Archive for the ‘museums and collections’ Category

Willie Nelson: The Face of Texas (Photographs by Michael O’Brien) #theWitliffCollection

Sunday, January 25th, 2015


The Face of Texas is the Wittliff Collections’ first solo exhibition of work by one of America’s finest portrait photographers, Michael O’Brien.  From his latest book by the University of Texas Press, these images celebrate the individuality and independent spirit of Texans — from the rich and famous to ordinary folks — who’ve made their mark on the Lone Star State.  Among them are ranchers and farmers, conservationists, church members, bar owners, artists, schoolteachers, performers, writers, athletes, and business owners.

Each of the 48 photographs on view at the Wittliff Collections is accompanied by a narrative written by former Life reporter Elizabeth O’Brien.  This winning combination of portraits and stories about a fascininating, eclectic mix of Texans is a fitting homage to our unique state.

The Face of Texas is on view at the Wittliff Collections January 12 – May 15, 2015

Willie Nelson: Texas Icon (Briscoe Center for American History)

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015


Willie Nelson’s shoes

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Willie Nelson’s running shoes
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville, TN

Willie Nelson, Austin City Limits

Thursday, January 1st, 2015



This photo hangs on second floor of Austin City Live Moody Theater, part of a great historical, photographic exhibit of Austin City Limits.  You have to have a VIP ticket, or be member, to go to the mezzanine level to see it, though.

Texas Music Museum in Irving, TX to feature Willie Nelson memorabilia

Saturday, December 27th, 2014


photo:  Rose Baca

Clothes worn by Willie Nelson and other pieces of music memorabilia will be on display in the Texas Musicians Museum in Irving. The city is looking to start construction on the project in January.

Thomas Kreason has been fine-tuning the Texas Musicians Museum since 2004. It’s been a long road for Kreason, the museum’s director and curator. He has worked steadily to build up a Texas music memorabilia collection. He moved the museum from Hillsboro in 2007 to Waxahachie in 2010. But soon, the museum will open in what Kreason hopes is its next home: Irving. In October 2013, the Irving City Council approved a development agreement with Kreason.

The museum will occupy the former Toyota of Irving dealership at 222 E. Irving Blvd. in the Heritage Crossing area downtown. The 8,500-square-foot museum project was likely go out for bid around October or November, said Kevin Kass, who is the redevelopment and TIF administrator for the city of Irving development services. The city anticipates about 10 months to a year for construction, he said. Though the museum is beginning to pick up momentum, Kreason said, the wait has been challenging. “Hopefully, we’re going to be able to pick up the pace and make up for some of that time,” Kreason said.

Update: During the Oct. 23 Irving City Council meeting, the board awarded a contract for construction manager at-risk to Core Construction Services of Texas, Inc. During a special meeting on Dec. 18, the Council approved the guaranteed maximum price submitted by Core Construction Services of Texas, Inc. of $1,667,718 for building renovations of the Texas Musicians Museum.

The City Council also approved a lease agreement with Texas Music Group, LLC, D/B/A Texas Musicians Museum for use of the city building at 222 E. Irving Blvd. in Irving for $42,000 annually. The city is likely to start construction in January now that the GMP is approved. The original construction schedule was estimated for 10 months to a year. In bringing a construction manager on board already, that has drawings and pricings for the project, the city anticipates about a five months construction time schedule on the project, Kass said. “We still see this, and it is, a catalyst project for downtown in terms of bringing outside visitors to downtown, show them what we have going on downtown,” Kass said.

Willie Nelson exhibit, Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Janice and Kenneth made a trip to Nashville, and kindly sent these pictures of the Willie Nelson display at the Country Music Hall of Fame.


The Willie Nelson Story

Since the mid-1970s Willie Hugh Nelson has emerged as one of the most versatile, enduring, and influential talents in late twentieth-century country music. As a vocal stylist, songwriter, bandleader, and even occasional movie actor, Nelson’s long commercial reign (20 #1 hits and 114 chart singles between 1962 and 1993) has been outstripped only by his boundless energy as a performer and songwriter. Since the mid-1950s, his recorded output has been so vast as to confound all but the most dedicated discographers.

Growing up in central Texas, Nelson came under the influence of a wide diversity of abiding musical influences—not just the Grand Ole Opry stars of the day, but also more indigenous sounds: the Texas honky-tonk of Ernest Tubb, the western swing of Bob Wills, and even the German-American polka bands he often played in as a youth.

