Archive for the ‘News and Reviews’ Category

Willie Nelson launches Outlaw Music Channel (February 14, 1991)

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Willie Nelson to Launch Outlaw Satellite Station (2/14/1991)


Austin, TX
Cox News Service
February 2, 1991

Willie Nelson will stage a live broadcast Feb. 14 to launch a new satellite television channel to replace his planned Cowboy Channel cable network, the entertainer said Wednesday.

After the debut show at the Austin Opera House plans are for the channel to air daily from 6 p.m. to Midnight, Nelson said.  The channel will be called the Outlaw Music Channel.

Programming will include a weekly songwriter’s showcase hosted by Nelson, a music video program, vintage performances by Porter Wagoner and other country music pioneers and musical clips from old movies.   Nelson also said some programming will originate from Antones, an Austin blues club.

“We’re just going to fire at it and see what happens.  This way we can do it, and do it quickly, and if viewers like us, they can leave us on,” Nelson said.

Nelson pulled his name and support from the Cowboy Channel in November after a dispute with one of the principle investors.  The channel, based in Austin, was to have been marketed to cable systems throughout the country.

Film maker Doug Holloway, former president of the Cowboy Channel, is helping to launch the Outlaw Music Channel.  The name of the new music channel comes from the “outlaw” country music genre inspired by Nelson, singer Waylon Jennings and a loose knit group of other musicians.

Nelson said the Outlaw Music Channel will be beamed to North and South America by the Westar 4 satellite, transponder 17, which can only be received by households and businesses with satellite dish antennas.

The premier show has already created enough interest nationwide to warrant high hopes.  At 6 p.m. Texas Time, on Valentine’s Day, a gala kick-off concert at the Austin Opera House will initiate the Outlaw Music Channel.


Turk Pipkin

The talent assembled at press time inclued Nelson, Joe Ely, Kimmie Rhodes, the Geezinslaw Brothers, Butch Hancock and Turk Pipkin.    Also announced in the press release were Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.  More acts will be booked and added to the show.

In addition to the Opera House in Austin, some segments of the show will originate from the Music Village USA in Hendersonville, Tenn.  David Allan Coe will host these slots.

Tickets for the Opera House portion of the show are reasonably priced, and are available at all Star Ticket Outlets.

“I will see you on down the road.” — Willie Nelson recovering from flu, cancels February shows

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Willie Nelson has cancelled shows scheduled in February.  According to his publicist, Willie is suffering from a bout of the flu and requires “a few extra weeks to recover completely.” It also states Nelson is moving about and looking “healthy as ever,” but is under doctor’s orders to rest his voice.

A quote attributed to Nelson in the press release reads, “I will see you all down the road.” His next scheduled tour date is March 5th in Greenville, South Carolina.

Here are cancelled show info:

February 7 – Macon, GA @ Macon Centreplex Coliseum
February 9 – Biloxi, MS @ IP Casino Resort & Hotel
February 10 – Panama City, FL @ the Marina Civic Center
February 12 – Estero, FL @ Germain Arena
February 13 – Pompano Beach, FL @ Pompano Beach Amphitheatre
February 15 – Clearwater, FL @ Ruth Eckerd Hall
February 17 – Cocoa, FL @ Space Coast State Fair
February 18 – Saint Augustine, FL @ Saint Augustine Amphitheatre

Extras needed for Willie Nelson Movie (12/14/1990)

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

December 14, 1990

“Aces” Sequel Draws Nelson, Kristofferson

Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson — the stars of CBS TV’s ‘A Pair of Aces’ will return to Austin, early next month for a sequel and the producers are seeking numerous extras for the filming.

A variety of ages and types are needed for several scenes in the movie, including a courtroom and press conference, and scenes at a political fundraiser garden party in which extras will need to be well-dressed, according to Helen Griffiths of Third Coast Casting.

Clean shaven men in thier 40’s are being sought to pay Texas Rangersm as well, she said.  Extras are p;aid $40 a day and they could be needed on the set for several days.

A casting call for extras is scheduled Wednesday, December 19th from 2:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the Sabine Room of the Stouffer Austin Hotel, 9721 Arboretum Blvd.  Griffiths said applicants should bring a recent photograph of themselves.

The movie will be called, ‘Another Pair of Aces’ and will begin production at various locations in Austin, and Pflugerville on January 7, according to Griffiths.  It will be directed by Bill Bixby, who has appeared in several movies in addition to television work in ‘My Favorite Martian,’ ‘The Courtship of Eddie’s Father’ and ‘The Incredible Hulk.’

Nelson plays Billy Ray Barker, a con man and Texas Ranger Rip Metcalf is portrayed by Kris Kristofferson.  Rip Torn stars as retired Ranger Jack Parsons.

‘A Pair of Aces,’ which aired last January to excellent ratings, was written by Austinites Bud Shrake and Gary Cartwright, who are executive co-producers for the sequel.

Willie Nelson ill with flu, cancels shows

Monday, January 8th, 2018
by:  George Varga

Willie Nelson’s Saturday night concert at Harrah’s Resort SoCal ended almost before it began.

The 84-year-old music legend had barely started his opening song, “Whiskey River,” before abruptly ending his performance, according to several people in attendance who contacted the Union-Tribune. He was coughing and apparently experiencing some difficulty breathing as he left the stage.

In response to a Monday inquiry from the Union-Tribune, Nelson’s longtime publicist said the iconic singer-songwriter had either “a bad cold or the flu” and was heading back home to Texas to recuperate.

Nelson’s three scheduled shows for this week — tonight at the McCallum Theater in Palm Springs, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, and Sunday at the Edgewater Hotel Casino in Laughlin, Nev. — have been canceled, his representative said via email.

Fans who bought their tickets through Ticketmaster for his Saturday concert at Harrah’s will receive automatic refunds, according to an email from the ticketing agency.

It reads, in part: “Unfortunately, due to illness, Willie Nelson’s performance concluded early. The good news is we already refunded your money including fees (except UPS if applicable). It should post to your account within 7-10 business days.”

