Thanks, Phil Weisman!
That is a big-ass Texas sign.
Last November, while Internal Revenue Service officers in Austin made plans to auction off nearly everything he owned, Willie Nelson golfed in Hawaii. After flying to California to spend Christmas with relatives, Willie drove the long, leisurely road to Texas, stopping first to play poker with his pals in Hillsboro before arriving in Austin, where he jammed at the Broken Spoke, taped a television show with Jerry Jeff Walker, and got ready to shoot the TV movie Another Pair of Aces . With friends on the set he shared his favorite new joke: “What’s the difference between an IRS agent and a whore? A whore will quit f-ing you after you’re dead.” To folks in a hotel elevator who asked him for an autograph, Willie grinned and said, “Only if you don’t work for the IRS.” By the time he saw fit to saunter into the federal building on January 7 and meet his persecutors, anyone who didn’t write for the National Enquirer could see that Willie wasn’t going to commit suicide over this one.
Aboard his touring bus, Honeysuckle Rose II, surrounded by a gaggle of followers, Willie spoke of his $16.7 million tax debts as if it were just another busted guitar string. He would fix the matter, he explained, with Who’ll Buy My Memories?: The IRS Tapes, a collection of old recordings that he intended to release and market through an 800-number promotion scheme. “I think that if we give it enough publicity, there’s no limit to what we could sell,” said Willie as his followers listened intently. “Within four or five months, the whole debt could be wiped out. We’d take a negative thing and turn it into a positive thing for everybody.”
It was a classic Willie Nelson brainstorm, elegant in its simplicity and so wonderfully expressive of the belief that to any question—including a financial question—music was the answer. It was also a foolish notion. Neither Willie nor his managers had bothered to figure out just how many copies he would have to sell to relieve his debt. Nor did anyone seem willing to ask whether Willie Nelson, in today’s market, could achieve such sales. When I later relayed the IRS Tapes plan to an old friend of Willie’s, he shook his head and said, “That’s just crazy. Even Michael Jackson in his heyday couldn’t raise that kind of profit.”
But no one on the bus voiced that sentiment. Willie’s followers merely sat there, saying nothing, adrift in their leader’s calm but compelling melody, and roused only when my questions suggested skepticism, at which times they would stare at me darkly. O ye of little faith, their scowls seemed to say, just as their awed reaction to Willie’s solution recalled all the old bumper sticker slogans: “In Willie We Trust,” “Where There’s a Willie There’s a Way.” Willie needed their faith now. For all his public buoyancy, privately Willie Hugh Nelson was an angry and worried man. Until he could satisfy his debt, his money and his property belonged to the IRS. The dozens who depended on him—including practically everyone in the bus that afternoon—were now out of work and stood to lose their homes as well. Willie had heard somewhere that an IRS agent had been assigned to sit on one musician’s tour bus and shadow his every movement. “I’m not about to let that happen,” he told a friend, but the prospect obviously unnerved him.
“As long as I got my guitar, I’ll be fine,” Willie has often said, referring to Trigger, the legendary retooled Martin six-string he rescued from his burning Tennessee ranch house in the late sixties. Willie’s attachment to his old guitar was a bond that bordered on spiritual. “When Trigger goes, I’ll quit,” he has been heard to say. But what if the feds came after Trigger? They had done it before, he’d read somewhere—taken an entertainer’s guitar and auctioned it off for $45,000. It was one possibility that truly worried him. Two weeks before the IRS raid, Willie began to sense that negotiations with the agency were faltering. He asked the person he trusted most—his eldest daughter, Lana—to remove Trigger from the studio and personally deliver it to him in Hawaii. Lana did so, and Trigger was now in Willie’s hands—but for how long? Willie could manage without his recording studio, his golf course, and his Hill Country acreage. Without Trigger, though, all bets would be off.
Kudos to you, undisclosed buyer: You may be out $37,000, but you’re now the proud owner of Willie Nelson’s hair.
Two braids, cut back in the 1980s when the country singer’s locks were still red, were sold at auction Sunday, organizers from Guernsey’s auction house told Reuters. They were up for sale in an Arizona auction of items owned by the late Waylon Jennings.
