Archive for the ‘Magazines’ Category

Willie Nelson on Texas Monthly (2008) “Best Celebrity Cover”

Friday, January 20th, 2017

Texas Monthly’s May 2008 issue with Willie Nelson cover was the winner of Best Celebrity Cover in the third-annual best-covers contest organized by the American Society of Magazine Editors.


No celebrity in Texas is as iconic as Willie Nelson. This issue marked the seventh time Texas Monthly featured Nelson on the cover—more times than anyone else. Over the years, the covers watched him go from being a breakout country sensation in 1976, to a tax-evader in 1991, to a senior citizen in 1998, to a symbol of Texan humor in 2002 (he and Kinky Friedman posed for a riff on the painting “American Gothic”). When it came time to design the cover of this issue, which commemorates his 75th birthday with a massive oral history, Nelson’s longevity posed a challenge: What could be done that had not been done before? Ultimately, when photographer Platon came back from Nelson’s ranch with this incredible shot, the decision was made. Cover type seemed irrelevant: For the newsstand, a small “Willie at 75: The Oral History” was placed to the right of his face; subscribers received a cover with no type at all. This turned out to be unquestionably the most popular Nelson cover for the magazine. Within a week it was besieged with requests for posters or prints of the image, a sure sign that it had managed to capture the musician’s incomparable celebrity.

Willie Nelson fan letters (1983)

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Country Rhythms
July 1983

Letters to the Editor

We just had to write to thank you for your great cover issue and interview with “the man,” “the entertainer of the years,” Willie Nelson!  We enjoy your magazine very much, but the May edition and “Willie” puts the icing on the cake.  We will never forget you for featuring Willie on your premier issue, either.

From “Hello Walls” and “crazy,” up to Tougher than Leather, Willie has always been the best and will be “Always on My Mine!”

Carole & Willie Farkas
Ontario, Canada


My mother brought home the Country Rhythms magazine today and I was so excited to see Willie Nelson on the cover.  I wanted to write as soon as possible.  I read the Willie Nelson article part I and I can’t wait for part II

Thanks to Country Rhythms article I will now be able to start my third photo album of articles on Willie.  I have loved Willie and his music for 10 years now.  WIllie has given me so much happiness and doesn’t even know it.  Willie has autographed my boots, shook and kissed my hand and wore my bandanna during his concerts.

I want to thank Country Rhythms for the great part I interview and thank you ahead of time for part II.

I would also like to thank Willie Nelson for all the happiness and may he be as happy as he has made me!

Lisa McKinney
San Antonio, TX


Every week I look for a magazine or book in hopes of finding a good article on Willie Nelson.  I just had to let you people know the may edition was fantastic.  I’ve never read such a big article on him — and there is still another edition to come in June!  The pictures were the nicest and clearest I’ve ever seen.  I’m probably one of his biggest fans.  Although he doesn’t know me, I feel like we’ve been close friends for a long time.  This man certainly deserves such good interviews and beautiful pictures of him like the ones you published.  I do have a problem though, I was hoping you could help me with.  I’ve never seen a fan club address that I could write to.  Would you please help me find the address of his fan club, because I know I will never be fortunate enough to write to him personally?  Please help me if you can.

Charlotte Patterson
Chatsworth, GA

[To read the interviews those fans loved:

Part I:
Part II:

Willie Nelson on the Road Again (Sunday Extra 5/9/1993)

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Fans are Getting a Full Nelson
Extra Entertainment
May 9, 1993
by Bill Ben

Willie Nelson’s on the road again, and more to the point, back on track again.

“I just don’t like staying in one place,” he was saying the other day, fidgeting on a sofa in his Manhattan hotel suite.

“For a while there, I was laying low, but I wasn’t putting down roots.”

Willie just turned 60, and here he is, careening all over North America, performing with his own band and as part of the historic association that is billed as The Highwaymen (himself, Johny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings).

Taco Bell ..  “Saturday Night Life.”  A prime-time birthday bash on CBS.  Farm Aid VII.  Two big “Country Takes Manhattan” gigs — at Radio City Music Hall and the very next day, a Central Park benefit with the Highwaymen.

Now compare this with his schedule last year when he spent all of May through October in Branson, Mo., an Ozarks country music resort where many performers have moved to wind down their careers.

“If you’re looking to retire Branson is the place to do it,” Nelson says, “but I’m not looking to do it.”

Not yet?  “Not ever,” he says.

Even in Branson, though, he worked.  He did 144 shows, which covered his various costs of living — golf, alimony, headbandsand all — but Willie is a restless troubadour, and his idea of getting sick is coming down with diesel poisoning from the fumes emitted by his touring bus.

First things first.

He looks good.  The mustache and beard are white, and the long hair that Willie keeps under the trademark rolled headband is red-brown, about the same color as his oh-so-long ago ‘Red Headed Starnger’ days.

Hes as laconic and easy going as ever, slim, wearing sneakers — he isn’t big on cowboy boots — and somewhere on the scene is his fourth wife and the youngest of his six children.  They are aged 3 and 4.

“I’m kind of like Ray-O-Vac,” he says.  “I just keep going and going.”

Musically, he keeps rolling right along, too.

The new album, “Across the Borderline,” his 35th on Columbia, is a gem, selling like crazy, with Paul Simon, Bonnie aitt, Sinead O’Connor, Bob Dylan and Kristofferson joining his long long list of singing partners.

Incidentally, is there anybody anywhere he has not sung with?

“Well, there’ s you,” he says, “But since you ain’t left the room yet, there’s still a chance we’ll do a little something.”

The tax thing is straightening itself out, too.  He is still working off that Texas sized claim from the Internal Revenue Service — it once hit $32 million, counting interest and penalties.