Nelson did a brief stint in the air force and married Martha Mathews (the first of four wives) in 1952. He played in various local Texas bands and worked as a DJ at stations in Texas and Vancouver, Washington, where, in the mid-1950s, he made his earliest self-released recordings.

Back in Texas in the late 1950s, Nelson worked at various day jobs and performed extensively in rough-and-tumble honky-tonks in the Houston area. He had begun writing songs as a little boy, and by the 1950s he was starting to turn out fully realized masterpieces such as “Night Life” (recorded by dozens of artists over the years, including Frank Sinatra) and “Family Bible.”

In 1960 Nelson relocated to Nashville, where he met songwriter Hank Cochran, who connected Nelson with Hal Smith and his Pamper Music publishing house. Nelson soon blossomed as one of Music City’s most gifted and prolific writers. “Crazy” (first popularized by Patsy Cline), “Funny How Time Slips Away” (a hit for Billy Walker), and “Hello Walls” (Faron Young) are a few of the best known of his compositions from the early 1960s. In 1963 Nelson married his second wife, Shirley Collie (ex-wife of Biff Collie).

In 1962 Nelson signed his first major label recording contract, with Liberty Records. In that same year his first two singles—“Touch Me” and “Willingly” (a duet with Shirley Collie)—reached the country Top Ten. In November 1964 he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Yet despite numerous single and album releases on Liberty and then RCA Records, it would not be until 1975 that Nelson reached the Top Ten again. His wiry baritone and his manner of phrasing—singing slightly ahead of or behind the beat, which was something he learned listening to Frank Sinatra and other pop singers—were just a bit too far off the beaten path of 1960s mainstream Nashville conventions.

In 1970, with his second marriage over and his house destroyed by fire, Nelson moved back to Texas. He was already a popular performer in his home state, and the looser, more progressive musical atmosphere of Austin proved a freer milieu in which his music could evolve and flourish.

An iconoclast and something of a gypsy, Nelson, a former door-to-door salesman, has always been a brilliant, unabashed self-promoter. Thus it was with great earnestness, much foresight, and a dash of calculation that he developed a countercultural persona replete with long hair, earrings, and worn-out denim, and began courting the youthful audience that had already enabled southern rock to grow from a grassroots phenomenon to a national craze. Allying himself with longtime friend and fellow musician Waylon Jennings, Nelson began laying the groundwork of what, by the mid-1970s, would explode into country music’s Outlaw movement.

In 1973 Nelson was signed to Atlantic Records’ fledgling country division by Jerry Wexler. Nelson recorded a pair of vivid and surprisingly rustic concept albums, Shotgun Willie and Phases and Stages, for the label, as well as a gospel album, The Troublemaker. Though the singles from these LPs had minimal impact in the charts and the sales were modest, they were still respectable and the critical reception warm.

On July 4, 1973, Nelson held his first annual Willie Nelson Picnic in Dripping Springs, Texas. Within a few years, the festival, with its star-studded cast of Nashville and Texas artists, would become a national media event in and of itself (“Woodstock South of the Brazos” was one writer’s description), thus affording Nelson still more exposure.

One of Nelson’s many creative high-water marks and his first real commercial breakthrough came with The Red Headed Stranger. This 1975 concept album was recorded in a small Texas studio on a shoestring budget. Some of the executives at Columbia Records, Nelson’s label at this time, balked at releasing it. (Its raw minimalism, to them, suggested a mere demo record.) Yet it ultimately became the first of many million sellers Nelson would enjoy during the 1970s. From it also came Nelson’s first #1 single, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” ironically not a song written by Nelson but an ethereal version of a 1945 Fred Rose composition.

Another milestone came in 1976 with the release of Wanted! The Outlaws. This compilation album, released by RCA, Nelson’s former label, cleverly repackaged old recordings by Nelson and Jennings, as well as erstwhile Outlaw musician Tompall Glaser and Jennings’s wife, singer Jessi Colter. The Outlaws also quickly became country music’s first LP to be certified platinum (indicating sales of 1 million copies) by the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) and helped boost both Jennings’s and Nelson’s national recognition to the point that they were often paired in the public imagination as Waylon & Willie, incidentally the title of one of their LPs. Their #1 country duets include “Good Hearted Woman” (1975) and “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” (1978).

