Archive for the ‘Magazines’ Category

Willie Nelson, “That’s Life”

Saturday, January 23rd, 2021
by: Patrick Doyle

Willie Nelson was a young country music and western-swing fan when he heard Frank Sinatra on the radio for the first time. “Though he was a million miles from western swing, he had a sweet swing of his own,” Nelson wrote in his book It’s a Long Story: My Life. “There was a tenderness to his voice, a purity and ease of phrasing. When he sang the popular songs of the day, I marveled at the natural way he told the story.”

Sinatra helped Nelson find his own indelible style, and the two even went on to play shows together. In 2018, Nelson released My Way, which managed to make Sinatra’s best-known songs sound new again.

On February 26th, Nelson will release That’s Life, another set of Sinatra classics. That’s Life goes a little deeper than his previous Sinatra covers albumin addition to hits like the title track and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” he includes lesser-known songs like “Just in Time” and “The Lonesome Road” from 1959. The album, produced by Buddy Cannon and Matt Rollings, was largely recorded at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, where Sinatra recorded a string of classics from 1956 to 1961.

Nelson has released a highly entertaining lyric video for the title track. The video incorporates footage of the artist Paul Mann, known for his legendary movie posters, painting an image of Nelson under a streetlamp.

Written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon, “That’s Life” was first recorded in 1963 by Marion Montgomery. Mikal Gilmore, who has written Rolling Stone stories about Bob Dylanthe Clash and more, has authored a deep essay about Nelson and his connection to Sinatra, available to read here. “What Nelson does here on That’s Life — as he did on My Way — is find common ground with Sinatra,” Gilmore writes. “As a result, what binds these singers is an understanding that, regardless of genre, the art of both men is one and the same: giving voice to songs of experience.”

“I’m just glad to be able to do another tribute to him,” Nelson recently said. “I’m anxious to get it out there”

It’s a busy week for Nelson. He also just received his Covid-19 vaccine shot. 

Willie Nelson Interview (Spinner, January 2008)

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Willie Nelson is 74 years old and has absolutely no plans of slowing down. Lucky for us.‘Moment of Forever, ‘ a collection of songs that mirror his life: There’s a little bit of humor, a lot of love and a sound that stands the test of time.

I hear you’re talking to us in between golf games right now. What’s your handicap?

My driver and my putter! [laughs]

The music icon and all-around national treasure somehow found time between touring, his philanthropic endeavors and his golf game to record

Spinner caught up with the Redheaded Stranger to talk about his new project and his surprisingly simple explanation for his prevalence in modern music. And, of course, we couldn’t help but let the conversation drift back to his notoriously wilder days.

And you actually bought a golf course!

I’m across the street from it right now. It’s a little nine-hole golf course called Pedernales Country Club. We have a lot of fun over there.

So you’re a golf course owner, singer, songwriter, actor, philanthropist and father of ten. Is there anything you’ve yet to accomplish that’s on your to-do list?

I don’t like to think too far ahead. I’ve been lucky enough to get a lot done and have a lot of success. I don’t want to be greedy. And when I’m happiest is when I’m out here playing music and staying out of trouble! [laughs] In the early days, we’d be out on the road and go out and play our concert, and then go back to the hotel and party till daylight. And then when it came time to leave, you couldn’t find anybody! [laughs] So I decided somewhere along the way that it’s better to leave town right after the show. And since we’ve started doing that, I’ve noticed that the marriages are actually staying together. [laughs]

You have certainly changed your ways; people may not realize that you’re actually somewhat of a health nut these days.

Well, I have started running. What I was trying to do was do at least as much good in the daytime as I was destroying in the nighttime. [laughs] But it got to the point where I was losing ground. I had to start trying to stay alive or I was going to die. So I’ve had to give up the smoking and drinking. And when I quit that and started running, I got a lot healthier.

What would you say is the biggest misconception about you?

There probably aren’t any. [laughs] But if you think of all the people who don’t like me, just think of all the millions who’ve never heard of me!

I can’t imagine there are “millions” who haven’t heard of you. You’re Willie Nelson! You probably get recognized several times a day. Does your fame ever overwhelm you?

Honestly, no. I love it. I thrive on it. I enjoy people. And when I first started out watching Gene Autry and Roy Rogers on the movie screen every Saturday, I wanted to be like them. I wanted to ride my horse, shoot my gun, sing my songs and be like Gene and Roy. And that’s what I’m doing, and I couldn’t be happier. And I’m making enough money to pay the bills and support my family, so I have no complaints.

Speaking of your family, your youngest sons Micah and Lukas are featured on your new album in the opening track, ‘Over You Again.’ And they’re actually musicians themselves, right?

They have a band called 40 Points and have toured with me over the last couple of years, but they’re back in school now. They’re just two really talented kids. I’m proud of them.

You also worked with Kenny Chesney on this CD. He acts as both duet partner on ‘Worry B Gone’ and as co-producer of the album. What did he bring to the table that was different from your past producers?

First of all, he’s a good musician and has a good ear in the studio. And his name certainly didn’t hurt at all, either! [laughs] He’s a big star, and after hanging out with him for a while you can see why. He’s got a lot of talent.

In addition to Chesney, are there any other artists these days who you think have a real shot at longevity?

There are a lot of guys who seem to have staying power … Toby Keith, Brooks & Dunn, Travis Tritt. Those guys are going to be out there working for a long time. They’ve got talent.

As someone who’s certainly achieved it, what do you think is the secret to longtime success in the music industry?

I think you’ve just gotta keep living! Just look at Johnny Cash or Waylon [Jennings]. They kept going until they died. Ray Price is still doing great, and he’s 82 years old. We just celebrated his birthday over in Tyler, Texas. He and I and Merle [Haggard] are all touring again this year. So I think staying busy is important.

You’ve collaborated with so many different artists, from Waylon and Merle to Julio Iglesias to Dave Matthews. Is there anyone you haven’t worked with yet but would like to?

Can you sing? [laughs]

You don’t want to hear me sing, at least not sober.

[laughs] Darn, then I’ll have to find somebody else.

How about all the different artists who’ve covered your songs. Is there one that stands out to you?

You’ve got to go back to ‘Crazy,’ Patsy Cline. How could you top that one? Also, Ray Price with ‘Night Life,’ Roy Orbison, ‘Pretty Paper’; Billy Walker, ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’; Faron Young, ‘Hello Walls.’ Those performances … there’s just no way to beat ’em.I just heard a Hank Williams classic, ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.’ That’s a piece of literature. I don’t wish I’d written it, but I am glad somebody did!

If you could change anything about the country music business, what would you change?

I would like to see more airplay for all artists, no matter what age. I think there’s a lot of money being spent toward the young guys, but a lot of the older guys are the ones who blazed the trail for those young guys. Plus, the old guys have kept those record companies in business for all these years. So I think there’s a certain amount of respect due. I’m not complaining … we’ve made some good records and have sold a lot. I’m talking mainly for the other artists coming along. They’ll have a better chance if they stay traditional and don’t try to get too far out one way or another. Like Toby Keith, Brooks & Dunn, Ray Price … they’ve stayed traditional, and they’re gonna be around for forever.

You tend to be pretty vocal about your political beliefs. So, what do you think is the most important issue in the ’08 presidential election?

Stop the war. Stop the bleeding. That’s the first thing. Then the economy — we have all kind of problems, but the number-one priority is to stop this war. Once that happens, all the trillions of dollars that we’re spending over there can be spent here on our people, our poor people, for health insurance and all the things that evidently we don’t have the money to work with because it’s all over there fighting wars. And if it’s not that war, it’s another war. It’s just this series of one war after another.

Are you supporting any particular candidate?