Nelson even cut a special Uncle Sam album called “The IRS Tapes,” just him and his guitar, which was heavily promoted through late-night TV ads, with 75 cents fo each $1 going directly to the IRS.

“I was down to where going platinum wouldn’t help,” he says.  “After a whle, you just laugh and turn it all over to the lawyers.”

The lawyers whittled the amount down to a manageable $million, an half of that has been paid, largely from the sale of property the IRS seized.  The kicker is that most of it was bought by friends hwo promised to hold it until he was solvent.

His troubles stemmed from tax shelters that the IRS later disallowed, and he’s now suing his accounting firm, which set up the shelters.

Nelson is living in a cabin on a 700-acre ranch in Spicewood, Tex., where he plays golf – “I worry more about my game than anything else right now” – and gets away from all the silly questions.

Sample question:  Which young singer out there most reminds you of you?  Answer:  I don’t hear anybody who sounds like me, which is probably a good thing.”

He doesn’t write as any songs as he once did.  “I’m not as desperate for money, that’s why,” he says.

Still, there’s plenty more where “Crazy,” “Funny How Time Slips Away.”  “Good-Hearted Woman,” “On the Road Again” and so many other big hits came from.  They are on tape in boxes stored in boxes around the place.

“I’ve outlived everybody,” he says.  “Hell, even Jones is younger than me.  That’s something, ain’t it?”

Monday, January 16th, 2017


Willie Nelson: The Traveling Road Show (Country Song Round Up – May 1976)

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Country Song Roundup
by Susan Scott
May 1976

Paul English has been with Willie off and on as a drummer since 1954.  “We were in Ft. Worth, Texas, and Willie was doing a radio show called Western Express.  He needed a drummer and he called me to see if I knew anybody.  I told him I could drum for him.”

“I got the job.  I debuted that day with a spare drum and brush.  The only thing I had neglected to tell Willie was that I had never played a drum before.  I had musical training in high school, so I figured I could play the drums just like the trumpet,” he said.

A delightfully sincere individual with a heart of gold, but who really does look like a mind’s image of the devil, English serves as an extension of Willie.  He’s more than just a right arm and there appears to be no one more important to Willie than Paul and vice versa.

“When I lost my wife of 14 years,” English said, “Willie stayed by me. He told me we wouldn’t go back to work until I was ready.  He stayed off the road for three months and helped me get through some of the pain of losing her.

“He wrote a song for me about her.  It’s called, “I Still Can’t Believe That You’re Gone.’ and it came out on the Atlantic ‘Phases and Stages’ album.  I guess it means about as much to me as anything in this world.

“There is a love between us that you get after seeing a lot of life together.  He wrote a song, ‘Me and Paul,’ about our relationship.  We’ve been through a lot of things, covered a lot of ground — we’re more than just friends.”

And then Willie Nelson, red bandana tied around his forehead to keep his long sun-reddened brown hair from falling into his eyes, returned from his picture taking excursion.

“Hey, Susie, glad you could make it,” he said as he leaned over gently, kissed me on the cheek and squeezed my hand in soft salutation.  these are natural gestures for Willie and other Family members.  Paul doesn’t shake hands very often, he hugs everybody.

At the concert that night the backstage area was a conglomeration of Family members, press people and other guests.  Also on the bill with Willie was Tracey Nelson (no relation), Linda Ronstadt had come to the club after her performance at another hall across town.

The crowd of Nelsonite fans at the second show went into a frenzy as the three singers swung into the old time gospel standards.  The show went into th ewee hours of the morning and it was close to 3:30 a.m. before everybody reached the hotel and congregated in Willie’s suite.

Willie was the center of attention as he sat on the couch and talked about music and life to other writers that had wandered in.  “Some say I’m an outlaw and play progressive country.  Progressive is more a way of thinking and the way others interpret your music.  It’s not how you look or what you do off stage.

“In conventional Country music some things are done and some are not and I never really believed in following all of the conventions.  I was doing things that were foreign to a lot of people in Nashville.  They’d been doing things their way a long time and it was working so resistance was understandable.  We just reached a stand off and that’s about the time I went to Austin.

By 5:30 a.m. thee were only a few people left in the suite.  Willie, who had wandered to another room, called out to everyone that was left.  “Come here a minute everybody!”

The group gravitated toward the Texan.  He was standing in front of a large picture window with the drapes drawn to their full recoil.  Shades of gray, pink, violet and orange lighted the skyline.  He leaned intently; his face pressed against the window.  “Look at that,” he said almost in a whisper.  “The moon is sitting there on that mountain, the stars are shining like they just came out and the sun’s going to be here any minute.  There’s something about morning, its…” his voice trailed into a mumble and nobody quite got the last of his thoughts.  He smiled as he watched the sun break over a distant hill.  the group stood motionless and wordless, wrapped in the warmth of a Willie Nelson sunrise.  there was an eerie feeling that it was all happening just for him that morning.

Willie Nelson, the Traveling Road Show
Country Song Roundup
by Susan Scott
May 1976

Willie Nelson: Beyond the Best

Friday, January 13th, 2017


Auld Lang Willie (Austin Way Magazine)

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

photo: Gary A. Miller

Here’s the entire issue; Willie Nelson article on page 36

Willie Nelson and Toby Keith, Partners in Crime

Saturday, December 17th, 2016

The movie is good, but the video is really good.


Mickey Raphael Podcast (Chris Shiflett “Walking the Floor”)

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

photo:  Ebet Roberts
by:  Robert Crawford

A member of Willie Nelson’s band since 1973, Mickey Raphael has become one of the most celebrated harmonica players in country music, bending notes for everyone from Chris Stapleton to Jason Isbell along the way. Talking with podcast host Chris Shiflett during this week’s episode of Walking the Floor, he shares highlights from more than four decades of countrified close encounters, from the Texas picking party where he first met Shotgun Willie to the California tour stop that found him sitting in the backseat of Neil Young’s Cadillac, chauffeured around San Jose by the Crazy Horse front man himself.

