Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Willie Nelson and Shakey Graves, for Irish Music Series

Friday, October 7th, 2016
Austin, TX - Willie Nelson tapes a piece with Shakey Graves in the Pedernales Recording Studio for the US premiere of the Irish music series Other Voices on October 3, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Austin, TX – Willie Nelson tapes a piece with Shakey Graves in the Pedernales Recording Studio for the US premiere of the Irish music series Other Voices on October 3, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman
by:  Peter Blackstock

“OK, now whaddaya wanna do?”

Willie Nelson was sitting in a chair in the corner of his Pedernales Recording Studio, rolling off the likes of “On the Road Again,” “Bloody Mary Morning” and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” like they were leaves falling from the trees. Gathered around him was a small crew from the Irish television show “Other Voices,” in town for a rare excursion outside their home country to capture a broad range of musical performances for an upcoming season.

Presently, he starts into “Always On My Mind,” then pauses. “Would you get me the words out here? Just so I don’t screw ’em up,” he says. Discussion in the control room turns toward getting a lyric sheet ready, but Willie decides to just give it a shot anyway, and he lays another ace on the table.

Scattered amid several isolation booths a few yards away are his sister Bobbie Nelson on piano, Mickey Raphael on harmonica, Kevin Smith on bass and Mike Meadows on drums. When they finish the song, Austin native Shakey Graves suddenly appears, a rising star whose task for the afternoon is to interview Willie on camera.

SEE MORE PHOTOS: Willie Nelson “Other Voices” session at Pedernales Recording Studio

“I’ve never interviewed anybody before,” Graves admits sheepishly, but Willie immediately puts him at ease: “Let me interview you!” Willie asks if Shakey’s ever been to Ireland, and Graves recalls visiting the town where the “Other Voices” program is based.

“It’s called Dingle, like the berry,” Graves says, to giggles all around, before marveling about how beautiful the countryside was. Willie concurs: “You can’t even imagine how green it is until you get there.”

Austin, TX - Willie Nelson tapes a piece in the Pedernales Recording Studio for the US premiere of the Irish music series Other Voices on October 3, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Austin, TX – Willie Nelson tapes a piece in the Pedernales Recording Studio for the US premiere of the Irish music series Other Voices on October 3, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

The taping with Nelson was a last-minute add to the itinerary for “Other Voices,” which is sort of an Irish parallel to our own “Austin City Limits.” Begun in 2003, the show has a different vibe than ACL, generally capturing bands in very intimate locations such as recording spaces, nightclubs, pubs and churches. Among those who have done the show are Austin’s Patty Griffin.

They’ll set up shop this weekend at Austin’s renowned Arlyn Studios, operated by a crew including Nelson’s nephew, Freddy Fletcher. The overlap with the Austin City Limits Music Festival’s second weekend was by design: “Other Voices” is bringing more than a half-dozen fest acts over to Arlyn from Friday to Sunday, including a couple that also taped “Austin City Limits” while they were here.

The schedule includes a mix of national and Austin acts, as well as a few performers who aren’t part of the ACL Fest lineup. The events aren’t open to the public, but tickets to some of the tapings are being given away on the Other Voices Facebook page as well as the Arlyn Studios Facebook page.

The conduit bringing “Other Voices” and Arlyn together is Graham Brown, an Irishman who moved to Austin a few years ago. Although the show currently does not air here, a representative for the program said that “the ‘Other Voices’ Austin team will be shopping the U.S. series installment to U.S. broadcast partners following these initial tapings.”

That should please Willie, who observed on Monday how the whole world is closely connected, as he sees it. “People are people everywhere, whether it’s Waco or London,” he said, a perspective underscored by the colorful “Alice in Hulaland” T-shirt he was wearing from a funky clothing shop in Maui, Hawaii.

As Willie and Shakey concluded their interview, Graves came up with a good question: “What’s the greatest gift you’ve ever given, and received?”

“Music,” Willie replied, not hesitating for a second. “To me, music is the common denominator.”

Austin, TX - Willie Nelson tapes a piece in the Pedernales Recording Studio for the US premiere of the Irish music series Other Voices on October 3, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Austin, TX – Willie Nelson tapes a piece in the Pedernales Recording Studio for the US premiere of the Irish music series Other Voices on October 3, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Camera crew from Irish TV show “Other Voices” capture Willie Nelson performing at Pedernales Recording Studio on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman



Randy Ryan, Farmer Veteran Coalition #FarmAid2016

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

[Thanks so much to Pat Wiley Keeney, from Texas, for her report about the Farmer Veteran Coalition.  Pat is one of my friends, and Farm Aid supporters, who, year after year, help me tell the story of what happens at Farm Aid.  She interviewed Randy Ryan, of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, at FarmAid in Bristow, Virginia, last month.]

by:  Pat Wiley Keeney.

While at Farm Aid I had the privilege of talking with Randy Ryan of the FARMER VETERAN COALITION. I was interested in knowing what led Randy to get into farming & how the military might have prepared him for a life as a farmer. I apologize for the sound quality of the video. It was very loud with a lot people in the Homegrown Village and that was a good thing.

The Farmer Veteran Coalition works with veterans in the food and farming community in all 50 states and U. S. Territories, to provide farming education, and veteran assistance to those in need.  The Farmer Veterans produce a wide range of food and fiber products, all of which are an integral part of America’s food system.

For more information on the work of the coalition visit

Mickey Raphael Interview (Texas Music Office)

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Mickey Raphael photo by Frank Stewart






by: Frank Stewart

INTERVIEW: Willie Nelson Family Band Harmonica Player, Mickey Raphael

Just a few weeks ago, the TMO caught up with Texan harmonica player, Mickey Raphael via phone from Raphael’s current home in Nashville. Although Raphael is well known for being a 40-plus year member of Willie Nelson’s Family band, his virtuoso harp playing can also be heard on projects as disparate as recordings from Chris Stapleton, Elton John, U2, and Motley Crew. Please enjoy part 1 of an enlightening conversation where Raphael recalls his early inspirations, Coach Darrell Royal’s introduction to Willie, and how he came so very close to being the Rolling Stones’ opening act in 1973.

TMO: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Last month, we kicked off the newsletter with an interview with audio engineering legend Rupert Neve, right before his 80th birthday.

Raphael: “Yeah I read that. That was pretty cool. I even use one of his pieces of gear that I take (on the road) with me…I’ve got one of his mic pre’s (pre-amps) that I use.”

TMO: I coincidentally saw one of those online yesterday, and immediately wanted to get one. 

Raphael: “Are you a musician?”

TMO: I play bass…and a little drums. 

Raphael: “I don’t know how you’d use a pre on bass, but it’s a half-rack space, about 2 inches high, and it’s got 1 channel out, with an A and a B side. So you can mix the 2 signals.

“I use a really nice ribbon mic that I play directly into the PA. I’ll go into the pre, so I have a little more control of the gain, and we just take a direct out of it, and we can actually go out of the pre into an amp, that I may or may not mic on stage. It works well for me. I do a lot of one-offs…like my recent one-offs with Chris Stapleton. So I’ll just fly to the gig with harmonicas and a mic, and a pre, and they just punch me into the PA, and we’re done.”

TMO: That’s nice. That’s convenient. All of Neve’s stuff sounds amazing too.

Raphael: “Yeah…I think so.” (Then jokingly) “Oh…I thought it was me who sounded amazing. OK.”

TMO: (laughs) Well, you know…it’s likely the combination.

Let’s start off by going backwards. I tried to do some research, and saw that you came up in the Dallas area. And I thought it was fascinating that in your bio, you mention that one of your initial inspirations was harmonica player Don Brooks. And so we were just curious how you met him? And was harmonica your first instrument?

Raphael: “As a teenager, I loved music, and I wanted to play guitar, but I wasn’t any good. And I would go to this little folk club called the Rybaiyat on the weekends when I was barely old enough to drive.

“So about that time when I was old enough to drive, I’d go to the Rubaiyat on the weekends and hear people like Michael Murphy, Allen Damron was there, Ray Wylie Hubbard – who had a group called Three Faces West, and John Vandevere was another flat-picker folk singer. And with John was another harmonica player, Donny Brooks, who played. And the first time I heard him play, it just knocked me out. I was just so taken by him. And I had had a harmonica that a friend of my dad’s had given me as a kid. And I just kinda doodled around on it and stuff. But, it wasn’t until I saw Donny that I thought, ‘Ok. The harmonica’s where I wanna go.’

“And hanging out there on weekends, and going to see the different players there, I was going there as much as I could. I met Donny. And he kinda sat down with me. He was the first real harmonica player I’d ever met. And he showed me how to play a diatonic scale, just the pattern that denotes the fifth…and how to work my way around the harmonica to makes some sense out of the thing.

“And then I would just play by myself all the time. But he was the first guy that sat me down and showed me the little combinations. You know, it’s like playing a lick. If you had this lick, and you could play it in every key just by sliding up the neck. The lick is the same in the key of C or the key of G…you just switch harps…”

TMO: Kinda like an open tuning, playing with a slide.

Raphael: “Mm-hmm…”

TMO: Was the Rubyiat in Dallas proper?

Raphael: “Yes. It was in Dallas. The first (location) was on McKinney. It was just a tiny little club. It has a little stage, and about 2 rows of chairs. And I don’t know how many people it sat. That’s where I met Guy Clark. I was probably 19.”

TMO: Wow. That’s crazy. It sounds like it wasn’t long after that you met Willie Nelson, introduced by University of Texas at Austin football coach Darrell Royal. And you do talk a little bit about it in your website’s bio, and I’m sure you’ve talked about it in previous interviews, but for our audience, could you talk about this almost mythic story of how you met Willie? And how you were introduced by Coach Royal at a party?