Jennings was gifted the braids at a party thrown by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash to celebrate Jenning’s sobriety. Nelson’s then-wife, Connie Nelson, “brought the braids from Willie, who was on tour,” Jenning’s widow, Jessi Colter, told USA TODAY. “It just tickled Waylon.”
We hope their new owner is just as tickled. (OK, so the proceeds from the auction go to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation, but still — that is a lot of money for human hair.)
by: Jan Crawford.
Music legend Willie Nelson has everyone, young and old, liberal and conservative, singing along. At 81 years old, Nelson is doing something unheard of: remaining relevant, reports
He still spends about half the year on the road, and now he’s promoting his newest album, Band of Brothers, which recently hit number one on the country charts.
Critics say it’s some of his best, most reflective work in years.
He’s an American original and has a sound like no other — yet his songs tell stories we’ve all felt.
He said he thinks part of his craft, is that people feel like they can relate to his music.
“And I think that’s probably the reason I was put here; to write songs and come out here and sing ‘em and play ‘em for people,” Nelson said. “And people can hear ‘em and relate to what I’m talkin’ about.”
It’s the music that keeps driving him.
“The energy that we get from playin’ and the feedback that we get from people listenin’ to it,” Nelson said. “That’s all good stuff.”
His body of work is extraordinary: 21 number one hits and more than 100 albums — his latest, reached the top of the country charts in June.
He lives life on his terms — with music that somehow puts in words what we wish we could say.
There are songs of heartbreak, like the classic, “Angels Flying too Close to the Ground.”
He has the image of an outlaw, but friends say he is uncommonly kind.
Nelson started on a traditional path in Nashville, but feeling boxed in he went back to his native Texas.
Along the way, the good life became a hard life.
He struggled with drugs, alcohol and marriage.
Songwriting was an escape, but with performing came consequences. When he’s writing his songs, he said it’s like reliving moments in his own life.
“And when you sing ‘em every night, I think that’s why a bunch of us got into drugs and alcohol and things so heavy is because when you go out there at night and relive all that B.S. that put you in that place and you have to relive it every — sometimes people can’t handle it,” Nelson said. “And it’s too tough.”
Nelson said cigarettes were too hard on his lungs and drinking made him a little crazy.
So to take the edge off, he turned to pot.
How much does he smoke?
“Oh, I don’t know, as much as I want to,” Nelson said. “A lotta people couldn’t smoke as much as I do. I think I have a pretty good tolerance for it. And it’s a good medicine for me. It’s a good stress reliever.”
He’s been arrested at least four times for marijuana and is an outspoken advocate for legalization.
“I never thought during my lifetime that it would, because it was so hardcore against it in so many places,” Nelson said. “But then it looks like I was wrong.”
The future looks good for pot, he said, and in the meantime, he plans to keep making music.
Nelson said he doesn’t have anything to prove unless it’s “don’t stop.”
“You know, don’t look back,” he added. “They might be gainin’ on you.”
Nelson said he’s thinking about cutting back on some of his touring, but he’s not going to stop writing and making music.
His next album will be released in December.
The setting may seem strange, but this past Saturday, Willie Nelson and Neil Young transformed the middle of a cornfield into Harvest the Hope benefit concert. The concert organized by Art and Helen Tanderup at their farm in Neligh, Nebraska hosted 8,000 people who flocked to hear Willie Nelson and Neil Young sing in protest of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed pipeline would travel 1,179 miles from Alberta to southern Nebraska, would go straight through the Tanderup farm, and the historic Ponca Tribe “Trail of Tears”.
Six years ago is when TransCanada first proposed the Keystone XL pipeline and since then farmers, ranchers, Native Americans, and environmentalists have held multiple meetings to oppose the pipeline. The biggest fear is that there would be a spill that would cause irreversible harm to the Ogallala Aquifer. “As caretakers of our land, family farmers know best what’s good for it,” said Willie Nelson, Farm Aid co-founder. “We stand with these family farmers fighting for their land, livelihood and community.”
