Archive for the ‘Mickey Raphael’ Category

Mickey Raphael with Head and the Heart, Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic (2018)

Monday, July 9th, 2018

More great photos from Janis Tillerson from Willie Nelson’s 4th of July picnic, Mickey Raphael sits in with the Head and the Heart.

Mickey Raphael on harmonicas

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

photo:  Taylor Hill

Amos Lee with Willie Nelson, “El Camino”

Sunday, May 27th, 2018

Mickey Raphael talks about touring with Highwaymen “It was like Mount Rushmore on Stage” (interview by Alison Richter)

Sunday, May 20th, 2018
by:   Alison Richter

Mickey Raphael, Nelson’s harmonica player since 1973, remembers when he first heard about plans to make an album, following that Christmas concert. “Chips Moman was Willie’s producer at the time,” he says.

“I was driving Chips and Willie’s manager, Mark Rothbaum, around L.A. in my Acura Legend. We were packed into this two-door car, going to dinner, and they were talking about the four guys making this record. They were going to pitch the idea to Willie, and I’m going, ‘Wishful thinking. This will never happen. You’ll never get the four guys to agree to this. I hope you can pull it off.’ Apparently, they got Willie’s blessing, because pretty soon we were going to Nashville to record.”


Read Alison Richter’s entire, great interview with Mickey, and see more pictures and videos here.

Mickey Raphael Interview, by Joe Nick Patoski

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

Willie Nelson & Family at Whitewater Amphitheater (April 21, 2018)

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Thanks again to Janis Tillerson, for sharing photos from last night’s Willie Nelson & Family show at Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels, TX.


Sunday, April 8th, 2018

Mickey Raphael

Friday, April 6th, 2018

Hand to Mouth

Mickey Raphael: Hand to Mouth

The Artists:

Mickey Raphael—Harmonica
Gene Rabbai, Jr.—Keyboards
Lee Michaels—Accordion
Ben Keith—Pedal Steel
Joe Lalo—Percussion
Billy Ray Austin—Guitar
Scott Page—Flute, Recorder
Willie Nelson—Guitar on Trude
Paul Butterfield—Harmonica Duet on Hand To Mouth

Track List

Don’t It Make You Wonder
Trude (with Willie Nelson)If I only had a brain/Somewhere Over the RainbowBlue Angel246 W 11th StAsia MinorMexicoThe SearchBreathlessAll My Love-parts 1 &2GypsyHand to Mouth

You can purchase Mickey Raphael’s cd from


Willie Nelson, Amos Lee, Mickey Raphael, “El Camino”

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Mickey Raphael with the Preservation Band, at the Luck Reunion (March 15, 2018)

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Photo by Rett Rogers.

Hanging out on the Porch at Luck Headquarters

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

Thanks, Janis from Texas, for sharing photos of the cool, so cool, folks at the Luck reunion.

“You find the cool kids hanging out on the porch at Luck Headquarters.”   — Janis

Mickey Raphael talks Willie Nelson, his career, and set lists

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Mickey Raphael. Photo by Jack Spencer

Mickey Raphael has played harmonica for just about everyone in the business over his 45-year career, from Snoop Dogg to Blue Oyster Cult to Wynton Marsalis to Neil Young. In fact, last year, he toured with red-hot country singer Chris Stapleton. At least he did until his friend, mentor, and longtime boss, Willie Nelson, said it was time to come back to the Family. Raphael left Stapleton and joined up with Nelson to go on the road again, if you will.

Raphael has been playing with Nelson since 1973, and he’ll be onstage with Nelson when the Red-Headed Stranger takes the Peace Center stage on Monday, digging into classic hits like “If You’ve Got the Money Honey,” “Whiskey River,” and “Shotgun Willie,” alongside newer songs like Nelson’s wry commentary on the constant death-rumors surrounding him, “Still Not Dead.”

We spoke with Raphael recently about Nelson’s health (he recently canceled a string of shows due to illness), his career, and the band’s opinion of set lists.

First of all, how is Willie feeling?
I think he’s doing good, because we start up in about 10 days. He had a bad cold, and with all of this flu going around, he did the right thing by just laying low.

You’ve built up quite a list of sessions and gigs beyond just Willie’s band. What keeps you with him after all these years?
Loyalty, for one thing. Both his loyalty to me and my loyalty to him. I started out with Willie when I was 20. I grew up under his tutelage. Because of him I’ve been able to make all these other musical connections and had the opportunity to play with a lot of other people on their records, and so my loyalty is really to him.

The band is called Willie and Family, and that’s what it is because we’ve been together for so long. I owe him for the opportunity to be able to work with all of these other artists.

Willie is famous for changing the way he sings and plays his songs; what do you like about that approach?
It’s all improv. We don’t ever rehearse. We know who starts the songs and how they end. Everything else is up for grabs. That means I can experiment with new stuff. In the studio, once you play it, it’s in stone. Onstage, I can change it every night. I can try something new, and if it doesn’t work I know it immediately and I don’t do it again. We have a lot of freedom to experiment; that’s how you grow and get better.

So you probably don’t use set lists much these days.
We’ve never had a set list at all. 

Never? In 45 years?
Nope. He starts the song, and once we hear the intro, we come right in and we know what’s going on. The set follows a certain template; he starts off with “Whiskey River,” and … I can’t remember what happens after that, but his intro is the only cue.

So how many songs does the band have ready to go?
I have no idea. With him, all you need is him and the guitar, so if we don’t know it, we lay out. We’re good musicians, so we can just kind of follow him. The song doesn’t have to be rehearsed for us to play it. In fact, that’s the way it is in the studio, too. I’m hearing the song for the first time and playing what I feel. We’re in the studio so much now I can’t remember what’s come out and what hasn’t. We’re actually working on an album of [Frank] Sinatra songs right now.

We know he’s a great songwriter, but what do you think makes Willie such a great interpreter?

I think he just loves the music and he’s a great musician. And he’s a unique singer. His phrasing is very unique. A lot of them are songs he grew up with. They’re part of his life, and he really enjoys doing it.

Willie Nelson & Family
When: Monday, March 5
Where: Peace Center, 300 S. Main St.
Tickets: SOLD OUT
Info: 864-467-3000,

Mickey Raphael, on harmonicas

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

Mickey Raphael, with Chris and Morgane Stapleton on SNL, “Nobody to Blame”

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

Mickey Raphael and Bee Spears (2011)

Saturday, December 16th, 2017


Thanks to Budrock “The Illuminator” Prewitt, lighting director for Willie Nelson and Family, for sharing this holiday photo of Mickey Raphael and Bee Spears.