Theatre, hours before a Willie Nelson performance this past October. Stream the entire conversation below. We’ve also rounded up several highlights, from the name of Willie Nelson’s next record – an album that has yet to be officially announced – to unknown guests on the country legend’s tour bus.

Mickey Raphael was introduced to Willie Nelson not by a fellow musician, but by Coach Darrell Royal, who led the Texas Longhorns to nearly a dozen Southwest conference titles between 1957 and 1976.

The year was 1972. At the time, Raphael was gigging with B.W. Stevenson, whose “My Maria” would eventually become a Grammy-winning hit for Brooks & Dunn. Stevenson’s tour schedule often took the band through Austin, where Coach Royal – a genuine music fan, apparently – caught wind of Raphael’s talent. One day, the coach reached out, inviting Raphael to a picking party that he was throwing in his hotel room after a weekend game.

“I was 20 years old,” remembers Raphael, who brought along his harmonicas. When he arrived, Nelson was already at the party. The two played several songs together that afternoon, with Raphael earning a crucial invitation – “Willie said, ‘Hey, if you ever hear we’re playing somewhere, come sit in,'” he remembers – before the picking party was over.

Nelson never officially hired Raphael to play in his band. He just never asked him to stop showing up.

As early as 1973, Raphael was traveling in his own car to Nelson’s gigs, sitting in with the band whenever he could. He was just a guest at first, although he quickly became an indispensable part of the band’s sound. Even so, the harmonica wiz never received any sort of grand introduction into the inner circle of Nelson’s touring lineup.

“One day,” he remembers, “Willie says to Paul [English, the singer’s longtime drummer], ‘What are we paying Mickey?’ And Paul goes, ‘Nothing. He’s just coming to sit in.’ And Willie goes, ‘Double his salary.’ I tell people I wasn’t officially hired; I was just never asked to leave.”

Raphael first joined Nelson in the studio for 1975’s Red Headed Stranger, an album that was so sparse, the executive at Columbia Records thought it was a demo.

“[Nelson] basically had these songs written on a napkin,” says Raphael, who took the band to the same Dallas studio where he’d been doing regular work as a session musician, “and we just set up in a circle in the studio, and he’d be playing them, and that record is so sparse because we’re really just hearing them for the first time. There’s barely anything. . . The label said it was a good demo, and they wanted to put strings on it, and Willie said, ‘No, this is the record.'”

Producer Dave Cobb deserves credit for first introducing Raphael to Chris Stapleton, whose live shows often feature the harmonica wiz.

Raphael had already played harmonica on several of Cobb’s projects when the producer asked him to join a relatively unknown songwriter named Chris Stapleton in the studio. Those sessions spawned Traveller, Stapleton’s blockbuster solo debut. They also landed Raphael one of his most high-profile touring gigs. Now, whenever holes arise in Willie Nelson’s touring schedule, Raphael generally hits the road with Stapleton, although he readily admits the band sounds just fine without him.

That said, don’t expect Willie Nelson’s touring schedule to slow down anytime soon.

“He loves it,” says Raphael, who still plays more than 100 shows a year with Nelson. “He likes the connection with the audience. Somebody asked him one time, ‘When are you gonna retire?’ And he said, ‘All I do is play golf and play music. Which one am I supposed to quit?’

Nelson continues releasing new albums at a rapid rate, too, with a new record – the unannounced, unconfirmed God’s Problem Child – apparently in the can. That said, with all the commotion generated by a consistent touring schedule and, presumably, a healthy cannabis intake, there’s still plenty of room for the unexpected.

“There was a guy that rode our bus years ago that nobody even knew,” Raphael remembers with a laugh. “It was like, ‘I thought he was with you.’ ‘No, I thought he was your friend!'”


Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Willie Nelson in Mother Earth News (1987)

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

Mother Earth News
May/June 1987
Farm Aid’s Founder: Willie Nelson
Patrick Carr

It’s midwinter in Tampa, Florida, and as usual the weather is warm going on stifling. Willie Nelson really needs the air conditioner humming peacefully in his mobile home away from home, the Silver Eagle Honeysuckle Rose.

In his own, quiet, careful way, Willie’s all business today. Waiting in the cool, dark comfort of the bus for the horde of people his presence will draw to town tonight, he’s working hard: poring over snapshots of himself and his sister Bobbie outside the Abbott, Texas, church in which they learned to sing, for the cover of a genuine hard-core Christian mail-order gospel album; making little decisions about the set he and his band of honky-tonk gypsies will play tonight; ordering up a carefully nutritious chicken dinner from the kitchen bus that travels with his five-vehicle caravan, then forgetting to eat it; talking business with little haste or waste of words or energy, on the radio telephone at his elbow.

The business concerns the usual megastar matters — movie promotion, investment opportunities, the touring schedule, a $1.5 million book contract — but also something seemingly out of place in this context: the Farm Aid cause, Mr. Nelson’s foray into public service. Cocooned amid Tampa’s concrete consumerism, the former Bible salesman, and latter-day multimillionaire is taking time to help the family farmers of his country fight back against government policy, big business and the economics of scale.

There is something rather special about Willie Nelson. It was he, after all, who united the rednecks and the hippies and the surburbanites of the 1970s in appreciation of a style of country music considered both archaic and impossibly uncommercial by the Nashville powers-that-were. Likewise his image — a lovely blend of longhair, cowboy, rebel, hardcore party legend and wise old man — is suggestive.

