Archive for the ‘Mickey Raphael’ Category

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.”


Mickey Raphael on Harmonicas

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

Thanks, Jamie Darling.  Nice shot.

Willie Nelson, Amos Lee, Mickey Raphael, “El Camino” (Farm Aid 25 2010)

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Willie Nelson & Family in Horseshoe Southern Indiana Elizabeth, IN last night

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

Thanks to Doris Smith for sharing her great photos from last night’s Willie Nelson & Family Show.

Mickey Raphael

“We had such a fun time with Franks brother and sister in-law Chad and Alliss Smith at the WILLIE concert tonight.” — Doris

Mickey Raphael, on harmonicas

Friday, May 26th, 2017

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

Wednesday, May 24th, 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)

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

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Willie Nelson & Family at the Fillmore

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

Thanks to Mary Jane Lane for great photo from last night’s show at the Fillmore, in San Francisco.

Mickey Raphael talks about new Willie Nelson album, “God’s Problem Child”

Thursday, May 4th, 2017
By Jeff Clark

While there is strife, both politically and socially, in the country, we must all strive to find common ground. Especially when it involves Willie Nelson.

It is time for the internet to stop killing Willie.


The amount of ageism directed at Willie is appalling. I’m not kidding. Leave Willie alone. Stop waiting for him to die and spreading death rumors just so you can wax poetic about what he meant to American music.

Willie turned 84 last week, and for some reason the internet has again given him a death sentence. I hope and pray I get to turn 84 one day.

Even as a “dead” man, on April 28, Willie released his latest album, “God’s Problem Child.” And although he has a distinguished musical catalog that includes “Red Headed Stranger,” Stardust,” the Daniel Lanios–produced “Teatro” and the sparsely arranged “Spirit,” “God’s Problem Child” is one of his best albums.

Produced by his longtime friend Buddy Cannon, “God’s Problem Child” is a record that celebrates Willie’s life, while looking over its shoulder at mortality. No, unfortunately, we are not going to live forever. But when we do cross the bar, I hope the next spot is as pleasant as the “Little House on The Hill” of which Willie sings in the album’s Southern gospel–tinged opener.

On the Donnie Fritts–penned “Old Timer,” Willie faces growing older and, hopefully, wiser. The line “Still got a lot of life and a song to sing” will hang around with you long after you’ve listened to the record.

Willie even says it himself in a song he co-wrote with Cannon — “Still Not Dead” — that even though the internet keeps killing him, he’s still not dead.

I saw Willie a couple months ago at the IP Casino Resort in Biloxi. I assure you he was alive, healthy and performing at a top level. He put on a great show.

Although he has one of the most instantly recognizable voices in music, and the same could be said about his guitar tone, that’s only two-thirds of what makes Willie’s unique sound, especially on “God’s Problem Child.” The other one-third of the sound is the harmonica playing of

Mickey Raphael. For more than 40 years, Raphael has been playing beside Willie, becoming one of the most sought-after musicians in country music. He’s played with everyone from Chris Stapleton to Motley Crue.

In an interview with the Sun Herald, Raphael, who was about to start a five-night residency with Willie at The Fillmore in San Francisco, reflects on Nelson’s latest album, which he said was “really special.”

For a fan of Willie’s work, “God’s Problem Child” ranks up there with “Teatro” as one of his best works.

I love it. It’s one of my favorites and it’s up there with “Teatro” and “Across The Borderline.” I just love the content. But the songs and the arrangements and the playing — it’s just one of my favorites.

You’ve told me you thought the album was “really special.” What made it so special for you?

I think the songs are age appropriate, too. I really like the Donnie Fritts song “Old Timer.” To me, that’s probably Willie looking in the mirror and seeing himself like he’s still 30 years old. It’s a great group of songs. We’ve worked with Buddy Cannon for a while now and he and Willie write well together.

Willie has always been prolific, especially with releasing albums. Is there already talk about the next album?

There’s probably two albums that are already done. We recorded a bunch of Merle Haggard songs and I’m not sure what’s going to happen with those. I also know he’s recorded some stuff with his sons.

You’ve played some pretty interesting gigs recently, including the Merle Haggard tribute and Stagecoach. Any standout moments from those shows?

Stagecoach was great. It’s at the same place Coachella is held. Margo Price and John Doe and Jamey Johnson came out and played with us. At the end, Neil Young walked out and grabbed a harmonica and we had a little harmonica duel.

I really like the new Rodney Crowell song, “It Ain’t Over Yet,” which also features you in the video. How did you land that?

I knew Rodney before I was playing with Willie. They cut the track in Nashville and they shot the video there and the director wanted me to be in it. When I went to shoot my scenes, I was there by myself.

The new Chris Stapelton album drops this week. Was it cool to play on “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning,” which you recorded with Willie in the early 1980s on the “Always on My Mind” album?

It was cool. Stapelton asked me to do it and he told me to just “do what I did” when I recorded it with Willie. I play on a couple of tracks on the new album and I’m on four cuts on the next album. I hope I get to do some more dates with him this year when I have some time off, but he’s been doing fine without me.