Archive for the ‘News and Reviews’ Category

Willie Nelson, at KVAN in Vancouver, Washington

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016
Legendary singer/songwriter Willie Nelson poses for a publicity photo as "Texas Willie" in 1957 that used to promote his "Western Express" radio show on KVAN in Vancouver. In his early 20s, Nelson moved to the area from Texas and recorded his first record, "No Place to Go," at the station.

Legendary singer/songwriter Willie Nelson poses for a publicity photo as “Texas Willie” in 1957 that used to promote his “Western Express” radio show on KVAN in Vancouver. In his early 20s, Nelson moved to the area from Texas and recorded his first record, “No Place to Go,” at the station.

During Willie Nelson’s time in Vancouver in the late 1950s, he was a “cotton-pickin’, snuff-dippin’, tobacca-chewin’, stump-jumpin’, gravy-soppin’, coffee-pot-dodgin’, dumplin-eatin’, frog-giggin’, hillbilly from Hill County, Texas.”

That was how legendary singer-songwriter introduced himself every day on his “Western Express” radio show on KVAN, broadcast from Vancouver. After becoming a star as a teenage disc jockey in his birthplace of Texas, Nelson hit the road and settled for a few years in Vancouver.

Nelson, who wrote classic songs such as “Crazy” and “On the Road Again,” reminisced about his time as a DJ in the Pacific Northwest during a visit this month to Howard Stern’s satellite radio show. As a 23-year-old, Nelson became a hit on the local airwaves; he even had his own fan club, he told Stern and his millions of SiriusXM listeners.

“Those were the days when you could go in and grab a handful of records and sit down and have your own show, play what you want,” Nelson said. He had to correct Stern when the radio host mistakenly said Nelson was a Portland DJ.

“Vancouver, Wash., right across the river,” Nelson corrected.

If you’ve been around a few years, you might recall three portraits of Nelson painted on the side of 704 Main St. as a reminder of the superstar who once walked the same streets. Those murals have since been painted over.

Nelson’s second daughter was born in Vancouver and he bought his first home here. His mom lived in Portland.

Nelson got $40 a week for his daily show, which eventually ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It wasn’t huge money — $40 in the mid-1950s is about $350 in today’s dollars — but Nelson said it was a platform to promote his gigs and hawk his early recordings.

The outlaw country star recorded his first single, “No Place For Me,” using the station’s equipment, eventually selling about 3,000 copies. His star was quickly rising, so Nelson demanded a steep raise, which didn’t go over so well. He quit and it was, yes, on the road again.

His career really took off after he left Vancouver and immersed himself in the country music scene, first as a successful songwriter and then as a performer.

On KVAN, Nelson made a few extra bucks by using the airwaves to promote concerts for other performers, he told Stern, though he never got any big “payola” payoffs, an illegal practice of paying for airplay that was common in the burgeoning rock ‘n’ roll era.

“I was looking for the payola, but I never got any,” Nelson laughed.

Now, nearly 60 years later, the 81-year-old Nelson is still at it; last week, he released “Band of Brothers,” his 48th full-length album.

Though he was only a temporary Vancouver resident, Nelson has fond memories of his time in the Northwest. Before his concert in Portland in 1980, Nelson spent hours on his tour bus chatting with friends Leo and Marsie Erickson. Leo was an engineer on KVAN when Nelson was there and the two bonded. At the Portland show, according to a Columbian article from that time, Nelson wore Leo’s cowboy hat on stage and gave a special shout-out to his “two old friends” from Vancouver.

Nelson gave back to his former home on June 30, 2007 with a $40,000 donation to Vancouver following a concert at the Sleep Country Amphitheater, in Ridgefield, Washington (north of Portland).

Texassherif lover lud og koldt vand til Nelson

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Den 77-årige amerikanske countrystjerne Willie Nelson har i årevis talt varmt og godt om legaliseringen af hash, og det kan måske derfor ikke undre, at sangeren forleden blev taget i at køre rundt med hash i sin turbus.

