Archive for the ‘Mickey Raphael’ Category

Willie Nelson and Mickey Raphael

Friday, April 14th, 2017



Kevin Smith and Mickey Raphael

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Willie Nelseon, Kenny Chesney, Mickey Raphael in Nashville, at Tribute Concert for Merle Haggard

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Kenny Chesney and Willie and Mickey

Posted by Michelle Manning Barish on Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thank you, Michelle Manning Barish, for sharing your video of Willie Nelson and Kenny Chesney singing, “Pancho and Lefty”.

Mickey Raphael, Michelle Manning Barish, and Kevin Smith (with Ol’ Dillo)

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

Nice photo bomb by bassist Kevin Smith, at the Houston Rodeo.

Mickey Raphael and Andy Bush

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Thanks, Willie Nelson & Family fan and music lover and friend Andy Bush for sharing this photo of himself with Mickey Raphael, taken today before tonight’s show.

Mickey Raphael: Willie Nelson’s #1 Harmonica Player, for 40 years

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Bobbie Nelson, Mickey Raphael, Bee Spears

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Lana Nelson shared this photo of  Willie Nelson and Family  at the Aalborg Kongress & Kulturcenter, in Aalborg, Denmark on April 25, 2008.

Mickey Raphael and Michelle Manning Barish

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

photo:  David McClister

Mickey Raphael, Lukas Nelson, Micah Nelson at Granada Theater (Dallas)

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Thanks to Jenny Begley Bransford for sharing her photos from the Willie Nelson & Family show at the Granada Theater in Dallas.   

“The great and talented Mickey Raphael. I had the honor of seeing him with Willie Nelson & Family at Granada Theater in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. Front row captures…so blessed.”


Red Rocks 2010

Willie Nelson and Mickey Raphael

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Another Mickey Raphael fan: Lukas Nelson rocks #1 Harmonica Player shirt

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Mickey Raphael #1 Harmonica Player shirt, sold exclusiviely at

You can get yours here.

I believe Mickey is donating portion of sales to a good cause.

Warren Haynes, Mickey Raphael, “Soulshine” (Farm Aid 2007)

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

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!'”


Mickey Raphael is Willie Nelson’s harmonica player

Sunday, December 11th, 2016
by:  Chris Hatch
January 19, 2010

HUNTSVILLE, AL. – Darrell Royal, the Texas Longhorns’ winningest football coach, is surely proud.

He’s got to be proud about this year’s football team even though the ‘Horns finished second to Alabama in the BCS title game.

But he must also feel good about another special recruit – actually, the only guy he recruited in the 1960s and ’70s who’s still playing.

His name? Mickey Raphael.

His position? Harmonica in the Willie Nelson Band.

Royal, one of legendary Alabama Coach Bear Bryant’s biggest rivals back in the ’70s, recruited a lot of great football players, but he also found a great harmonica player for Nelson’s band 36 years ago. Raphael will be performing Tuesday night when Willie Nelson and his band play at the Von Braun Center.

“I’m not an athlete and not really a sports fan, but Darrell was such a patron of the arts and loved music and musicians,” Raphael said during a phone interview from Baton Rouge, where he was performing with Nelson. “In fact, he recruited me for Willie’s band.

“He (Royal) had a great ear for music and musicians. If somebody was singing, he would say, ‘Shush.’ He’d make you be quiet or leave the room.”

Raphael was born and raised in Texas and fell in love with the harmonica after seeing harmonica great Don Brooks at a Dallas coffeehouse. Brooks even gave him some pointers, and soon Raphael was playing with B.W. Stevenson (who sang “My Maria”).

Royal was a fan of Raphael’s harp, and when he found out the musician was going to be in Dallas, asked him to a post-game party in a Dallas hotel in 1973. Royal told him there would be about 30 people there, including Nelson and country legend Charlie Pride.

“I had met Charlie before,” Raphael said. “I had only heard one of Willie’s albums, but it piqued my interest.”

Nelson and Pride took turns passing the guitar around and singing in an informal jam, and Raphael jumped in from time to time with his harmonica. He was amazed when he heard Nelson in person.

“Willie’s music isn’t just simple country songs; there’s more substance,” Raphael said. “I was in awe the whole time. Willie told me afterward to come sit in with the band anytime.”
Raphael watched where Nelson was playing, and a few months later joined him for a firemen’s benefit at a local gym near Dallas. That night, he had a late breakfast at a truck stop with Nelson and was just about ready to leave when he decided to have one more cup of coffee.
That’s when Raphael got his big break.

“Willie said, ‘Why don’t you come to New York with me in a couple of months? We’re going to play Max’s Kansas City,'” Raphael remembered. “So I went up there and played with Willie.
“Of course, you have to be a good musician to get in the door, but there are lot of great musicians out there. You have to be at the right place at the right time.”

Raphael said he’s enjoyed his career with Nelson. He released a solo project in 1988, “Hand to Mouth,” that was re-released in 2000. Last year, he and Nelson released “Naked Willie,” a collection of songs Nelson recorded between 1966 and ’70 that Raphael helped “un-produce” and give a new sound. He’s also the only member of the band who plays on Nelson’s upcoming release, an old-country style album.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” Raphael said of his career with Nelson. “I take none of it for granted. Willie is a great musician, and it’s different every night.”

photo:  Danny Clinch