural in the love scenes because he’s had a lot of experience there.  The man’s been married three times and he knows what he’s doing.”

While Honeysuckle Rose borrows freely from the singer’s nomadic, loosely plotted existence, the unabridged script of Willie’s life story is part Grapes of Wrath, part contrified Battle of the Sexes.  Children of the Depression, Willie and his older sister, Bobbie, were raised by their paternal grandparents in dusty little Abbott, Texas after Ira and Myrle Nelson divorced.  While Bobbie learned piano from her grandmoteher, Willie was given his first guitar at 7 by his grandfather, a blacksmith who took mail-order music lessons.  When the old man died the following year, Willie kept his ear to the family’s wooden Philco radio, learning as many Grand Ole Opry songs as he could.  “He’d pick up things just like that,” says Bobbie.  “His ear is so fantastic, he doesn’t even know how good he is.”

Graduating from high school at 16, Willie left the cotton fields for a job as a disc jockey.  “When I found myself singing over the radio, I didn’t think life got much better than that,” he recalls.  For a while it didn’t.  He joined the Air Force in 1950, but was discharged with a back injury.  Afterward he enrolled at Baylor University, but spent most of his single semester there playing dominos.  

Dropping out, he was earning as little as 50 cents a night with a local band when he met and married Martha Matthews, a 16-year-old Waco carhop, in 1952.  “She was a full-blooded Cherokee.”  Willie recalls, “and every night with us was like Custer’s last stand.  We’d live in one place a month then pack up and move when the rent would come due.”  By 1958 Willie had three children to support.  He made ends meet, after his fashion, as a plumber’s helper and a door-to-door salesman, while working nights playing his songs in the honky-tonks.

The Nelsons drifted to Nashville in 1960, about the time their stormy marriage was nearing its end.  Martha resorted to bartending, while Willie hawked his satchel of songs on Music Row and drank up the profits at Tootsie’s Orchard Lounge.  In what turned out to be her final gesture of compassion, Martha had to rescue Willie from a drunken suicide attempt when he sprawled in the street outside Tootsie’s and waited for a car to run him over.

 The last night of their marriage was even more garish.  “I came home drunk,” Willie remembers, “and while I was passed out, she sewed me up in a sheet.  Must’ve taken her two hours.  Then she got a broomstick and started beating the hell out of me.  I woke up in this strait jacket, getting pounded like a short-order steak,” he continues.  “By the time I got loose, she’d lit out in the car with the kids, her clothes and my clothes.  There was no way I could follow her naked, and that was kind of the end of it.”

That was about the time his intensely personal, offbeat laments began turning into hits for better-known singers.  Night Life (which Willie had sold for $150), Crazy, Hello Walls and Funny How Time Slips Away all cracked the country Top 20 by 1963, and soon he was earning $600 a week in composer royalties.  (His own renditions weren’t selling then, because producers kept smothering his reedy baritone in syrupy strings.)  Over the years Nelson has composed more than 1,000 songs, while successfully avoiding the old Nashville formulas.  “I’d say that 99 percent of what I write has come from my own experience,” he says.  “A person could probably start from my first song and go all the way to my last and — if he knew what to look for — write my autobiography.”

Several painful chapters were inspired by his second marriage, to country singer Shirley Collie.  Husband and wife sang, recorded and traveled together until settling down on 200 acres near Nashville in 1964.  There Willie blew a small fortune fattening hogs (“I bought them for 25 cents a pound and ended up selling for 17”) while performing at the Grand Ole Opry.  When Willie hit the road again to recoup his losses, he left Shirley at home to take care of his kids.  Both drifted into smashing up cars, drinking, drugs and infidelity until the marriage simply died of neglect.

Still, Willie wasn’t destined for bachelorhood.  Even before the divorce from Shirley was final, he had gone ahead and married his present wife, Connie Koepke Nelson, 36, a factory worker whom he’d spotted during a club date in Cut and Shoot, Texas.  “When Willie came out to sing,” she remembers, “he looked down and smiled.  It wasn’t a flirty look, just a warm, neat feeling.  Before the night was over he asked for my phone number, and the next time he came through Houston he called.  I went to the show and that was it.”

By 1970 Shirley had moved out and Connie had moved in, but Willie’s career was going nowhere in Nashville.  Then his house caught fire.  “By the time I got there, it was burning real good,” Willie remembers, “but I had this pound of Colombian grass inside.  I wasn’t being brave running in there to get my dope — I was trying to keep the fireman from finding it and turning me over to the police.”  Willie saved the grass, but lost more than 100 tapes of songs he hadn’t yet recorded.  Still, out of the ashes came a sense of relief and a determination to abandon Nashville for Texas.  Installing his family in Austin, Willie bought a used Greyhound bus and began touring the county fairs, dance halls and violence-prone bars where he was known and loved.