I liked Dennis Kucinich, but he dropped out. I like Obama and Hillary, so I’ll wait to see which one of those folks come out on top. But they’ve both changed their positions on the war, I think, in the last several months. Dennis never did have to change his position, because he was always against it. But as for who I’ll support, I don’t really know yet.

Was it your stance on the war that drove you to start the Willie Nelson Peace Research Institute?

I wanted to connect all people who are thinking about peace on Earth. When I was growing up, that was the theme that every Sunday morning, they yelled at us. [laughs] “Peace on Earth!” And then it looks like that somewhere along the way, people forgot that message. Now it’s war on Earth. So I want to connect all the people who think like I do, that there should be and hopefully will be peace on Earth.

If we were to ask you to write Willie’s Theme, a rule you live your daily life by, what would it say?

A couple of funny ones come to mind. My ex-wife Martha used to say, “Don’t worry about a thing, because there ain’t nothin’ that’s gonna be all right.” [laughs] And my father-in-law when I was married to Connie used to say, “Take my advice and do what you want to.” I thought that was funny.

I think the lyrics to your new song ‘Always Now’ are a good rule to live by.

I think you’re right. That’s an absolute truth.

Why Willie Nelson’s Still Cool, by Joe Nick Patoski (Texas Monthly, April 2003)

Tuesday, December 29th, 2020

Why Willie’s Still Cool
by Joe Nick Patoski
A Texas Monthly Magazine Tribute to Willie!
April 2003

Ever since I was a kid, when his grinning visage first flickered at me over the black-and-white on Channel 11 live from Panther Hall, in Fort Worth, Willie Nelson has been a fixture in my life. I swear I heard him introducing 45’s when he was a disc jockey on KCNC-AM, my first exposure to country and western music. Like him, I saw the neon Stars and Stripes that once flew over the Tarrant County courthouse at night. Like him, I was moved by the blind couple who sold pencils in front of Leonards Department Store downtown (Willie paid tribute to them by writing “Pretty Paper,” the best Texas Christmas song ever).

Growing up in Texas back then, you couldn’t help but hear Faron Young’s recording of “Hello Walls” and Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” jukebox staples that never went away; Willie wrote the lyrics of both songs. When I finally met him fact to face in the offices of KOKE-FM, in Austin, the station that revolutionized radio by playing a brand new mix of music called progressive country. I remember thinking that he was unlike any musician — any person, for that matter — I’d ever seen or heard.

Who’d have guessed that after all these records, picnics, scandals, and road miles later, he’d still be so much in his prime? At a time when his peers have either hightailed it to Branson or are being wheeled out onstage to show they’re still alive, Willie’s till Willie — on the road again, on the bus again, worthy of tribute songs and accolades and whatever else you can throw at him.

Which raises the question: What keeps him going? What makes Willie Willie, who turns seventy on April 30, more of an icon that ever? Everyone has his opinion. Willie surely has his own. Here’s mine.

He’s a family man. Four marriages and what can be charitably described as an unconventional lifestyle explain why a lot of people thing Willie and family values don’t go together.  They’re wrong. He’s the epitome of family. It’s not just that he’s a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather or that his sister plays piano in his band or that his eldest daughter goes out on the road with him and writes the band’s official Web site diary (

 Not for nothing is his band called Willie Nelson and Family; they’ve stayed together longer than most blood relations. His steadfast followers are likewise called family. To them, he’s more than a star; he’s a combination of daddy, patron, sage, boss man, fearless leaders, beloved outlaw, and benevolent shepherd tending his flock.

He’s a uniter, not a divider. The original cosmic cowboy came to Austin and brought rednecks and freaks together, mainly because he’s a little of both (he was the first hippie I ever saw wearing a diamond pinkie ring). His audience today is the face of America, bringing together folks who’d never darken the same door — from baby boomers to yahoos, academics to convicts — and making them want to stay all night and a little longer.

He’s the Teflon Troubadour. From unpaid bar tabs and pistol down payments to high-dollar lawsuits and high-profile tax hassles, he has nimbly stepped around buckets of excrement without getting any on him in a manner unrivaled this side of Ronald Reagan. Think about it: In just ten years he seamlessly segued from IRS target to A-plus patriot, leading the likes of Tome Cruise and Julia Roberts in a stirring rendition of “America the Beautiful” on the nationally televised post-9/11 telethon.

He’s loyal. It works in the White House. It works in the Mafia. And it works in Willie’s world, where the operating rule of thumb is Darrell Royal’s “Dance with the one who brung ya.” Following the first Willie Nelson Picnic, in Dripping Springs, he severed ties with the hippie crew from the Armadillo World Headquarters who’d helped put on the show after hearing one of them complain about his pal’s toting firearms backstage. “If my friends aren’t good enough for you,” Willie told them, “then I’m not good enough for you either.”

He’s an activist without being overly political. He championed small, independent farmers by starting Farm Aid, a no-brainer fit of inspired populism that pays back the culture he was part of growing up in Abbott. On almost the opposite end of the spectrum, he has had a thirty-year relationship with NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), making a public service announcement here and there. And he’s even raised money to rebuild the fire-damaged Hill County courthouse in Hillsboro. yes, he lends his name to causes, bu the causes don’t define him: his Williness transcends all controversy.

He’s a jack-of-all-trades. No one slides in and out of so many musical skins. He’s country as all-get-out, but he’s also a folkie for the ages, a great gospel artist (look no further than Family bible and Healing Hands of Time), a connoisseur of pop standards (Stardust is one of the best-selling albums of all time), and an organic-rocker who can take a jam on on a trip farther out than even . The Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead may have preceded him in their two-drummer setup, but only Willie Nelson’s band has sported two bass players as well. Reggae?  Been there (though the album has yet to be released). Sentimental schmultz? Done that (“On teh Sunny Side of the Street?) Dance times? Yes, thsoe were disco whistles you heard on a recent single, “Maria (Shut Up and Kiss Me).” He has sung credible duets with Julio Iglesias, Ray Charles, Paul Simon, Little Joe, Dolly Parton, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt; B. B. King, Kid Rock, and Nora Jones.  Now that’s versatility.

He’s an extraordinary talent. He can jump from genre to genre so effortlessly because he’s so gifted musically — the greatest all-around Texas player born in the twentieth century. He writes songs that have   As a singer, he’s surpassed only by Sinatra.  He’s an American original, right up there with Hank, Miles, and Elvis.

He’s a crossover dream. unlike Mariah Carey and Madonna, he has managed to transition form music to movies (Honeysuckle Rose, Wag the Dog) and television (the edgy detective series Monk) without being ridiculed — mainly because he’s smart enough to play a version of himself, if not the real thing, and act naturally. What you see is what you get.

He’s Ours. Willie is Texas and Texas is Willie, pure and simple, no one represents the brand like he does. The spiritual descendant of Bob Willis, who blazed trails by welding together seemingly incompatible styles to invent western swing. Willie is responsible for birthing this think called Texas Music and taking Texas to the world. Bonus points for making red-bandanna headbands, braids and running shoe symbols of Texas culture.

He’s cool. He has lived a thousand lives and died a thousand deaths, having been wrongly written off more times than any other cat in showbiz. While he could be resting on laurels that include a discography ofmore than two hundred albums, he’s plahying 145 nights ayear, cranking out sets in excess of two hours, while on the side pitching booze (Old Whiskey River Kentucky Straight Bourbon), financial services (Frost Bank), and blue jeans (the Gap) in television commercials and on a billboard overlooking Broadway.

Wilie and blue jeans? Could there be a more perect match? It isn’t so much that the was made for them as they were made for him. And you can’t get any cooler than that.

[Joe Nick Patoski is author “Willie Nelson: An Epic Life,” among many other great documentaries on Texas music and history.  His latest is The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America”.]