Strangely, in addition to Nelson’s illness, the Ticketmaster email also includes an “FYI” that reads: “This event canceled due to Hurricane Nate.”

Nelson has three concerts scheduled for February, starting with a Feb. 7 show in Georgia.

Willie Nelson & Family at McCallum Theater for the Performing Arts in LA (Jan. 8, 2017)

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018
by:  David Green

The McCallum Theatre welcomes the return of Willie Nelson on Monday, January 8, at 8:00pm. The words “living legend” can truly be applied to Willie Nelson. His career has spanned six decades, he’s earned every award in his profession, and he has amassed credentials as an activist, actor and author.

Born in Texas, Willie was raised by his grandparents who encouraged him to play music. He began writing songs in elementary school and played in bands as a teenager. After high school, he served in the Air Force but music was a constant pull. By the mid-1950s, Willie was working as a country deejay in Fort Worth while pursuing a musical career. He made the move to Nashville where his songwriting talents were embraced. In 1961, his “Hello Walls” for Faron Young and “Crazy” for Patsy Cline topped the charts. In 1962, Willie scored several hits as a singer but struggled for a breakthrough. Disillusioned with Nashville, he moved back to Texas in 1972. Emboldened by the rock and folk music popular in Austin, Willie’s music started to change.

He began to build a following with Shotgun Willie (1973) and Phases & Stages (1974), and 1975’s Red Headed Stranger became one of country’s most unlikely hits. His convention-busting stardom, combined with the popularity of maverick Waylon Jennings, prompted journalist Hazel Smith to dub the trend “Outlaw Music” and a movement was underway. RCA Records seized on the phenomenon, compiling an album of material from Willie, Waylon, Tompall Glaser and Jessi Colter. Wanted: The Outlaws spawned the hit Willie/Waylon duet “Good Hearted Woman.”

Willie’s star continued to rise with a string of hit albums, including Stardust (1978); Across the Borderline (1993); Teatro (1998); The Essential Willie Nelson (2003);and Songbird (2006). A two-day recording session with Merle Haggard and Ray Price in 2006 resulted in Last of the Breed album, a two-disc collection of country classics. To celebrate Willie’s 75th birthday in 2008, Columbia released the four-CD set One Hell of a Ride which included hit singles, rarities and tracks from 60 albums. Willie released Two Men with the Blues in 2008, his acclaimed collaboration with Wynton Marsalis. His single releases also topped the charts, including “On the Road Again,” “Always on My Mind,” and a duet with Julio Iglesias, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before.”

Willie continues to release hit albums. To All the Girls (2013), featured a collection of duets with all female partners, including Dolly Parton, Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, Carrie Underwood, Emmylou Harris, Miranda Lambert, and more. The album entered the country charts at #2 and extended his record to a total of 46 Top Ten albums. Chart-topping Band of Brothers (2014) was the first of Willie’s albums to feature mostly newly self-penned songs since 1996’s Spirit. In 2015, he released Django and Jimmie, his collaboration with Haggard. 2017 saw the release of God’s Problem Childenter the country charts at the top.

Willie’s stardom increased with forays into other genres. He has appeared in TV shows and feature films, including The Electric Horseman and Honeysuckle Rose. Willie became a fiction author with A Tale out of Luck, co-authored with Mike Blakely, a classic western tale that brings to life characters central to any great Wild West story – Texas Rangers, women of ill repute, saloons and shootouts. On the environmental front, Willie owns the bio-diesel brand “Willie Nelson Biodiesel,” which is made from vegetable oil. He is also the honorary chairman of the Advisory Board of the Texas Music Project, the official music charity of the state of Texas.

Willie was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993, and in 2004, the Academy of Country Music honored him with the Gene Weed Special Achievement Award. His career has been recognized with numerous Grammy wins, a President’s Merit Award, a Grammy Legend Award and the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2007 Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) named him a BMI Icon, declaring that his “ascendance to internationally-renowned treasure is a singular path marked by self-belief and musical brilliance.” In 1998, Willie received a Kennedy Center Honor and, in 2011, he was inducted into the National Agriculture Hall of Fame for his work in Farm Aid and other benefits on behalf of farmers.

As ever, Willie tours tirelessly, climbing aboard Honeysuckle Rose III (he rode his first two buses into the ground), taking his fans on an endless journey to places that were well worth the ride.

Tickets for this performance are priced at $117, $97, $87 and $67. Tickets are available at the Theatre’s website at or by calling the McCallum Theatre Box Office at (760) 340-ARTS.

Willie Nelson & Family at Harrah’s SoCal (SOLD OUT) (Saturday, Jan 6th)

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

photo:  James Minchon
by:  George Varga

Willie Nelson is not the first music legend who’s had to publicly refute premature reports of his death. But he may well be the first to write a song contradicting those reports.

Entitled “Still Not Dead,” it includes such wry lines as:

Well, I woke up still not dead again today
The gardener did not find me that way
You can’t believe a word that people say
And I woke up still not dead again today.

Later, Nelson adds: Don’t bury me, I’ve got a show to play; followed by: They say my pace would kill a normal man / But I’ve never been accused of being normal anyway.

A highlight of his 110th album, 2017’s “God’s Problem Child,” “Still Not Dead” is Nelson’s best song about mortality since his 2012 gem, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”

Of course, at 84, this American music giant is old enough to contemplate the eventual end of the road.

Happily, Nelson he is far too busy recording and being on the road yet again — including his sold-out Saturday concert at Harrah’s Resort SoCal — to pay much attention to such thoughts. Besides, he’s almost a spring chicken compared to his longtime roadie, Ben Dorcy, who died in September at the age of 92 and had worked with Nelson for half a century, including most of last year.

Saturday’s concert at Harrah’s is one of eight shows Nelson has scheduled for January, followed by eight more in February, and then more in the spring.