Just as Merle Haggard was topping the charts with his hippie-baiting Okie from Muscogee, Willie — never a slave to fashion — began sporting long hair, a beard and and earring.  With fellow outlaws like Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Jerry Jeff Walker, he began forging the gritty Austin sound that finally brought him success as a singer.  Within six months of its release in 1973, the LP Shotgun Willie outsold all his previous albums combined; he was inducted int Nashville’s Songwriters’ Hall of Fame; and his first Fourth of July picnic draws 50,000 rockers and rednecks to the little hamlet of Dripping Springs, Texas.  Creative control over his recordings brought Willie a string of hit LPs that hasn’t been broken, and later led to his first movie role — as Robert Redford’s manager in The Electric Horseman.  Five more film commitments await, at a reported $1 million per roll, but Willie insists he’s not going Hollywood.  “I like making movies,” he said, “But it’s confining, and I don’t like to go too long without playing concerts.”

Willie and his extended family of 25 musicians and roadies average 250 days a year on tour, traveling in a convoy of three customized buses and two semis of sound gear.  Though he could comfortably afford to fly to his concerts, the bus is a kind of spiritual haven.  “I rest better because there’s no phone,” he explains, “and traveling is a big part of my life.  I haven’t seen much of the country, but I’ve been all over it a thousand times, just laying in the back with the blinds drawn.  I guess it’s the perpetual motion I like.”

Backed by what may be the highest paid band in country music (members earn $750 a night — $1,000 for cutting an album), Willie’s roistering performances always start on time and usually run through 54 songs.  Then he shrugs off his battered Martin guitar to sign autographs for perhaps another two hours.  Whether he’s playing Caesars Palace (where he’s paid $1.5 million a year) or a little Bible Belt fair, Willie’s accessibility is his immutable trademark.  “He just can’t say no to anybody,”  Connie says.  “I’ve seen Will so tired he can’t go any further.  Then someone will ask one more thing from him and he’ll do it.  He doesn’t ever want anybody to think that success has changed him.”

In some ways, of course, Willie has changed.  Though he and his sidemen continue to graze on $3, 500-a-pound Arkansas grass (“Most people smoke to get high,” says a friend.  “Willie smokes to get normal”), he has sworn off pills and cut back on his whiskey.  He offers no apologies for the marijuana (“I think most sensible human beings know it’s not something you send people to the penitentiary for”) but forbids the use of any other drugs — especially cocaine — by his band.  “If you’re wired,” he says simply, “you’re fired.”

Despite his new found willingness to set commonsense limits, Willie’s most powerful addiction is to life on the road.  “It’s been a strain on Willie and me to an extent, but we’ve never had trouble between us, ever,” reports Connie.  “I don’t worry about the women.  I trust Willie completely.  But sometimes I feel that he doesn’t need me.  He’s got the road and he’s got his life.  It’s real easy to feel pushed aside.”  This summer Connie and the kids have been touring with Willie — a visible rebuttal to stories linking Willie with actress Amy Irving, his adulterous interest in Honeysuckle Rose.  “Amy and I were friends during the movie and I hope we’re still friends.” says Willie.  “Anything more is only what people wanted to write about.”

There was a time when Willie’s definition of a successful performer was “anyone who got to play music and eat.”  Today he says, “I have all the material things I need and a couple I don’t.”  When their life in Austin became oppressively public, he, Connie and their two children moved to Colorado in 1977.  There Willie can hang his hat in a three-story chalet on 60 acres near Denver or at the family’s 64-acre Pedernales Country Club outside Austin, an 80-unit apartment complex, the 1,700-seat Austin Opry House and the previous Nelson residence — a 44-acre spread with $750,000 limestone ranch house hidden behind a wall topped with electrified barbed wire.  Around Nashville, his holdings include a music publishing company and 200 acres outside town.

Inevitably, becoming a man of property, as well as the father of five, grandfather of six and paterfamilias to a musical entourage, has given Willie a sense of responsibility that is occasionally burdensome.  “I’m not worried about the next car payment,” he says, “But I am worried about income taxes.  A lot of families (including numerous ex-in-laws) depend on me, and it’s a lot of pressure in some ways.  But we’re making more now than we ever did, so at least if I decide to hang it up for a couple of months, nobody’s going to starve to death.”  Shouldn’t his success entitle him to be a little more sanguine?  “Maybe,” he says.  “But I still get knocked off my feet like anybody else. I’ve had so many ups and down in the last 30 years that I’ve learned to live with both.  The successes are great, but they’re not going to last forever.  And I’ve come back from a lot of failures.”

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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)