From the show “The winning Hand”. The album, released in December 1982, featuring Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Brenda Lee and Kris Kristofferson. The album consisted largely of unreleased tracks from their years with Monument Records (all four of them had recorded for the label during the mid-1960s). Of the four artists, Kristofferson and Lee contributed new vocals, and a number of the original solo recordings were edited together to create “duets”. Despite what might have seemed an opportunistic project, designed to capitalize on the later fame of the performers—Parton’s and Nelson’s careers were at their commercial peaks in 1982—the album was largely well received by critics upon its release and did well on the country charts.
A single, “Everything’s Beautiful” (not to be confused with the Ray Stevens song of the same name), featuring Parton and Nelson, was released and made the country top ten.
Kristofferson’s two solo outings, “Here Comes that Rainbow Again” and “The Bandits of Beverly Hills”, both had previously been released as singles.
In early 1983, a two-hour variety syndicated television special was aired in celebration of the album with all four stars singing together for the first (and only) time. Johnny Cash hosted the program. Gospel music.
Dolly, Brenda, Kris & Willie
… The Winning Hand
Produced by Fred Foster
Johnny Cash wrote the liner notes for this album, Dolly, Brenda, Kris and Willie. He wrote something about each artist, and here is what he wrote about Willie:
Like a thief in the night
Like the witch on her broom
The red-headed stranger
Came right through her bedroom
No, actually I’m kidding. He was a little reluctant to walk through the bedroom at eleven o’clock at night with Waylon Jennings and myself. They had come over to see me and I said, “Let’s go into my little back room and sit and talk and pick awhile.” We passed John Carter’s bedroom where he was asleep.
“Come on and follow me,” I said. leading the way through the master bedroom to my little get-away-from-it-all-writing-reading-picking-listening refuge.
“I’m afraid we’ll wake June,” said Willie, tiptoeing past the bed where she slept.
“C0me one,” I said, and the three of us walked Indian style through the dim lit room and into my private place.
“I’ve always been a dreamer. I mean, I have vivid technicolor, wide-screen stereo dreams. Oftimes I dream of things that are happening, sometimes I dream of things that will happen, sometimes I’m dreaming of things even before I’m sound asleep. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of a dream not knowing what the end was to be. I go back to sleep, commanding my mind to finish the dream.
Twenty years ago I had a dream about Willie Nelson. I hadn’t spoken with, nor seen him, in about three years.
In my dream, Willie and I were sitting in a dresing room, swapping songs. I sang him a song I had leanred from a demo which Gene Ferguson had given me called The Ballad of Ira Hayes.
Willie said, “You should do an album of Indian songs.”
“I will,” I said. “I never thought of doing a whole album of Indian stuff”
“You will,” I said. “I never thought of doing a whole album of Indian stuff.”
“You will,” said Willie in my dream. (It’s called Bitter Tears.)
Willie said, “Let me sing you one, John. I thought of you when I wrote it.” “They’re all the same.
The dream was over at the end of they’re all the same.
Next morning I called my secretary. “Try to find me a number where I can call Willie Nelson,” I said. “Willie Nelson, the songwriter. I think he’s living in Nashville.”
An hour later I was talking to him. I congratulated him on the success of some of his big songs he had written recorded by other artists. He kindly returned the compliments. “Willie,” I said. “You might think I’m a little weird, but I dreamed about you last niht.” There was silence on his end, so I went on. “I dreamed you sang a song to me, one you had written clled they’re all the same.”
:Do you have a song called They’re All the Same?” I asked.
“Yes, I do,” he said, barely above a whisper.
“Would you send it to me” I asked. “Maybe I can record it.”
A long pause, then willie said. “Sure, give me your address.”
Willie sent the song and I played it a hundred times, but I never recorded it. I was beginning to get heavily into something else and somewhere along the way, I must have lost the demo of ‘Thy’re All the Same.’
Now, back to 1979. Willie, Waylon and I were sitting in my room just off the bedroom where June was asleep, just off the bedroom where John Carter was asleep.
I hadn’t seen Willie in ten years. The hair was long and plaited. The beard was full and red, and the eyes were clear and intelligent. Waylon kept his hat on and sweated like I do.
I was a little shy myself because I was in the presence of two of country music’s all time greats. I was also a little awed by Willie Nelson for his amazing rise to super stardom.
We sang a few songs quietly. Willie was still concerned with waking June.
“Willie;,” I said, “do you remember ‘They’re all the same’?”
“Man,” he said. “That’s been a long tme ago. Didn’t I send you that?”
“Yes, but I lost it.”
“I’ll send you another tape of it,” he said. “Let me sing you this one.” And he sang a song which became a number one record for him. But he still hasn’t sent me a tap on ‘They’re All the Same.’ Maybe he forgot it, too.
Not more than an hour had passed when Waylon said, “We’d better go, John. I know you and June had already gone to bed.”
“Don’t go,” I said, and to Willie, “I haven’t seen you in so long and I want to spend some more time with you.”
They insised that it was too late to keep me up and again expressed their concern of waking June on the way out.
I led the way and June was still asleep. I stopped and went over and shook June awake. Only the night light was on and as I started to turn on the bedside light, Wilie said, “No, John, don’t do that.”
In the dim light, I said, “June, here’s some old buddies, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.” Waylon went over and hugged her, and Willie knelt down beside the bed and kissed her on the cheek.
“How have you been, Miss June?” he said.
June started talking up a storm. “It’s so good to see you both. Why didn’t you wake me, John? Waylon, how’s Jessi? Willie, it’s so good to see you. John and I are so proud for you.”
“Didn’t mean to wake you pu, Miss June,” said Willie, “But it’s good to see you.”
:Oh, that’s alright, stay, John, turn on the light.”
“No, Miss June, we’re going. Hope we didn’t make too much noise.”
“Come back anytime, Willie. Come back, Waylon, and bring Jessie,” said June.
Waylon tipped his hat and followed Willie past John Carter’s bedroom and on out the door.
I waived goodbye to them as they got in the car and closed the door. I started past John Carter’s open bedroom door, back into our bedroom, but he was awake and standing there. “Who’s that, Daddy?” he asked.
“Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.”
He started back to his bed and stopped, “I smell something funny,” he said.
“Like what, John Carter?” I asked.
“I don’t know, he said, crawling under his covers.
Crawling in bed by June, I thought of the miles and the troubles my visitors must have known in their lives. They had been everywhere and done everything, but then so have I, I thought. Maybe I smell funny.
Some fly high and some fly low
But theyrenot all the same
For a winning man with a winning hand
You never see brought down
One year he might disappear
And no more be seen in town
He’s got lots of things I’ve not
An he’ll master the movie game
He’ll be back along to sing his song
nd they’re not all the same
This record made in this decade
Is this decade’s number one
There is no doubt in my mind without
Willie Nelson it could not have been done
Now my take is said
And I thank you, Fred
You are one might man
To work it out
And bring about
The platinum The Winning Hand
— Johnny Cash