by: Jennifer Schuessler
Willie Nelson may have spent much of his life on the road, but a good part of his artistic remains will rest forever in Texas, thanks to a donation by the singer to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas in Austin.
The donation includes a major part of the singer’s personal collection, including posters, platinum records, signed books, screenplays and posters, and letters and photographs from figures including Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Bill Clinton and Ann Richards. There are also personal items like Indian headdresses and spirit catchers, along with numerous gifts and tributes from fans.
The Nelson collection, which will be opened to scholars after processing, joins the Briscoe Center’s substantial musical holdings, which include some 50,000 field and commercial recordings, the John A. Lomax Family Papers, and the archives of the Armadillo World Headquarters, a concert venue in Austin where Mr. Nelson, still relatively clean shaven, made his first appearance in 1972.
“Rednecks and hippies who had thought they were natural enemies began mixing at the Armadillo without too much bloodshed,” he wrote in his 1988 memoir. “They discovered they both liked good music. Pretty soon you saw a long-hair cowboy wearing hippie beads and a bronc rider’s belt buckle, and you were seeing a new type of person. Being a natural leader, I saw which direction this movement was going and threw myself in front of it.”