Willie Nelson in Acoustic Guitar (December 2013)

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020
acoustic guitar

photo: Jay Blakesberg Photography

Willie Nelson, Texas Monthly (December 2012)

Sunday, December 20th, 2020

Willie Country (December 1986)

Friday, December 18th, 2020

Willie Country
By Don Holland

Howdy!  Willie Nelson came to Abbott on Wednesday, December 3, and it was not so long  before he was surrounded by a lot of friends and fans who turned out to greet him.  Willie was accompanied by his sister Bobbie who plays the piano when they perform with the band.  They had come to Abbott to shoot some publicity photos to be used on the cover of a gospel music album that will be released in the future.  The reason why they came to Abbott is to have the photos taken in front of the Methodist Church that Willie and Bobbie attended when growing up here in Abbott.

Willie and Bobbie were dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meeting finest.  You can see for yourself how sharp they looked in the photos that have been placed on various pagers of the paper.


Rev. Wayne Dunson, the present preacher at the Methodist Church, is the same one that preached there when Willie and Bobbie attended in their youth.  He was in the area when Willie and Bobbie showed up and asked me to take a photo of him and Willie.  “But, he whispered in my ear, I need to go over and change my coat before you take the picture.  I don’t think it would look right with Willie looking more like a preacher than I do.”


Yours truly really enjoyed seeing Willie in Abbott.  He had come through town several times during the past month or so and I was always out of town and missed him.  Again, true to form, I was out of town, but Jan got on the telephone and had me located in Waco.  My brother Ben found me as the screen printers where I was picking up some new T-shirts of Willie as the Red Headed Stranger, and got the message to me.  I returned to Abbott immediately and was able to get the photos that you see in this issue.


While chatting with Willie, I asked him whether the movie entitled “The Red Headed Stranger” would be released.  He said, “Plans are made to release it February 19, 1987.”  So all of you fans stay on the lookout for the movie and remember you can get tee shirts and pictures of Willie as the Red Headed Stranger right here through the Souvenir Shop, either in person or by mail order.

Some of you no doubt read about the Susie Nelson Show that we had booked at the VFW Club in Cameron, Texas, this past November 15th.  The show was very successful as the folks there enjoyed the music and singing of our stars Susie Nelson and her band and Chris Robbins with Stagecoach Symphony.

Several phoots that I took are included in thgis issue (page 7) for your eyeballs’ pleasure.  Enjoy!  Also, we appreciated a big fan of Willie’s coming to the show — Ann Willis of Temple.  Ann showed me a lot of photos that she has taken around the countryside and we will try to run some of them in future editions.

Other recent visitors to Willie Nelson Country have come from Robards, Kentucky, Prag, Oklahoma; St. Joseph, Missouri; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Battle Creek, Michigan; Judsonia Arkansas; Jacksonville, Illionois; and Dallas, Garland, Red Oak, Mesquite, Austin, San Antonio, Temple Branson, Corsicana, Crossroads and Springtown, TX.  Coming the longest distance was Lucas Wegmann from Newcastle, Main.  We really enjoy meeting and visiting with Willie’s fans from all over the country!


Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Willie Nelson, Guitar Player, (Interview, Frets Magazine December 1984)

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

Frets Magazine
December 1984
by Jim Halo

Willie Nelson is a man of surprises.  “Improbable” is the mildest word that describes the course of his career from sideman to superstar, a career marked by so many odd twists, turns and bumps that the story would be hard to pass off a convincing fiction.

It isn’t out of character, then, that as an instrumentalist he plays a type of guitar that country bandleaders aren’t supposed to play, uses a technique usually reserved for another type of guitar altogether, and first chose to do so for one of the least likely reasons.

In place of the obligatory pear-monogrammed steel-string, Shotgun Wilie packs a Martin short-scale N-20 classical guitar, one of perhaps only 277 ever built.  In country circles, let alone the string music world at large, Martin classicals are about as common as Porsche limosines.

And while manicured fingers are considered de rigeur for the playing of classical guitars, Willie uses a flatpick — which accounts for one of his intrument’s trademarks.  In the soundboard, a ragged gash extends from near the lower quadrant of the soundhole rosette down almost to the treble end of the bridge saddle.  Classical guitars traditionally do not have pickguards.  Wille’s instrument, after 15 years of flatpicking, provides an object lesson in while steel-string guitars usually do.

Even if the famous auxiliary soundhole, surrounded by pick-abraded bare wood, with skeletal brace ends and edges peeking through, never had formed on Willie’s N-20, there would have been no question of the guitar’s identity.  Besides its battle scars, the soundboard bears the autographs of such artists as Roger Miller and Johnny Bush, along with other graffiti left — at the owner’s invitation — during Willie’s days as a Nashville songwriter who couldn’t quite go over the top as a performer.

Why did Willie Nelson start using a classical guitar in the first place?  Test your musical intuition by choosing one of the following:  Willie switched to a classical guitar because he wanted to (a) favor a weak left hand by changing to the lower tension of nylon strings; (b) inject an element of mariachi music into his Texas-based country stylings; (c) get a guitar that was strikingly different from those of his performing peers; (d) sound like France’s Gypsy jazz guitar virtuoso, Django Reinhardt.

The correct answer is (d).

Any similarities between the style of Nelson and the style of Reinhardt are purely intentional.  “I wanted to look for a guitar that I could use to find that tone that Django was getting,” Willie says, referring to the sound of Django’s unusual Selmer-Maccaferri steel-string acoustics.  “The guitar that I am using now is the closest that I could find to that.”

Most guitarists would figure that Willie was drawn to a nylon-string instrument because of it’s comparatively easygoing action.  But he says that in fact, the opposite is true.

“The action is really a lot slower than what you’d get on a regular Fender electric or something, which I used to play all the time,” he explains.  “I played a lot of Fenders and a lot of Gibsons — all electrics.  I really didn’t play the acoustic guitar on stage then, for the simple reason that the fingering was more difficult.  But finally I sort of settled for the harder action to get the tone I wanted.”

As a performer, Willie also settled for harder action to get the kind of results he wanted.  For years he channelled royalties from a successful songwriting career into a money-losing band, so that he could play his music the way he wanted with his “family” of loyal sidemen.  He went against the Nashville grain in the early ’70s, switching to a non-country label, recording in New York, and moving his base of operations to Texas.  That earned him the label “outlaw,” but it helped launch a new wave in country music that eventually overflowed into the rock and pop markets and carried Willie Nelson to megastar status.  At present, his roll call of recording credits includes no less eight gold albums, six platinum albums, one double platinum album, and one triple platinum album.

Ironically — or perhaps, characteristically — the triple platinum album isn’t country at all.  It is Stardust, Willie’s 1978 tribute to the standards (like “Stardust,” “Blue Skies,” “September Song,” and “All of Me”) that he heard and loved as a boy in the 1940s.

Born in the teeth of the Depression in April 1933, Willie grew up in Abbott, Texas, south of Fort Worth.  His mother left home when eh was six months old, and he was raised by his grandparents.  His grandfather, a blacksmith, gave Willie his first guitar lesson at age six.  Willie’s grandmother, who wrote gospel songs, also played guitar.  “I started out with a thumbpick,” Willie recalls, “Because that was what my grandparents used, so I was taught that way.  But later on I began to hear players like Eldon Shamblin [of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys], and they used a straight pick.  So I changed because that music was more what I wanted to play.  When I was a kid I used to play the mandolin — fool with it a lot, and the banjo, and everything that had strings o it.  I usually could get some sort of sound out of them.  But I never really tried to get good on anything other than a guitar.”