It’s no wonder he’s such an institution. You can look up to some entertainers (Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Paul McCartney), but Willie invites involvement, not distance. The dominant element of his stare — a thoroughly savvy serenity — is mighty trustworthy.

That invitation to trust must have been part of his image all along. Certainly it was during his late teenage years, when he was already trying to get ahead in the world by promoting dance concerts throughout east Texas, earning his percentage from acts like Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Milton Brown and the Brownies, Spade Cooley, and the legendary Ernest Tubb while he watched from the wings and learned the ropes. It also impressed the folks in the Nashville big leagues after Willie had decided to forgo his studies for the Baptist ministery in favor of a full-time career in the hillbilly highway nightlife; you need a lot more than even the kind of devasting song-writing talent Willie possessses to become a primary source for the Music Row hit machine the way he did in pretty short order. And when eventually his ambitions outstripped what Nashville was willing to offer and he made his legendary end-run around Music Row, his aura so impressed the college hippioes of Austin, texas, that not too long after he’d been among them they began to buy posters proclaiming, “Matthew, Mark, Luke and Willie,” and to enshrine them in their places of fun and meditation.

A Nashville executive describes his experience: “It was amazing, just wonderful,” says the Nashville executive. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Neil Reshen (Willie’s manager) was so bad — I mean, you really wanted to have the man arrested; the secretaries used to run for the bathroom when he showed up. But when you talked to Willie, it was like negotiating with Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and you were so relieved you didn’t have to deal with Neil that you gave Willie whatever he wanted. But, of course, what Neil wanted and what Willie wanted were the same things. They were working the good cop, bad cop routine, the oldest con in the world, but they did it so well you didn’t realize what was going on till it was all over. And by then you’d done a deal you’d never have even dreamed of otherwise. Willie just outplayed me, and he ended up getting what he really deserved. And all that means is he’s smarter than I am. He just has to turn that smile on you, and you’re hooked. But now I take him seriously. He may be beautiful, but he’s not dumb.”

Such a man — with his hard-earned combination of country compassion, common sense and carefully honed business skills – would have been the perfect choice if American farmers had gone looking for a leader in their hour of need. That’s not how it happened, though. It was Willie who went unbidden to the farmers.

September 1985 was when it began, in Champaine, Illinois, as a notion kicked around between Willie and his crew in the wake of Bob Geldof’s Life Aid marathon. As Willie recalls, in the low-to-vanishing key for which he is renowned, “I have no idea how it got started. I was just sitting in the bus….”

Like a large proportion of the projects Willie judges worthy, the 14-hour Farm Aid benefit moved from the idea to action with little further ado. It was set up with minimum fuss and executed with slightly less toll and craziness than usually attends a mammoth outdoor music festival featuring multiple major entertainers. (Which figures. After more than a decade of organizing and hosting his legendary Fourth of July picnics, Willie is perhaps the world’s premier mastermind of such events.) When it was all over — when Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, Alabama, Billy Joel, Kris Kristofferosn, Bon Jovi, Joni Mitchell, Waylon Jennings, Kenny Rogers, Neil Young, Merle Haggard, John Cougar Mellencamp and some 45 other acts had done their thing and the TV viewers who watched them had sent in their donations — Willie and his crew suddenly found themselves in temporary possession of a great deal of donated money.

That came as something of a shock. “I figured people would respond,” says Willie, “but not nearly as well as they did, and as all that money started rollin’ in, I had to rethink my position. I realized I had to do a lot more than make some calls and go out and sing. My name was attached to that money, so by necessity I had to take responsibility and decide that I would be the one who writes the checks. So that’s what happens, nothing goes out without my signature on it. And so far, I know that every quarter of that money has gone to benefit the family farmer in some way.”

After Farm Aid One in Illinois and Farm Aid Two, held in Austin on the Fourth of July, 1986, the approximate total for which Willie has taken responsibility is $14 million.

And Willie doesn’t just sign the checks, he approves them.

“He makes the final decision,” says Caroline Mugar, the director of Farm Aid (Willie is Chairman of the Board). “We just do the research on what’s going on, who’s doing what where, what they hope to do and how they’ve used the money they’ve already gotten, and we make recommendations. Then Willie decides.”

The Country Music Association’s Award Winning Songs

Thursday, November 17th, 2016


Thanks, Phil Weisman, for this cool magazine from your collection.

Country Song Round Up
Winter 1985
The Country Music Association’s Award Winning Songs

What is the Country Music Association?

The Country Music Association is proud of its part in helping guide the growth of country music to one of the greatest influences on society today.  Country music affects the way we dress, what we eat, the movies we see, and how we dance.  The Country Music Association has served as an untiring aid to the composers, artists, publishers, disc jockeys — anyone affiliated with the country music field.

Founded in 1958, CMA was not the creation of one specific person or group, but rather an idea generated by some of the leading figures in the music industry.  The objective of the organization, which originally consisted of 233 members, was to promote and develop country music throughout the world; to demonstrate it as a viable medium to advertisers, consumers and media, and to provide a unity of purpose for the country music industry.

Presently, CMA’s membership is over 7,500.  Country music has become one of America’s most diplomatic ambassadors to the world through CMA.  Industry leaders readily admit that CMA has won global recognition as a trade association and has earned its title of “the world’s most active trade organization.”i

Some Country Music Association Activities

The formulation of the CMA Awards.  These are given to the top country acts annually, voted on by CMA members.  The awards were first given at the ninth banquet and show in 1967.

The origination of Fan Fair.  A festival held in Nashville each year enabling the fans to meet their favorites.

Establishment of the Country Music Hall of Fame (1961.  to honor country music greats.

The creation of International Country Music Month.  It began as Country Music Week in 1962 and is now recognized throughout the world.

A code of ethics for country artists.