In January 2017, he co-starred with Owen Wilson in the Woody Harrelson-directed film “Lost in London.” In February, Nelson won his first Grammy Award in a decade for “Summertime,” his heartfelt album saluting the songs of George and Ira Gershwin.

He has released seven albums since 2014, a pace that would challenge most young musicians, let alone a senior citizen. And he played more than 80 concerts in 2017, despite a health scare that saw him cancel some shows last January and February.

His tour last year included a sold-out April 26 San Diego date at Humphreys, where he coasted on auto-pilot for the first half, then soared through the second. (A soundboard recording of that show, and hundreds of other Nelson concerts, is available on his website.)

In September, he and Farm Aid co-founders Neil Young and John Mellencamp performed at the 32nd edition of that annual fundraising concert. The same month saw Nelson join Paul Simon, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, James Taylor, Asleep At the Wheel, Leon Bridges and other artists at the “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas” concert for hurricane relief.

A musician for all seasons, Nelson can shine whether singing country, blues, gospel, pop or any other style that suits him. He is currently planning a Frank Sinatra tribute album and a joint recording with rock pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis (who in the 1970s successfully rebranded himself as a country artist). A long-discussed Nelson Broadway musical could also reach fruition.

In the meanwhile, he’s busy overseeing Willie’s Reserve, his line of premium marijuana products (in states where pot is legal).

Nelson’s marketing slogan is “My stash is your stash.” It could also be applied to his broadly appealing music — “My songs are your songs” — as befits an American icon whose appeal has transcended generations for, well, generations.

Willie Nelson & Family, with Lukas Nelson
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Events Center
Harrah’s Resort SoCal
777 Harrah’s Rincon Way
Valley Center

Willie Nelson & Family on NYE 2017 (Peter Blackstock Review)

Monday, January 1st, 2018

photo:  Suzanne Cordeiro
by:  Peter Blackstock

Oh, to be in Austin when New Year’s Eve is here. There’s no more ideal way to spend it than with Willie Nelson, singing at the theater that hosts the TV show he launched, on the downtown block that bears his name, where he’s forever venerated in bronze out front.

Around 7,500 locals, Texans and visitors are taking part in the three-day ritual this year, as ACL Live was sold out for Friday’s opener and will be again for Sunday’s official 2018 ring-in. We attended on Saturday, another sold-out evening that featured not only the likes of Willie and his longtime band but also an extended family gathering, with sons Lukas and Micah opening the show.

A-LIST PHOTOS: Willie Nelson at ACL Live on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017

Family describes so much of Willie’s musical realm that it feels heightened during the holidays. When he turns to cast the spotlight on the graceful piano runs of “sister Bobbie” Nelson — a January 1 baby who’ll turn 87 when the clock strikes midnight Sunday — or when he’s introducing his longtime drummer as “brother Paul” English (whose actual brother, Billy English, is alongside him helping him roll out the rhythm) — it’s a reminder of how close-knit Willie’s world onstage remains.

photo:  Suzanne Cordeiro

Harmonica sidekick Mickey Raphael was there too, as always. A ringer of a special guest on guitar for these three shows is Jamey Johnson, who kept his golden voice mostly under wraps, quite content to play the supporting role for the occasion. Kevin Smith, still the “newbie” of the bunch since taking over after longtime bassist Bee Spears’ passing in 2011, thumped along on electric and standup models, a sure and steady presence in the shadows behind Bobbie.

Daughter Amy (she of Folk Uke fame) came out to sing along on the traditional “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”/”I’ll Fly Away”/”I Saw the Light” finale, too. But much of the evening’s attention was focused on Willie’s two youngest sons. Micah, 27, opened (billed as the Particle Kid) with two exquisite acoustic songs (including one called “I’m in Love With the Ocean”) that suggested he may have something special in the works on an upcoming album. Lukas’s backing band, Promise of the Real, then came out and joined him for two full-on rockin’ electric songs that veered toward grunge territory and reminded that the kids will find their own way musically.

Indeed, Lukas — who turned 29 on Christmas Day — has done that impressively, especially during a banner year for him in 2017. A self-titled “Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real” album released in August recently topped the Americana charts, and Saturday’s set focused on that record, with highlights such as the acoustic “Just Outside of Austin” and soulful country-blues-rock burners such as “Forget About Georgia” and “Find Yourself.”

A more histrionic singer and showman than his father, Lukas pushes his voice into the red on occasion, but he has the pipes to pull that off. The touring he and Micah have done with Neil Young in recent years clearly has sharpened their guitar-playing chops to a fine point; on this night, Lukas wisely forewent the over-the-top break in “Forget About Georgia” during ACL Fest in October, when he plucked guitar strings with his teeth, in favor of hard-driving solos that drew their passion simply from the playing.

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real at ACL Live on Friday, December 29, 2017. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

It’s telling, too, that Lukas bookended his set with Tom Petty songs. He dedicated the solo acoustic opener “Breakdown,” played with exquisite bluesy deliberation, to the late rocker who clearly influenced his music in ways his father never could. And underscored the point at the end with his Promise of the Real mates driving “American Girl” home in a full-on fever. (Across downtown at Antone’s on this night, Austin band Reckless Kelly was paying tribute as well, playing a full night of Petty songs.)

Lukas’ love for the musics of both Petty and his father is a study in contrasts that reveals his character as a musician. Petty’s Heartbreakers were one of the tightest bands in rock ’n’ roll history, whereas playing with Willie calls much more on jazz-informed instincts; indeed, Willie’s family band may be the loosest country outfit ever. Petty’s vocals took their cue from the music, but with Willie, all the players work around the singer’s phrasing.

Two of the best numbers Willie’s show came mid-set when both Lukas and Micah stepped up front to sing with their dad on two tracks from their new “Willie and the Boys” album: Hank Williams’ “Move It On Over” and Hank Cochran’s “Can I Sleep in Your Arms” (to the melody of “Red River Valley”). And Willie put Lukas in the spotlight for the Larry Davis blues classic “Texas Flood,” a Stevie Ray Vaughan staple that Willie performed with Bonnie Raitt and Jimmie Vaughan at an Erwin Center benefit for Hurricane Harvey victims earlier this year.