Both Nelson and Young have fought for the rights of farmers through out their careers. Between the two men they have thirteen Grammys, nine Juno awards, an Oscar nomination, one induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and one induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame. Nelson and Young along with John Mellencamp started Farm Aid in 1985. Farm Aid is a non-profit organizations whose main goal is to help farmers stay on their land. With that in mind Nelson and Young’s opposition to the pipeline does not come as a surprise, because of how it would displace farmers like the Tanderups’.
Opening for Willie Nelson and Neil Young was Frank Waln a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The pipeline would also go through the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s land. Waln was there to show his opposition to the pipeline as well as perform. The twenty five year old Columbia College grad credits his roots as a major influence in his music. Waln, who was raised by a single mother, brought his mother on stage to perform a song that he wrote for her called “My Rock”. All of the songs Waln performed were inspired by some part of his life growing up as a part of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.
Performing in front of 8,000 excited fans Willie Nelson and Neil Young performed songs from their earlier albums as well as newer material. Neil Young wrote a new song specifically for the occasion rightfully titled “Who’s Gonna Stand Up?”. Young’s new song was the finale of the concert where he asked the crowd to join together and sing with him. As the final notes closed out the song a sense of hope filled the corn field as 8,000 people stood together to fight against the pipeline.
by: Anastasia Pantsios
Willie Nelson and Neil Young, whose Farm Aid concerts have been raising money for family farmers since 1985, demonstrated their support for the agricultural heartland in another way this weekend, headlining the Harvest the Hope: A Concert to Protect the Heartland. The sold-out event, hosted by Art and Helen Tanderup at their farm in Neligh in northeast Nebraska, was intended to call attention to the destruction the Keystone XL pipeline would wreak on farms like theirs as well as nearby tribal lands.
Nelson and Young played separate sets for the crowd of 8,000, joining together to sing the Woody Guthrie anthem “This Land Is Your Land,” to which they added some lyrics about the pipeline. Lakota hip hop artist Frank Waln, Lukas Nelson and sons of the Real with special guest Micah Nelson (Lukas and Micah are Willie Nelson’s son) and the Stopping the Pipeline Rocks All-Stars, a group of local Nebraska musicians, warmed up the crowd with opening sets.
In addition to the headlining acts, the event featured music, dance and storytelling performances from area tribes and pipeline fighters, a tipi encampment, a kids area and booths hosted by local community groups and candidates active in the fight against the pipeline.
“The day’s events brought together leaders from several of the seven bands of the Great Sioux Nation in South Dakota and the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma,” reported the Omaha World-Herald. “The proposed path of the pipeline crosses historical tribal lands in South Dakota as well as the Ponca Trail of Tears in Nebraska, the path the Ponca people following during their forced march to Oklahoma’s Indian Territory.”
The paper also wrote that at the pre-concert press conference, Young tied the pipeline opposition to the choice between fossil fuels and clean energy and its impact on climate change.
“America has a chance to stand up and lead the world like we used to,” said Young. “So we’re not just standing here complaining about problems, but finding solutions.”
Young has just released a new song “Stand Up and Fight,” a potential anthem for the climate movement, which follows the title lyric with the words “and save the Earth.”
The proceeds from the concert will go to Bold Nebraska, the Indigenous Peoples Network, the Cowboy & Indian Alliance. and local community clean energy projects. Sponsors included the Nebraska Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Read article, see more photos:
By Mitch Smith
NELIGH, Neb. — From the edge of a rye field teeming with grasshoppers, Willie Nelson and Neil Young sang on Saturday in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL project, warning through lyrics that a “company wants to build a tar sand pipeline where it don’t belong.”
The site of the concert — a patch of farmland where 26 acres of corn were harvested early to create a makeshift parking lot — was as unlikely as the coalition of Nebraskans who have united against Keystone XL and made this state the legal and emotional center of the pipeline opposition.
“I’ve told them, ‘You’ll have to haul me out from in front of that bulldozer, because I’m going to protect this farm,’ ” said Art Tanderup, who with his wife, Helen, hosted the concert. Their land in the rolling hills of northeast Nebraska would be directly along the pipeline route.