His older sister, Bobbie (now the pianist in Willie’s band), was taking piano lessons, so the sheet music she brought home supplemented the songs he heard on the radio — World War II pop hits like “Coming In On A Wing And A Prayer” and “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me).”  Through radio he also drank in Grand Ole Opry country music, western swing, and jazz.  As he grew bigger, Willie earned $3 a day picking cotton with black field hands.  What made the work bearable for him was the blues and work songs they sang.

At age 10 Willie made his professional debut, playing in a Bohemian polka band for $8 a night.  He began working in a small group with Bobbie on piano, their father on fiddle, Bobbie’s husband on bass, and the local football coach on trumpet.  Gradually he evolved a guitar style influenced by such players as Johnny Smith, Hank Garland, George Barnes, Barney Kessel and Django Reinhardt.  “I liked those rhythms that Django’s band laid down, too,” says Willie, “the stuff his brother Joseph played on rhythm guitar.”  Perennially electric, he also was drown to the music of flamenco guitarist Carlos Montoya. “The Spanish flavor was something I always enjoyed anyway,” he says, “So Montoya was one of my favorites from the beginning.”

After high school he served a short stint in the Air Force during the Korean War, then spent the ’50s working as a door-to-door salesman (variously selling vacuum cleaners, Bibles, and encyclopedias), a plumber’s helper, a used-car salesman, a janitor, a Sunday School teacher, and a disc jockey, all the while playing in bars and honky tonks.  And writing music.  One of his first successful songs was “Family Bible.”  He sold the rights to it for $50, so he could  buy groceries for his family.  In 1959 he wrote his classic “Light Life,” which would eventually be recorded by more than 70 different artists and sell over 30 million copies.  But two years later he sold the rights to it for $150, which he used to buy a second-hand Buick.  He used the Buick to move to Nashville.

Willie’s work won quick recognition in Music City.  Songwriter Hank Cochran heard Willie one night in Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, the bar that served as the unofficial artists’ club room for the neighboring Grand Ole Opry, and signed him to a publishing contract.  Singer Ray Price, who with Cochran was a part-owner in the publishing company, also was impressed.  He made “Night Life’ his theme song, and hired its author as a bass player.

Soon vocalist Patsy Cline had a huge hit with Nelson’s “Crazy,” and Faron Young had another with Willie’s “Hello Walls.”  Liberty signed Willie to a recording contract, and he scored his first Top Ten country hit in 1962 with the single “Touch Me.”  He became a regular member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1964, and the following year he signed with RCA.  But though he recorded more than a dozen albums for RCA between 1965 and 1971, Willie didn’t enjoy the kind of usccess that other artists were having with his material.

One reason was his phrasing.  Intrigued by crooner Frank Sinatra’s knack for singing off, or against, the beat, Willie had adopted the technique in his own music.  (That kind of phrasing often turns up in Willie’s guitar solos).  But his producers saw Willie’s use of rhythmical license as a liability, not an asset — and often remixed his studio tapes to get his voice back on the beat.

The results weren’t impressive, commercially; and artistically they were frustrating for Willie.  His substantial songwriting income allowed him to hold his road band together, however, and they kept the faith in live performances.  “The music I played on a bandstand was better than the music I played in the studio,” he once told Al Reinert of New York Times Magazine.  “For one thing, I’d be using my own band, and we’d have a better feel for it — be more relaxed.  We’d have an audience to play for, and it was just a whole lot more fun.”

In 1969, in the middle of his second divorce, Willie’s Nashville house burned down.  His guitar was one of the few things eh was able to save from the flames.  While Willie’s home was being rebuilt, he moved back to Texas — and stayed.  He made the relocation official in 1972.  Meanwhile, Willie and his band began hitting the Southwest tour circuit again; and with the expiration of his RCA contract, he left the Nashville studios behind as well.  In 1971 he signed with Atlantic, which was venturing into the country market.  It was a good move for both parties.

Given a free hand, Wilie took his own band to New York to record Shotgun Willie.  Finished in less than to days, the LP brought their “outlaw” sound out into the open.  Within six months, sales of  Shotgun Willie had surpassed the sales of all his Nashville albums combined.

From there, the successes began to snowball.  Phases And Stages, completed in 1974 as Atlantic wound down its country operations, sold 400,000 copies.  Meanwhile, the Nashville songwriting fraternity saluted his earlier contributions to country music by inducting him into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973.

Willie formed his own record company, signed a distribution agreement with Columbia, and in 1975 released Red-Headed Stranger.  From that came the single, “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In the Rain,” which gave him his first Top Ten country hit in 13 years and won him his first Grammy Awared.  (It also documented a rare reversion to fingerstyle playing on the guitar solo.  “I didn’t use a pick on that one,” Willie says.  “Sometimes I use my thumb by itself, to get a softer sound.  On ‘Blues yese,’ that was strictly thumb and fingers.”)

Red-Headed Stranger was certified gold in March 1976, and before the month was otu Willie shared in the plaudits as RCA’s The Outlaws — a compilation featuring the music of Willie, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser — also earned gold record status.  Honors and hit records came almost predictably thereafter.  Among his laurels to date are eight Country Music Association awards, including Best Album (twice), Best Single (twice), Best Vocal  Duo (with Waylon Jennings in 1976, with Merle Haggard in 1983, and with Julio Iglesias in 1984), and Entertainer of the Year — a title conferred on him in 1979 by both the CMA and the Academy of Country Music.


Willie no longer has to worry about breaking even outside the studio.  This summer, Willie Nelson & Family was No. 14 in Billboard Magazine’s list of top-grossing concert appearances (a roster on which the much-hyped Victory Tour by the Jacksons sewed up 6 of the top 12 spots).  Willie also is listed as one of the top ten money-earners on the Las Vegas shworoom circuit (along with his old diol, Frank Sinatra).

But despite all the justifiable to-do about his gilt-edged performing status, Willie still prefers to think of himself first and foremost as a picker.

“What I always liked to do was be the guitar player,” he says.  “Somewhere along the say, I started being the singer.  I’m not sure how that happened.  I think one night the front man didn’t show up, and I wound up fronting the band and doing the singing.  And I don’t know if that was really the best day of my life!  I really do like to be just the guitar player, sometimes.  It’s very enjoyable when the only responsibility you have is playing the guitar.

Fret Magazine.   When you are playing lead, what’s gong on in your mind?  Are you thinking of right chord changes or melodic patterns on the fretboard, or modes related to the key of the tune, or positions you like to work from?

Willie Nelson.  Not consciously.  I think probably if somebody put a computer on me, they’d find I use a lot of things the same way.  But consciously — I just play off the top of my head.  On the songs that I do a lot, I guess I’m subconsciously  aware of the chord structures and I just play whatever notes I hear that fall within those.  I really don’t think about all that.  I guess I’m playing from somewhere else.

Fret:  Do you work out solos ahead of time?  Often, when you’re fronting your band, your solos will restate the melody.  But in some situations — on the Angel Eyes album, for example — you’ll take what sounds like a more spontaneous lead break.

WN:  It’s all how I feel at the moment.  I really am not confined to playing anything the same way.  I don’t have any arrangements that I try to follow, other than the basic things that are always there in a tune — the stuff that you can’t get around.  Whenever anyone in the band takes choruses, they just play what they want to play.

Fret:  Back on 1976, when you were interviewed by our sister magazine Guitar Player, you said that in doing solos you didn’t get into a lot of minor scales, because you felt you were major-chord oriented.  How that youre’ playing things closer to mainstream jazz, is that still true?

WN:   I think so.  I love minor chords, and I have written some songs with minors in them.  But basically, the songs that I listened to and learned in the beginning were major-chord songs.