Selecting the Song of the Year

The Song of the Year award is made to a songwriter(s).  Any country music song with original words and music is eligible based on the song’s country singles chart activity during the eligibility period.  In this category, the membership is first asked to nominate a song they believe deserving of the award.  The second ballot will contain the nominations receiving at least five votes from the membership, and the top five songs from the tabulation of the country singles charts from Billboard.  Cash Box, the Gavin Report and Radio & Records.  From this group the membership will vote for the top five.

In the final balloting, the song receiving the most votes is named Song of The Year.

Since the award begin in 1967, eighty-five different songs have been nominated for Song of the Year on the final ballot.


Like a small handful of artists, Willie Nelson has become a virtual weather vane of musical force.  He communicates to his huge and diverse following a distillation of the many musical forms that have shaped him over the years of turmoil and hard work and now success and hard work.

Once considered a Nashville renegade for wanting to have more than a passing input into his music.  Willie fled to Texas in the early Seventies, leaving behind a wealth of songs, an abundance of recordings and a legion of stories, some true.

Like a phoenix, Nelson rose form the ashes and came back from his Texas base to capture airwaves, not to mention the hearts of millions of devoted followers.

Ironically, the fundamentals of Nelson’s music have changed very little since his rather desperate and formative years in the early 1950s., when he was eking out a living in the rough-and-tumble bars and dance halls around Ft. Worth, Texas.  His appearances today, of course, draw huge crowds who’ve come to listen and share in the experience.

Throughout his rise to prominence and his successful foray into motion pictures.  Nelson has never forgotten or been distracted form his first and last love: writing, singing and performing music.  In the past years his efforts have won the highest accolades and wealth, yet for all the adulation that has been lavished on him and all the perquisites that have come with his immense popularity, Willie’s head has not been swayed from the deep-rooted traditions of his musical heritage.    He hasn’t essentially changed or compromised his music to get where he is today.  He has struggled for nearly three decades and has finally succeeded in getting the world t listen to what he’s been saying all along.

Willie is always quick to emphasize that it is his music that got him to where he is today, and it is his music on which he will continue to concentrate.  He points out that ultimately, the purpose of his venture into films is music.  “I want to call attention to the singing, to the music in these films,” he explains.

Unlike many who have achieved success, Nelson’s commitment to music is evidenced by the fact that he still thrives on the excitement of the road and live audiences, and still gets in 200 plus personal appearances a year.

Nelson’s stormy career reads and tells much better than most novels that are on the shelves.  He has been everywhere and possibly seen and done everything within the scope of his life.

As a songwriter he has always been admired.  His early compositions — Family Bible, Night Life, Hello Walls, Crazy and on and on — were part of the national growth of country music through the Sixties. His second career, as a traveling independent artist leading up to the classic Red Headed Stranger album, is the stuff of legends.

From Red Headed Stranger forward to today, Nelson has singly and in duets with many of the people who befriended, taught and nurtured him along the way created a body of work that has been instrumental in freeing the boundaries of music for old and new country fans alike.  It is said that the crowd at a Willie Nelson show is like no other crowd in the entertainment business.  But you have to see one to understand it.

Between touring and making films, Nelson lives in Texas and occasionally in Colorado.  In Texas he is the proud owner of a country club, a restaurant, a recording studio and the Austin Opry House.

But beneath it all, Willie Nelson continues to pick and sing, let his hair hang down in brainds and be Willie as only he can.

Always on y Mind, recorded by Willie Nelson, was nominated for Song of the Year and won that award both in 1982 and 1983.  Luckenbach, Texas, recorded with Waylon Jennings, was nominated for Song of the Year in 1977.


Willie Nelson interview “Country Music” (February 1976)

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

Country Music Magazine
February 1976
by Patrick Carr

We begin with an ending of sorts. We are in Nashville on a drizzly night, packed into the Municipal Auditorium like so many high-rent sardines approaching the strung-out finale of the Disk Jockey Convenion 1975.

Taken together tonight, we are perhaps the most professional audience any of these Columbia/Epic acts are likely to play for at least another year: all of us are Somebodies in the country music business, and we’are all hip to the score. The Columbia/Epic actes bounce on stage and do whatever thing they do, three numbers each, one after the other. Tammy Wynette, Mac Davis, Barbara Fairchild, David Houston… it’s very democratic but pretty soon it becomes obvious which artists are getting corporate nod right now because all you really have to do is watch the company personnel pay or not pay attention. Nevertheless, it’s a subtle affair.

But when Willie Nelson and his band of gypsies make their entrance backstage, looking for all the world like some flying wedge of curiously benign Hells Angels, subtlety goes by the board and it’s plain that this year’s Most Likely To Succeed slot has just been taken with a vengeanance: a great shaking of hands begins.

The impression is confirmed when Willie proceeds to get up onstage with his full band (all the other acts were backed by the Columbia band) and play a 40-minute set that, except for a qute seemly absence of illegal drugs and teenage nudity among the audience, might just have well be happening in Texas on the 4th of July. This is the ending of sorts, and what it means is that after telling the Nashville powers-that-be to get lost and leaving town just three short years ago, Willie Nelson has become the country music wave of the future and is now accepting Nashville’s praise and promotional efforts on his own terms.

There is a postscript, though. Three or four hours later — after another couple of hundred handshakes, after attending a very high-rent Columbia party to which his band was not invited, and after behaving like a perfect gentleman through it all — Willie gets himself down to Ernest Tubb’s Record Store and plays for two hours while most every other star in town is out at Opryland all gussied up to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Grand Ole Opry amid great pomp and ceremony of the By Invitation Only Kind.