It has been six years since TransCanada, an energy company, first proposed this 1,179-mile crude-oil pipeline to southern Nebraska from Alberta. In that time, a group of Nebraska farmers, ranchers, Native Americans and city-dwelling environmentalists has held meeting after meeting to rally opposition to the pipeline and forge a delicate trust as it worked toward a common goal.
Activists have scored some successes. After they complained loudly about the initial route, which would have gone through the ecologically delicate Sandhills region, TransCanada agreed to shift the pipeline eastward.
Even with that change, the debate is far from settled. Leaders of the opposition movement now want the pipeline project scrapped altogether, citing concerns about TransCanada and fears that a spill would irreparably harm the Ogallala Aquifer, the underground water source used to irrigate cropland and supply taps across a wide portion of the heartland.
Because Keystone XL would cross an international border, President Obama will have the final say on whether it is built. He has put off his decision for years, most recently signaling that he would allow the State Department to continue studying the issue while awaiting a decision from the Nebraska Supreme Court.
This month, Nebraska’s top judges heard a group of landowners’ argumentschallenging the state’s approval process for the route. Their decision will determine whether Gov. Dave Heineman’s support of the route is sufficient to allow construction in Nebraska, or whether a five-member state commission must review the company’s application. The justices might not rule until after the midterm elections.
Mr. Heineman, a Republican, opposed the initial route through the Sandhills, but last year approved the revised path, saying it avoided sensitive lands and could be operated safely.
The years of delays, and the potential for yet more waiting, have frustrated TransCanada officials, who insist the project would be safe and an economic boon, with farmers among the beneficiaries.
“The need for Keystone XL hasn’t changed,” said Shawn Howard, a company spokesman. “Our customers continue to remain behind it. We need a decision and we need the politics behind it to stop.”
But Dave Domina, a lawyer who represented that group of Nebraska landowners before the State Supreme Court, said his clients had grown frustrated with TransCanada and were worried about the pipeline’s impact on future generations.
“I think what it says about Nebraskans is, first and foremost, don’t try pushing us around,” said Mr. Domina, who is also the state’s Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.
Of course, not all Nebraskans oppose Keystone XL. Plenty of landowners have signed agreements allowing TransCanada to build on their property, and many other residents have long been satisfied that the project is in the state’s interest.
Paul Landow, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska Omaha, said urban Nebraskans tend to favor pipeline construction while more residents of rural areas are opposed. Professor Landow said the coalition of opponents has presented its case smartly and, to a certain extent, been effective. Still, he said, the pipeline debate most likely will not be a deciding factor in statewide political contests.
At Saturday’s Harvest the Hope concert, where about 8,000 people turned off the gravel road to spend the afternoon at the Tanderup farm, many spoke emotionally and at length about their opposition to the pipeline and the problems they fear it portends.
Leaders of Native American tribes from Nebraska and South Dakota said they would take whatever steps necessary to protect their land. Landowners told reporters they feared the pipeline would tarnish the soil for their grandchildren. And Mr. Nelson and Mr. Young tied Keystone XL to the broader issues of climate change and corporate influence in politics. They urged Nebraskans to continue working to block the pipeline’s construction and protect the environment.
“I know it’s a great thing we’re doing,” Mr. Young said from the stage. “But even if we don’t win this round, we’re going to be even stronger next time.”
It was an effervescent sold-out crowd that packed The Ridgefield Playhouse for the 14th Anniversary Gala on September 17 to see Willie Nelson, up-close-and-personal with his Family band.
In an evening brimming with dinner courtesy of area food establishments, an open bar, silent and live auctions and honorees, it was the social event of the season.
Tony Award winner and Ridgefield resident Debbie Gravitte received the Arts Volunteer Award from Broadway star Harvey Fierstein, and Allison Stockel was honored for her 10th year volunteering her time as Executive Director of The Ridgefield Playhouse. The event also marked the establishment of The Allison Stockel Fund, to benefit the endowment of the not-for-profit performing arts center, with an initial amount of $250,000. The Fund was created to help sustain the Playhouse for the future. Checks may be made payable to The Ridgefield Playhouse for the benefit of The Allison Stockel Fund and sent to Julie Paltauf at the Playhouse.