Men sheriffen, der tog Nelson på fersk gerning, har åbenbart fået nok af sangerens liberale holdning til rusmidlet.

»Han kan få 180 dage i det lokale fængsel«, siger Texassheriffen Arvin West ifølge den britiske avis The Guardian.

»Og hvis han får det, sætter jeg ham til at lave mad og gøre rent«.

Willie Nelson, der dog foreløbig er på fri fod mod kaution, kender rummelen, da han tidligere er blevet arresteret for hashbesiddelse.

Willie Nelson: The Great Divide

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

by:  Pat Blashill

Sunny and uplifting are not words generally associated with Willie Nelson, but that’s not the only reason some will be surprised by his new album. Organized loosely around duets with younger stars and a Cyndi Lauper cover, The Great Divide is glossy, tuneful and turned up to ten — which would constitute a triumph for another artist. But Nelson is a performer who uses plain, powerful lyrics and a handsome but unvarnished voice to great effect. Much of that gets lost in the adult-contemporary production goop and heavenly choirs of “Be There for You” (Sheryl Crow is in there somewhere as well, but you wouldn’t know it).

The superbly hummable “Mendocino County Line,” written by that old ranch hand Bernie Taupin, is better, pairing Nelson’s crooked and rusty voice with Lee Ann Womack’s honey-covered chirp. Ironically for an album that may be a nod to Carlos Santana’s collaborative smash Supernatural, the best moments here are the ones in which Nelson just does his thing all by his bad self. On the menacing, swaggering mean-man shuffle of “Just Dropped In,” he croons like a philosopher-poet who has been poisoning the well at Leonard Cohen’s ashram. And the troubled Spanish acoustica of the title song makes it clear Nelson never needed the young blood that appears elsewhere on the record: Nelson’s sound is so deep, so sad yet unapologetic, that he can make a lyric about the summer sun seem as dark and cold as a meditation on the Arctic.

Waylon and Willie due at ChicagoFest (August 8, 9 1979)

Thursday, January 14th, 2016


Two big stars for ChicagoFest will be country music singers Waylon Jennings on August 8 and Wiie Nelson on Aug. 9.  Willie, who likes only Southern cooking, is bringing his own chuckwagon and chef.  Joe drives the chuckwagon with his motorhome behind it.    The rock group Kiss will perform at the international Amphitheater on Sept. 22.


Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard add new dates to 2016 Tour

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016


Willie and Merle Haggard have announced four new show dates. Tickets go on sale to the public Friday, January 15th.

Premium Packages and Fan Club Presale Tickets go on sale Tuesday, January 12th @ 10am venue time.

O’Reilly Event Center in Springfield, MO
Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence, MO
Hartman Arena in Park City, KS
Enid Event Center in Enid, OK
You can access your fan club presale tickets by using your unique presale code, found after you login to the Fan Club website.

If you have any questions or difficulty participating in the pre-sales, please reach out to and they will be happy to assist you!

Willie Nelson and Charley Pride in Cut and Shoot

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

cut n shoot
by: William Michael Smith

Willie Nelson’s Conroe buddy Larry Butler was not only a performer, he also ran a series of clubs in the area over the past 50 years, including Willie Nelson’s Night Life on FM 1960 during Willie’s IRS problem years.

And while Butler has some fond memories of IRS agents hanging around Willie’s Night Life gigs waiting to garnish the singer’s pay, he thinks maybe one of the most exciting — and trying — times he had in the club business was when he owned a joint on Highway 105 in Cut and Shoot called Pat’s Longhorn Ballroom.

Along with Vidor, Cut and Shoot and nearby Conroe were long known as strong East Texas redoubts of the Ku Klux Klan and the segregationist movement. Cut and Shoot was also notorious for its “Hanging Bridge.”

“Willie calls me and says he’s got this guy who’s been doing some shows with him who’s great and that I need to book him,” says Butler. “Willie and I both had this love for Hank Williams and, according to Willie, this fellow was as good at doing a Hank Williams song as anyone he’d ever seen.

This fellow was Charley Pride and, Butler says, “finally, Willie got around to telling me that Charley was a black man.”