It isn’t that Willie couldn’t have shown up at the Opry — with his current Columbia-backed status, that’s a silly notion — and it isn’t that he’s trying a reverse-chic move like one of Nashville’s several dozen I’m-so-hip-isn’t-this-earthy tipes might attemps. It’s just that his old friend and musical hero Ernest was gracious enough to invite him, and that Ernest Tubb’s Record Store is still the best place in town to get down and play straight honky tonk music for the friends and neighbors.

Apart from being a rebel against Nashville’s creative restrictions, a culture hero, a real sweetheart, a person blessed with a highly sophisticated sense of humor, and the man who first made it possible for hippies and rednecks to co-exist under the protection of his music — all of which he is — Willie Nelson has always been one other thing. He has always been a wrtier and singer of the classic country honky tonk song, which is to say that he has always had a very precise, lonely, realistic understanding of the hard ways of this vale of tears in which we all live and suffer form time to time. This is the juke box Willie.

Historicallly, this music came out of more or less, his whol career up to today (which seems somewhat more optimistic when you consider the conclusions of the Red Headed Stranger album). It’s the kind of stuff — like “Hello Walls,” “Ain’t It Funny (How Time Slips Away),” “Pretty Paper,” “Touch Me” and all those other perfectly songs — that really say it to you when you’re down and getting kicked. Willie wrote most of it in Nashville when he was a highly-reputed songwriter trying to be a singing star, simultaneously going through the usual business of divorce, marriage, divorce, marriage and consequent craziness (or is that vice versa?) and running with the likes of Faron Young, Roger Miller, Mel Tillis and other distinguished crazy people.

A segment of my Willie Nelson interview:

Willie (laughing): “I think a lot of people got to thinking that everybody had to do the same thing Hank Williams did, even die that way if necessary. And that got out of hand. I always used to think George Jones got drunk because Hank Williams did, like he really thought that was what he was uspposed to do.”

Me: “You ever do that?”

Willie: “‘Course I did. That’s the reason I know it’s done.”

Me: “You still do it?”

Willie: “I still get drunk, but I’m not really mimicking anybody now. I have my own drunken style.”

These days, see, Willie won’t talk about the personal agonies of those Nashville years without humor, but it’s all there in the songs which made him one of Nashville’s most sought-after songwriters, and it came to a head during the years — his last year in Nashville — that gave rise to his Phases and Stages album. That year was a turning point, and it is chronicled in Phases and Stages. The album is an excruciatingly universal account of the way one man and one woman deal with their divorce (”That was the year I had four or five cars totalled out and the house burned down,” says Willie), but it ends with a very significant song called “Pick Up the Tempo.” It goes like so:

People are sayin’ that time will take
care of people like me
And that I’m livin’ too fast, and
they say I can’t last for much longer
But little they see that their
thoughts of me is my savior
And little they know that the beat
ought to go just a little faster,
So pick up the tempo just a little,
and take it on home….

For a man hitting the crucial age of forty, those are important lines. They speak of an affirmation of life and a determination to triumph over its emotional problems, and they represent Willie’s decison to leave Nashville, move back home to Texas, and finally realize his potential which is, in fact, exactly what he did. “I knew I only had a few years left to do what I was gong to do, and I had to make a move,” says Willie. “I wasn’t going down there to quit. I was going down there with a purpose.” the purpose, quite simply, was first to make himself a national recording star, and then to use that power base to make damn sure that people like him could be free to make their own music their own way without having to starve in the process.

Remember, Willie has a history in this department. It was he who first chaperoned Charley Pride into the country music concept scene, bringing him on stage in Louisiana — actually kissing him right there in the spotlights – and risking God only knows what kind of backlash in the process. The risk, once taken, paid off: Charley was accepted because Willie was behind him. Similarly, Willie, used his high prestige and general likeability in country music artist circles to ease Leon Russell into the Nashville scene by surrounding him with Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, Jeanne Pruett and a whole galaxy of main-line performers when he was cutting the sequel to his “Hank Wilson” album.

Willie can get away with heresy because more than any other artist occupying the often-queasy ground between because more than any other artist occupying the often queasy ground between country and something else, his country credentials are in order — more to the point — he has never betrayed his roots.

So Willie arrived in Austin (where he was already a star), formed his present band around himself and his old compadre drummer Paul English (of “Me and Paul” fame), began booking his own dates and managing himself, set up that first media-shocking Picnic at Dripping Springs, connected with the local power elite in the person of Darrell Royal (coach of the University of Texas football team and a very influential citizen), and quickly assumed the role of main Godfather in the Austin scheme of things. That, incidentally, is some gig: you don’t know what a loyal crowd is until you’ve been to Austin and watched a whole clubful of liberated young things worship the ground good ol’ Willie walks on to quite embarrasing excess.

Along the way — just before that first Picnic, in fact — Ritchie Albright of the Waylors suggested that he get in touch with Neil Reshen, a New york manager and fixit person who at the time was looking to consolidate his country music holdings. Reshin already had Waylon as a client, and Willie followed suit. This action signified the arrive with the neccessary teeth for the coutlaw allliance Willie had been pondering for years, and it became a classic Beauty and the Beast operation that continues to this day.

An example of the dynamics of that Beauty and the Beast relationship:

Willie on Neil Reshen: “He’s probably the most hated and the most effective manager that I know of. He enjoys going up to those big corporations and going over their figures. He’s so sadistic, he loves to do it.”

And once again, Willie: “At least you know where you’re at with Neil. Nowhere.”

And again: “Anyone who can learn to like Neil can like anyone. It’s a challenge to like Neil.”

“Willie, how are you doing on that?”

“I’m coming along, I’m coming alone. I can stay around him a little while now.”