Raphael: “At that time, I don’t think I was 21 yet, but I was playing withBW Stephenson, who was from Dallas. So that was my gig. He had a record deal on RCA, we were traveling, going down and playing the folk music clubs in Austin: Soap Creek. Saxon Pub. We had a presence in Austin, even though we traveled all over the country. So we played in Austin and the Coach was such a fan of music and a patron of the arts, I imagine that’s where he (first) heard me play.

“So I get a call. I was trying to think of this yesterday. I don’t remember if it was from Darrell or Edith Royal. Or Merlin Littlefield, who was a friend of theirs who worked at RCA at the time. And they said, ‘Coach Royal is in town for a ball game. And he’s having a pickin’ party after the game. He’d like for you to come over. Bring some harmonicas; he’d like to meet you…you know, hang out, and just jam with his friends.’

“And so I said, ‘Cool.’ I wasn’t a big football fan. Being a musician, I was a terrible athlete. Of course I knew who he was, but I wasn’t such a big football fan. I wasn’t planning on going to the game, in other words. But I had the utmost respect for him.

“So I went over there (to the Royal’s party). Willie was there. I knew very little about country music. I did actually have one Willie record, because we were on RCA, with BW. And I’d gone through their vault, with all their records, and I found this album of Willie’s called ‘Willie and Family.’ And the cover was just so unique that I thought, ‘I gotta take this,’ and find out who this guy was. It was just Willie and the band, and all their families, standing around a bonfire at Willie’s farm in Ridgetop. And it was just such a weird album cover. So I kinda knew a little bit who he was.”

Willie Nelson & Family album cover

TMO: By the way, TMO Director Brendon Anthony just pulled up the album cover and it’s almost mystical looking. I can see how that piqued your interest.

Raphael: “Yeah, you can even see Bee Spears, our bass player. And if you look at the guy, he’s wearing black socks and what looks like a fuzzy jockstrap. I mean, I don’t know what it is. It’s a collar wrapped around him and he’s not wearing any pants. And then there’s one guy that just walked in out of the woods! They didn’t even know who he was! Just probably showed up there. Really go through that album cover and look at it. It’s like, ‘who are all these people? We never could figure out who this one guy was.’ It’s like, ‘What the Hell?’

Read More

Please check next month’s October 2016 TMO Newsletter for Part 2 of this exclusive interview. Photo of Mickey Raphael by Frank Stewart.


Willie Nelson Live at Sea-Saint Studio (1999)

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

by:  Nina Feldman

This Labor Day Weekend, American Routes brings you the best of American Routes Live and in the studio. Each week, Shortcuts offers a sneak peak into the week’s upcoming episode. This week, we go back to this visit from Willie Nelson, when he dropped into the studio with his family band back in 1999.

Willie Nelson Interview (by Malcolm Jones)

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

by:  Malcolm Jones

Everyone knows Willie Nelson. I know this because the other day I saw a billboard advertisement that featured Nelson modeling an upscale line of menswear. Here’s the thing: the only type on the ad was the name of the clothing company. Obviously the advertisers assumed that you’d recognize Willie without any help from them. And why shouldn’t they?

In his 80 years on this planet, Nelson has written something like 1,000 songs, recorded more than 100 albums, and won 10 Grammys. “Crazy” was rated the No. 1 jukebox song of all time, according to NPR. Performing professionally since he was a teenager growing up in little Abbott, Texas, he has, he estimates, spent at least half of every year since then either recording or touring, playing nightclubs, honky-tonks, outdoor arenas, concert halls, and every other venue imaginable. Somewhere in there he found the time to appear in more than 20 movies and a handful of television shows. He co-founded Farm Aid, which has raised $43 million to help America’s small farmers hang on to their land, and he sits on the board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). He has also written seven books, including an autobiography and a novel, played at the White House, and sung at the wedding of Bill and Melinda Gates (his fee: $1 million). Last year the city of Austin erected a statue in his honor—larger than life, naturally.

photo: Anna Webber

Somewhere along the line, he ceased being famous as a singer or a songwriter or an activist and simply became famous. You may not care for his songs. You may not give a damn about farmers or marijuana. But the chances that you live in this country and don’t know Willie Nelson are somewhere between slim and none. Like Louis Armstrong—and almost no one else, really—he is a musician whose appeal transcends genre, race, age, or fashion, a stranger to no one, and if you had to put a face on American music, that face would be Willie Nelson’s.


Read the entire article, see more photos at the Daily Beast. 

At this point it gets a little trickier. Which Willie Nelson do you know? Is it Willie, the “good timing man” who has graced thousands of stages? The “outlaw” who along with Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings taught Nashville how to reach a new generation of young listeners more comfortable with long hair and jeans than Nudie suits and beehive hairdos? Or is it the avuncular apostle of pot? The farmers’ friend or the proponent of biodiesel fuel? Animal-rights and LGBT advocate? Or the man so honorable that rather than declare bankruptcy he worked to pay off the $16.7 million he owed the IRS in back taxes? Or is it Willie Nelson, the exquisite vocal stylist who can navigate from honky-tonk weepers to the intricate verbal acrobatics of a Rodgers and Hart ballad without missing a beat (he may toy with the beat, sing behind it, ahead of it, or take it halfway to Mars, but he never misses). Or is it Willie Nelson, the peerless songwriter who once wrote “Crazy,” “Night Life,” and “Funny How Time Slips Away” all in one road trip from Texas to Tennessee? Like Walt Whitman, Willie Nelson contains multitudes.

All those questions flooded my mind on a recent autumn evening as I was ushered onto Nelson’s tour bus outside the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, where Nelson and the Family, his band, were set to play later that night. I’ve listened to him since a friend played me a record called Red Headed Strangerin 1975. I know probably an album’s worth of his songs by heart, and I’ve had his voice inside my head for so long that it has become an old friend. Despite all that, I realized while waiting for that bus door to wheeze open that I really had no idea who I was about to meet. I didn’t even know what to call him. “Mr. Nelson” seemed too formal somehow, and just “Willie” too presumptuous. In the end I went with “Willie” on the shaky grounds that even one-sided friendships have their prerogatives.

THE STOCKY man who stands to greet me in the bus’s kitchen certainly looks familiar: black jeans, T-shirt, and sneakers, and the once-red hair now gone to silver but still long enough to make two chest-length braids. And there is no mistaking that piercing pair of dark brown eyes that know more than they will ever tell, or the still-boyish drawl that has purred out of countless jukeboxes, record players, car radios, and concert halls and is now asking if I want some coffee.

We sit facing each other in a small but comfortable booth. A laptop lies on the table between us, and behind his head is a bulletin board covered in photographs of children and grandchildren. Up close, the famous face looks like a well-creased map of rough country, and the unwavering gaze appears less intimidating and maybe even secretly amused, as though to say, there’s nothing you can ask me that I haven’t been asked a dozen times or more, but let’s do this anyway.

I begin by asking if music was an inevitable path for him. “I think so,” he says after a moment of silence. “My parents, grandparents were all musicians. I think there’s something in the DNA.” His parents split up when he was a small boy, and Willie and his sister, Bobbie, who plays piano in his band, were raised by their grandparents, who both taught music and ran the choir at the Methodist church (among other jobs—Willie’s grandfather was also the town’s blacksmith, and Willie grew up picking cotton to help the family out). The Nelsons were poor, but music mattered to them, even in the depths of the Depression: there was a piano in the house for Bobbie, and Willie got a Stella guitar when he was 6 years old.

David Gahr/GettyNelson in the recording studio with his sister, Bobbie, who plays piano in his band, and drummer Paul English.

The family didn’t have a record player, but they did have a Philco radio. “I grew up listening to all kinds of music,” he says. “I’d hear blues, I’d hear country, I’d hear Western swing, and I could see how it all fit together.” Before he got the guitar, Willie wrote poems, but as soon as he learned to form a few chords, he started writing his own songs. His early influences included Floyd Tillman, Leon Payne, and Ted Daffan. “They’re some great songwriters.” But the king of them all, for Willie and most every other music lover in the American Southwest, was Bob Wills, the fiddle-playing bandleader whose Texas Playboys set the standard for big-band excellence for most of three decades.


“A lot of the Bob Wills stuff was for the Texas dance halls, the California dance halls, the Oklahoma dance halls, and it was very popular dance music,” says Willie, who got a chance to study his idol up close when he, just 16, helped his brother-in-law book Wills for a local dance (his career as a booking agent ended almost as soon as it began when someone ran off with the money from the ticket sales). Willie still remembers how tightly Wills kept things moving from one song to the next so people never had a chance to leave the dance floor, and how he would simply point to a musician when he wanted a solo. Two hours later, watching Willie run his own show inside the Capitol Theater, I thought back to what he had said about Wills, and I was struck by how much of it plainly stuck with him. You don’t think of the scruffy man who practically invented outlaw country as a disciplinarian, but no one puts on a tighter show.

When I suggested that these days people seem to have forsaken dancing for just sitting and listening to concerts, Willie shakes his head. “They still dance a helluva lot in Texas!” he says with a laugh. “They haven’t quit down there. They didn’t get the word.” But is there a difference playing for people who are dancing? “Yeah, you feel close to the crowd. They feel part of you. There’s something about working a beer joint that brings you right to the people. I love it and always have.”

What’s the weirdest place you have ever played, I asked him.  “I don’t know,” he says, looking genuinely puzzled. “I don’t know what weird is.”