READ MORE: The Year in Willie, a look back at his 2017 highlights

They’ll all reconvene Sunday night for the real-thing New Year’s Eve bash, with Georgia band Blackberry Smoke added to the bill.

Micah Nelson at ACL Live on Friday, December 29, 2017.
Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Willie Nelson set list:
1. Whiskey River
2. Still Is Still Moving to Me
3. Beer for My Horses
4. Good Hearted Woman
5. Texas Flood
6. Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys
7. Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground
8. On the Road Again
9. Always on My Mind
10. Move It On Over
11. Can I Sleep in Your Arms
12. Down Yonder
13. Shoeshine Man
14. Nuages
15. Georgia on a Fast Train
16. Georgia on My Mind
17. It’s All Going to Pot
18. Still Not Dead
19. Will the Circle Be Unbroken/I’ll Fly Away/I Saw the Light


Willie Nelson & Family in Austin

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

photos: Susan Cordeiro

by:  Peter Blackstock

See more great photos at their website here.


by:  Peter Blackstock
photos:  Susan Cordeiro

Willie Nelson & Family and Friends New Year’s Eve Celebration in Austin continued last night

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Thanks again to Jenny from Oklahoma, for sharing her great reviews of the Willie Nelson & Family New Year’s Eve Celebration going on in Austin this weekend.  What a great way to end one year and begin another!

Terry and Jenny, in Austin


  1. Second night at ACL is over.The cold front is starting to move thru and the theater got colder as the night progressed, but it didn’t matter. Micah, Lukas, POTR, Willie, & Jamey had the crowd rockin’ again! Micah’s set was reminiscent of a cross of a young Bob Dylan & Young Neil Young. His songs are so poetic in nature and his skills on every instrument he plays are just amazing. I’ve throughly enjoyed watching this young man grow as a musician an I’m thrilled I caught some shows early on! POTR gets better every time we see them! The addition of Jesse on steel guitar adds an additional emotional quality to the songs. Tato throughly enjoys what he is doing and he take you along for the ride. Anthony is the glue that holds everyone together and I know I’ve said it a hundred times, but I’ve never seen a better drummer – ever! John is filling in wonderfully for Corey (but we miss Corey!). Love the mix of old and new tunes POTR has been playing, and Lukas’ tributes to Tom Petty have brought down the house both nights! Mom said she’d like to see Willie try on Lukas’ Tom Petty hat ?. I’m fully expecting POTR’s star to rise even higher in the years to come. (We can say we saw them back when…).Willie’s set was stronger than ever…from Whiskey River to I Saw The Light, Willie is the ultimate showman. He threw in Always On My Mind and the collective gasp from the audience was something I’ll never forget! If you’ve made it this far in my post, I’ll leave you by saying I love live music & I always love these shows! Following POTR, IvR, & Willie has taken me on some great adventures and I’m forever grateful.

2017 was a great year to be a Willie Nelson fan

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

photo:  Suzanne Cordeiro
by:  Peter Blackstock

The Year in Willie: He’s not only still not dead, he’s lapping the field


Willie Nelson released two albums in 2017, one that topped the country charts and another featuring his sons.

Nelson’s Austin appearances in 2017 included closing out a major Hurricane Harvey benefit at the Erwin Center.

When I moved back to Austin four years ago this week after two decades away, a joyous recent development awaited me: Willie Nelson, on the other side of 80, was in the midst of one of the most amazing late-career resurgences American popular music has ever seen.

Within six months of my return, Willie had his first No. 1 country album in almost 30 years (2014’s “Band of Brothers”). Since then, he’s released six more albums, two of them chart-toppers, and won his eighth career Grammy Award. Arguably the best song on his latest solo album is the nostalgic lament “Old Timer” — but Willie’s track record as an octogenarian runs laps around most artists less than half his age.

And so, as he gears up for another year-end three-night stand at ACL Live, we celebrate Austin’s public citizen No. 1 with our annual look back at the Year in Willie.


The first pot joke hits right out of the gate. Three days into 2017, Willie posts a photo on Facebook of a holiday gift he received from a rapper pal. “Thank you Snoop Dogg for the Christmas sweater” is the message beneath a photo of Willie decked out in a red long-sleeved pullover adorned with a green marijuana leaf and the words “smoke weed every day.”

A couple of weeks later, Willie heads overseas to be a part of “Lost in London,” the unusual directorial debut of his friend Woody Harrelson. Filmed live on a single camera and screened directly into select theaters on Jan. 19, the movie features Nelson and Owen Wilson playing themselves as supporting actors in a story that revolves around a real-life night in Harrelson’s past.


On Feb. 12, Willie gets his first Grammy in a decade for his 2016 album “Summertime.” A collection of George & Ira Gershwin standards that Willie recorded after receiving the prestigious Gershwin Prize from the Library of Congress in 2015, “Summertime” is voted best traditional pop vocal album.

Amid the celebration, there’s quite a bit of concern for Willie’s health. A bad cold that he picked up in London results in a string of canceled shows in western states in late January and early February. But Willie seems fully recovered when he plays the San Antonio Rodeo on Feb. 16, confidently regaling a sold-out crowd at the AT&T Center with his new song that declares, “I woke up still not dead again today.”


Willie follows the San Antonio show with another rodeo gig in Houston, but he skips Rodeo Austin for the first time in several years. He’s still right in the thick of things during South by Southwest, though. On March 15, he stops by GSD&M’s backyard for a special set to help his friend Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel celebrate his 66th birthday. And two days later, he hosts the annual Luck Reunion out at his ranch in Spicewood, welcoming guests such as Margo Price, Billy Joe Shaver and Shovels & Rope before closing the show with his own set.