The Ridgefield Playhouse is a not-for-profit performing arts center located at 80 East Ridge, parallel to Main Street, Ridgefield, CT; 203-438-5795, ridgefieldplayhouse.org.
by: Joe Duggan
NELIGH, Neb. — Music legends Willie Nelson and Neil Young delivered Saturday on a promise to comfort opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline while also pleasing a few project supporters who ventured into a crowded Nebraska farm field.
A familiar duo in the Farm Aid series of benefit concerts, Nelson and Young teamed up to give a musical assist to pipeline fighters. They performed just one number together, incorporating a few anti-pipeline verses into the folk anthem “This Land Is Your Land.”
“That tar-sand oil ain’t good for drinking,” Young sang.
Even those who didn’t sing along as the chorus railed against new fossil fuel development and corporate influence said the concert offered an all-around good vibe.
Mike Nash of Omaha said it was easier for him to overlook politics that he doesn’t necessarily agree with when the politics come from two music icons in such a unique venue.
“Love the people here, love the show, everybody’s getting along,” he said as Nelson strummed the opening of “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”
During a pre-concert press conference, Young said the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline symbolizes the larger choice that the world faces between fossil fuels and renewable energy. A native of Canada, Young, 68, urged the United States to take decisive action on climate change.
“America has a chance to stand up and lead the world like we used to,” Young said to a throng of reporters covering the event. “So we’re not just standing here complaining about problems, but finding solutions.”
Jane Kleeb, the lead organizer of the Harvest the Hope concert, said Nelson and Young helped the show sell 8,000 tickets at $50 each. The proceeds, after roughly $100,000 in expenses are deducted, will benefit three pipeline opponents: Bold Nebraska, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Cowboy and Indian Alliance.
“These boots and moccasins are going to stop this pipeline,” said Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, an environmental advocacy group.
The day’s events brought together leaders from several of the seven bands of the Great Sioux Nation in South Dakota and the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma. The proposed path of the pipeline crosses historical tribal lands in South Dakota as well as the Ponca Trail of Tears in Nebraska, the path the Ponca people following during their forced march to Oklahoma’s Indian Territory.
Nelson, 81, suggested his participation in the event was motivated by his longstanding advocacy for farmers and his admiration for Native American people.
“We’re here for the farmers and ranchers, the cowboys and Indians,” he said. “And we’ve always been there. Thank you for coming out to help us help them.”
Sunny skies and a strong southerly breeze settled over the day as thousands made their way down a gravel road north of Neligh to the concert site in a farm field.
Art and Helen Tanderup, whose 160-acre farm lies on the path of the pipeline, hosted the event. The Tanderups are among roughly 100 Nebraska landowners who have refused to sign easement agreements with pipeline company TransCanada Corp. About 400 other Nebraska landowners have signed easements.
For six years, TransCanada has been seeking approval from the U.S. State Department to build a 36-inch-wide pipeline that would carry 830,000 barrels a day of mostly heavy Canadian oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The southern part of the project is done, so now the company wants to build a 1,200-mile stretch between western Canada’s oil sands region to Steele City, Nebraska.
President Barack Obama must approve the project because it crosses international borders. His administration has put the project on hold while the Nebraska Supreme Court reviews the legality of the state law used to route the pipeline. The court is not expected to issue an opinion until after November’s elections.
Pipeline supporters say it will provide well-paying construction jobs as it is built and property tax revenues to counties along the project’s path. And they say it will reduce America’s reliance on offshore oil by tapping into Canada’s vast oil reserves.
Opponents argue that a major spill would contaminate water in the continent’s largest underground aquifer and devastate private property. They also say mining and burning the heavy Canadian oil, known as bitumen, adds significantly to the greenhouse gases affecting global climate change.
“I think jobs are fine, but jobs are temporary. The environment is permanent,” said Susie Chandler, 66, a rancher who drove to Neligh from her home near the western Nebraska village of Keystone.
Michael Whatley of the pro-pipeline Consumer Energy Alliance said last week that Nelson and Young are hurting farmers with opposition to Keystone XL. Whatley said the transportation of oil by trains — oil that could be moved instead by the pipeline — contributes to rail congestion and blocks farmers from getting crops to market.
During the roughly 30-minute session with reporters before the show, Young and Nelson did not address the criticism.