WHEN WILLIE was a teenager, there wasn’t much difference between the people in the audience and the musicians on the bandstand, many of whom had taken to music as the fastest way out of the cotton patch. “And you were probably going with a waitress in the beer joint,” he chuckles. The thing is, you could hear that shared experience in the songs and the voices that sang them. It’s a sound, Willie agreed, that’s been mostly scrubbed out of modern country.

With the instincts of a true gentleman, he politely declined all invitations to criticize what passes for country on most radio stations these days (“I don’t get a chance to listen to local radio a lot, so I don’t know what they’re playing”). But now that SiriusXM radio has given him his own channel, Willie’s Roadhouse, we have a very good idea of what he thinks a country music station should sound like, which turns out to be more Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell but not too many of the modern “hat acts.” Even contemporary artists sound traditional on the Roadhouse. “I like to think that on our channel we play all kinds of music, and one way or another we pull it together,” he says. “We play a little Vern Gosdin, a little Dolly, then we’ll do some Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel, some Merle Haggard, Texas swing. We pretty well cover it. It may not be for every ear, but nothing is.”

Nor would he be inveigled into carping about the Nashville establishment. Later, on stage, he’d sing “Me & Paul,” his autobiographical song about road life with his longtime drummer Paul English that hilariously and somewhat bitterly encapsulates his odd-man-out status with the country establishment back in the ’60s (“Nashville was the roughest”). But in the privacy of his bus, he is downright diplomatic when the subject comes up. “Nashville was a different town back then,” he says. “It’s changed a lot now. A lot of people are thinking more progressive now. It’s all coming together, so it’s all good.”

WILLIE NEVER made it in Nashville as a singer. But as a songwriter he became a superstar. He had spent the ’50s bumming around, playing Texas honky-tonks and taking the occasional deejay job (and selling encyclopedias and vacuum cleaners door-to-door). But ever since he cobbled together his first book of songs at age 12 (with a hand-drawn cover adorned in cursive script resembling a cowboy’s lariat), he has been dead serious about songwriting. He had his first big success in 1960 when Claude Gray had a hit with “Family Bible,” a good but rather pious song by Willie standards that gave no hint of the complex, open-a-vein material that soon followed and made him one of Nashville’s go-to songwriters.

Ask him today to name his favorites in his own catalog, and he’ll deflect, as though he doesn’t want to be rude, even to a song: “It’s kinda like kids,” he says. “You can’t hardly separate one from the other. If you took the time to write it, put a melody to it, sing it, record it, whatever, then it’s important.” But when he does relent and starts listing favorites (“Crazy,” “Hello Walls,” “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Night Life,” “Pretty Paper,” “On the Road Again”), they’re almost all songs made famous by other singers and the songs that cemented his reputation as one of the best writers ever to cross the Nashville city limits.

Willie stuck it out in Nashville for most of the ’60s, but the industry never figured out how to sell this man with the dark songs, a reedy tenor, and a jazzman’s sense of phrasing. Yet whenever he became frustrated with his lack of recording success, he would retreat to writing, the one thing that always earned him respect—and generous paychecks. “I felt like Nashville was good to me” as a songwriter, he says. “And for a time I lived up there on my farm at Ridgetop and raised horses and cattle and hogs, just kinda retired for a while and just wrote songs. I enjoyed living in Tennessee. Great place.” The farm gave him perspective, reminding him that there was more to the world than being a star. “I had a guy work for me there, Mr. Hughes. Lived there all his life, there in Goodlettsville, and he had never seen the Grand Ole Opry. He was about 70 years old then, and had never been. He didn’t want to go. So that was a big thing to a lot of people, but to a lot of people there it wasn’t that big a deal.”

No one alive knows more about songwriting than Willie Nelson, but he would be the first to tell you that he can’t explain it. “It’s just a thought process where you hear a good line and you think, well, maybe I’ll take that line and try to write a song. Or it could be a melody that you look for a line to put to it. Works both ways for me.” But either way, it’s a mystery: “You wonder where it comes from.” As for trying to teach someone how to write a song, “I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

The distinctive thing about his songs is their deceptively easygoing ability to balance the specific and universal. “Sad Songs and Waltzes” is written from the point of view of a songwriter (“I’m writing a song all about you/a true song as real as my tears/But you’ve no need to fear it/’cause no one will hear it/’cause sad songs and waltzes/aren’t selling this year”). But it doesn’t matter that most of us who hear that tune aren’t songwriters; the sadness at the core of that lyric could pierce the heart of anyone done wrong by love. Sometimes the transaction is more personal. In “It’s Not Supposed to Be That Way,” a frustrated father calls out to a teenager slipping past the bonds of parental control. I first heard the song when my kids were just becoming teens, and what I loved about the lyrics was that no lessons were imparted, just the vivid ache of helplessness that any parent feels at the loss of childhood. The best of Willie’s songs, certainly the ballads, work similar magic, articulating emotions we’ve all felt but couldn’t find the words for.


Rob Verhorst/GettyNelson played with country heavyweights Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson as part of the Highwaymen from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s.

AFTER HIS Ridgetop farmhouse burned down two days before Christmas in 1970, Willie moved back to Texas. “When I went to Nashville, things were already starting to click in Texas. I was drawing crowds there. And then when I got to Nashville, I kind of got stymied, because I was trying to play for the whole world. So I thought, I’ll just go on back to Texas and play there a while. And it was a good decision.” There would be one more move to Nashville, but by the early ’70s, Willie was ensconced in the Lone Star State, where he encountered an entirely new audience: young longhairs bred on rock and roll and the blues were turning up at his shows, and when Willie helped host the first annual Dripping Springs Reunion music festival in 1972, a precursor of his famous Fourth of July picnic concerts, the audience was equal parts Texas country folks and Woodstock nation, and nobody got beat up.

In 1975 he recorded Red Headed Stranger, a concept album conceived and largely written on a road trip from Colorado to Texas (Willie, typically modest, sees nothing in that feat to boast about: “It’s not that unusual, really, because when you start writing, you think of one and then think of another. I wrote a couple of concept albums that way. One song led to another”). The antithesis of the string-drenched countrypolitan sounds emanating from Nashville, the album was so raw, so sparely produced (studio costs: $4,000) that Columbia Records thought he was handing them a demo. But they came around in a hurry when “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” was released as a single and gave the singer his first No. 1 hit on the country charts. The album went on to sell more than 2 million copies. When he wanted to release Stardust, a collection of some of his favorite standards, the record company wasn’t sure about that one either, until it shot to No. 1. It lingered on the charts for more than 10 years. By 2002 it had sold more than 5 million copies.

It certainly didn’t happen overnight, but when success finally found Nelson, it stuck. His 1982 album, Always on My Mind, was the No. 1 country album of the year and remained on the charts for almost five years. Willie took up acting and had starring roles in The Electric Horseman and Honeysuckle Rose (for which he wrote “On the Road Again”). And where he had once played concert halls and clubs small enough to make steady eye contact with his audience, suddenly he was playing arenas, a new and not entirely comfortable experience. As he writes in Willie, his 1988 autobiography, “I do a number of big concerts at night in arenas or at outdoor picnics—by big I mean crowds of 100,000—and I have to work those shows by feel. I can see nothing but a wide deep-purple canyon blinking with the fire of thousands of cigarettes.”


Charles Rex Arbogast/APNelson sings with Sheryl Crow in his upcoming album, “To All the Girls …,” a compliation of duets with female artists.

THAT WAS 25 years ago, and he’s been a constant on everybody’s radar ever since. Thinking again of that clothing ad that for its effect depends on you knowing who Willie Nelson is without being told, I ask him if he ever wished for anonymity, if fame ever got in his way.

“Well,” he says slowly, smiling as he fingers one of his braids, “I dress kinda funny for anonymity. But, no, I don’t mind.”

So fame is not as corrosive as they say?

“I don’t think so,” he says. “I thought that was what we all looked for growing up. Some people when they get it say they don’t want it, but I still like it.

“It’s nice to know people are going to come and hear you sing and hear you play. That’s sort of the mystique of the whole thing. People work all day, and then they get in their car and they drive somewhere to go hear somebody sing, and applaud and sing along with ’em. And there’s a therapy there, an exchange, an energy exchange that takes place between the audience and the performer, and it’s pretty magical really, to both the audience and the entertainer.

“There was this guy I read about in India who woke up every morning, and he’d run out on the streets and start clapping his hands and running down the street, and everybody’d jump out and join him, and the next thing you know, there’d be hundreds of people running down the road. So they’re putting on their own little concert every morning.” The braided pied piper clearly relates.

Repeatedly, when he talks about performing, the concept of serving comes up. “It’s not about me,” he insists. Consequently, he’s careful about espousing causes on stage: “I can promote Farm Aid OK, because I believe in the cause, so it’s not a big stretch for me to do that. But there are probably several things that I wouldn’t want to talk about. And people come for the music. If they want preaching, they’ll go to church.” Maybe so, though many in his audiences would doubtless happily worship at the First Church of Willie: the crowd in Port Chester was nearly all white, but other than that the only common denominator was a fierce addiction among young and old to the music of Willie Nelson—these veterans knew the words to nearly every song.

