Archive for the ‘Mickey Raphael’ Category

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.

Willie Nelson & Family at Red Rocks

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Thursday, December 7th, 2017


December Day, by Willie and Bobbie Nelson (liner notes by Mickey Raphael)

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie
“December Day”

Liner Notes by Mickey Raphael:

Peering through the control room glass into the studio, a cloud of smoke rises from Sister Bobbie Nelson’s Bosendorfer grand piano. After four hours of non-stop recording with baby brother Willie, perhaps she has ignited the keys during this marathon session???

Listening back to “I Never Cared for You,” the interplay between Bobbie and Will on the instrumental intro “Ou-es tu, mon amour” sets the mood perfectly for the darkness the song portrays.

“Nuages,” a song written by French Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, showcases Willie’s dexterity and guitar genius.  Whenever we are just sitting around the bus, Willie will pick up a guitar and start playing.  Like the horse heading to the barn, he always gets around to “Nuages.”  It’s good mendicine for him.  And on this take, Bobbie’s piano provides the support that makes their performances seem effortless.

In the beautiful hill country near Austin, Texas you’ll find Willie’s Pedernales studio.  Willie and Bobbie are set up in the main room which is L-shaped and doesn’t allow direct eye contact during recording.  Without much discussion of an arrangement, Bobbie started playing and Willie began singing “Mona Lisa.”  That was the beginning of another magical session.

Recording engineer Steve Chadie and Willie’s friend and producer, Buddy Cannon were at the controls as it all happened. It’s kind of like photographing a ghost; you don’t really see it till the picture is fully developed.  Throughout these sessions Bobbie and Willie played continuously and seemed to never run out of song ideas — which is a producer’s dream (or nightmare).  Eventually songs had to be picked for the final selections.  With so many outstanding performances to choose from.  I’m glad I wasn’t a part of that process.

As long as I can remember.  Willie and Bobbie, who ride together on Willie’s bus, spend some of their traveling time jamming on their favorite songs.  Bobbie has a travels size keyboard on the bus and Willie’s guitar, Trigger, is always by his side.  This is where the idea for DECEMBER DAY was born.  “Why not record our favorite songs like we play them for ourselves?”  Bobbie asked.

In 2010 after ending a tour in Austin, Texas, the band, made up of Paul and Billy English, Bee Spears and myself, went in the studio to record with Bobbie and Willie.  The song “What’ll I do” is especially bittersweet because of the passing of Bee Speers.  Bee was Willie’s bass player for more than four decades and this was the last recording session he played with us.  He is missed by us all.

In 2012 while recording songs for the record LET’S FACE THE MUSIC AND DANCE, we would stray from the song list every once in a while.  Willie might call out a song title or Bobbie might have a suggestion and this was the fun part of recording with these guys.  You didn’t know where the music was going next.  “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” was born from such a diversion.  We are all fans of the Irving Berlin songbook and of the Ray Charles version, so this was a perfect tribute to both.

In 2004, another impromptu visit to the studio resulted in three songs penned by Willie.  “Walkin'” is truly a classic.  Originally heard in the concept album PHASES AND STAGES, this version goes right to the heart.  Willie’s guitar solo hits you like a gunshot at the O.K. Corral.  If through is the question, then Bobbie is the answer as nothing rings more true than her piano.

“Laws of Nature” is an “a-ha” moment.  Willie writes like he’s talking to you face-to-face.  Bobbie provides the soundtrack for that conversation.  It’s easy to make records with these guys.  You just have to listen… and then  react from the heart.  It’s pretty primal.

The song “Amnesia” rounded out those sessions but honestly, I can’t remember anything about it.

Raised by their grandparents in Abbott, a small farming community north of Waco, Texas, Willie and Bobbie began a musical odyssey that has continued for over 70 years.  Daddy Nelson taught Willie how to play guitar when he was seven, and momma Nelson taught sister Bobbie the piano when she was nine.  Sundays were spent playing at the Abbott Methodist church and gave Bobbie and Willie the spiritual foundation that still can be found in their music.

When it comes to a brother-sister collaboration with the longevity of Willie and Bobbie, there is beauty in keeping things simple, “Less is more” is the underlying theme.  We’ve heard these songs before but not like this.  The spontaneity born out of familiarity is what this record, DECEMBER DAY is all about.

It’s not rocket science.  It’s alchemy.