Robert Johnston, an Antelope County landowner whose property also is crossed by the pipeline, said he backs the project. He said his support is tied to his use of petroleum products on his corn, soybean and alfalfa farm and the property tax benefits that the county would receive if the project were built.
Johnston didn’t plan to attend the show, but when his combine broke down while harvesting soybeans, he decided to head down to the Tanderup farm.
“I think it’s great, really,” he said. “What the heck. It’s just another example of the economic activity TransCanada has brought to Antelope County.”
The Tanderups harvested a good portion of their corn early to provide space for the concert and parking. Crews erected a stage in the corner of a plot of oats, and a stand of towering cottonwoods provided a sweeping backdrop for the stage and a jumbo screen.
Out in the field, people sat in bag chairs and on blankets. Some concertgoers sported cowboy hats, while others wore eagle feathers. Some danced in flip-flops while people next to them scooted in knee-high cowboy boots with jeans tucked inside. The audience ranged from infants to grandparents.
Performers such as Frank Waln, a Sicangu Lakota hip-hop artist from Rosebud, South Dakota, and Lukas and Micah Nelson, sons of Willie Nelson, warmed up the crowd.
Willie Nelson then took the stage and ran through most of his popular titles, such as “On the Road Again” and “You Are Always on My Mind.” He played for about 45 minutes.
Young’s set, which extended beyond an hour, included the well-known “Heart of Gold” and a new version of “Who’s Gonna Stand Up,” which he wrote about the Keystone XL pipeline.
With his guitar in hand and harmonica around his neck, Young urged Nebraskans not to give up. “This is never going to end, until we get it right.”
Read the article, see more photos:
by: Walter Bird Jr.
Some concerts go by fast. The really, really good ones last a while. They become great when the performer leaves fans begging for more. Consider it mission accomplished, then, for Willie Nelson, who stopped by Indian Ranch with his “family” for a special show Saturday, Sept. 20 – one day before the venue hosted its last concert of the season.
Playing and sounding not at all like his age – he turned 81 in April – and sporting his trademark pigtails and bandanas, Nelson strode unassumingly, if a little slowly, onto the stage about a half hour after the scheduled 2 p.m. start time. He would not leave for another hour and a half. Twenty-eight songs later, Nelson stood with his beaten up, but fine-sounding acoustic guitar raised aloft in his right hand. He basked for a moment in the last of several standing ovations earned through a set that had an audience of young, old and everything in between clapping, cheering and singing along pretty much start to finish. He certainly left Chris Young, once again wrapping up the concert season at Indian Ranch with a Sunday, Sept. 21 appearance, with big shoes to fill.
Nelson’s almost 90-minute-on-the-nose set before a sellout crowd of 3,000-plus had something old, something new, and even something blue, considering he sang the somber “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” He is backed by one of the most trusted and reliable bands in the business, the “family,” featuring Nelson’s sister, Bobbie Nelson, on piano; brothers Paul and Billy English on drums (Billy joined the band to help on drums after his brother suffered a stroke four years ago; Mickey Raphael on harmonica; and bassist Kevin Smith, who came on board in 2011 after the death of former bass player, Bee Spears. The band requires no set list, no nod from Nelson, no cue to know what comes next. In concert, it is song after song after song, save for maybe a “Thank you very much” or “Here’s a little Hank Williams.” The members all know which song comes next, when to do their thing and when to just sit back and let Nelson do his thing.
Oh, and how Nelson does his thing. When talking about great guitarists, Nelson’s is not a name often mentioned, but when it comes to acoustics, it is hard to imagine many coming close to the mastery exhibited by the man in pigtails. Nelson had ample opportunity to show off some fine finger picking on songs such as “Nigh Life” and “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” the latter from the 1980 film, “Honeysuckle Rose.” He earned several standing ovations, and for much of the last part of the concert, had fans on their feet – even under the pavilion, where signs reminded them there was “No Standing” were rightly ignored. How can you sit when Nelson and family are rolling their way through “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “I’ll Fly Away” and, quite fittingly, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die?”
The latter was appropriate, as the familiar scent of marijuana was detectable during the show. The song also led into the closing number – and the 28th song of the set – “I Saw the Light.”