Fret:  Is that when you developed yoru feeling for standares like “Stardust”?  Would it be fair to say that your growing up with that kind of material helped you learn how to put together well-crafted melodies?

WN:  I think it very well could have.  I was always exposed to those songs through the radio and through music that came into the house — sheet music, and so forth.  I love good melodies, so I’m sure that had a lot of influence on me.

Fret.  Through albums like Stardust and Angel Eyes, you’ve probably influenced a lot of younger musicians yourself, giving them their first exposure to standards and jazz.  Do you have any other styles of music up your sleeve — material you might record in the future?

WN:  There are some of the older styles I still ahven’t done, like Stephen Foster songs and old Songs of the Pioneers things — the real cowboy songs like “Leaning On The Old Top Rail” and “Empty Cot In The Bunkhouse Tonight.”  All of those classics are still tehre to do.

Fret:  Often you’re functioning as a rhythm player. In your opinion, what goes into really playing rhythm as well as it can be played?

WN:  I think you ahve to know the chord forms.  I think guys like Paul Buskirk and Homer Haynes are two of my favorites because of their styles.  [Ed note:  Mandolinist Paul Buskirk and guitarist Henry “Homer” Haynes (half of the team of Homer & Jethro) had strong elements of swing in their music.]  It’s 4/4 rhythm and it’s done without drums.  Or it can be done with drums; but I really liket he sound of the kind of rhythm section where you just hvae an upright bass and the rhythm guitar.

Fret:  Does a rhythm guitarist need a special sensitivity to where the lead player is going?

WN:  Yes, I think that’s an innate thing that most good rhythm guitarists know, becasue most rhythm guitar players are also leadguitar players, to a certain degree.  So you just have t have a feel of when to play and when not to play, or hwo loud to play.

Fret:  When you’re chording, do you ever use your thumb to fret notes?

WN:    Yeah, a lot of times.  I do that especially in open-chord rhythms.  For instance, on a first position D chord I’ll use the thumb on the low E string to play an F#.

Fret:  You generally use Fender medium flatpicks on your nylon-string guitar, instead of fingerpicking it.  How often do you change picks?  Some steel-string players have told us they go through a half-dozen a night, because the picks get worn and start sounding scratchy.  But it would seem that nylon strings would be easier on a flatpick.

WN:  I guess a normal person probably would be able to make them last longer, but there’s one tune we do each night — “Bloody Mary Morning” — where I’ll go through a pick every time I play it.

Fret:  You can hear the difference?  The pick starts to sound rough?

WN:  No — I just break it.

Fret:  Do you play with the point of the pick, or do you turn it and use the rounded corner for a mellower sound, as some players do?

WN:  I try to keep it on the point, but in the course of “Bloody Mary Morning” I play every side of it.  I think!  I use up a couple of picks a night, because “Bloody Mary Morning” will take care of one, and “Whiskey River” will eat up another, so I’ll go through at least two picks, maybe three, every show.

Fret:  You used to use ball-end La Bella nylon strings.  Are you still staying that that brand?

WN:  As far as I know, I am.  The strings are automatically changed on my guitar every few days by a guy in our crew, and I’n not sure if he is still using La Bellas or not.  I can’t tell any difference.

Fret:  Are the strings changed on a regular schedule, or does the frequency just depend on how often you are performing?

WN:  I think probably every three or four days he’ll change the strings.  And we keep another guitar handy, with the strings on it already stretched, so that we kind of rotate them.  When you put new nylon strings on a guitar, you’re always retuning them as they stretch out.  That happened to me a lot of times on stage.  Boy, it was hard, especially under those hot lights.  Finally, we got real brilliant here and figured out that if you stretch them a few days before you put them on, you wouldn’t have to do that.  I don’t know why we didn’t think of it years before, but better late than never!

Fret:  Are there certain strings you’re more likely to break than others?  Some players find that the G string is the first to go, for example.

WN:  I very rarely break strings.  In fact, I don’t remember the last string I broke.  The picks go before the strings do, because the nylon strings are more flexible.

Fret:  The nylon strings are one of the things that set your sound apart; but the way you amplify your guitar has a lot to do with that, too, doesn’t it?

WN:  I think so. It’s a Baldwin amp with a Martin classical guitar — which is kind of a bastard situation.  I’ve tried other combinations, and I don’t get the same sound that I do with this one, which was really accidental.

Fret:  Didn’t the pickup itself come from a Baldwin guitar that got broken?

WN:  Yeah, I had it taken out of the Baldwin and put in this one years ago, by Shot Jackson’s place in Nashville [Ed note:  In the late ’60s, after Baldwin acquired Gretsch and began marketing a line of guitar amplifiers, the company briefly offered a classical guitar model with a ceramic piezo-electric pick up, and a companion amplifier designed for a “natural” tone response.]  I’ve never changed it.  I’ve tried to keep everything exactly the same, and the amplifier is still the same one.  They don’t make Baldwins any more, you know.  Each time I come across a used Baldwin amp, I try to buy it so I can use the parts for replacements on this one. I’ve got a couple of them.

Fret:  Youv’e had a lot of work done on your guitar to keep it in service through all yoru years of touring.  Who handles the repairs?

WN:  A guy named Newman, in Austin [Newman Guitars, 200 Academy, Austin, Texas].  He has a guitar shop in the Opera House in Austin, and he’s been fixing my guitar for years.

Fret:  Does your road crew take special precautions with the guitar and amp, since those are really one-of-a-kind items?

WN:  They have nice sturdy cases for both.  Steel cases.  They take real good care of them.

Fret:  Do you carry any other acoustic guitars on the road with you, or keep some at home that you just use for recording?

WN:  I have a couple of guitars around the house, and sometimes I have one on the bus just to fool around with, but my stage guitar is my main guitar.  The others are a variety of things — just whatever is available.  It varies from one day to the next, really.

Fret:  How many days a year are you on the road?

WN:  I think probably somewhere between 200 and 250.  That’s this year.  It’s been like that practically every year, and each year I say, “Next year I’m going to slow down.’   But I still like doing it.  I just enjoy playing music a lot.

Willie Nelson, songwriter

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Willie Nelson says he can’t stop writing songs.

The 85-year-old country music legend has been in the music business for decades but isn’t even thinking about retiring, because even though he has moments where he doesn’t want to “write another song”, ideas keep coming to him.

He said: “I think there’s some things that can only come out in songs. You can write a beautiful book, but take verses out of it and put a melody to it and you’ve got another dimension.

“I wrote something the other day that said, ‘I don’t want to write another song, but tell that to my mind!’ I just throw them out there and try to make them rhyme.’ I write everywhere, anywhere. I write a lot at home at night.”

The ‘Always On My Mind’ hitmaker thinks in lyrics first and then adds the music afterwards, as he believes songs are just “poems with a melody”.

He added: “Usually it starts as a poem. At some point I’ll get up and go get the guitar and see what kind of melody those words suggest.”Willie – who released his 68th studio album ‘My Way’ earlier this month – is known for his activism and often politically charged lyrics, and although he doesn’t mention current US president Donald Trump by name, he has voiced his frustration and the divisiveness caused by the plans to close the Mexican border.

He said: “I thought everything that happened there was unforgivable. We have a statue that says: ‘Y’all come in.’ I don’t believe in closing the border. Open them suckers up!

“We need those folks. I used to pick cotton and pull corn and bale hay and I’m lucky to play guitar now, but we have to have the people who want to work, and take care of them.”

The ‘On the Road Again’ singer averages 150 days on the road in a year, and says he loves travelling the country as it lets him soak in the differences between each US state.

Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, he said: “I’ve moved around a lot in 85 years. And I went through a lot of political spaces in our country – four years of this, eight years of that.”