Butler told Nelson he must be crazy to think he could book an African-American into Pat’s Longhorn.

“But Willie kept telling me ‘this guy is going to be huge, Larry, and you’re going to love him.’ So Pat [Butler’s wife] and I talked it over and decided to try it.”

“It wasn’t long before word got out that we’d scheduled a black singer at the club, and all hell broke loose,” recalls Butler. “I got death threats, people saying they were going to burn the club down, just all kinds of crazy stuff.



“Mind you, country music was 100 percent white in those days, and this was before Charley’s label put out any promotional photos or anything like that. So even though he’d already had a little radio success, no one really knew what Charley Pride looked like.

“I was so worried about the deal that I hired the Chief of Police and three deputies to work security that night. We also had seven Liquor Control Board agents come in to help us. So when Charley got there, they took him around to the back and got him safely inside.

“But the crowd was rowdy and hollering, acting up, and I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen. I had the Liquor Board agents and the policemen line up in front of the stage between Charley and the crowd.”

“My band was backing Charley up that night, and he’d brought along his own steel player. Well, it finally came time for Charley to go onstage and we introduced him. When he walked out, the tension was just incredible.


“But Charley just looked out at them and said something like ‘howdy, folks, I know I’ve got a mighty dark suntan, I got it picking cotton down in Sledge, Mississippi. I hope you don’t mind if I sing a few country songs for you.’ And then he kicked off into Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues” and folks were just blown away.

“I looked over at the policemen and said ‘don’t worry, he’s got ’em now.’ But I was sure glad when that night was over.

How Willie Nelson & Charley Pride Integrated East Texas
“After the show, Pat called down to this place in Conroe called the White Hut to tell them to expect 30 or 40 of us down there to eat. Now back in those days only whites sat in the front at restaurants in Conroe. Everybody else ate at little room off the back,” says Butler.

“So we walked in with Charley, and the manager immediately comes over and says that she can’t seat him with us, that he’d have to eat in the rear. Well, I said ‘no, he’s not gonna sit in the back.’ And I explained to her who he was, that he’d just played our club and that if he couldn’t sit with us we’d take our business elsewhere.

“She went in the back and they talked it over, and she finally told us it would be alright if Charley sat between Pat and I. So we all settled in and, as I recall, we all ate chicken fried steak and had a great meal. And there was no problem.

“Funny thing was, the White Hut started letting people sit anywhere they wanted right after that, so that night we sort of broke things down for that whole way of doing things,” Butler surmises.

But Butler wasn’t done with Charley Pride. He was so impressed with Pride’s show that he partnered with Nelson to arrange for Pride to play the now-legendary Panther Hall in Fort Worth.

“We went up there about three or four weeks later [late 1967] and cut Charley Pride In Person. And if you listen closely, you can hear Charley tell a brief story about that night outside Conroe.”


Charley Pride performed his hits at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic in 2014.

The album is often ranked as one of the top country music albums ever recorded.

Not long after, Butler tried to book Pride into the huge and highly popular north Houston honky-tonk DanceTown USA.

“But the owner, he wouldn’t let me book him because he said he would bring colored people in and he didn’t want that. Well, I argued with him for a while and he finally said ‘OK, if you want to take the chance, we’re closed on Sundays so I’ll let you book him in here on a Sunday night.’

“So I booked Charley and we charged $3 a ticket. I paid Charley $300, and I felt positive that it would be a money-maker. Well, he packed that place, and that pretty much opened the doors of every club in town for Charley. He used to work Houston a lot after that.

“And the funny thing was, only one black guy showed up for that show. It was Stoney Edwards.”

Edwards would go on to become of the few successful black artists in country music. Pride is in the Country Music Hall of Fame and is a regular in Branson, Missouri these days.

Larry Butler and band play Tuts in Conroe 8 p.m Saturday, January 29. Willie Nelson & Family play Verizon Wireless Theater Friday, February 4.