By that point, the crowd had become putty in Nelson’s hands; it did not take long, actually. From the opening number, “Whiskey River,” which took fans on a time machine back to 1973 and the album “Shotgun Willie,” Nelson proved he wasn’t just showing up. He appeared genuinely psyched to appear at Indian Ranch for the first time in about 20 years. He strummed his way into 1993’s “Still is Still Moving to Me” and had the crowd hootin’ and hollerin’ with “Beer For My Horses.” Nelson then paid homage to his friend and fellow Highwayman Waylong Jennings, with “Good Hearted Woman” (Nelson and Kris Kristofferson are the two lone surviving members of The Highwaymen, with Jennings and Johnny Cash now passed). Pacing the show with precision, Nelson slowed things down with “Funny How Time Slips Away” and “Crazy,” the song he recorded, but was most famously sung by Patsy Cline. Things picked up with “Nightlife,” before Bobbie Nelson treated the fans to “Down Yonder” on piano. “Me and Paul” came next, with no truer words spoken as Nelson crooned, “It’s been rough and rocky travelin’, but I’m finally standing upright on the ground.”
Indeed, Nelson did not sit or rest once during the show. He took off his black cowboy hat after one or two songs and did not put it back until the end. In between, he tossed out some bandanas – only after wearing them first, of course – and kept the crowd under his spell. When he launched into “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” 10 songs into the show, Nelson let the audience fill in the chorus. He went into “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” “On The Road Again” and “You Were Always On My Mind,” before performing a three-song tribute to Hank Williams with “Jambalaya [on the Bayou]“, “Hey, Good Lookin'”, and “Move it on Over.”
From there, it was time for a little “Georgia on My Mind,” which gave way to “Band of Brothers,” from Nelson’s latest, self-titled album earlier this year. Nelson pulled out Billy Joe Shaver’s “Georgia on a Fast Train” and his own “I Never Cared for You” before hitting the homestretch, which included “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” an instrumental interlude and “I’ll Fly Away.” As he tore through the final two songs, “Roll Me Up …” and “I Saw the Light,” one couldn’t help but wonder whether Nelson was gracing the Indian Ranch stage for the final time. What better way to do it than by walking off with arms raised triumphantly. One expects the younger bands and musicians to play long and hard, but Nelson schooled them on this day – 81 and going strong, and yes, “standing upright on the ground.”
by: Michael Corcoran
his concert was the Big Bang of modern Austin Music, the show that begat the “progressive country” movement that put Austin on the map as the anti-Nashville. Willie Nelson had discovered, on previous trips to Austin, especially the musically-thrilling financial disaster that was the Dripping Springs Reunion in March 1972, that Texas hippies loved country music. After years of wearing a suit and short hair, trying to get the country mainstream to accept him, Willie said “screw it” and moved to where his true audience was.
One of the longhairs who loved his music was Armadillo World Headquarters ringleader Eddie Wilson, who wore out the grooves of Willie’s Live At Panther Hall album while homesick in the Bay Area for a month. When Wilson returned to Austin and the Armadillo and heard Willie, wife Connie and the kids had moved to nearby Riverside Drive, he made it his mission to book the straight-laced Nelson into his hippie beer joint. It wasn’t hard, as Willie stopped by the Armadillo soon after getting his utilities turned on. “I’ve been looking for you,” Eddie said. “Well, you found me,” answered Willie.
You have to realize that 1972 was still the Sixties in Austin, with the thick air of conflict whenever crewcutted rednecks and longhaired peaceniks were in the same establishment. It was jocks vs. nerds, bullies against the passive, with the war in Vietnam drawing a line that felt like a moat. But the debut of Willie and his band, with the wildly popular bluegrass stoners Greezy Wheels opening, brought both sides together without incident. As conducted by Willie, who had just started growing out his hair, two quite divergent groups of people realized, through the shared experience of music, that they had more in common than they had thought. A cliché brought to life on Aug. 12, 1965, when the Vulcan Gas Company merged with the Broken Spoke.