Willie Nelson in Easyriders, (December 1979)

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

Bikers and Texas — An Interview With Willie Nelson
December 1979
by Tex

When I got the call from our wandering photographer, Billy Tinney, I was skeptical.  He was in Las Vegas and ran down some off-the-wall story about bumping into Willie Nelson and mentioning this rag.  Willie actually knew of Easyriders and volunteered to pose in front of his Texas flag for a cover.  He also volunteered to do this interview — blew Billy away.  But Billy’s been known to get a little blurred aound the edges after a fifth of ta-kill-ya or so, so I didn’t pay a lot of attention, at first figuring he’d been talked into a scam by some silk-suited cokespoon and had slipped over into fantasyland.

But damned if it all wasn’t true, and the next thing I knew I was sitting next to the Cub, or resident photog, in a propeller driven crate flying to Lake Tahoe to interview Willie.  The Cub quickly drank himself into a stupor and was thus able to take the plane’s constant shuddering and rattling in stride.  I spent the time trying to go over the questions I wanted to ask Willie; but it’s hard to write when yur white-knuckled fists are locked to the armrests and you’re begging the stewardess for a parachute.

Eventually, we found ourselves wandering the posh casino of Harrah’s Hotel, where WIllie was playing.  Our grubby jeans and stained T-shirts looked out of place among the high rollers, but the pit bosses knew we were big shots when the Cub dropped three whole bucks plaing the nickel slots.  We had to operate on Willie’s schedule the entire time we were there, which meant things never got started before 2 a.m., when the second show ended.  Every morning would find me and the Cub clinging to our barstools, drinking our breakfast, adding additional stains to our T-shirts, and wondering if we could get thorugh another day on a diet of booze, toot, and no sleep.

The interview took place in Willie’s packed dressing room between shows.  It was a glitter, star-speckled party atmosphere at first — Jane fonda loved the Easyriders T-shirt the Cub laid on her.  But I had to pull him over into a corner and talk him out of asking her to strip for an Ol’ lady Contest photo.  WIllie was gracious as always, and after excusing himself from the party, he gave us his undivided attention.

When I spoke to him, Willie had just finished one movie and was about to begin another.  His records continue to sell millions, he had just completed a Christmas album, and he still found time to maintain a personal appearance schedule that would kill most entertainers.  The story of Willie’s career and success is too familiar to need retelling here, so the talk turned to motorcycles — the only thing I know shit about — and proceeding from that subject.

Easy Rider:  You used to ride a motorcycle, right?

Willie Nelson:  Yeah, I’ve owned a bunch of bikes — everything from Harleys to Hondas.

ER:  Did you start riding early, when you were a kid?

WN:  No, I started later on in life, after I was grown.  I’d always wanted one, even as a kid.  But I could never afford one then.  I was grown before I had any money.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to ride much anymore.

ER:  When Paul Newman or Steve McQueen want to ride their motorcycles or drive their race cars, they have to face the opposition of entertainment executives who are uptight about the risks.  Like them, you’re valuable property — if you wanted to ride, would you face the same thing?

WN:  Not with executives.  I’d face it from my family, though.

ER:  You’ve been called an outlaw and the name has stuck — both to you and to an entire movement in country music.  The same term, as you know, has been applied to a segment of motorcylce riders — the sort of hardcore Harley riders we write for and about in Easyriders.  Do you think there’s any parallel to be drawn between the two?

WN:  Definitely.  I think that all bike riders are like pickers in the sense that they’re both sorta looked down on by the community.

ER:  Why is that?

WN:  Well, a musician has always been a second class citizen.  I say always, actually, not so much now, but a long time that was true.  He couldn’t  get credit, he couldn’t anything.  He had no visible means of support, no regular job.  A lot of bikers aren’t nine-to-fivers, so they and musicians are are treated the same — they’re called loafers, troublemakers, everything.

ER:  Is that why both groups to one degree or another, feel alienated form society?

WN:  Well, I think there’s a freedom that certain people insist on having  –like the cowboys, that type of person.  Bikers have that same kind of image.  Pickers have that image.  A lot of people feel that way and want that freedom, but these people actually go after it — they try to live a free life.

A guy who has an eight hour job where he punches a clock five days a week is generally a little envious of somebody who rides around on a motorcycle having fun.  The same goes for the guy who rides around on a bus with a bunch of musicians playing music.  You know, it’s something the clock-puncher would like to do.

ER:  So there’s a mixture of envy in society’s disapproval?

WN:  I think so.  The average person has mixed emotions about us.

ER:  Easyriders has a substantial readership in prisons.  You seem to be as popular with guys in the joint as you are with the public.  Have you ever done any prison shows?

WN:  Yeah, I’ve done a few shows in different prisons around the country.  It’s been a couple of years since I’ve done one.  I think the last time I played was down in Texas, at Sugarland.  I plan to do them as long as I can fit them into my schedule — I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire right now, so it’s not easy.  But I do a few benefits each year for causes I’m in favor of.

ER:  At your July Fourth Picnic this year we met some Bandidos who are fans of yours.  Do you have personal friends in motorcycle clubs or are they primarily just fans?

WN:  I have friends in a lot of bike clubs.

ER:  The audience you played to in Austin was young and hip.  The poeple who came to see you here are somewhat older and obviously more affluent, but you do essentially the same show for both groups.  What explains the fact that you cut across so many social and economic levels and are so popular with such a broad spectrum of people?

WN:  I believe that people are people – period.  They may dress differently and do everything they can to look different, be different, or act different, but as far as music is concerned they’re all the same.  Good music is appreciated by most people, regardless of how they look or how old they are or how much money they have.  If you produce a sound that’s pleasing to the ear, it doesn’t matter how long the hair is.  Whether it’s over the ear or not, the same ear is there to appreciate the sound.  Also, we play all kinds of music in our show.  We haven’t done anything — just play a lot of different kinds of music.  And by doing that you attract a wide a wide variety of people, all different ages and form all walks of life.

ER:  You come form a religious background, a Baptist upbringing.  What role, if any, did that play in accounting for your popularity?

WN:  It had a lot to do with my learning people — learning what people want to hear and how to get their attention and what they respond to.  You see, when you go to church every Sunday for most of the early years of you rifle, you learn how the preacher gets the congregation’s attention and how he holds it.  A preacher is a professional speaker, an entertainer, really.  He’s not usually regarded that way, but it’s true nonetheless.  He has to be a showman to sell is product.

ER:  So you’re saying that the religious influences played more of a part in your ability to project a performer than in the nature of the songs you write?

WN:  I think you could say that.  I owe a lot to those preachers I watched do their act all those years.

ER:  So there’s a touch of evangelism in the manner in which you relate to an audience.

WN:  Or maybe there’s a touch of show business in evangelism — or at least salesmanship, which is also show business.  It all involves selling your product not matter what you’re trying to sell or get across to the people.  If it’s religion, you’ve got to be good.  Billy Graham is a great salesman.  He used to be a door-to-door salesman.

ER:  As you did, too — right?

WN:  That’s right.  When you go from house to house and knock and you don’t know who’s behind that door, you learn a lot.  Do that for a long period of time, and you learn a helluva lot.

ER:  Were you good at it?

WN:  Yeah, I was good at it.

ER:  Would you agree that ther’s a religious thread running through the songs you write — a tradional morality?

WN:  Well, I don’t write immoral songs, so I must write moral songs — at least songs that I think have a moral.  In my mind I write songs that mean something to me, songs I hope will say waht I want to say.  Being apositive thinker, I’m not going to write anything negative.  So a lot of the things I write have what you might call a semi-religous effect on some people.

I believe that none of my songs present life as being hopeless.  There’s humor — wholesome stuff — in my mind when I write them.  Even if the song is on a tragic subject, I try to say something about the lighter side of it.