Since the ’70s, Willie has opened nearly every set with his pal Johnny Bush’s classic, “Whiskey River.” “After that, who knows,” he says. There is no set list, but every show features a generous helping of his hits (“I know what they come to hear, and if we know what they like, it’d be kinda dumb not to play it”). But he always tosses in a few country classics like “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time,” a couple or three Hank Williams tunes, some gospel, maybe even some gypsy swing. This is big-tent music, a stylistic amalgam that’s purely Willie but also a pretty good short course in American music. The show is also a chance for Willie to do what he has been doing since he was a kid: sell songs. “We have some new songs out that we’ll plug in here and there,” he says. “Then there’s this duet album [with 18 female vocalists] coming out next month, To All the Girls … We started doing a couple of those.”


Listening to Willie work his way through familiar material like “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” and “Good Hearted Woman” in Port Chester, I was struck by the fact that while he must have played and sung these songs thousands of times, he somehow still finds a way to invest them with a freshness and emotional depth that makes you believe that he is playing them for the first time. It’s as if he’s saying, you may have heard this one before, but you haven’t heard it this way yet. And you haven’t.

There’s no loafing on a Willie Nelson stage. The Family band that backs him up includes blood kin (sister Bobbie has lately been joined by various Nelson sons and daughters) and performers like English, who has been in the band so long that he might as well be family. But don’t equate family with amateurism. “First of all, they gotta be good musicians,” Nelson says. And to play with Willie, they’d better be. Given his eccentric way with a vocal or guitar solo, anyone who’s not a crack musician would be well and truly lost after half a dozen bars of any song.

Over the years, Willie has lost some of the edge on his voice, a diminishment you hardly notice thanks to his impeccable phrasing. But time has only burnished his guitar playing. In the set I heard, he performed a slashing but dexterously lyrical version of the Django Reinhardt instrumental “Nuages.” The gypsy guitar genius has long been an idol for Willie, and if Willie isn’t quite as good as Reinhardt (who is?), you’d like to think that Reinhardt would nonetheless be touched by the love that came soaring through that song the other night.

Willie has been a Reinhardt addict for so long, he can’t remember quite when it started. The peerless Texas fiddler Johnny Gimble “gave me an old Django tape a long time ago. I listened to it, and I realized that this was the music I’d been listening to by other people. My dad played that kind of rhythm guitar, and someone else played that kind of fiddle. And then Bob Wills and all those guys took what Django did and enlarged on it. I had a lot of friends back there who loved Django music, so I got a chance to play it.” Perhaps the most astonishing thing about Reinhardt’s virtuosity was that he managed with only two working fingers on his fretting hand (he lost the use of the other fingers when he was badly burned in a fire). So when someone in the Little Willies, Norah Jones’s country band, called Willie “Django with one finger,” Willie was over the moon. “That was the best compliment I ever had,” he says with a huge grin.

Ebet Roberts/Redferns/GettyThe Family band sometimes includes Nelson’s sons and daughters. Here, he plays with son Lukas at a Farm Aid concert.

Even Trigger, Willie’s battered but beloved guitar, has a Reinhardt connection. In the ’60s, “I was trying to get the Django sound, and [Nashville instrument builder and repairer] Shot Jackson told me about this Martin guitar that he had at his shop. I bought it, $750, sight unseen. And I still got it.” Or what’s left of it. Willie has played Trigger so long and so hard that he’s worn another hole in the top below the sound hole. “It’s supposed to be played with your fingers and not a pick, and that’s why the hole is in there, ’cause a lot of the guitars that need a pick will have a pick guard on them. This one didn’t have a pick guard, so that’s why the hole is in there.” And to anyone who wonders why a man who could afford any guitar in the world chooses to stick with an instrument that looks like a yard-sale reject, Willie says, “If they can look at it and listen to it and still not get it, I’m afraid I can’t help ’em. Sure, I can play any guitar. If it’s got six strings on it, I can play it. But which one do I really love to play? It’s Trigger. I love the sound that it gets.” As integral to Willie’s sound as his indelible voice, Trigger is, like the man who plays it, inimitable.

A better word for Willie would be indefatigable. When he’s not playing music, he’s playing chess, checkers, dominoes, or poker, or running, riding his bike, or playing golf (the only time he gets a little coy is when I ask for his handicap: “My driver and my putter and maybe my sand wedge,” he deadpans). So he would not agree with Mark Twain that golf is “a good walk spoiled”? “Some days it is,” he admits. “But then you hit one good one, make one good long putt, and it’s a nice day.”

Watch him work a stage for close to two hours—which he finishes at the lip of the stage, shaking every hand he can reach and signing anything anyone puts in his hand—and you understand that his claims of exercising every day are the simple truth. Men half his age would have trouble keeping up. And along with the running and biking and golfing, “I’m a second-degree black-belt tae kwon do,” he says with some pride. “I can practice all my forms right here on the bus going 80 miles an hour down the highway.”

Chad Batka/CorbisNelson has played his guitar Trigger so long and so hard that he’s worn another hole in the top below the sound hole.

The most important words in that last sentence are “down the highway.” How apt that Huckleberry Finn is Willie’s favorite novel, for like Twain’s hero, he can never shake the urge to “light out for the territory,” in Willie’s case, just about every day. “You know that commercial that’s out right now that says a body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest? That’s very true. Very true.” Bearing in mind that Huck is a fictional character and Willie is flesh and blood, is it too much to suggest that both embody what we want in our heroes—the uniquely American home brew of guts, youthful spirit, wiliness, honesty, freewheeling humor, and no taste at all for cant or hypocrisy?

What keeps Willie more earthbound—but makes him, if anything, more admirable—is the unpoetic fact that he’s responsible for the 40-some people on his payroll, including a road crew of 22. If he doesn’t work, they don’t get paid. “I think about that,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons I’m probably still here. And that’s good. I need another reason.” Leave it to Willie to fashion a blessing out of obligation.

Throughout the interview, he rarely breaks eye contact, never loses focus, dodges no questions, no matter how impertinent, and never fidgets, aside from a little restless-leg syndrome that shakes the table now and then. To call him calm would be an understatement. And yet I know that he has not had an easy life, that he has been through four marriages, lost his grandfather when he was 6 and a son to suicide, and more recently endured the deaths of two bandmates with whom he’d been playing for more than half his life. Then there are those songs, some of them joyful but just as many that took the full measure of human sadness and heartache. How exactly, I wondered, did all that square with the almost surreally unflappable man sitting across the table from me?

Finally, I just say outright, “You seem pretty serene, based on my 40 minutes in here. Were you always that way?” That makes him laugh. “No. I used to drink a lot. Had a hot temper. Red hair and part Indian and all that horseshit. I used every excuse I had to get into trouble. Once I quit drinking, I managed to stay out of fights pretty good.”

photo: Leonard Freed
MagnumWhen asked for his golf handicap, Nelson lists “my driver and my putter and maybe my sand wedge.”

Willie says he quit drinking and smoking sometime between age 30 and 35. “I had a pack of Chesterfields, and I was smoking pot and cigarettes, and my lungs were killing me, and I said, well, I ain’t getting high on these goddam cigarettes. So I took the cigarettes and threw ’em away and rolled about 20 fat joints and stuck ’em in the pack. When I wanted a cigarette, I lit a joint. And I haven’t smoked since. Very good way to quit. Cigarettes and alcohol killed a whole bunch of friends of mine.”

Pressing my luck, and hoping he won’t think that I’ve come just to write his obituary, I ask if there was ever a point at which he confronted his own mortality and pondered what he had left to do.

He pauses before answering that one. “I don’t know that there’s ever one moment or one second when I did that,” he says. “Or maybe there’s not a second when I’m not thinking about it. I’m always thinking about the next record or show, but mainly for my own entertainment. But, yeah, there are things I haven’t done. I’m really looking forward to this duet album coming out. After that I’ll figure out what the next one will be. Might be an album of new songs that I’ve written. I’ve got a few stacked up over there. And I’ll be going to Nashville in a couple of weeks to do some more recording, and when I get enough done of my own original stuff, I might put it out.

“I don’t really think about … I know some day I’ll move on. Everybody does. But I don’t worry about it. I like where I am now. Everything’s fine. And there’s nothing I can do about anything that’s happened. The only thing I have any control over is what’s happening right now. So I don’t worry about a while ago or after a while.”

Night has fallen while we’ve been talking. Now it’s time for him to go to work.


The Amazing David Amram

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

by Steve Chagollan

The Extraordinary Career of David Amram

“I was brought up on both the treasures of great European master composers and the genius of the jazz innovators.”

David Amram might be the most accomplished composer of our times with the least amount of recognition. This is a man who has worked with so many 20th century icons that first names aren’t necessary: Bernstein, Copland, Monk, Gillespie, Mingus, Kerouac, Dylan and Seeger, just to name a few. His roster of collaborators suggests a highly eclectic approach to the arts, with an emphasis on melding the spontaneity of jazz and the lyricism of folk with the structure and tradition of classical music.

During his long and storied career, Amram has witnessed, and taken part in, several tectonic changes in music and culture: the rise and fall of the Beat Generation, the ascendance of jazz as a countercultural art form before rock ’n’ roll superseded it, and collaborations with directors like John Frankenheimer and Elia Kazan when Hollywood was moving towards a new form of personal expression. All the while his prolific work for the concert hall was never limited by popular trends.

“I’ve been very lucky,” Amram says about his longevity. “And also, struggling to survive and do what we love to do — that sense of challenge — is so absorbing that you don’t have a chance to age properly; you don’t have that luxury in your schedule. Self-pity, despair, narcissism and careerism are not only disgusting for other people to be around, but I think they’re bad for your health. Also, I have great kids and a good little grandson. That makes you realize you’re part of the whole picture of life, and that life goes on with or without you.”