Althought the mere mention of Neil Reshen’s name has been known to send secretaries to the bathroom and turn grown executives into violent monsters (”He’s another of those guys I don’t understand how he lived so long with somebody really hurting him,” says Willie), you have to admit that while Willie and Waylon (”It’s like having a maddog on a leash,” says Waylon) may have been able to get out of Nashville’s grasp without him. It’s only through this man’s unspeakably vicious yet effective manner of dong business, that the outlaw bid for independent power on country music has avoided bankruptcy and actually shown a profit.

So, with the active assistance of New York Neil, Willie has established the power base he was after. It is now possible for Willie to record with Waylon or Kris or Leon (he’s planning a whole Willie/Waylon joint album), and what’s more, with the formation of Lone Star Records, he can get people like Jimmy Day, Johnny Darrell, Floyd Tillman, Billy C., Bucky Meadows, his sister Bobbie and other Texas worthies into the recording studio and, since Columbia Records pays for promotion and distribution under a joint Columbia/Lone Star deal, actually get the finished product before the public. Like Willie says, “We’re all togethe

hr, and we have the same idea about what we wnat to do, which is to do our thing our own way. I’m trying to get these guys to do for themselves what they’ve been bitching about people not doing for them.”

Willie’s long affair with the business of honky tonk music represents one considerable side of his character which may be traceable to the fact that he and his sister Bobbi (”it’s alwyas been me and her”) were raised without parents. Mr. and Mrs. Nelson divorced when Willie was a baby and Bobbi was there, and so for the first six eyars of his life Wilile was with his grandparents. For the next tne year, he was raised by his grandmoter alone, grandfather having passed away. That of coruse is a vast oversimplification, but the roots of his two divorces and highly creative loneliness must lie buried somewhere in there, just as the roots of his present, almost uncanny serenity must be located in the emotional steps he took to overcome his personal problems. Whatever, it is an absolute fact that the presnet-day Willie Nelson is most definitely not an individual still in conflict with himself.

In a sense, Willie Nelson now is in some sort of still-perceptive, still creative cruise-gear, moving through a world of incredibly high pressure with almost perfect equilibrium. You can hear this feeling on the Red Headed Stranger album (a concept suggested and assisted by his wife Connie, with whom he does in fact seem quite happy) and you can see it when, dead center in the eye of one of this nation’s strangest cultural hurricanes, he drifts through the absolute mayhem of his Picnic and somehow manages to be a rock-like source of calm and competence for (literally) thousands of the most outrageously uncalm, incompetent hustlers, freaks and assorted weirdos ever assembled under one patch of Texas sky.

It also shows when, in the middle of yet another night of pushing his ragged band through a set of half-tragic, half-boogie music and watching with a smile as his audience stumbles and whoops its way towards unconsciousness, it comes down to just him and his Spanish-style, gut-string amplified Martin, and for a while the most carefully emotional, beautifully balanced little collection of mood notes in the world go soaring through the rancid air.

This is the musical legacy of Django Reinhardt, Grady Martin and the other psychological gypsy guitar pickers from whom Willie developed his style; it is also the mark of a man who has really seen it all and can still look it straight in the eye.

Atlanta, Georgia: Willie is on a First Class trip. Laid out in the back of the limousine behind his big spade shades, he is relaxing into the ways of being a star with records on the charts. There’ll be no more no-money dives to play, and for a while there won’t even be any songwriting unless the fancy takes him. Willie explains that he’s not one of those poeple who get headaches when they’re not writing, and since his next two albums — a Gospel album and an album of Lefty Frizzel songs — are already in the can, all he really has to do is keep on showing up for Willie Nelson concerts.

There are also some interesting projects in the wind, and they might even get done. there’s the issue of a Red Headed Stranger movie, for instance (”If I had the money and any idea about how to do it, I’d be somewhere doin’ it right now”,) and the almost equally interesting notion of Willie, Ray Price, Roger Miller, Johnny Paycheck and Johnny Bush getting together to do a couple of original Cherokee Cowboy dates.

Tonight Willie’s nose will be back on the grindstone as once again he takes the stage with his gypsies and plays for the sticky young drunks and dopers of Atlanta. Tonight, once again, he’ll be up there doing “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” and “Eileen Goodnight” with whoever wants to join in (this time it’s Tracy Nelson and Linda Ronstadt and Mylon LeFevre), and tonight there’ll be another endless hillbilly amnesia session up in the hotel room.

Tomorrow there’ll be another bloody mary morning when Paul, bless him, has paid the bills and checked us all out and onto the road again. But now, just for a while, Willie is thinking about his Gospel album and remembering that he was asked to quit teaching in Sunday School when they found out that Little Willie played the local Texas beer joints at night.

“Were you a good preacher, Willie?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says. “I really was.”

“Are you a religious man?”

“Yes,” he says, “Probably more than I ever was. Y’know?”

Somehow, when you really get serious about Willie Nelson, the answer is not at all surprising.

Willie Nelson: Country Music Hair

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016


The 1970s built on the 1960s. The Bakersfield Sound inspired the Outlaw Movement, and the Nashville Sound paved the way for the Rhinestone Cowboys. In hairstyles, Willie Nelson lived up to the name of his 1975 album, Red Headed Stranger and let his hair grow long and his beard get burly. Women wore everything from naturally long locks (Emmylou Harris and Crystal Gayle) to larger-than-life teased styles (Tammy Wynette) or wigs.


Read article, see more photos here.

In Duvall’s new book, Country Music Hair, the author and former CMT Radio producer interviews singers, hairstylists, and makeup artists to span the decades—complete with dozens of photographs—of the iconic bouffants, bobs, wigs, and, yes, mullets that have crowned country music’s chart-toppers.

The 1960s: Clean-cut or Curled

The 1960s straddled the line between the prim-and-proper 1950s and the wild-and-free 1970s. Musically, country saw two styles emerge: the more natural Bakersfield Sound, and the sleek production of the Nashville Sound. Hairstyles reflected the dichotomy. Bakersfield artist Buck Owens opted for a clean-cut crop. “Even Willie Nelson had his hair cut short at that time,” Duvall says. “The men weren’t really stepping out of their social norms.”