Willie celebrates his birthday weekend (his 84th) at the end of the month with the release of “God’s Problem Child,” a remarkable new album that features seven songs co-written with producer Buddy Cannon plus a well-chosen half-dozen tunes by other writers. The humorous “Still Not Dead” is the obvious first single, but Willie digs deeper on cuts such as “It Gets Easier,” the Jamey Johnson/Tony Joe White title track and Gary Nicholson’s poignant Merle Haggard tribute “He Won’t Ever Be Gone.” Fans snap it up: The album hits No. 1 on the Billboard country charts in its first week of release.

READ MORE: Willie Nelson’s new album proves how musically sharp he remains at 84


In a Rolling Stone interview published May 17, Nelson talks about the new record but also gets into politics a little bit with writer Patrick Doyle. Asked about Attorney General Jeff Sessions comparing marijuana to heroin, Willie says, “I’d like to suggest to Jeff to try it and then let me know later if he thinks he’s still telling the truth!”

Ultimately, Willie sticks with what matters most to him in the interview. “I think you can do more with music than you can with arguments and politics,” he says. “I think a song will reach more people than any other thing.”


Two remnants from Willie and Merle Haggard’s chart-topping 2015 album “Django & Jimmie” finally see the light of day via TV specials. “The American Epic Sessions” on PBS shows Nelson and Haggard singing “The Only Man Wilder Than Me” in a studio equipped with vintage early-20th-century recording gear. Later in the month, cable networks AXS in the U.S. and RTE in Ireland debut “Willie & Merle: Up Close & Personal Inside Arlyn Studios,” filmed in 2014 when the two legends were making their album at the South Austin recording studio.

READ MORE: Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard go ‘Inside Arlyn’


In Willie’s world, July is all about the picnic. Independence Day brings Willie’s storied holiday bash back to Circuit of the Americas for the third straight year. Sheryl Crow, Kacey Musgraves and Margo Price help give the top end of the lineup a higher-than-usual ratio of female performers, with the usual three-named suspects such as Billy Joe Shaver, Ray Wylie Hubbard and David Allan Coe livening up the afternoon.

A new wrinkle this year: Nelson essentially takes the picnic model on the road. A special series of shows dubbed the “Outlaw Music Festival,” with Willie starring alongside heavy-hitters including Bob Dylan and Jason Isbell, visits various cities across the country in July, August and September.


Willie’s 28-year-old son, Lukas, releases a self-titled album with his band Promise of the Real that gains wide acclaim and eventually tops the Americana radio chart. Lukas and his younger brother, Micah, have spent much of the past two years touring and recording with Neil Young, but the new record and a subsequent Austin City Limits Music Festival performance suggest Lukas is coming into his own.


When relief efforts hit high gear in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, naturally Willie’s name is at the top of the list for a major Austin benefit show. The Erwin Center concert, planned and pulled off in about two weeks, features an incredible A-list of performers including Paul Simon, Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor leading up to the grand finale with Willie, who also appears early in the show for memorable duets with Leon Bridges and Jimmie Vaughan.

The Harvey fundraiser comes on the heels of the 32nd annual Farm Aid. Willie and co-founders Neil Young and John Mellencamp are joined by Dave Matthews, the Avett Brothers, Jack Johnson and many more for the benefit concert in the Pittsburgh suburb of Burgettstown. The same weekend also brings the death of Willie’s longtime roadie Ben Dorcy, 92. A post on Willie’s Facebook page reads, “Thank you Ben for years of hard work and sound advice. We love you.”


The second volume of the “Willie’s Stash” series, which began in 2014 with a record featuring Willie and his sister Bobbie Nelson, continues in the family vein. “Willie Nelson and the Boys,” mostly recorded years ago during sessions for the 2012 “Heroes” album, features sons Lucas and Micah harmonizing with their dad on a set of classic country tunes. Elsewhere, Willie also turns up as a duet partner on the song “Learning to Lose” from Margo Price’s acclaimed sophomore album, “All American Made.”


It’s a bittersweet recognition from the Country Music Association as Willie and the late Glen Campbell win “Musical Event of the Year” at the CMA Awards on Nov. 8. Campbell died in August, but a few years earlier, he and Willie had recorded Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away.” It appeared on “Adios,” which came out in June and was Campbell’s final album.

When the Grammys announce their nominations on Nov. 28, Willie’s brilliant “God’s Problem Child” sadly isn’t included. But he’s still lurking around the edges: Alison Krauss gets a nod in the American Roots Performance category for her version of Willie’s “I Never Cared for You,” written in the 1960s.


We’ll call this a sneak leak: In Friday’s American-Statesman, we’ll reveal the results of our first-ever Austin360 Awards, honoring top Austin music in 2017 as determined by a broad panel of local experts. Let’s just say our winner for Song of the Year is, thankfully, still not dead.

Indeed, you can catch him live this weekend at ACL Live, with his Family band behind him and his sons joining in as well. Lukas and Micah Nelson will open all three nights with their respective bands, Promise of the Real and Particle Kid. (Sunday’s finale also features Atlanta band Blackberry Smoke.) At press time, Sunday’s show was sold out, but a few scattered tickets remained for the Friday and Saturday concerts.

We’d bet on Lukas and Micah joining their dad during his set as well, given the album they released together this fall. Indeed, part of what has made 2017 notable for Willie is what appears to be a bit of torch-passing to his sons. He may be still not dead — and indeed, plans are in the works for another album of new original material in 2018 — but Willie seems proud and pleased with the music his family is making. For now, as always, they’re still “insisting that the world keep turning our way.”

READ MORE: The Year in Willie, for 2016 and 2015 and 2014

Willie Nelson, Ted, Cruz, J.J. Watt and Kat von D most-Googled Texans

Sunday, December 17th, 2017
by:  Tony Cantu

AUSTIN, TX — What do Willie Nelson, Kat von D, J.J. Watt and Ted Cruz have in common? They are the most searched public figures searched on Google in the state of Texas, according to a new survey.