Though Nelson has made many fine recordings both before and since, the 1970s constituted his creative and commercial zenith. One of his many uncommon musical gifts has been his ability to assimilate and interpret many different American popular musical styles within the steadfast dimensions of his own rustic yet fluid baritone and his bedrock rural Texas musical instincts. An example of his versatility is seen in his 1977 LP, To Lefty From Willie, a heartfelt salute to country star Lefty Frizzell and a tribute to Nelson’s own Texas honky-tonk roots. Predictably unpredictable, Nelson followed with Stardust (1978), an inspired collection of classic pop songs that eventually sold 4 million copies and that is still considered one of his all-time best works.

In the late 1970s, at the height of his stardom, Nelson ventured into feature films and proved a competent actor as well. He played a supporting role with Robert Redford in The Electric Horseman (1979) and went on to play the lead in Honeysuckle Rose (1980), The Songwriter (1984) (with Kris Kristofferson), and Red Headed Stranger (1987). In the western Barbarosa (1982), with actor Gary Busey, Nelson even earned accolades from Vincent Canby, film critic of The New York Times. Television films in which Nelson has starred include Where The Hell’s The Gold (1988) and Once Upon a Texas Train (1988).

Unsurprisingly, Nelson’s immense creativity and ambition have, at times, wreaked havoc with his personal life. He and his third wife, Connie Koepke, whom he married in 1971, were divorced in 1988. In 1991 he married his fourth and present wife, Ann-Marie D’Angelo. By the early 1990s, he had accumulated millions of dollars in debt to the Internal Revenue Service (he has since erased his tax burden), and in the same period of time, his son, Billy, took his own life.

Yet Nelson’s passion for music-making has yet to wane. Now in his seventies, he has continued recording and performing with the energy of a man half his age. In 1993, he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. His duets with Lee Ann Womack (the Grammy- and CMA-award-winning “Mendocino County Line,” 2002) and Toby Keith (“Beer for my Horses,” 2003), and his creative collaboration with producer Matt Serletic and Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas (“Maria [Shut Up and Kiss Me],” 2002) extended his tenure on the country singles chart.

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) presented Nelson with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. A star-studded concert in Nashville in 2002, recorded and released as Willie Nelson & Friends: Stars & Guitars, and a second in New York in 2003, issued as Willie Nelson & Friends: Live and Kickin’ paid tribute to Nelson and his inspiring example. Both were telecast on cable TV. As of 2003, the Farm Aid concerts begun in 1985 by Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young had raised over $24 million to benefit family farming in the U.S.

– Bob Allen
Adapted from the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s Encyclopedia of Country Music, published by Oxford University Press.

Willie Nelson at grand opening of new exhibit: “Living Legend of Willie Nelson” (11/7/14)

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

rbz Willie DKR Exhibit 02
photo: Ralph Barrera

The Briscoe Center for American History has created a display honoring the Living Legend in Willie Nelson with an exhibit inside the Red McCombs Red Zone within the north endzone of the Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium on the University of Texas campus. Nelson arrived to a ceremony opening the exhibit Friday night November 7, 2014 with Don Carleton, Executive Director of the Biscoe Center, who are the curators of an extensive Willie Nelson collection. (


“It was a wonderful night at the Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium UT Texas,
celebrating a Texas Icon Willie “Papa Bear” Nelson. With the Armstrong and the Nelson family.”

— Paula Nelson



Paula Nelson, and her nephew Zack


Paula Nelson and Shannon Armstrong


Willie Nelson portrait by Jack Lardis going to Willie Nelson Museum

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

A portrait of Willie Nelson by Beacon Falls artist Jack Lardis is being donated to the Willie Nelson Museum in Nashville, Tenn. After many meetings with Nelson and numerous studies, Lardis arrived at a dramatic profile of the iconic musician. In 2009, it was presented to Nelson, who liked it well enough to sign the back of the painting at Waterbury’s Palace Theater before a concert.

Lardis met Nelson in 1993 when he had an advertising agency and his client, Jose Cuervo, sponsored 100 “Willie and Family” concerts over a two-year period. The campaign required in-person approval by Nelson of all creative materials and Lardis came to know him and his daughter, Lana.