Amram, who has written more than 100 orchestral and chamber works and continues to be busy as a musician and lecturer, is celebrating the 50th anniversary as the first-ever Composer in Residence for the New York Philharmonic. It was a year-long post he accepted in 1966 when Leonard Bernstein, already a living legend at the time, was the music director and principle conductor for the orchestra. Bernstein also hand-picked Amram for the inaugural position after being considered among 100 candidates by the orchestra’s foundation. Unbeknownst to Amram, who thought he had a snowball’s chance in hell of being chosen due to his unorthodox educational background, Bernstein had become quite familiar with his work, including the scores for Splendor in the Grass (1960) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962), his original music for Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park and an opera that was televised on ABC in 1965, The Final Ingredient, An Opera for the Holocaust.

“I never really received a grant because I never did the things that you were supposed to do to be a classical composer in this country,” recalls Amram, who nevertheless spent time studying at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. “I knew that to become a composer you had to go to one school or another school that the New York Times’ arts section deemed as fashionable. The manager of the Philharmonic pointed out to me that in my interview I not only mentioned Bach and Beethoven but also Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Bix Beiderbecke, King Oliver and John Coltrane. He said, ‘You equate barroom entertainers with the treasures of European culture.’ And I said I was brought up on both — the treasures of those great European master composers and the genius of the jazz innovators.”

Bernstein, however, heard something in Amram’s work that spoke to him, including the jazz and Latin elements in his movie scores that reflected Bernstein’s own sensibilities in such works as West Side Story as well as the conductor/composer’s sole suite of music written specifically for the big screen, On the Waterfront. Amram adds that Bernstein taught him he was part of a continuum. “He said, ‘Your job as a composer is not just to please yourself, you are supposed to add something to the repertoire.’ He also said, ‘You have to be an ambassador for music and to bring that to young people.’ He didn’t say, ‘You have to sell that to young people or make it relevant to young people by adding synthesizers or setting guitars on fire.’ He wasn’t into being a fashionista or being trendy. He was interested in quality.”

As a player, Amram is best known for mastering the French horn, which he studied with the late Gunther Schuller — who, like Amram, straddled both the classical and jazz worlds. He was also one of the first serious musicians to incorporate literature into their performances. He was instrumental in creating the first-ever Jazz/Poetry readings in New York with Jack Kerouac, with whom he collaborated for more than 12 years, including writing the music for Kerouac’s experimental short Pull My Daisy(1959). And in 1965, he wrote the music for the cantata, Let Us Remember, by the Harlem poet Langston Hughes. He has also incorporated Native American idioms in his music, as well as other indigenous folk traditions.

In fact, there are few disciplines in the arts that Amram has not been exposed to first hand. Beyond his operatic, symphonic and chamber works, he has written three memoirs: Nine Lives of a Musical Cat (2009), Collaborating with Kerouac (2005) andVibrations (2001), about which the Boston Globe called him “the Renaissance man of American music.”

Although Amram has been a veritable chameleon as an artist, some things have remained constant during the course of his career. He says he’s been with the same publisher for 53 years, and has been a BMI member dating back to the ’50s. He cites Oliver Daniel, who was in charge of BMI’s classical music department at the time, as an inspiration and a source of encouragement. “BMI was a godsend in my life,” he says. “So many of the people with BMI — the songwriters, the jazz players, the classical composers — were actually able to get an advance when they were barely squeaking by just by signing. At the time that was a huge thing. And they have stood by me all the years I’ve been doing this. They also give young classical composers some hope that they can exist on the face of the earth.”

In the meantime, Amram’s schedule continues to be crammed with activity. He was in Texas performing and also conducting an orchestra at the Kerrville Festival of the Arts over Memorial Day weekend, and recently addressed 1,000 French horn players at an international symposium in Ithaca, NY, before honoring his old friend Pete Seeger at the Tarrytown Music Hall in Tarrytown, NY. He’s also working on two other music commissions, as well as a fourth memoir with the working title, The Next 80 Years.

All the while, his mission statement has always remained the same. “The organic, defining principle of creating something of lasting value and re-nourishing the soil from whence the fruits of your labor come is the way I’ve tried to live my life,” he says. “As Dizzy Gillespie told me, ‘Time to put something back into the pot.’”


David Amram regular guest on Willie Nelson’s stage at Farm Aid Concerts, like this in 2014:

Willie Nelson performs “Milk Cow Blues” originally by Sleepy John Estes during the finale of the Farm Aid concert in Raleigh, NC on September 13, 2014. Also appearing are Gary Clark Jr., Lukas Nelson, Micah Nelson, Amy Nelson, Raelyn Nelson, David Amram, and more.

Willie Nelson Guitar Center Interview (2006)

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

Willie Nelson stands in the pouring rain to meet and greet hundreds of fans that have just watched him perform the 2-hour plus set he plays almost every night somewhere in the world. Trigger, his 1969 Martin classical, and Snub-nose, his custom semi-hollow electric, have delivered for Willie another stellar show, and accompanied his 67 year-old voice through one classic song after another. Finally, some two hours after the show has ended, after Willie has obliged the last request from a fan, he sits down for an interview with Guitar Center.

GC: Congratulations on your Grammy nomination and your induction into the Songwriting Hall of Fame.

Willie Nelson: Thank you.

GC: I’ve often heard you refer to yourself as a guitar player, rather than a songwriter. Why is that?

Willie Nelson: That’s really the way I made my living when I was coming along, when I was a young musician, by playing guitar. I could sing a little bit and as the years went by I would sing a little more. But, I really started out playing guitar in my band and other bands.

GC: Have you come to terms with the fact that a lot people also think of you as a great singer/songwriter?

Willie Nelson: Actually, I think of myself more now as a songwriter than I do a guitar player because of guys like Jackie King (a current member of Willie’s band) and Django Reinhardt and all the great guitar players. It’s humbling to be in the presence of that kind of talent.

GC: How big was Django’s influence on your playing?

Willie Nelson: Very. A great deal more than I really thought. A lot of the stuff I was playing earlier, I found out later had come from some Django stuff, his rhythms.

GC: A sense of place permeates your music. I hear a lot more Texas than Nashville.

Willie Nelson: Since I come from Texas, there’s a lot of Texas in me. Just because I cross a state line, I can’t get it all out.

GC: Let’s talk about recording. When you record, what kinds of mic’ing and room choices do you make?

Willie Nelson: If I’m producing the album myself, either one of those things can happen. The last time I recorded was around Christmas time. I did two albums. One was an acoustic album called Rainbow Connection in my studio in Luck, Texas. Then, I went to Los Angeles for a big session for another album called The Great Divide. So I’ve done both extremes. Honestly, I’d just as soon have one mic with the guitar, play acoustic, and let the guitar run through the vocal mic. It runs engineers crazy when you want to do that. (laughs)

GC: I think you’ve earned it.

What are your thoughts on digital recording versus analog recording?

Willie Nelson: Used to be, I wasn’t sure. I have two studios, now. I have a big studio in Austin where I have a whole lot of equipment, both digital and analog. I have another little studio across the street (from where I live), where I just did Rainbow Connection, and it’s all digital. It’s hard for me to tell the difference in the sound.

GC: So you’re happy with it?

Willie Nelson: Yeah. We’re happy with it.

GC: Neil Young is one guy I can think of who seems to be on the analog side of the fence.

Willie Nelson: Maybe so. Of course, it’s everyone’s personal opinion, however they like to hear themselves. I think it has a lot to do with the building you’re in. The studio we’re in is all very old wood, so it’s like recording inside a big speaker. It really sounds good.

GC: With regard to your songwriting process, how do you introduce new songs to the band?

Willie Nelson: We have soundchecks every day. Whatever we’re working on at the moment, we’ll go over those songs at soundcheck. Hopefully, by the time we get to the studio, we’ve already worked them up. It will just be a matter of going in and putting them down.

GC: So everything’s worked out live?

Willie Nelson: We work it out live on the stage. We did one of them tonight, “The Great Divide.” That’s one from the new album that’s coming out that we’re doing on the stage. The other album, Rainbow Connection, I haven’t started doing that yet, but I will.

GC: How does Martin feel about you using one of their guitars (Trigger) for over 30 years?

Willie Nelson: I’m sure they like that. They’ve made a bunch of Trigger look-alikes and they’re great guitars.

GC: Have you ever had the desire to play another acoustic guitar?

Willie Nelson: I’ve never found anything as good to me, for what I was trying to get, as Trigger. I could play it acoustically. I can run it through an amp. It still gets a great sound.

GC: What strings are on Trigger?

Willie Nelson: There’s a guy named Tunin’ Tom that takes care of my guitar. He has a lot of different strings that he uses. I think he has one particular brand that he tries to find, but I’m not sure what they are.

GC: You also played an electric tonight.

Willie Nelson: I have an electric there, on-stage, the little Snub-nose I call it. I play the blues stuff with that. I play it more during a longer show, but mostly I stay with the acoustic.

GC: Finally, is there a point or year in your career you look on with more fondness?

Willie Nelson: This is better than anything. It has been very good for a long time. For a long time before that, it was fine. It wasn’t great. I was doing well and traveling around. But, then things starting clicking pretty much back when the Red-Headed Stranger album came out. Since then, it has been easier. Recently, the last couple of years, it seems like we’ve gotten hotter than ever.

GC: Thank you very much for sitting down with me at the end of a long night.

Willie Nelson: Thank you for waiting.

(Sorry, I don’t know who the interviewer is.)