ER:  Do you think there’s a ‘lighter side’ to songs like “Hello Walls,” and “Bloody Mary Morning,” and “Half a Man’?

WN:  Well, yeah.  Like in "Hello Walls,"  — when you put it in the blues rhythm, then you take it away form being too depressing and you add a little jump beat.  That’s what the blues is — depressing lyrics with a driving beat.  The negativity is countered with a positive drive and the feel behind it.  So people cry in their beer and listen to the blues but still don’t despair.

ER:  To what extent would you say drugs, including alcohol, have played a role in your life?

ER:  I think drugs are medicines.  In the Bible it says, "Physician, heal thyself."  In other words, a person knwos what’s wrong wtih him and sometimes he knows what it’s gong to take to relieve that condition temporarily, until he can work it out.  It’s the same thing a doctor is going to do for him.  A doctor is going to charge him for an office visit to do the same thing.  If the patient knows what to do himself and is sure he knows, then he should do it himself.  For most people drugs serve as a kind of self-medication.

ER:  Does being from Texas mean something special for your music and your popularity?  Is there something unique about being from Texas?

WN:  Evidentally there is today — it hasn’t always been that way.  We Texans are boastful and we brag a lot, so over the years we’ve gotten a reputation for being big mouths, bragging about this state we claim has everything in the world — which it does, you know.  But for a long time they didn’t believe us.  I think now they say, “Those sonsabitcheswereright after all — Texans are okay.”

ER:  About Austin itself — recently you said that you really never thought there was anything special about the music scene there.

WN:  Again, people are people.  I think a lot of good people gathered in Austin and I got a chance to go down and play some music for them.  A lot of good people are gathered in every town I’ve ever been in.  In fact, I think you can pick a town and throw a dart at a map and we can get an auditorium who will enjoy good music, if we can get them out of the house.  In Austin, having a college there and having access to all those young people and all that peak energy made everything possible.  It just happened to all come together there.  That’s where I happened to find the audience.

ER:  Would you mark the 1972 Dripping Springs Picnic as where everything started to happen?

WN:  I think that picnic was probably the first big indication that there were a lot of young people who were into rock and roll but who were also able to enjoy another type of music as well.  People love an underdog, and the Picnic has always been an underdog.  There’s always been a lot of reasons why there should not be a Picnic or couldn’t be this time, and so forth.   So each time we had it, it was like, “Well, I’ll be damned; we did it again.”

ER:  One of the reasons your music hits home to so many people is he way you articulate difficulties and disappointments everyone has known.  That experience comes form those lean years you spent before you were so successful and well-recognized.  Do you ever worry that success will make you complacent and cause you to lose that connection with your audience?

WN:  Absolutely.  It’s dangerous because it can happen to anybody in my position.  And it would be easy, once you get a little bit of money, to quit work.  But in order to stay ahead in the record business, in order to keep selling records, you need to keep putting on these shows and doing those one-nighters and working across the country and letting people know that you’re still on the scene and still working and still enjoying having having a big crowd come out and hear you. People will go where they know they’re appreciated.  And it works form the musicians’ end, too.  I think there’s something built into most musicians and pickers — you know, it’s their egos or they’re hams or something.  They enjoy an audience.  They get off seeing other people enjoy what they do — and that’s what keeps us all on the road.

ER:  How much are you on the road these days?

WN:  I don’t know exaclty.  We’re wroking more now than we ever were.  I don’t know how long that is going to go on, but right now we’re doing over 200 days a year on the road.

ER:  In a magazine article you were described as always carrying yoruself “with a kind of fierce innocence.”

WN:  I think it’s probalby a fierce “So What?”

ER:  Is that “So what” attitude responsible for yoru down-to-earth quality?  You seem very genuine, very real, to people, and that has to mean a lot to them.

WN:  Yeah, but I might be riding a trend, you know.  I might realize it’s a big audience out there with a bunch of longhairs in it and I might just be taking advantage of that opportunity.

ER:  You’re saying that you might have suckered a lot of people into believing in Willie Nelson.  You might have run a scam on them, but even if it’s fake, a lot of people are responding.

WN:  Well, if I did anything, let’s just say I crashed a party.

ER:  You’ve achieved so much success that it’s as if you don’t have any worlds left to conquer.  beyond records and movies, is there anything that you haven’t been able to do that you still want to achieve?

WN:  Oh, something will come up — I really don’t know what, but it will come up. I’m not bored at all with waht I’m doing.  Things are happening every day — I have to do double-takes all the time at what’s going on in my life.  But the future is always interesting.  It’s like riding  motorcycle — you always want to see what’s over the next hill.

ER:  Thank you, Willie.

WN:  Thank you.

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

A few reasons to love Willie Nelson (there are so many more than 84)

Sunday, November 22nd, 2020

84 REASONS TO LOVE WILLIE NELSONAustin MonthlyBy Sarah ThurmondApril 2017We love Willie Nelson. You love Willie Nelson. Hell, the city of Austin loves Willie Nelson so much we honored him with a statue. So, to celebrate his 84th birthday today, we created a whopping list of 84 reasons we do.

1. He chose to make Austin, Texas, his hometown in 1970.
2. He’s got style, making braids and red bandanas fashionable.
3. He’s best “buds” with Snoop Dogg.
4. He gifted us with a new album, God’s Problem Child, on April 28.
5. He brought hippies and rednecks together through the power of outlaw country music when he first played the Armadillo World Headquarters in 1972.
6. He’s a pioneer, taping the pilot episode of Austin City Limits in 1974, and the show is still going strong.
7. He opens every show with Whiskey River, a song everyone can relate to.
8. He fought the law and won after being busted in 1974 for marijuana possession in Dallas.
9. He’s good at golf and used to play with legendary University of Texas football coach Darryl K Royal.
10. He’s the kind of bad influence you can appreciate, having once smoked an “Austin torpedo” on the roof of the White House with—wait for it—Chip Carter, the president’s middle son!
11. He was able to pull off pastels when he guest starred on Miami Vice.1
2. He charitable, agreeing to sing a duet with Don Johnson on the Miami Vice star’s album Heartbeat.
13. He’s got a way with words, having won the Gershwin Prize, the nation’s highest honor for a songwriter.
14. He got away unscathed after omitting the words “…and the rockets’ red glare” from the National Anthem at the 1980 Democratic National Convention.
15. He’s generous, organizing the first Farm Aid with Neil Young and John Mellencamp in 1985.
16. He’s patient, waiting 28 years between No. 1 albums on the country charts. (The Promiseland topped the charts in 1986; Band of Brothers was No. 1 in 2014.)
17. He sells good merch, like this nifty USB bracelet made of hemp that goes for $30 on his website’s shop.
18. He helped make Julio Iglesias an international star with the duet “To All the Girls I Loved Before.”
19. He’s funny. (Check him out as Randy Galloway, owner of the Redneck Tanning Parlor on Saturday Night Live in 1987.)
20. He’s a great supporting actor. (His performance in Honeysuckle Rose had New York Times critic Jerry Salzberg raving that Willie “commands attention absolutely whenever he appears on screen.”)
21. He wrote “Crazy,” a song that has been covered by everyone from Patsy Cline to Neil Young.
22. He makes health a priority: When he was an active runner, he hosted the Willie Nelson Distance Classic and ran 6.2 miles in under 1 hour and 8 minutes.
23. He always pays respect to his idols. A fan of Django Reinhardt, he wrote in his autobiography It’s a Long Story: My Life that the guitar player “was a man who changed my musical life by giving me a whole new perspective on the guitar and, on an even more profound level, on my relationship with sound.”
24. He’s a great host. Case in point: the Luck Reunion at his ranch, one of the best annual parties during SXSW.
25. He’s got great taste in music. Just listen to his Sirius XM channel, Willie’s Roadhouse.26. He can count Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings as best friends.
27. He has a great voice. Rolling Stone ranked him No. 88 on its all-time greatest singers list.28. He makes for a great tourist attraction, with people always taking pictures of his statue outside Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater.