Dana Rebecca Designs assembled the most-searched people on the search engine per state. Among celebrities, music icon Willie Nelson still holds sway as one of the most searched celebs. The results yield a portal into the collective mind of a state’s denizens and what piques their interest. In short,
it’s a snapshot of a particular region’s zeitgeist.

Searches for musicians yielded the top five nationally: Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez, Beyonce and Justin Bieber the top five, respectively. In Texas, it’s no young whippersnapper commanding the most searches, but 84-year-old Willie Nelson who’s practically become the patron saint of Texas by this point. He’s the most-searched because, well, he’s Willie Nelson. Who doesn’t love Willie Nelson?

Read entire list here.   

Willie Nelson, “Teatro”

Monday, December 4th, 2017


1. Ou Es-Tu, Mon Amour
2. I never cared for you
3. Everywhere I Go
4. Darkness on the Face of the Earth
5. My Own Peculiar Way
6. These Lonely Nights
7. Home Motel
8. The Maker
9. I Just Can’t Let You Say Goodbye
10. I’ve Just Destroyed the World
11. Somebody Pick Up My Pieces
12. Three Days
13. I’ve Loved You All Over the World
14. Annie

Willie Nelson, EmmyLou Harris, Daniel Lanois, ‘The Maker’

Throughout his 40-plus year career, Willie Nelson has always pushed the envelope of country music. He’s done straight country and honky tonk, explored his interests in pop standards and blues, and taken side trips into jazz and string-heavy big band. As a matter of fact, a reggae album is supposedly in the works. With that in mind, Willie’s newest release, Teatro , makes perfect sense, as the Red Headed Stranger matches his fantastic songs with some heavy almost mariachi rhythms.

Anyone familiar with Willie’s music knows he draws heavily on sounds from south of the Texas border, especially in his distinctive, Mexican-flavored guitar playing. It is thanks to those roots in Tex-Mex that Teatro , for the most part, works. Reprising her role as World’s Greatest Backup Singer, the fabulous Emmylou Harris appears on a number of tracks to add her distinctive backing vocals to Willie’s ragged voice, shining particularly on “These Lonely Nights.” Hooking up with producer Daniel Lanois, who’s worked with U2 and most recently Bob Dylan, Willie digs out some hoary old chestnuts of songs, adding a little Mexican spice.Except for three new tracks, all the songs on the album are at least 30 years old. Like his big-band jazz effort “Healing Hands of Time,” Willie reworks some classics.

The most engaging track is producer Lanois’s excellent “The Maker.” Nelson’s time-ravaged voice is still in excellent shape and is perfect for the sin-and-redemption theme of the tune. The mariachi-like rhythms work perfectly with the sprightly “Darkness on the Face of the Earth,” giving the old honky-tonk rocker an almost Bo Diddley feel. “Three Days” and “I’ve Just Destroyed the World” are by themselves fantastic tunes and the new reworkings breathe new life in the forgotten classics. Willie also reprises one of his most beautiful songs, “Home Motel,” one of the few tracks without rhythmic update.The only tune Lanois’s production falls flat on is “I Never Cared For You.” The heavy drums and in-your-face rhythms distract from the overall beauty of this wonderful tune. Beyond that, however, Teatro is a nifty little album with an interesting bent on Willie’s music. Teatro proves above all else the man can still surprise, so who knows what he has up his sleeve next.


Willie Nelson with the Troubadours on the Ernest Tubb Show

Friday, December 1st, 2017
by: Bobby Moore

Willie Nelson took the long road to becoming a household name as a singer. Before filling the ’70s outlaw, the ’80s hit-maker and the elder statesman role, Nelson’s greatest success came as a songwriter-for-hire. Nelson’s compositions for others include Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” and Faron Young’s “Hello Walls.”

That’s not to discount young Nelson’s singing talent, as captured in this video from a mid-’60s episode of the Ernest Tubb Show. In it, Nelson performs “My Window Faces the South,” a country music standard popularized by his fellow Texas music luminary Bob Wills.

A couple of things stand out. First, Nelson sports a clean-shaven look, as seen on some of his earliest album covers. Aesthetics only matter so much, but it’s hard to imagine Nelson’s future stardom without his trademark look. Fortunately, the turtleneck eventually gave way to the Red-Headed Stranger’s braids and beard.

Secondly, Nelson performs with Tubb’s legendary backing band the Texas Troubadours. Jack Greene, a future solo star in his own right, sits behind the drum kit. He keeps pace with ace country-jazz guitarist Leon Rhodes. It’s a fine pairing from arguably the greatest backing band in country music history. Legendary Texas swing musician Wade Ray rounds out the all-star quartet with some lightning-fast fiddling. It surely was the best collection of talent that evening on the three or four television channels on the dial.

In all, the performance provides a glimpse at a television-friendly Nashville sound, performed by a rising star who’d become one of the guiding forces of country music by challenging its status quo.

The business of Being Willie Nelson (Chicago Tribune, November 25, 1986)

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

photo:  Ron McKeown.

November 25, 1986
By Wes Smith

After completing 115 holes of video golf in little more than 9 hours, executive W.H. Nelson put aside his toys and directed the driver of his mobile office to roll.

As chief executive officer of Red-headed Stranger Ltd., president of Farm Aid Inc., owner of the Pedernales Country Club, board member for the United Theological Seminary and honorary “Man of the Year“ for the United Jewish Appeal, it was time for Nelson to entertain a client or two, or three- or four-thousand

“My portfolio?” asked the boss with a toss of his auburn pony-tail. “I never wear one.”

There is no business like the business of being Willie Nelson. By no stretch of the headband is Nelson a baron of Wall Street. But with an annual income estimated conservatively at $15 million, Nelson himself is a big business deal.

Since “Williemania” struck in full force in the late 1970s, Nelson, 53, has become a one-man entertainment industry. He is a successful singer-songwriter-actor-author-record and movie-producer and Farm Aid fund-raiser. Look for his autobiography (“I wanted to do it before someone else did it”) and his own brand of soup to be introduced in coming months.