Willie Nelson with Ralph Emory

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

Mickey Raphael Interview on Harmonicast with Bob Kessler

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Harmonicast Episode 12 – Mickey Raphael

July 2, 2016

Mickey Raphael‘s playing has been an essential element of the music of Willie Nelson and Family for more than 40 years. He’s also performed alongside some of the biggest names in music and has recorded on sessions for many of them. We talk about his open, organic approach to performing with Willie, his ever-expanding influences, his love road biking when he’s on the road, and the new Highwaymen collection he produced.

Conversation with Willie Nelson

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

by: Peter Blackstock

It’s less than a week until Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic takes over Circuit of the Americas, the second year the hallowed event has been back in the Austin area after an extended Fort Worth run.

On Monday, we talked to Willie by phone from Minnesota, where he’s in the midst of a Midwest tour that continues through the end of this week. We’ll have more from our interview as part of a full Picnic preview in Sunday’s American-Statesman, but in the meantime, here are a few outtakes.

About the inclusion of up-and-coming Austin acts such as Shakey Graves and Jamestown Revival on this year’s lineup, the first Picnic appearance for both artists:

“I think it’s important that we do that. The promoters this year brought up some names that they felt like were good and needed to be in the show, a lot of new names that I wasn’t familiar with. I’m always glad to see the new guys coming along, and come out and work the Picnic. It’s good for everybody.”

About how his new “Summertime” album of Gershwin tunes was partly inspired by Frank Sinatra — an intriguing symmetry with Bob Dylan’s two recent Sinatra-centric records:

“I listened to all the things that Frank Sinatra had recorded of Gershwin songs. There’s a whole lot of them out there. So I asked Buddy Cannon, my producer, to check those out and use those as examples to go by, and try to do the best we can with them. Because I think they’re great songs.”

On working with Cannon, who has produced most of Nelson’s records in the past decade and co-wrote almost all the songs on 2014’s “Band of Brothers,” Willie’s first collection of new original material in many years:

“Buddy knows all the great musicians in Nashville; everybody knows him. It’s easy to do records with Buddy. We write a lot together. We just sort of found it easy to write things together, and I’m not that easy to write with. I haven’t written that many songs with other guys. I used to write a lot with Hank Cochran, but that was a long time ago.”

About the many uses of cannabis, as he prepares to bring his “Willie’s Reserve” brand to the market in marijuana-legal areas such as Colorado and Washington:

“There’s a product now called hempcrete, which is a direct competition, or in partnership with, concrete. This is a new product that’s doing well, especially over in Maui. A friend of mine, Don Nelson, has some buildings and things over there that he’s built out of hempcrete. And he praises it. So there’s a whole new industry out there. And fortunately in a lot of places, it’s not illegal.”

About his daughter Amy Nelson’s band Folk Uke, who’ll appear at the Picnic after spending almost all of June opening a national tour for the Jayhawks:

“God bless ’em! I’m proud of them.” The duo, which also features Arlo Guthrie’s daughter Cathy Guthrie, is known for setting sweet harmonies to expletive-laced lyrics. Their song “M*F* Got F*d Up” recently got placed in both Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” and in Snoop Dogg’s “G7” movie. “I think they’ve got a number one record. Who’d have thought it?”

About the June 13 passing of songwriter Chips Moman, a good friend who co-wrote the iconic tune “Luckenbach, Texas” among many other widely known songs:

“Chips was out on the stage with me the other night [May 20] when we played in Georgia. He sat out there on the stage. Naturally he wasn’t feeling that great, but I got to see him one more time.”

Willie Nelson Interview, “The Country Gentleman” (Autumn 1979)

Monday, June 20th, 2016


Willie Nelson: The Vibes of Texas are Upon Us

Ask Willie Nelson, the guru of country music, about his brief career as a pig farmer, and the usually sublime Nelson explodes into embarrassed laughter.  “You heard about  that, did you?” he says when the laughter subsides.  “Yes, I tried that.  I really did.  I lost a fortune on pigs.  Had the fattest pigs in town — or the country, I should say.  Paid 25 cents a pound for ’em, fattened ’em up for six months, and when I sold ’em, I got 17 cents a pound.  Lost my ass and all its fixtures.  But I later found out from the old-timers that you can’t just raise hogs one year and expect to make a killing and get out.  You’ve got to stay with it.”


[Thanks so much to Phil Weisman, from Illinois, for sending me this magazine.  I love magazines, especially from overseas.  They are rare, and the interviews are always interesting. ]

The same rule applies to the music business, of course.  But not long after his pig fiasco, some 10 years ago, Nelson sold his farm outside Nashville, where he’d gone in vain to establish himself as a singer as well as a songwriter, and returned to his native Texas.  To some in Music city, it might have looked as if Nelson had given commercial stardom about as much chance as he did pig farming.  But Nelson was committed to his own kind of music — simple but strong songs wrapped around his own soft baritone and acoustic guitar, rather than around the prevalent “Nashville sound” of layers of strings, singers — and syrup.  instead of compromising his music, Nelson remembered the pig farming rule and decided to “stay with it,” although returning to Texas surely meant the end of his dream of national stardom.

But there, something extraordinary happened.  By blending his own songs — “Crazy,” “Night Life,” “Hello Walls,” and “Funny How Time Slips Away” — with traditional Texas, Mexican, blues, rock and even the old pop and country standards, Willie Nelson bridged the gap not only between country and pop, but between cultures.  His concerts attracted a curious mixture of hippies and rednecks, youngsters and oldsters, conservatives and liberals.  And soon people everywhere were talking about a revival of Texas music, and about the birth of something they called the “Austin sound.”  What they were taking about mostly was Willie Nelson.

And they are still talking, far after most careers have seen their peak.  “I’ve thought about that.  I’ve wondered, ‘Well, am I peaking yet?'” says Nelson, 46 years old and looking every dusty mile of it, stretched out on his bus before a show.  “So far, I don’t think we have peaked,” he continues. “I think everything just seems to be getting a little bit better every day.”

Indeed.  Willie the Youth Hero is about to become Willie the Movie Star.  His debut film, The Electric Horseman, with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, is due out in December.   By the time it gets into the theaters, another movie, Sad Songs and Waltzes, which Nelson describes as “just an ol’ movie about a guy with a band on the road.” will have started production in Texas.  Still another, The Songwriter, is due to get off the ground in 1980.   And better yet, a film version of Nelson’s classic concept album, Red Headed Stranger, is now in the planning stages and Willie is holding out for Redford tn the title role.  But if Nelson is happy about all that, he is most excited about the fact that Newsweek columnist Pete Axthelm is writing the story of his life, to be both a book and a movie.

How does acting compare to Nelson’s usual line of work?  “It’s really easier,” he replies, setting his Adidas shod feet up on the cushion opposite him.  “You’ve got more time to do what you have to do.  The only thing about it is you never know how good you did until later.  In fact, I still don’t know how good I did.  Well, actually,’ he adds, looking sheepish, “I thought I was good.”  The laughter rolls again.  ‘”I mean, what I was doing wasn’t that hard, and there wasn’t really that much to do.  They let you be yourself.  In fact, they encourage it.  The only thing about making movies is that they last from 10 to 12 weeks, and during that time, I don’t play as much music, of course, and I miss it.  But when we start this next one, I’m planning on playing on weekends.  I’m still trying to play 200 nights a year, and I’d go crazy not playing for three months.”

From the pace he sets when he’s not before the camera, some might say Nelson has already crossed that fine line.  He has “four or five album projects going on in my head,” and several he’s working on now, including a collection of the songs of Kris Kristofferson.  He’s thinking about a Christmas album, and a Son of Stardust LP, after his phenomenally successful album of pop standards.  Early summer saw the release of his duet album with Leon Russell, with whom he toured for several months, and another album, with country giant George Jones, is ready to go.  In between all that, he managed to play Las Vegas and put in an appearance at the White House, where he and Charley Pride presented President Carter — who shows up from time to time at Willie’s concerts, sporting a backstage pass — with a special award from the Country Music Association.

Today, about the only other place Nelson and Pride see each other is a at golf tournaments.  But years ago, at the height of the civil rights movement, the two met in far less genteel surroundings — and performed to far less receptive audiences.  When Pride had but one country single on the market, Nelson took him on a package tour.  The first stop out — in Louisiana — Pride was refused registration in the hotel. At the show that night, Nelson gave Pride a 10-minute build-up, telling the audience what a big star they were about to see.   Then he brought him out on stage — and kissed him full on the mouth.  “I think them folks were so hot to lynch old Willie for puttin’ em on that they clean forgot that Charlie was black,” Nelson’s drummer, Paul English, was to tell a reporter years later.  But “by the end of the tour, Willie was using him to close the show.  He made Charley a star before he’d even cut an album.”

Mention it to Nelson and the trademark orange beard breaks for a smile.  “Yeah, it was a little bit scary back in those days,” he admits.  “And I guess it was the first time that a black kid had ever crawled up in front of thousands of white people and started singin’ country songs.  That took a lot of nerve on his part, too.”

Nelson knows a lot about nerve.  Not too many years before, he was playing places so mean that the owners had to string chicken wire across the bandstand to keep the musicians safe from flying beer bottles.  That, of course, was before Willie cultivated the legion of fans that were “Matthew, Mark, Luke and Willie” T-Shirts and turn out 80,000 strong at his picnics every Fourth of July.

A lot of people have wondered which came first with Nelson and the Austin sound.  Was the town already a hotbed for a new breed of musicians, or did Willie’s success make it so?

“All the ingredients were there,” he answers.  “I just happened to stumble onto an audience, really.  I saw that there were a lot of young people that liked country music, and I started looking for the young crowds because I enjoyed that energy.  So we started seeking each other out, I guess.”