29-43. Every song on the 1975 classic country album Red Headed Stranger.
44. He fought the law and won after being busted for having a joint in his car in Waco in 1995.
45. He’s loyal. He’s been playing the same Martin N-20 guitar, named “Trigger,” for more than 40 years.
46. He’s patriotic, throwing a helluva Fourth of July picnic every year since 1973.
47. He got President Obama to sing “On the Road Again” with him.
48. He’s a great ambassador for America, having performed for Prince Charles during the royal’s visit to Texas back in 1986.
49. He could probably kick your butt, having received his fifth-degree black belt in the martial art GongKwon Yusul when he turned 81.
50. He made the movie version of The Dukes of Hazzard watchable as Uncle Jessie.
51. He’s a savvy businessman, launching a “premium cannabis lifestyle brand” called Willie’s Reserve.
52. He loves animals and once sat on the board of Habitat for Horses, a nonprofit that protects neglected and abused horses.
53. He fought the law and won after the I.R.S. accused him of tax invasion in 1990. He cut a deal where proceeds from his album Who’ll Buy My Memories? (The I.R.S. Tapes) helped pay off his $6 million tax debt

.54. He can make fun of himself, like he did in a Super Bowl commercial for H&R Block where he hawks the Willie Nelson Advice Doll.
55. He has longevity, playing music since he was 7 years old.
56-65. All the songs on his chart-topping, Grammy Award–winning standards album Stardust.
66. He’s prolific, having made more than 140 albums, including LPs, live albums, soundtracks and compilations.
67. He knows how to “hang loose” in Maui, Hawaii, where he hosts poker nights with Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson and plays shows at a bar called Charley’s in Paia.
68. He’s good at chess, according to Kinky Friedman, who once described Willie as “a fine player who plays at a lightning speed.”
69. He fought the law and won after being busted for having marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms in 2006 in Louisiana, on his way to Ann Richards’ funeral.
70. He’s a ladies man, having been married four times.
71. He’s resourceful, writing the Grammy-winning song “On the Road Again” on a cocktail napkin while flying on a plane.
72. He’s a gracious host, inviting all kinds of people to join him on his legendary tour bus, the Honeysuckle Rose.
73. He can hang with the country club set, owning a golf club, aka “Willie Nelson Cut-N-Putt,” in Pedernales.
74. He’ll comfort you during sad times, like when he sang “Georgia on My Mind” at his friend Ray Charles’ funeral.
75. He cares about the environment, starting a company called BioWillie that turned crops into biodiesel fuel for truck drivers.
76. He supports the LGBT community, releasing the Ned Sublette song about gay cowboys called “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly (Fond of Each Other)” on Valentine’s Day in 2006.
77. He’s always stayed true to himself and his outlaw country music.
78. He’s tough, having survived a collapse lung, pneumonia, and emphysema.
79. He believes in sustainable living, using only solar panels for energy at his homes.
80. He’s a family man, being father to eight children.81. He has a street named after him in Austin.
82. He fought the law and won after he was busted in 2010 for marijuana possession in Sierra Blanca, Texas. He took a plea deal, paying $500 and avoiding jail time. He then launched the Teapot Party movement to legalize weed.
83. He’s humble, writing in his autobiography It’s a Long Story: My Life: “I sing okay, I play okay, and I know I can write a good song, but I still feel like I’ve been given a whole lot more than I deserve.”
84. He doesn’t ever quit. He’s 84 and still performing live concerts!

“A Willie Nice Christmas”, Willie Nelson and Kacey Musgraves

Saturday, November 21st, 2020
by: Will Hodge

When it comes to Christmas-themed country duets, it’s pretty surprising that many of the genre’s most well-loved and well-known duos never captured a shared seasonal moment for an official release. Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn never collaborated on their separate Christmas albums, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton released 13 albums together without ever drawing from the holiday well, and although Faith Hill has one of the Top 10 best-selling Christmas singles of all-time (2001’s “Where Are You Christmas?”), she’s never recorded even one seasonal single with husband (and sometimes duet partner) Tim McGraw.

However, thanks to a variety of inspired studio partnerships and one-off television specials from yuletides of yesteryear, there are more than enough Christmas collaborations to enjoy this time of year. Here are 15 duets spanning the early Seventies all the way up to now.

Read entire article of best country duets, here.

Willie Nelson, Fit Magazine (November 2012)

Friday, November 20th, 2020

The songs of John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson and Neil Young have made their way from A-tracks to CD players to today’s iPhone. Most would be surprised to know that those same names that appear on your shuffle playlist appear on the list of names of board members for an organization that is fighting for the family farmer in America. The four renowned recording artists are leaders for Farm Aid, whose slogan reads “Keep America Growing!”

Farm Aid’s mission is simple: keep family farmers on their land. This nonprofit organization assists farmers struggling economically by connecting them to local and regional markets to get family food into the grocery stores and families’ cabinets in urban neighborhoods. Along with this focus on family farming is the Good Food Movement, which promotes the use of “direct sales” through farmers’ markets, community-sponsored agriculture (CSA) and farm stands. Through it all is the common thread of making good choices — for farms, in our food and the country’s agriculture policies — that build a better, healthier future.

27 years ago, in 1985, Nelson, Mellencamp and Young organized the first Farm Aid concert to raise awareness about the danger family farms were facing at the hands of factory farms. Today, local farmers are feeling the danger even more, with upwards of 80 percent of farms in certain agricultural markets owned by private companies. “We all see what’s happening with agriculture, what’s happening to our small towns,” John Mellencamp stated for the organization. “They are going out of business, and that’s a direct result of the farm problem.”

According to the group’s website, the movement has gone so far as to provide workers from the organization to participate in protests outside of factory farms. In addition, the group provides a hotline for support services for farm families in times of crisis. More recently, the Farmer Resource Network has been developed for families in difficult financial situations across the country. Another stride taken towards factory farms and the privatization of the market is education in the area of hormones and genetically modified food more widely produced by the corporate sector of farming.

“If we lose the family farm, we lose the caretakers of our land,” Dave Matthews told his audience in a short clip about the company’s mission. “It’s something worth fighting for because I think we’ll lose a lot more than the family farmer if we lose the family farmer.”

Every year, thousands of farmers are pushed off their land by the growing economic pressures of an industry that has created too much competition for a family farmer to survive without help. Through market strengthening, education and personal assistance to thousands of Americans, Farm Aid is working alongside the good food movement to get high quality produce straight from local farmers to schools, local stores and into the pantries of a wider market.

“It’s not about how big the food is, or how shiny it is,” Neil Young said in a video made for the Farm Aid website. “It’s about where it came from, and how it was grown.”

Last year’s concert featured a variety of high caliber bands, such as Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Jamey Johnson, Kenny Chesney and Jack Johnson, alongside the veteran fundraisers and founding members. Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews also graced the stage for Farm Aid’s Benefit Concert.

The appearance of such widely recognized performers speaks to the growing respect Farm Aid is gaining nationwide. Nelson, who has been a part of the company since its beginnings, describes his involvement simply: “There’s a new food movement sweeping across the country and Farm Aid is doing all we can to promote that movement.”

Read more about Willie Nelson’s views on fitness, food and fuel (among other topics), in Austin Fit Magazine’s November cover story, Willie Nelson Talks Food, Fuel, and, yes, Hemp by Melanie P. Moore, at