Read article here:

Willie Nelson, “Red Headed Stranger” (Review) (8/28/75)

Friday, January 8th, 2016

by:  Paul Nelson
August 28, 1975

When Teddy Roosevelt claimed loneliness a quintessential ingredient of our national character, he hit the psychic bull’s-eye, ringing up images of pragmatic pioneers, existential outlaws and a long line of heroes who dreamt of the purity of their youth even as they drew their guns to eliminate it. “There are no second acts in American lives,” someone once said, and a cursory glance at our gods — the cowboy/desperado, the gangster/detective, the movie star/rock & roller — whose lifestyles generally suggest either early and unnatural death or obsolescence, easily reinforces such a statement. To the quiet American, violence, like the perpetual but unreal motion of life on the road, seems to serve as solicitous coin in the realm of the solitary survivor, some kind of necessary stopgap and occupation while a man waits in the sanctified state of loneliness for something to happen, someone to come along or return, his vague search to end.

From Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid to Dirty Harry Callahan, the mythic American hero is a man, almost always womanless, who has somehow been trapped in that curious nether world between comic innocence and tragic experience; unable or unwilling to make a choice, he can at best (or worst) embrace either adjective, neither noun. He has known happiness once, lost it, and now nothing will help. For the sentimental there is Christianity, the “official” solace, itself an uncanny mixture of loneliness and violence, sexlessness and death, its hero a lost and forsaken son slain only to rise again with the promise of a glorious but distant new childhood in exchange for a worn out, hopeless past. It is small wonder that most Americans worship no god except their own lost innocence, have had, in fact, to rely on popular literature, films and music to provide a plausible and workable archetypal “religion,” that is more Jungian than Freudian.

Veteran country singer/songwriter Willie Nelson knows all of this — and much more. His Red Headed Stranger is extraordinarily ambitious, cool, tightly controlled. A phonographic Western movie which brilliantly evokes the mythopoeic imagery of McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Shane and the works of John Ford, the album traces the life of a Montana cowboy who finds his true love with another man, kills both of them and later another woman, then drifts through Denver dance halls into old age, forever unable to cut his early loss but managing in the final years of his life a moving, believable and not unwarranted synthesis of all he has missed. The narrative may not sound especially promising or unusual — like most fables, it is, after all, the same old story: That is its point — but in Nelson’s hands, its hard-won simplicity calls forth the same complex and profound metaphysical responses as those brought about by the matter-of-fact awesomeness of the Rocky Mountains. Hemingway, who perfected an art of sharp outlines and clipped phrases, used to say that the full power of his composition was accessible only between the lines; and Nelson, on this LP, ties precise, evocative lyrics to not quite remembered, never really forgotten folk melodies to create a similar effect, haunting yet utterly unsentimental. That he did not write much of the material makes his accomplishment no less singular.

Red Headed Stranger, not unlike Dylan’s much underrated Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid soundtrack, is concerned with great universals; its heroic songs, somewhat reminiscent in mood of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and the magnificent instrumental anthems (particularly “Final Theme”) of the latter album, seem both vulnerable and inevitable, strapped to the lifeline, equally suitable for weddings or funerals. “It was a time of the Preacher,” Stranger begins, and with this life-and-death invocation, the once Edenic West becomes a land populated by fallen innocents (“My eyes filled with tears and I must have aged ten years/I couldn’t believe it was true”) who deal out Biblical revenge (“Now the lesson is over and the killin’s begun”) less in anger than in a state of agonized confusion:

Don’t cross him, don’t boss him
He’s wild in his sorrow
Ridin’ and hidin’ his pain
Don’t fight him, don’t spite him
Just wait till tomorrow
Maybe he’ll ride on again.

When the killing comes, it is quick, hypnotic and terrible in its finality (“And they smiled at each other as he walked through the door/And they died with their smiles on their faces”), the belligerent bullets almost an afterthought, transient, symptomatic explosions in a field of loneliness (“He bought her a drink and gave her some money/He just didn’t seem to care/ … He shot her so quick they had no time to warn her”). The stranger has reached the penultimate point in his journey, but with omniscient irony the century rolls on:

It was the time of the Preacher
In the year of ’01
And just when you think it’s all over
It’s only begun.