“But back to your question — I don’t believe in the Austin myth.  I don’t believe the Nashville myth or the New York myth.  I think there are good musicians all over the world making music.  If they stop in Nashville, they’re not going to sound any different than if they stop in Austin.  Now, there might be some towns where good musicians gather more than they do in other towns.  Austin is that place, for sure.  There’s probably more good bands playing live music in Austin than in any other city in the country.  The climate is good, the attitude of the people is good, and then it’s just a nice place to go.”

Contrary to what other’s say about a growing deterioration of the “let’s-get-together-and-pick-and-be-friends” feeling in Austin, Nelson says the town “hasn’t changed much over the years.  there’s more people down there now.  But it’ s like Nashville and every other place — it’s grown.”

Nashville has grown particularly in its tolerance of country/rock and pop in the last few years, and especially in its attitude toward Willie Nelson.  Where Nelson was once branded an “outlaw” for his approach to music, his lifestyle and dress (no Nudie suits for him), Nashville now welcomes him with open arms.

Of course, record sales have a lot to do with it.  Wanted:  The Outlaws, the album Nelson cut in 1976 with his pals Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser, was the first country album to “go platinum’ selling more than one million copies.  Even Nashville is willing to let bygones be bygones in a situation like that.  So much so that by the next CMA awards, Willie and Waylon were the toast of the town.

“That was a big evening,” Willie says, remembering.  “I just enjoyed it.”  that’s all?  Just “enjoyed” it?  Didn’t he really just revel in it?  “Yeah,” he says, laughing again.  “It was nice.  It was real nice.”   “They threw a big party for us.  We played all night long, I think, at two or three different places.”

Suddenly, “outlaw” had new status.  Everybody wanted to know ol Willie and ol’ Waylon, and be an outlaw, too, if he could.  Of course, Nelson had had supporters in Nashville all along, among them Tom T. Hall, who wrote “Come on Back to Nashville” (Ode to the Outlaws)” for Nelson, Jennings and Roger Miller.  The first time he ever heard of Willie Nelson, it was 1961, and Hall had just gotten out of the Army.  “I was sitting one night listening to the juke box, and I heard Faron Young singing “Hello, Walls'” Hall remember.  “I went over and watched the record turning around and around, and it said, “‘Willie nelson’ in little letters under the titles.  I said, ‘There’s a new writer in Nashville, and boy, that sonofabitch can write songs.'”

Nelson laughs uproariously.  “Well,” he says finally, “you know all songwriters are sonofabitches.  You hear ’em say, ‘That sonofabitch can really write songs,’ or, ‘That sonofabitch can’t write.”  He laughs again.  “It’s kind of a brotherhood term, I think.  At least I hope it is.  I think everybody likes to be liked.  I like people and there’s no reason for people not to like me, really.  I don’t give ’em any reason.  Try not to.”

And indeed, Nelson’s temperament has been described as “buddah-like.”  He is a firm believer in the power of positive thinking, saying, “I just can’t be around anything or anybody negative.”  Nor will he tolerate hassles or rush to keep himself on schedule. All in all, he seems perpetually “laid back.”  In interviews, he appears to be the consummate “nice guy,” refusing to say anything critical about various of his musical peers, and politely skirting the issue on combustible topics.

But there are also reports of a reverse, dark side of his personality, of a temper that has at least once caused him to rip a ringing telephone off the wall.  Which is it then, Buddha or Brutus?  “Well, those are contradictory reports, I’d say, ” Nelson says between chuckles. “Somebody’s lyin’, he adds, “Or else they’re both right.”  But in serious moments, Nelson does contemplate his self-image.  “That’s a hard thing to talk about,” he says.  “It changes every second.  really.  Basically, I’m pleased with everything.  I like myself O.K.  I don’t think there’s anything I’d like to change.”

Except perhaps the constant infringement on his privacy.  Last year or so, the ultra-viligent fans forced Nelson to move his wife Connie and their two young daughters off their Austin ranch and retreat to the relative quiet of Evergreen, Colorado.  Before they left, they made a last-ditch effort to curtail the fanatics — some of whom come because they believe Nelson has magic powers of healing — by constructing a six-foot-high, three-foot-thick stone wall around the property.  Lest the die-hards think Willie was just kidding, a electrified barbed wire fence was strung atop the solid steel gate, just as he had along the wall.  For those who like it in words, he posted “No Hunting or Trespassing” and “No Admittance” signs between the barbed wire.  And for those with a legitimate message, he put in a closed-circuit television system and a call button with instructions to “Press the button, but do not hold the button down.”  From the pictures, it looked more like a military post than the dwelling of a good ol’ boy turned country superstar.

How does anyone hold on to any semblance of normal private life in such a situation?  “Well, I don’t know,” he says, running a hand over his face.  “Of course, I haven’t had one of those in years.  I’ve about forgotten what a private life is.  But the kids do it out of love, so I guess that makes it all right.  I moved mainly for my wife and family’s benefit, because I wasn’t there that much anyway.  I just got ’em out of the line of fire a little bit.”

Years ago, when nelson was paying his dues in honky-tonks, not even his most reckless dreams allowed for success on this grand scale, or at least certainly not the kind of success that reportedly brings him $40,000 a night.  “That’s right,” he agrees, shaking his pig-tailed head.  “I never thought about it seriously.  Of course, I didn’t know what to expect, but there’s no way you could imagine this — ever.”

but if Nelson is a national phenomenon, he is nothing short of Legend in Texas.  In years to come, they’ll probably erect a statue to him there.  the thought of it embarrasses the ever-humble Nelson, who says would be a waste of time and money.  But if they do, he adds, “Tell ’em I’m not in favor of it unless we can approve and design it.  It’d require a lot of thought, but there’d have to be a guitar on it, and a girl, and, of course, a horse…”

But not a pig. “Oh, no,” he says, “No pig.  But you know, I was raised in a small farming town.  (Abbott, Texas, just north of Waco), so I farmed all my life, really,  Usually for somebody else.  But I raised for the FFA, and back in school, I used to raise one pig at a time, to show.  I just never tried to raise as many before as I did in Nashville.  Never will again, either.”

Perhaps Nelson just wasn’t cut out for farming.  Asked if he remembers the moment when he realized he’d “made it” in music, he hesitates not a minute.  “Yeah, he says, “I was 11 years old.  I’d been making $2 a day chopping cotton, and I went out one night and made 48 playing music.  From that day on, I had it made.  that was the turning point.  That was it.  No more cotton chopping for me.”

“But I couldn’t begin to tell you what it is I do, except exchange energy with the audience,” he continues.  “I don’t know why we draw the old ones and the young ones, too, except the people come to be part of a togetherness, to be part of an audience that’s made up of all kinds of people of all ages.  And then some people come to hear one thing, and maybe some come to hear something else.  I don’t think I could define my style, though.  I’m not sure I’d even want to.  Bob Dylan said one time that when you start defining something, you destroy it.  That sounded real wise to me.  Ol Bob’s pretty smart.  I think I’ll use that one.  Besides, ” he says, staning up as his band plays the first chords of the show, “I’m not gonna question it.  I’m just gonna enjoy it.”





Willie Nelson GQ Interview (Aug. 31, 2015)

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

photo:  Pari Dukovic
by:  Chris Heath

Marijuana’s state-by-state march toward full legalization would never have happened without Willie Nelson. He’s 82 now, and he’s spent nearly half his life asAmerica’s most famous stoner. But this fall he’ll be making the leap from aficionado to entrepreneur. What Paul Newman did for tomato sauce, what Francis Coppola did for Cabernet, Willie Nelson is hoping to do for weed

“I’ve bought a lot of pot in my life,” Willie Nelson tells me, “and now I’m selling it back.”

Willie Nelson has this kind of answer—stock, pithy—for all kinds of questions, and he’s been using them for decades. Bring up his brief abortive stint at college studying business administration? Invariably he’ll soon say, “I majored in dominoes.” Mention the massive sum he owed the IRS in the early ’90s—somewhere between $17 million and $32 million—and you’ll get the one about how it isn’t so much “if you say it real fast.”

As time passes, the world offers up new questions, and so sometimes new answers are required. Once he reached the age when people began asking about retirement, Nelson would reply that he doesn’t do anything but play music and golf: “I wouldn’t know what to quit.” And now that one of America’s stoner icons is going into the pot business and planning to launch his own proprietary brand called Willie’s Reserve, this bought-a-lot-of-pot-in-my-life line is already on instant replay and you can confidently expect to hear Nelson use it for the next few years, anytime the subject is raised in his vicinity. In fact when we first meet, on the tour bus where he likes to do interviews and live much of his life, less than ninety seconds pass before he deploys it.

There’s a lot of shade and space behind answers like these. They leave people feeling like they’ve had a funny and intimate encounter with someone who, as Willie Nelson does, knows how to deliver them—with an amiable mischievous half-smile and a wizened wink in his eye, as though the words have just popped into his head. Answers that charm and entertain but also leave his real thoughts unbothered, his real life unruffled.

Willie Nelson has plenty of real thoughts, and he has lived a life as real and unreal as they come for eighty-two years and counting. Those stories are a little harder to shake loose, but he will share some of them, too. And when it comes to Willie Nelson, it’s worth holding out for the good stuff.

Maybe all of us are engaged in a lifelong fight to find our better natures. But some of us, perhaps the luckiest ones, find a reliable shortcut. For Willie Nelson, that shortcut has turned out to be pot. It works for him, and he needed it. His public image is a kind of Zen cowboy, a naturally chilled-out elder—Robin Williams used to have a bit in his act about how even Buddha was jealous of how mellow Willie Nelson was—but of course the truth is more complicated. “I can be a real asshole when I’m straight,” he tells me. “As Annie can probably adhere to.”