Recently Lardis donated the painting to the Willie Nelson Museum, where it will be on display with a wall of gold and platinum records and awards, photographs of his country music friends, a replica of his original tour bus, Honeysucke Rose, and other history and memorabilia.

Willie Nelson Donates Collection to the University of Texas

Sunday, May 18th, 2014
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.”

Willie Nelson Collection at Wittliff Collections, Texas State University

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University’s Alkek Library has acquired an extensive collection of iconic singer, songwriter and bandleader Willie Nelson’s recordings and papers.

Acquired from a fan and consummate collector of Nelson’s work, John Kalinsky, the collection spans 1954 to 2010 and contains 877 recordings, including 45s, LPs, audio cassettes, VHS tapes, CDs, and DVDs.  These materials represent a significant addition to the Wittliff’s Willie Nelson holdings of handwritten song lyrics, screenplays, letters, concert programs, tour itineraries, posters, articles, clippings, personal effects, and memorabilia reflecting Nelson’s success as a concert artist, as well as a handmade songbook created by Nelson when he was around eleven years old.

Featuring recordings under Nelson’s leadership as well as tracks on which he is a producer, guest musician, or songwriter, the collection represents Nelson’s enormous output and collaboration with various musicians. The oldest recordings are two 45s by Dave Isbell from 1954, on which Nelson plays guitar, released by Sarg Records, a small label from Luling. The collection also contains Nelson’s first single released under his own name, “No Place for Me” backed with “Lumberjack,” recorded in Vancouver, Wash., while Nelson was working as a disc jockey.

Also included are deluxe-edition CDs of Nelson’s classic albums as well as box sets with extensive liner notes, recording and session information, and previously unreleased performances. There are also live recordings, including a DVD documentary on Willie’s 4th of July Picnic in 1974—a carnival-like affair emceed by Leon Russell with performances by Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker and others.

With this new acquisition, the Wittliff Collections become the nation’s primary repository of Willie Nelson materials.

The Wittliff Collections at Texas State

A Guide to the Willie Nelson Collection, 1975-1994, n.d. (not including new acquisitions):

Inventory Acquisition:  donated by Willie Nelson, Bill and Sally Wittliff, and Jody Fischer from 1988 through 1995.

Access:  Direct inquiries to the Archivist, Southwestern Writer’s Collection, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas 78666-4604
Processed by:  Gwyneth Cannan, February 1995; Inventory revised by Brandy Harris, 2005.

Grand Ole Opry Stars in Person: George Jones and Willie Nelson

Saturday, October 26th, 2013


Thank you Willie Nelson and Friends Museum and General Store, for sharing this poster from their collection.

Follow the Museum on FaceBook, and see more great photos.

Willie Nelson in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Friday, December 7th, 2012

img794 by you.

Willie’s Here! A new multi-media exhibit brings you face-to-face with the colorful life and career of Willie Nelson from his Texas boyhood to his country superstar status, Hollywood films, and privatemoments.

Plus Elvis Presley’s Cadillac, a visit to the most historic recording studio in Music City, rare films, colorful costumes and Nashville’s most complete country music gift shop.

America’s Favorite Music Museum
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
4 Music Square East
Nashville, TN 37203

Willie Nelson Bandanna featured in new Grammy Exhibit featuring history of Columbia Records (Hollywood, CA)

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

The archive is opening in conjunction with the museum’s newest exhibit, this one surveying the 125-year history of Columbia Records, a show that’s also packed with pop-music artifacts.

Among the items: a pair of Johnny Cash’s boots and his lyrics for the song “Cry, Cry, Cry”; Bob Dylan letters and lyrics; a jacket and trumpet that belonged to Miles Davis; jewelry worn by Billie Holiday; a tie and letter from Louis Armstrong; one of Barbra Streisand’s dresses; a Willie Nelson bandanna; stage sketches and lyrics from Public Enemy’s Chuck D.; one of Pete Seeger’s banjos; and a trombone played by New Orleans jazz pioneer Kid Ory.
by:  Aaron Williams

Deep within the high-security Iron Mountain storage facility in Hollywood, where nearly every doorway except for the restroom is protected by a security-card swipe lock, sits the Grammy Museum’s permanent collection of pop music artifacts, recordings and memorabilia.