Willie Nelson and New Balance Shoes

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016




There are any number of adages about walking in another man’s shoes one could apply as a means of introducing the story of Willie Nelson’s New Balance shoes. I assure you Mr. Nelson himself has a handful of lyrics that would lend themselves nicely to such an introduction. Instead, I’d like to begin by explaining how I came upon this post.


My twin uncles Mark and Matt were two of the first guys I idolized as a little kid. My dad’s younger brothers were cool. Artists with a passion for hunting elk, there’s this story they tell of Hank Williams, Jr. offering to buy one of their bronze statues of an elk or of a cowboy on a bucking bronco or something like that. My first memories of Willie Nelson are wrapped around hearing his voice pour forth from factory-issued speakers while my legs dangled from the front bench of one of my uncles’ pick-up trucks.

Since then, Mr. Nelson’s music has been a part of mine and my family’s life — a part I largely disregarded until I re-discovered his brilliant songs in early adulthood.


Then there’s the running. Growing up, I recall sneaking around in my dad’s closet and finding this old pair of blue New Balance 320s which he told me he wore when he ran 5ks and 10ks in the 1970s. Around the time of my dad’s running exploits, Willie Nelson left Nashville in a cloud of dust (among other things) and returned to his home state of Texas, and threw his sizable, embellished ten-gallon-hat into the ring of the burgeoning singer-songwriter movement beginning to crest there. And underway was this massive running boom. The hippies were hitting the trails with nothing but a bandana around their heads, some fitted shorts and simple, synthetic and leather shoes on their feet. And with a relentless tour schedule (Mr. Nelson has a song about it. Maybe you’ve heard it.) taking its toll, Willie Nelson found running — or perhaps better stated, running found Willie Nelson.

“For a health kick, I ain’t on one. But… I find that running makes me feel better. It had gotten to the point where I was killing myself at night, so I had to do something in the daytime to make up for it. Now that I run, I don’t stay out as late as I did. I don’t drink much anymore, and I don’t even smoke cigarettes…. It’s not that I’m all that strong willed. It’s just that when you’re done running five miles you don’t want a drink or cigarette. All you want to do is flatten out,” courtesy of  Texas Girl, December, 1979.


“More than once, I’ve gone jogging in a town I don’t know and had to knock on a stranger’s door and ask directions to get back to where I started.” from the Tao of Willie.


Running became such an integral part of Mr. Nelson’s life that he began to run races. For a time, at his Pedernales Country Club outside Austin, he hosted the “Willie Nelson Distance Classic.” I was lucky enough to find a vintage t-shirt online from the race that was held in June of 1980. According to one source at the time, “More than 1,000 runners entered the race which Nelson hopes to make an annual event.  Nelson (47) finished the hilly 6.2 mile course in one hour, seven minutes and 45 seconds.”


And I’m surprised his running/golf hybrid game has not as yet taken off.

“Willie is very big on fitness and the fact that he is still putting in the miles on the road and working around the clock lends some fact to this. He used to enter road races and I’m not sure if he invented a golf game for fitness folks, but it is different than the one we watch on television. The winner is the person that can run 18 holes the fastest and by adding the number of strokes and the running time determines the winner. Fastest runner with the fewest strokes is the winner and gets to buy the beer.” from Moe Johnson of the San Marcos Record.


And though, early on in his running life, Willie Nelson wore the same 320s my dad wore, as can be seen in this photo from inside the fold of the 1978 album Willie Nelson and the Family Live and on the cover of 1981’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow, at some point he discovered the unparalleled comfort and durability of the 496, a walking shoe. On a recent trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, I took an abundance of detailed photos of a pair of Mr. Nelson’s custom 496s currently on display in the lobby.


And earlier in the year, I reached out with some questions to the folks at New Balance, who were kind enough to humor me with the following statement.



We make them at our Lawrence, Massachusetts manufacturing facility. We knew Willie was a New Balance fan so when we were presented with the chance to work with him on a running event in Austin, Texas with one of our retailers to benefit Farm Aid – it was a great opportunity.  I believe it might have also been timed to our newfound ability to do personalized embroidery at our factory in Lawrence when we added new machinery – which was around that same time. Our manufacturing team members have enjoyed making Willie his 496 New Balance shoes and over the years have added different special embroidery elements on them such as a guitar or his name or Farm Aid. – Amy Dow, New Balance


Thanks to Ms. Dow at New Balance, to Linda Lee Banks, the author of the authoritative Willie Nelson fan site, Still is Still Moving, to my good friend Adam Geremia, author of the inspiring Tumblr which explores that early running boom, They Call Us The Seekers, and to those of you who found your way to the end of this lengthy headlong dive into the world of Willie Nelson’s footwear choice. I saw this as something of a tribute to this year’s running of the Boston Marathon and to Mr. Nelson as he approaches his 81st birthday at the end of this month. If you’re still hungry for more, there are plenty of photos in this Flickr album that didn’t make the cut. Let’s end it with some inspiring thoughts from the man himself.

“I just try to exercise. I try to do enough in the morning to make up for what I did, detrimentally, the night before. I try to make it even out, but you know, we don’t live the greatest lifestyles out here traveling on the road and eating whatever we can get a hold of. So, any kind of exercise we can do daily is good, and I try to get in a run or a bike ride or something every day.”

“I enjoy running around Austin. I enjoy going downtown and running on the rivers and lakes down there, and you see just loads and loads of people doing it every single day. There’s not a more beautiful place to run and Austin has so many great roads and trails.” – Willie Nelson, courtesy of Still is Still Moving.