Annie is Nelson’s fourth wife—“my current wife,” as he has sometimes described her, though they have now been married for twenty-four years. She sits out of my sight, behind me, but periodically she contributes to the conversation. “He’s not an asshole sober,” she clarifies, coming to her husband’s defense. Briefly, at least. “Only when he’s drinking. Then he’s an asshole.”

Did you think you were an asshole at the time?

“Oh, I’ve always known that possibility, you know,” he says. “I saw a funny cartoon the other day. ‘How do you piss off a redhead?’ ‘Say something.’

And you felt like some anger came with your red hair?

“I could associate with the temper that goes with it.”

So are you still as angry as you used to be, but now that you smoke you’ve just learned how to not show it?

“Probably. I still get pissed off, and take a couple of hits and say, ‘Well, it ain’t that bad.…’ Delete and fast-forward: That’s my new motto.”

“It works,” Annie attests.

How long’s that been the motto?

“Oh, six months,” he says.


What kind of things can annoy you?

“Life itself, you know. If you start going over the way things are and you don’t get pissed off, you just haven’t studied the facts yet.” He laughs.

So, overall, you’re proposing that one should study the facts, get pissed off, and then smoke and get un-pissed off?

“Yeah. Delete and fast-forward, start over again. Admit that you’re an asshole and move on.”

You’ve said that you’re naturally a little too revved up, and that pot brings you back closer to normal.

He nods. “I have compared myself to the motorboat where the fuel for the motorboat is a little too hot for the motor, where you have to add a little oil in it. I figure that’s my oil, you know. It’s what I have to do to, you know, to make it easier.”

And what happens to the motorboat without the oil?

“Burns out,” says Annie.

“Yeah. It wears out. And he does dumb and dumber things.”


This day in Willie Nelson history: “Beer for my Horses” wins Video of Year Award (5/26/2004)

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

On May 26, 2004, music video to Toby Keith and Willie Nelson song, ‘Beer For My Horses’ wins best video award at CBS’ 39th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay.

Country Weekly
October 14, 2003
by Chris Neal

Like a lot of great country music tales, this one begins with whiskey. Willie Nelson and Toby Keith were on Willie’s bus, passing the bottle back and forth — to be precise, a bottle of Willie’s own signature brand, Old Whiskey River. They were having fun, but Toby had a serious question for his hero.

“I’ve got a project I’d love to talk to you about,” he offered. “It’s singing the second verse on a song that I think fits you like a glove.”

“What’s the name of it?” asked Willie. “Whiskey for My Men; Beer for My Horses,” replied Toby.

“Hell, let’s go cut it!” Willie exclaimed with a laugh. “It’d be hard to have a bad song with a title that good.”

Many months later, Willie’s judgment turned out to be right on. “Beer for My Horses” shot to No. 1 and stayed there for six weeks.

“Johnny Cash said one time that all that’s wrong with any of us can be cured with a No. 1 song,” said Willie. “And I think he was about right. I’m almost cured of everything.”

The ride actually began many years ago, way back in mid-Sept. 1976. Toby, then 15, made his way backstage when Willie was appearing in concert at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., as part of an “Outlaws” tour with Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser.

At the time, Toby already idolized Willie, who was then riding high with the No. 1 Waylon duet “Good Hearted Woman” – a song Toby himself would sing with Willie months after Waylon’s death in 2002.

Toby still remembers meeting Willie that night, 27 years ago. “He was his usual polite self,” he smiles. “Willie is a real sweetheart. He takes care of everybody and wants everybody to have a piece of him.”

By the time they met again in the ‘90’s, Toby had followed in Willie’s footsteps to become a star himself. It happened that Toby’s guitarist, Joey Floyd, had played the part of Willie’s son in the 1980 movie Honeysuckle Rose, and still kept in touch. Joey made the introductions — and Toby and Willie’s friendship was off and running.

“I’d already heard his music before I met him,” recalls Willie. “I think he’s a great talent. He’s one of those guys coming along — well, I don’t know how young he is. Younger than me for damn sure.” (Toby is 42.)

“Probably the thing that ties us together most is the music,” says Toby. “But he’s got a great sense of humor, and so do I. We call each other all the time and tell our latest jokes, and we really have a good time when we’re hanging out.”

Perhaps the most notorious occasion the two spent “hanging out” was during this year’s ACM Awards. Tongues wagged after Toby was named entertainer of the Year at the evening’s end, but wasn’t around to accept it because he’d already left.

Where was he?

“I was up in my room, at the same hotel where the show was going on,” explains Willie. “I was watching it on TV. Next thing you know, there’s a knock on my door and there’s Toby. He said, “Hell, I ain’t gonna win.” I said, ‘OK, come in here and we’ll write a song or something.” So we got the whiskey bottle going around — again — and we were having some fun.”

“You can tell when it’s your night,” explains Toby, “And it didn’t feel like it was my night.”

So Toby figured that spending time with his friend and idol sounded better than waiting around to not win an award.

“That’s important to me, getting a chance to enjoy some of the stuff I grew up wanting to do,” he says. “But I did feel real bad when they said my name and “Entertainer of the Year.”

There’s always the upcoming CMAs, where “Beer for My Horses” is nominated for Single, Song, Vocal Event — and Music Video of the Year, for it’s imaginative clip featuring Willie and Toby as father and son police detectives chasing a killer.

The two are lining up tour dates together, including a New Year’s Eve show. Willie is currently making a new album with Toby’s producer, which will include at least one song Toby wrote. And both men say they’re reading and willing to duet again.

“I’ve had a lot of fun singing with Toby,” declares Willie. “He’s one of us.”

But one question remains: Do horses really like beer?

“Good God yeah” says Willie. “It’s got wheat, barley, corn — why wouldn’t a horse like it? It’s horse soup.”

Willie Nelson interviewed by the Barbi Twins, for Origin Magazine

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

glasses horse
by: The Barbi Twins

Barbi Twins: Why have you and your family become so active specifically in anti-horse slaughter?

Willie Nelson: I’m a little prejudiced when it comes to horses. I have always loved them. I currently have about 68; 25-30 were rescued directly from slaughter. I got involved 8 years ago when Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) first made me aware that American horses are being slaughtered and shipped overseas for human consumption. It’s a shame that horses – or any animal – be treated this way when horses are the foundation of America. Horses were a way to travel to get to where we are today, and it is our job to protect them.

BT: The wild horses have been in the news, but most people don’t understand that horse slaughter is legal. Can you explain what the government does?

WN: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency in charge of protecting wild horses, has been rounding them up at an alarming rate, supposedly for their own good. Sadly, there are more wild horses in holding pens than in the wild. Something is wrong with that, so we must act now before the BLM has managed these magnificent animals into extinction.

BT: Why should Americans be worried about horse slaughter still being legal?

WN: Americans don’t eat horses. They are not raised as food animals and they are treated with chemicals that render them unsafe for consumption. The regulations needed to change their status to “food animals” would cripple every aspect of the horse industry as we know it. Plus, it would be wrong.

BT: What benefit does horse slaughter have if most people are against horse slaughter?

WN: America’s horses and horse industry are under attack by a small group of folks out to line their pockets at the expense of our wild and domestic horses, American taxpayers, and those restaurant patrons who are ingesting toxic horse meat. However, we can pass the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, which will ban the slaughter of all American horses for the purpose of human consumption, while also ensuring they aren’t sent abroad to suffer the same fate. My family has been working closely with our friend Chris Heyde at AWI on the SAFE Act and other important horse welfare issues for years. I encourage everyone to join with us by visiting, taking action, and signing up for eAlerts today. Together we can make a difference.

BT: What can you tell people about how they can help stop horse slaughter of domestic and wild horses?

WN: Folks, please join my family and friends at the Animal Welfare Institute to see how you can help with this important American cause.

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Willie Nelson interview, “It’s a good life”

Thursday, May 5th, 2016
by Paul Venema

BRIARCLIFF, Texas – There was no giant party or outrageous celebration last weekend when county music legend Willie Nelson marked his 83rd birthday.

Nelson instead opted for doing what he enjoys most — driving around his sprawling 700-acre Hill Country ranch near Briarcliff in his pickup truck, checking on the 70 or so horses roaming the place, and a stubborn mule named Willamina that Nelson says keeps the snakes and coyotes away.

“I look forward to being here and going up and saddling up a horse and riding whenever I want to,” Nelson said. “To me, that’s all that I ask, that’s all I need.”

When Nelson is not performing at one of the nearly 200 shows annually, he’s at his ranch or at his home in Maui.

“I’ve got friends over there and here in Texas,” he said. “You’ll find me at one of those places or on the bus. That’s my life and it’s a good life.”

Sometimes Nelson is serious and reflecting. But often as not, he weaves a sense of humor through the conversation.

Asked how he wanted to be remembered, Nelson chuckled and replied, “Well, if you’ve got some real good weed, you don’t have to worry about it. You’ll forget anyway.”

Nelson is well known for advocating the legalization of marijuana.

As for his decades of entertaining, Nelson said he has just one wish.

“Seriously, I want my fans to feel that they got their money’s worth,” he said. “They paid for a ticket and they saw a good show, that’s all that I ask.”

Nelson said there will still be many opportunities for fans to catch one of his shows. He has no plans to slow down.

“I’m pretty healthy. My family is healthy, and I’m thankful for the way things are,” he said.