Archive for the ‘Family Band’ Category

Willie Nelson and Family and Friends @ 2015 Heartbreaker Banquet

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015


Thanks Janis from Texas, for more photos from Luck, Texas. Fantastic photos, as always, Janis!



Jody Payne

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

by: Jim Hannaford

STAPLETON — It’s hard to leave any job you love, but after 35 years, Jody Payne knew it was time to settle down and do some other things.

For Payne, retirement meant stepping down from a coveted and unique musical role that he’d enjoyed for what amounts to more than half a lifetime — being a supporting but pivotal part of Willie Nelson’s iconic sound, on stage and in the studio for a staggering number of shows and songs. From 1973 until 2008, he was in fact Willie’s right-hand man, a stylishly shaggy, go-with-the-flow counterpart playing solid, nimble rhythm guitar and singing sweet harmonies. Along with the rest of the famed Family Band, he often spent most of the year on tour.

These days, Payne has settled down a bit into a quieter and more routine life in Stapleton. At the age of 75, he’s playing occasional gigs and teaching guitar lessons and is able to take a breath and relax.

“I always said that if I could live anywhere it would be in the middle of Baldwin County, and that’s just about where I am,” the easygoing Payne said with a chuckle. “I really like it here. It’s a small town with friendly people.”

Payne’s ties to the area date to the 1960s, when he first played clubs in and around Mobile with the likes of saxophonist Dave Sandy and rockers The Dalton Boys before he joined up with Willie. Later he ran a bar, Jody Payne’s Crystal Palace, for a couple of years on the Causeway.

His wife since 1980, the former Vicki Fisher, is a Mobile native, but Payne’s own roots are in Kentucky, where he and his family members were sharecroppers and musicians. He played bluegrass music growing up and first went on the road in the ’50s with Charlie Monroe, brother of bluegrass patriarch Bill. The young Payne played a variety of music, first with his father and sister in a “family band” and later with ’60s rock and R&B. He first met Nelson in 1962, but the two connected more deeply in the early 1970s when he was touring with Merle Haggard as well as his then-wife Sammi Smith, whose classic recording of “Help Me Make it Through the Night” topped the country charts and sold two million copies in 1971.

They first played together on a show in Nelson’s hometown of Abbot, Texas. An ensuing three-and-a-half-decade association saw the Family Band make a shift from roughneck bars and backwoods honky tonks to swanky Las Vegas showrooms and stadiums and a string of movies and award-winning soundtracks.

The laid-back, modest Payne considers himself fortunate to have been a part of the Willie phenomenon that made the Red-Headed Stranger one of the most popular performers ever.

“We created musical history. It wasn’t me, it was us,” Payne said. “I was just a small part of something people wanted to hear, and we entertained them.”

The Family Band did some 200 shows a year, maybe more, and later the schedule was trimmed down to about 150, he said. One of their buses was actually certified as having traveled a million miles, with the same driver and the same musicians aboard. With these numbers as a ballpark figure, this means that Payne played somewhere between 3,500 and 7,000 shows with Willie.

“I miss the guys and I miss the sound, but I don’t miss the bus,” he said. “It got to where you knew what city you were in because of what the auditorium looked like, not what the city looked like.”

Though he’s retired from the road, Payne said music will always be a part of his life. He hopes to do some recording soon and is enjoying playing with other area musicians, including his students at Picker’s Paradise, the music store in Stapleton where he is teaching guitar for the first time in his life.

Alan Hartzell, general manager of the store, said Payne is a great addition.  “Jody’s always smiling, always level and, of course, he’s an amazing guitarist,” Hartzell said. “He’s great with kids, just as patient as he can be. He’s really humble for being who he is and for what’s he’s accomplished.” 

Rest in Peace, Chris Ethridge; thanks for the music

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Gijsbert Hanekroot, Getty Images

One of the men who helped Willie Nelson build his long and storied career has died. Chris Ethridge, a country rock bassist who’s perhaps best known as the co-founder of the Flying Burrito Brothers, died Monday (April 23) after being hospitalized in Meridian, Miss. last week.

“WN&F are sad to hear of the passing of Family member & friend Chris Ethridge he was a talented musician & we were honored to call him Family,” Nelson tweeted just after 1PM. Ethridge toured with Nelson for almost eight years and played on his 1978 single ‘Whiskey River.’

Last Thursday, Booker T. Jones tweeted that Ethridge didn’t have long to live. “Just talked to Chris Ethridge, (Burritos, Willie Nelson), hospitalized in Meridian, MS — send love and hope – doctors say he will pass soon,” he said.

Fellow Mississippian Randy Houser was also touched by Ethridge’s gift. “Just found out one of my dear friends passed away. sad day. Chris Ethridge you will be missed. Nobody played it like you brother,” he tweeted. Houser grew up in Lake, Miss., just 45 minutes down I-20 from Ethridge’s hometown of Meridian.

Ethridge founded the Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons in 1968 and released the critically-acclaimed and influential country rock album ‘The Gilded Palace of Sin’ in 1969. He would also later record with Leon Russell, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne.

Read article here.

Willie Nelson and Family

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Janis shared these pictures from Austin today. 

Martha and Billy English, and Janis from Texas, at the Gorge in Washington (7/4/07)

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Willie Nelson and Family

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Willie Nelson and Family and Friends

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Willie Nelson and Family; Farm Aid 2008

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Visit  simpsonradio photo stream to see other great shots from the concert.

Willie Nelson and Family, in Wisconsin

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Janis, from Texas, travelled to Wisconsin this week to see Willie Nelson and Family in concert, and sent these great photos. 

Thanks, Janis.  And see you next week!

Jody Payne

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Jody Payne, at the BackYard 2008

So many have e-mailed, commented asking why Jody Payne has not been on tour with Willie. reports that Jody’s retired, living in Alabama with his family.

He has a web site at

Another talented Nelson

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Austin, Texas – Trevor Nelson, nephew of country singer and
legend Willie Nelson chose to be a part of  by hosting several of the video segments, teaching teenagers the rules of the road.

‘ I could have used all the video instruction when I was getting ready to drive, says Trevor, an actor who recently worked on the set of ‘Friday Night Lights’.  ‘ I like the idea of contributing to driver’s education for teenagers.’  

‘Trevor is an excellent actor and more than that a super nice person who jumped in and helped move gear during the shoot’, says Paul Greenway, producer of the video content. ‘I felt real lucky to have him on the project.’

Trevor Nelson is represented by Austin Texas based Actors Clearinghouse, one of the city’s oldest and most respected and recognized talent agencies.

Teenagers can watch real life driving situations on-line on real roads while listening to a professional driving instructor talk about the traffic and approaching situations.  (more…)

Willie Nelson and Family, Norfolk, VA (3/19/08)

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Thanks to Carol S. for taking and sharing these great pictures she took of Willie Nelson and Family

Jody Payne

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Jody Payne warms up, before the BackYard Show on Friday, March 14, 2008

Bobbie Nelson, Jody Payne, in California

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Thanks to Sandie, of California, for sharing this picture she took at a WN&F show last month.