Mickey Raphael
Nashville, TN


Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie
December Day
(Willie’s Stash, Vol. 1)

1. Alexander’s Ragtime Band (Irving Berlin)
2. Permanently Lonely (Willie Nelson)
3. What’ll I Do (Irving Berlin)
4. Summer of Roses / December Day (Willie Nelson)
5. Nuages (Django Reinhardt)
6. Mona Lisa (Ray Evans & Jay Livingston)
7. I Don’t Know Where I Am Today (Willie Nelson)
8. Amnesia (Willie Nelson)
9. Who’ll Buy My Memories (Willie Nelson)
10. The Anniversary Song (Al Jolson & Saul Chaplin)
11. Laws of Nature (Willie Nelson)
12. Walkin’ (Willie Nelson)
13. Always (Irving Berlin)
14. I Let My Mind Wander (Willie Nelson)
15. Is the Better Part Over (Willie Nelson)
16. My Own Peculiar Way (Willie Nelson)
17. Sad Songs and Waltzes (Willie Nelson)


Happy Birthday, John Selman

Sunday, November 12th, 2017


Happy happy birthday to John Selman, tour manager for Willie Nelson and Family.

carls 10-9-10 197

Willie Nelson & Family at Billy Bob’s Texas, Fort Worth (Nov. 10, 2017)

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

Thank you so much, Janis Tillerson, for sharing photos from last night’s Willie Nelson & Family Show at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth.


Happy birthday, Mickey Raphael

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

photo:  Mary Francis Andrews

Happy birthday, Mickey Raphael! Thanks for the music.



Mickey Raphael, Joni Mitchell and the late Stephen Bruton shared a birthday — November 7th.  This is a picture taken in 1992 at their birthday dinner, in Los Angeles.

Mickey Raphael on harmonicas

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

Willie Nelson & Family at John T. Floore Country Store (Oct 7, 2017)

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Mickey Raphael, Margo Price, Kevin Black #FarmAid2017

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Mickey Raphael set in with Margo Price and her band at the Farm Aid concert in Pennsylvania.

Thank you, Janis Tillerson, for your great photos from Farm Aid 2017, in Burgettstown, PA.


Willie Nelson, Amos Lee, Mickey Raphael, “El Camino” (Farm Aid 2015) (Oct 2, 2010)

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Willie Nelson and Family

Thursday, August 31st, 2017


Mickey Raphael, in NYC

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Mickey Raphael, on harmonica

Friday, August 4th, 2017
by: Azaria Podplesky

On his day off in Airway Heights, harmonica player Mickey Raphael won’t be checking out the casino or any other local sites for that matter.
Equipped with his newly updated portable recording rig (engineer Brando Marios was installing ProTools onto Raphael’s new laptop when he spoke with The Spokesman-Review), Raphael will instead be holed up in his hotel room, “or a shower stall at the venue,” to work on other musicians’ projects.

In his four-decade-long career, Raphael has worked with everyone who’s anyone: Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Rosanne Cash, Elton John, Townes Van Zandt, Aaron Neville, the Beach Boys, U2, Carly Simon, Ringo Starr, Norah Jones, Lionel Richie, Alison Krauss, the list goes on and on.
But Raphael is perhaps best known for his work with Willie Nelson, with whom he will be performing when Willie Nelson and Family plays Northern Quest Resort and Casino on Tuesday.

Raphael picked up the harmonica when he was young, after he had a rough time with the guitar.

“I was a mediocre, if not terrible, guitar player, and the harmonica just spoke to me,” he said. “I had a certain affinity for it. This was something I was really drawn to and was able to learn to play it and I’m still learning.”

The self-taught Raphael got his start playing folk music. After meeting Nelson in the early ’70s though, he had to switch gears to country music, a transition hindered only by the fact that Raphael didn’t have the country music repertoire of the other musicians.

“I did a crash course: Hank Williams and Willie and Waylon and Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard,” he said. “Once I got the songs in my head, it was easy to play them.”

During his first few gigs with Nelson, Raphael, in his words, winged it until he got a feel for each song.

Eventually, Raphael became more and more comfortable performing, so much so that he kept showing up to rehearsals without actually having been asked to join the band.

“Willie asked (drummer Paul English) ‘What are we paying Mickey?’ ” Raphael said. “Paul said ‘Nothing. He’s just showing up.’ And Willie said ‘Double his salary.’ ”

He’s been with Nelson ever since, including for “God’s Problem Child,” Nelson’s 61st studio album, which was released in April.

After so many years and albums together, working with Nelson in the studio has become like second nature to Raphael.

“When I go into a session, nobody tells me what to play,” Raphael said. “We know our instrument. We know how to read the song. It’s pretty much magical what happened.”

A solo artist in his own right, Raphael released an album called “Hand to Mouth” in 1988. The album was re-released in 2000.
He’s considered releasing another, but between his work with Nelson and projects for other musicians, Raphael simply hasn’t found the time.
For now he’s content with those other projects, and hopes to someday take his harmonica expertise in a new direction: rap music.
He cites Aretha Franklin and Common as artists he’d like to work with and said he enjoyed working with Snoop Dogg on 2011’s “Doggumentary” and appreciated Pitbull and Kesha’s use of harmonica on “Timber.”

“The music is so rhythmic and lyrical,” he said. “The lyrics speak so much. I think the harmonica is just another voice that would compliment and it really hasn’t been used.”