On side two, cyclic catharsis begins, its inception again ironic. The wanderer enters a tavern, is drawn to a woman, but this time the lovers dance “with their smiles on their faces.” “Can I sleep in your arms tonight, lady?” the cowboy asks, adding “I assure you I’ll do you no harm.” Life’s verities seem ambiguous (“It’s the same old song — it’s right and it’s wrong/And livin’ is just something I do”) as the hero ages. Stranger ends with an image reminiscent of the final tableau of Bergman’s Wild Strawberries: Time, memory and expectations have magically fused, transitory people have somehow become luminous legends, happiness has been found.

And in the shade of an oak down by the river
Sat an old man and a boy
Settin’ sails, spinnin’ tales and fishin’ for whales
With a lady they both enjoy.

I can’t remember when a record has taken such a hold on me.

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Willie Nelson to Headline Luck Banquet on his ranch in Texas (Mar. 18, 2016)

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

by:  Kory Grow

Willie Nelson will headline a daylong festival, dubbed the Luck Banquet, at his Luck, TX ranch in the spring. The festival, which will showcase 20 country, rock, folk and soul artists who will be announced at a later date, will also feature food by Austin chefs and a boutique where locals can sell their wares. The event will take place on March 18th. Tickets go on sale Friday at noon CST on the festival website.

“We welcome you all to Luck,” Nelson tells Rolling Stone. “Either you’re in Luck or you’re out of Luck.”

The ranch served as the setting of the singer’s Red Headed Stranger movie in 1986. The Banquet, which occurs during South by Southwest, will take place on two stages: in a revival tent next to the chapel and on a main stage overlooking the front porch of the singer’s “world headquarters.” The festival will begin in the tent, where artists will partake in a collaborative “song-swap set,” according to organizers, in the style of Heartworn Highways Revisited, the sequel to the 1976 movie about outlaw country.

“We believe that the best way to honor the true Americana story is by embracing the spirit of the movement and harboring a community that pushes boundaries – celebrating the wild, gritty and ultimately beautiful work of artists we love,” a spokesperson for Luck Productions said in a statement. “The support of Willie, and the opportunity to revive ‘Luck’ as an artistic gathering place, is a gift.”

On the night before the concert, Luck, TX will also host another kind of feast: Chef’s Pot Luck. It will offer attendees a multi-course meal made by what producers promise to be all-star chefs, and it will benefit Wholesome Wave, an organization that helps low-income families get fresh, locally grown food. Nelson is also set to perform.

Willie Nelson, best singer (Country Gazette Award)

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016


Willie Nelson & Linda Ronstadt (Dec. 13, 1974)

Monday, December 28th, 2015


Thanks for the clipping, Phil Weisman.

Willie Nelson honored by United States Library of Congress

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

photo:  Library of Congress
by:  Nancy Dunham

Willie Nelson was quiet for a few beats after he stepped onto the red tapestry carpet that covered part of the gleaming light wood stage where a dozen world-class musicians had just performed renditions of his songs on Nov. 18 during the Gershwin Prize tribute.

“Thank you so much for a wonderful evening. This is one of the greatest things that has happened to me in my life,” said Willie, the first country musician to receive the award, from center stage at Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. where a crowd has gathered the evening of Nov.18 to honor one of the most talented American songwriters and performers of a generation. “A lot of great things have happened to me in 82 years, but this is one of the best . . . And I want to thank the artists who outdid themselves playing songs, some of which I actually remember.”

The Red-Headed Stranger was surely joking about his memory, but it would be easy to understand if some of the songs played by the A-list musicians were somewhat distant memories from his 60-year career that has found him playing country, jazz, blues, folk, rock, and even reggae and show tunes.

The wealth of genres he has recorded isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows him or attended the tribute that included renditions of some of his most-loved songs including: “Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)” (Neil Young and Promise of the Real, the band lead by Willie’s son Lukas Nelson); “Remember Me” (Edie Brickell and Paul Simon); and “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” (Alison Krauss).