Hundreds of 10-inch 78 rpm discs — some from Thomas Edison’s record label — reside in archival boxes on 20-foot-long metal shelves, near antique radios and phonograph players, musical instruments, posters and some celebrity fashion items stored out of sight in sturdy garment bags.

Vintage synthesizers in their original cases take up a shelf right below three distinctively different accordions, an instrument Mark Twain famously dubbed “the stomach Steinway.”

The Grammy Museum may have opened a little less than four years ago in downtown’s L.A. Live entertainment complex, but it’s already looking at myriad new ways to store and exhibit its extensive collection of music history.

“People offer to donate things, but until we had someplace to properly store and preserve them, we’ve had to turn a lot of those offers down,” executive director Robert Santelli said last Friday during a walk-through of the museum’s growing archive.

“We have to be able to safely store the items, insure them — and be sure we can make them accessible to the public at some point, because we are an educational museum,” he said. “We’re working without an acquisition budget, so we have to rely on donations.”

Grammy Museum assistant curator Ali Stuebner slipped on a pair of white cotton gloves to peek under the lid of a 4-foot-tall 1920s-vintage Edison phonograph resting against one of the storage space’s bunker-like concrete walls, and to show a visitor one of two old (but well cared for) piano accordions donated by squeeze-box virtuoso Ernie Felice. She later riffled through a couple of large boxes, each holding perhaps thousands of 5-by-7-inch white notecards collected from one of Yoko Ono’s wishing trees, a project for which passersby were invited to complete the thought “Imagine a world …” in their own words and / or drawings.

It’s gems like these that caused the museum to enter into a partnership with Iron Mountain about 18 months ago, the company providing the storage space about six months later.

The Grammy Museum’s spot in the massive building is modest: It’s a repository of about 900 air-conditioned square feet, compact compared with some of Iron Mountain’s 800 other entertainment-world clients, whose holdings fill a 10,000-square-foot floor of the 14-story building. (more…)

Willie Nelson’s Sneakers

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Willie’s Sneakers Come Home

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum received a pair of size 9 tennis shoes and a well-worn headband from Willie Nelson.  The museum encourages artists to donate items that the public will recognize.  These are no exceptions.


by Robert K. Oermann THe Tennesseen 10/16/1985

Nashville gets its first look at the new Willie Nelson Museum exhibit this morning and yesterday “The Red-Headed Stranger,” himself, toured his tribute for the first time.

After the tourists left yesterday afternoon, Nelson entered the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum with Country Music Foundation director Bil Ivey, CMF president Frances Preston and CBS Records Nashville chief Rick Blackburn to view the display that chronicles his fabulous career.  The Country Music Foundation operates the Hall of Fame and Museum.

The easy-going country-pop superstar was pleased with what he saw.

As he wandered through the display with wife Connie and the executives, Nelson began reminising about his life.

The new exhibit begins with Nelson’s boyhood in Abbott, Texas.  “My grandparents raised sister Bobbie and me,” he said, gazing at a photo of his relatives.

Connie smiled at a childhood photo of her husband and observed that the children have his freckles.

Nelson turned to his companions and said, “See my football picture from highschool?  You should have seen our football field.  Rocks all over it.”

When he moved into the section that described his early professional career, he reminisced about some of the early nightclubs he worked in as a teenager.

The Nashville segment of the display features early records and sheet music.  “I talked to (Pamper Music publishing founder) Hal Smith today.  He’s still there in the same building.”

“Hank Cochran and I were in the studio co-writing with a couple of guitars one day, back there (behind Pamper) with no windows.  I got the idea for Hello Walls there.  But Hank got up to get a phone call.  By the time he got back I was finished.  I said, ‘Sorry, Hank.’”

The song became Nelson’s first big Music City hit as a tunesmith.Â

Later during the tour, Nelson joked about golfing when he got to the display of his personalized bag and clubs.

Ivey and Preston described the idea behind the new exhibit to Nelson and told him that Wrangler is financing the new display.

The Willie Nelson exhibit replaces the one devoted to Dolly Parton.  Unlike the show devoted to the buxum blonde, this one is heavily dependent on photos rather than memorabilia.

It will remain on display duing the next two years at the museum, which is right behind Opryland. The Grand Ole Opry is Nashville’s most visited tourist attraction.

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Willie Nelson’s running shoes
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville, TN