Although royalties from his songs pay Nelson enough for a comfortable life, record sales are now his main producer of revenue. His “Stardust”
album is still on the charts after seven years and climbing again as result of compact disc sales. Two of Nelson`s albums have sold more than 3 million copies, three albums sold more than a million and 10 albums sold more than 500,000. He now gets $1 million for recording an album with CBS records plus 35 percent of sales.

To promote the album sales, and because he easily gets stir crazy, Nelson tours about nine months of the year, bringing in another $12 million annually. From that he nets about $6 million before his personal expenses. Last August, he signed a $7 million, three-year contract that allowed Blue Bell Inc., the maker of Wrangler jeans, to promote 100 of Nelson`s concerts annually and hand out front-seat tickets to Wrangler denim dealers at the shows, said Paul English, Nelson`s business manager, longtime friend and drummer.

Willie & Family, as the band is known, travel in four or five customized buses with two truckloads of equipment trailing behind. The Willie Nelson road show is a family operation with a country store flavor. Nelson shares his bus, the mahogany-paneled “Honeysuckle Rose,“ with his older sister Connie, who plays keyboards. English`s son, Darnell, is assistant road manager on the tour, and Billy English, Paul`s brother, is a percussionist. Most members of the band and road crew–which total about 30 including the T-shirt hawkers –have been with Nelson at least 10 years.

While Nelson uses his computer keyboard to play video golf for hours on end while touring, his road manager, lanky, long-haired David Anderson, takes care of the payroll, day-to-day logistics and communications for the tour on his own personal computer.

Anderson is a native of Park Ridge, Ill. (“We moved when I was 28-days-old.“) The 30-year-old road manager must fold his 6-foot-4 frame into a cramped workspace not much larger than a doghouse. His mobile office, tucked in a space under a bunk bed, is packed with an IBM XT personal computer and printer, a check writer, a 3M Fax machine, a Cannon copier, a modular phone system and an Uzi submachine gun “for security reasons.”

Willie Nelson, “Red Headed Stranger”

Sunday, November 19th, 2017
by:  Rebecca Bengal

In 1975, Willie Nelson changed the rules of country music. His lonesome, noir concept album about a wayward preacher was a big and beautiful dream made real by simple and spare music.

Red Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson’s 18th studio album, arrived in the world on May Day, 1975, to little fanfare. It would prove to be an ominous year. Two of Nelson’s fellow Texans and country music heroes, Bob Wills and Lefty Frizzell, would die. At the Country Music Awards, Charlie Rich would set fire to the slip of paper that announced John Denver as Entertainer of the Year. Denver topped mainstream country charts with his friendly ditty “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” which traded places with the lush, bright, radio-friendly productions of Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and Linda Ronstadt’s “When Will I Be Loved.”

It was the year of Tonight’s the Night, Blood on the Tracks, Physical Graffiti, Metal Machine Music, Zuma, Horses, and Born to Run. And it was the year that Willie Nelson finally signed a record deal that allowed him “quote artistic control endquote” as he described it to Rolling Stone. In the span of about a week, summoning a core stable of musicians to a little studio in Garland, Texas, and for just $4,000, Nelson made an album that defied logic, transcended the industry-defined borders separating country from rock’n’roll, jazz, blues, and folk—and it became an artistic and commercial success. Red Headed Stranger remained on the Billboard charts for 120 weeks. It was as if he’d written himself a permission slip for the next four decades of his career. On first listen, one studio head wondered aloud whether it had been recorded in Nelson’s kitchen. It sounds like just Willie and his guitar, another remarked. Waylon Jennings, who was present for the initial listening session, leapt to his feet. “That’s what Willie is all about!” he reportedly hollered.

Nelson’s first four decades had been hard-earned. He was on his third marriage, father of four kids. He had washed dishes and sold encyclopedias door to door until he decided that it went against his beliefs to push them on people who couldn’t afford them and took a job peddling vacuum cleaners instead. He had done his share of time in a trailer park and he had seen his own house burn down. He had played honky-tonks across from Texas to Washington, and he’d worked as a radio disc jockey with the handle “Wee Willie Nelson.” One particularly despondent night, early in his Nashville days, Nelson walked outside Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge—the famous songwriter haunt where he warmed barstools alongside Kris Kristofferson, Hank Cochran, and Roger Miller. Nelson laid down on a snow-covered street and waited for a car to run him over.

The story is one Nelson tells frequently of his Nashville days. For more than 10 years, he made a name for himself recording well-received albums that failed to get the same acclaim as the No. 1 hits he wrote for others; he resisted record company producers and their suggestions of “different styles” while at the same time demanded better marketing for his records. Was it worth it working for nothing to fit someone else’s mold?

It’s those dark minutes, lying in the snow listening and half hoping for traffic, that were on his mind when he scribbled the first few lines of 1973’s Shotgun Willie, his first true outlaw country anthem, on the back of a “sanitary napkin” envelope in a hotel bathroom. “Mind farts,” his good friend Kristofferson bluntly offered. Nelson remained unvexed. “I thought of it more as clearing my throat,” Nelson said. That album contained what remain some of the most beloved songs in the canon of Willie—“Whiskey River,” “Slow Down Old World,” “Sad Songs and Waltzes”—and it set the stage for an album that would challenge an industry’s prejudicial notions, one that would earn Nelson overwhelming and long overdue respect not as a country artist but as an artist, period.

The song ”Red Headed Stranger,” written in the 1950s by Edith Lindeman Calisch and Carl Stutz, is the dark tale of a bereft cowboy, “wild in his sorrow, riding and hiding his pain,” who goes into a grief-stricken rage. It was a song Nelson used to play as a disk jockey on Fort Worth radio and it stayed in his head long after. In the spirit of fieldworker blues, gospel, country, and traditional Mexican songs that reverberated through the rows of Texas cotton Nelson picked as a child, it follows an ancient plot. It’s a murder ballad, a noir tune of damaged characters and fateful, human errors. When his own children were small, Nelson sang it to them as a lullaby.