Grammy Award winner and alt-country pioneer Raul Malo, who performed a soul-stirring rendition of “Crazy,” said that Willie’s love for all forms of music is obvious to anyone who steps onto his bus.

“I was on his bus one afternoon and [was struck by the fact that] sitting across from me were Ray Price and Hank Cochran, two of the most influential songwriters [in the world]. That was just an incredible afternoon,” said Raul, adding that Willie’s bus is always filled with music even if legendary songwriters aren’t in attendance. “He loves Big Band music. Anytime you walk on his bus, you’ll likely find he’s listening Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey. You probably wouldn’t think he’d be listening to those [artists] but it’s beautiful.”

Even though Willie’s attitude is as young as those born decades after him, Nelson is a child of the Great Depression. Soon after getting his first guitar at age 6, the young Texan began writing his own songs. After service in the U.S. Air Force, attending Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and working odd jobs including selling encyclopedias door to door, he moved to Nashville to carve his musical path. One of his big breaks came in 1963, when Ray Price recorded his song “Night Life,” which became the first of countless Willie-written and -performed hits.

And those hits were fully realized during the 90-minute musical tribute. Although Willie has received a plethora of awards for his work as one of the greatest American songwriters, the Gershwin award seemed to hold special meaning for him and his wife Annie D’Angelo Nelson.

The couple, elegantly dressed in black evening attire, held hands and occasionally whispered to each other during the tribute, but spent most of the evening intently watching the performers from their secluded balcony seats before heartily applauding at the conclusion of each performance.

As the evening drew to a close Willie took the stage to perform some of his own songs including “Living in the Promiseland” with performers including his sons Michah and Lukas, a charming duet of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” with Cyndi Lauper, and “On the Road Again” with all of those who performed during the tribute.

The show is scheduled to be televised on PBS on Jan. 15.

Willie Nelson and Kacey Musgraves launch BMI Maui Songwriter’s Festival

Friday, December 18th, 2015
photo:  Rebecca Adler Rotenberg

In what sounds like the definition of the best time ever, the BMI Maui Songwriters Festival took over the Hawaiian island last week, transporting signature Nashville traditions like in-the-round guitar pulls to the Pacific.

Kacey Musgraves and Willie Nelson played the kick-off party, bringing to life the collaboration that’s featured on “Are You Sure” on Kacey’s Pageant Material album. Thomas Rhett ’s dad, Rhett Akins , as well as Bob DiPiero , Jeffrey Steele and Rebecca Lynn Howard were just some of the tunesmiths who suffered in the sun in the name of songwriting.

This was the first year for the festival. No word so far on whether BMI may do it again next year.

Lessons from Willie Nelson

Monday, November 30th, 2015

photo:  PBS
by:  Alex thomas

The last month has been an eventful one in both campus and American politics. Between the hostile protests from groups at the University of Missouri to violence erupting at a recent Donald Trump campaign rally between Trump supporters and a Black Lives Matter protester, November was marred by outrage with little room for discussion.

But looking past these events, there was a lone bright spot, and it came from someone known for his music rather than his politics. On Nov. 18, the Library of Congress awarded the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to country music legend Willie Nelson. The award is given to honor a performer for lifetime achievements in “promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding.”

Following acceptance of this award, Nelson performed one of his songs, “Living in the Promiseland.” Before performing the piece, Nelson said, “I think this is one of the most appropriate songs that we could do for this period in America.” The song, which describes why people immigrate to the United States, was no doubt a response to the ongoing debate over whether or not to allow Syrian refugees into the country. On the issue, the more liberal Nelson supports allowing refugees in.

Rather than being provocative with his stance, Nelson gave a calm and heartfelt performance, not throwing the blame toward any party or any individual. The gentle words of his song explained where he stood, and it was received positively by the audience.

As both major political parties have shifted further from the center, there has also been increased antipathy from both sides toward the opposition. Individuals care more about living in a place where viewpoints are shared rather than differ, and we have resorted to protecting our views at any cost.