On a long drive from Steamboat Springs, Colo. to Texas, the song got in his head again. As he sat behind the wheel, Nelson envisioned the Stranger’s song as part of a larger story, mapping out the narrative in chapters. In his telling, the Stranger of the song becomes a Preacher who discovers his wife in the arms of another man and kills them both (“And they died with their smiles on their faces”). Doomed to wander the countryside alone on his horse, he seeks a redemption that may never be realized. Nelson worked his old ballads into a roster of country standards that, he reckoned, would naturally inhabit the Preacher’s mind. Eddy Arnold’s “I Couldn’t Believe It Was True,” a brief, jaunty number, stands in for the moment when the Preacher discovers that his wife has forsaken him. In the next iteration of the recurring theme, “Time of the Preacher,” the recognition of loss sinks in: “And he cried like a baby/And he screamed like a panther.”

Deliberately spare arrangements echoed the Stranger’s existential loneliness. Relying mostly on guitar, piano, and drums, Nelson summoned a small crew of musicians in the studio—his sister, Bobbie Nelson, longtime drummer Paul English, Bucky Meadows, Mickey Raphael, Jody Payne. Little else was needed to evoke the sound of the Preacher’s violent ride, the relentless, loping, strumming gait: “Don’t fight him don’t spite him/Let’s wait till tomorrow/Maybe he’ll ride on again.” The horse in the studio was, of course, Trigger, the Martin guitar Nelson had customized in Nashville a few years earlier, Frankensteined with a pickup from his old Baldwin guitar and named after Roy Rogers’ television horse. Nelson heard Trigger “as a human sound, a sound close to my own voice.”

Musically, Nelson has always subverted plain, pure song with utter, starlit mystery. He had an uncanny ability to bend the listener’s perception of time. “I could put more emotion in my lyric if I phrased it in a more conversational, relaxed way,” he wrote in 1988. His vocal phrasings snake around the surfaces, altering its inflections, anticipating a beat or falling just behind it; his guitar appears to stretch and shorten the meter without ever breaking it.

As a single punched into a dusty jukebox, Fred Rose’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” is a beautifully if painful love song, the harmonies on the line “Only memories remain” landing with a little sting. Threaded into the Preacher’s story, it becomes the heart of the album. Like Nelson and Trigger lingering on certain phrasings, parsing missed chances and regrets, the Preacher and his black stallion haunt the canyons, retracing steps. He’s mindful that the love he lost is a place to which he can never return, but he can’t stop himself from trying to get back there.

Country music had always been one of the truest genres, gritty and realistic songs of broken hearts, the farm, the factory, the bottle. But until Red Headed Stranger, music critic Chet Flippo wrote in Texas Monthly, the genre had offered scant escapism and “almost no fantasy.” Nelson, for the first time, allowed country music to dream big and beautiful. Nelson converses with the genre’s roots but sends them into uncharted and previously forbidden territory, fusing his essential influences—the tragic brilliance of Hank Williams and the melodic expression of Django Reinhardt. His anti-heroic story has elements of Homeric myth, a moody, Sergio Leone sensibility, the devastating lyrical force of Cormac McCarthy, whose Border Trilogy Red Headed Stranger in many ways prefigures.

When he left Nashville for Austin in 1972, Nelson had gladly traded his jackets and ties for bandannas and jeans; he’d grown his own red hair long. And in casting himself as the title character of Red Headed Stranger, he had chosen for his story an essentially archaic thing, tough and worn and mythic; an incessant wanderer and broken spirit, at war with himself. The artist lying on the street in the snow.

You can have an appreciative listening of Red Headed Stranger as a clear, uncomplicated tale about manhood and morality and infidelity, about the characteristic lonesomeness of the cowboy drifter, about some bygone notion of Americana, as listeners and critics did in 1975, layering on desperado descriptions. It is possible in 2017, when interpretations still overwhelmingly shrink to the literal-minded, to return there too.

And yet that would be missing out on so much. Sure, by 1975, Nelson had weathered and been implicated in his own share of stormy relationships, allegedly standing on both sides of infidelity. But to dwell on a reading of Red Headed Stranger primarily as a tale of manhood and waywardness or as one entrenched in bygone notions of America feels dated, particularly if you are anywhere on the margins of that story. Women, empathetic listeners by nature and necessity, learn to be very good at imagining ourselves into narratives framed around the literal experiences of boys and men. And in Red Headed Stranger, the story that resonates loudest is not the most obvious one but a universal one, about what it means, in dark and thrilling ways, to follow your instincts when you have everything at stake and nothing to lose.

With Red Headed Stranger, arguably the biggest artistic gamble of his career, Nelson framed it as an album about creativity and risk, about bad decisions and lonesome paths, about learning to listen to instincts, and, moreover, about distinguishing instinct from impulse. If Shotgun Willie was Nelson’s newfound manifesto, Red Headed Stranger forged into mythic weirdness acknowledging that this is a kind of wandering that can never end. Such is the nature of the itinerant solitude and perpetual dissatisfaction of the artist—the life that the restless and relentlessly prolific Nelson chose for himself—on the road again.

As the album draws to a close, after searching in Denver dance halls and in strangers’ arms, the Preacher claims to have found some version of solace and maybe even love, if we can take him at his word. His declaration is followed by one of the album’s wordless instrumentals, quiet and beckoning as a campfire, as Mickey Raphael’s harmonica reverberates and fades out. The memory of the lyrics of the previous song linger like smoke: “I looked to the stars, tried all of the bars/And I’ve nearly gone up in smoke/Now my hand’s on the wheel/I’ve something that’s real/And I feel like I’m going home,” the Preacher-Stranger had just sung in “Hands on the Wheel.” It’s not clear, though, whether he’ll ever truly arrive, or if he’d let himself stay long.