We saw this during events over this past month. We can even see this here at UNC. One notable event of this semester is when conservatives sensationalized English 72: Literature of 9/11 for not fitting into their understanding of the attacks, which resulted in calls outside of campus for the seminar’s professor to be fired.

Another incident is when an abortion rights group erased anti-abortion messages written in chalk on campus sidewalks in the name of creating safe spaces.

None of these actions did anything except result in days of negative reactions. Instead of acting rationally, both groups acted in the name of both comfort and narcissism. We should follow Nelson’s lead and have our opinions with levelheadedness. While it can be easy to scream arguments, we need to address problems calmly.

We do not need to aim for our preferred solution first but instead work on communicating better with others. What Nelson did during his performance was remarkable but not because he did something extraordinary. Rather, he did the right thing, while many typically do not.


The Great Willie Nelson

Friday, November 27th, 2015

by:  Janet Donovan

It was hard not to hum along and smile ear-to-ear when lawmakers and VIPs packed DC’s Constitution Hall for a special tribute concert honoring Willie Nelson, the 2015 recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The honor is a the top national achievement for popular song and is presented each year by the Library of Congress to a musical artist whose music has become an integral part of American culture. Willie Nelson fits the bill without a doubt.

The program for the evening featured a number of top musical performers, all on-hand to pay tribute to the favorite son of Texas and his musical accomplishments over the past five decades. Don Johnson served as host and shared many fond memories of his decades-long friendship with Willie, who has guest starred on all of Johnson’s past TV projects. “Leave it to Willie. Only he can bring together republicans and democrats. You’re gonna have to stay here” quipped Johnson to the united crowd of partisans from both sides of the aisle.


Willie Nelson in Houston (Nov. 24, 2015)

Friday, November 27th, 2015

photos:  Gary Fountain
by: Craig Hlavaty

Willie Nelson made his semi-annual stop into Houston on Tuesday night, logging a boisterous set at the Stafford Centre with spunky opener Alyssa Bagley on hand for support.  Fans packed the sold-out southwest side venue to see the 82-year-old American icon, but he brought along much more.

On Tuesday night devotees got an additional treat with Nelson’s rocker son Lukas Nelson at his left side on electric guitar.  The younger Nelson has been busy in 2015 touring with another icon, Neil Young, in support of the album they recorded together, “The Monsanto Years,” with his own band Promise of the Real. Lukas’ voice is eerily similar his pop’s own in the early ‘70s. They also look alike too, lanky and wooly.

The merch table was busy selling Willie-branded red bandanas, Willie dolls (buyers had to pledge an oath to party with the doll, according to one happy customer), and a deluxe Willie for President in 2016 poster.


Just before 9 p.m. Nelson and his band arrived onstage to thunderous applause and a sea of smartphones, opening (naturally) with “Whiskey River” behind the customary Texas flag, framing Nelson and the players in red, white, and blue light.
A highlight among Nelson’s tried and true standards was Lukas’ slow-burn take on Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood,” with his dad and harmonica hero Mickey Raphael taking turns interpreting SRV’s licks.

The elder Nelson was really putting in work with his trusty guitar steed Trigger, keeping up with Lukas’ electric most of the time. Lukas’ touch on his dad’s run of Hank Williams Sr. covers kept the mood rollicking.

Nelson also brought out 1986’s prescient “Living in the Promiseland” for a spin towards the end of the evening. It comes off the album “The Promiseland” from Nelson’s run of unsung mid-‘80s output.

He performed the song last week in the nation’s capital with an expanded band at a ceremony honoring him as the 2015 recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Previous honorees include the likes of Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, and Billy Joel.

The song is an ode to immigrants and refugees and awfully timely at this point in American history it seems as sides in the Syrian refugee fight are picked.

As always, Nelson gives us a little sugar with the medicine and the song was followed his modern gospel cut “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” and Hank Sr.’s timeless “”I Saw the Light.”

If one needs something to be thankful for in Texas this holiday season, make it Willie Nelson.


photo:  Gary Fountain

Read the article and see more photos from Gary Fountain here.