As the creator of songs (“Crazy,” “Hello Walls” etc.) that made a lot of people a lot of money, Willie came with heavy music business connections, which was something the Austin music scene needed badly, lest all this heartfelt music disappear at the end of the night. He bought a complex on Academy Drive near South Congress Avenue and opened Arlyn Studio- Austin’s first world class recording facility- and the Austin Opera House, which took over as the best place to see shows after the Armadillo closed on New Year’s Eve 1980.
After Willie’s successful debut at the Armadillo, he started getting his country rebel friends like Waylon Jennings to play there, and stoked a national fascination with “Waylon and Willie and the boys.” Austin earned an identity in the ‘70s as the capital of outlaw country music. Then came the Vaughan Brothers and Clifford Antone and the blues. Then came all the indie rock guitar bands.
There’s been amazing music in town since the German singing societies in the late 1800s. This is the town of the Lomax family, who saved folk songs like children in burning buildings, where Kenneth Threadgill gave a foul-mouthed free spirit named Janis Joplin a place to sing. The wealth of live music continues today, with nurturing venues like the Mohawk, Beerland, the Continental Club, Hole In the Wall and on and on keeping the legacy alive. Willie didn’t start great live music in Austin, but he became its spiritual leader. Like his close friend Coach Darrell Royal, Willie set a high standard. It’s OK if you
photo: James Minchin
by: Maureen Dowd
WASHINGTON — WHEN Willie Nelson invites you to get high with him on his bus, you go.
The man is the patron saint of pot, after all, and I’m the poster girl for bad pot trips.
It seemed like a match made in hash heaven.
When Nelson sang at the 9:30 club in D.C. one recent night, I ventured onto the Honeysuckle Rose, as his tour bus and home-away-from-home is called.
I was feeling pretty shy about meeting him. The 81-year-old Redheaded Stranger is an icon, one of America’s top songwriters and, as Rolling Stone said, “a hippie’s hippie and a redneck’s redneck.” The Smithsonian wants his guitar, “Trigger.”
I needed a marijuana Miyagi, and who better than Nelson, who has a second-degree black belt in taekwondo and a first-degree black belt in helping Norml push for pot legalization?
“Maybe she’ll read the label now!” he said, laughing, adding that I was welcome to get high on his bus “anytime.”
So that’s how I found myself, before Nelson’s show here, sitting opposite him in a booth on the bus as he drank black coffee out of a pottery cup, beneath a bulletin board filled with family photos.
His eyes were brass-colored, to use Loretta Lynn’s description. His long pigtails were graying. His green T-shirt bore the logo of his son’s band, Promise of the Real.
So, Sensei, if I ever decide to give legal pot a whirl again, what do I need to know?
“The same thing that happened to you happened to me one or two times when I was not aware of how much strength was in whatever I was eating,” Nelson said, in his honeyed voice. “One time, I ate a bunch of cookies that, I knew they were laced but I didn’t worry about it. I just wanted to see what it would do, and I overdid it, naturally, and I was laying there, and it felt like the flesh was falling off my bones.
“Honestly, I don’t do edibles,” he continued. “I’d rather do it the old-fashioned way, because I don’t enjoy the high that the body gets. Although I realize there’s a lot of other people who have to have it that way, like the children that they’re bringing to Colorado right now for medical treatments. Those kids can’t smoke. So for those people, God bless ’em, we’re for it.”
Eager not to seem like a complete idiot, I burbled that, despite the assumption of many that I gobbled the whole candy bar, I had only taken a small bite off the end, and then when nothing seemed to be happening, another nibble.
Nelson humored me as I also pointed out that the labels last winter did not feature the information that would have saved me from my night of dread.
Now, however, Colorado and Washington State have passed emergency rules to get better labeling and portion control on edibles, whose highs kick in more slowly and can be more intense than when the drug is smoked. Activists are also pushing to make sure there are stamps or shapes to distinguish pot snacks — which had, heretofore, been designed to mimic regular snacks — so that children don’t mistakenly ingest them.
Its whimsical first billboard in Denver shows a bandjaxed redhead in a hotel room — which is far too neat to be mine — with the warning: “Don’t let a candy bar ruin your vacation. With edibles, start low and go slow.”
I asked Nelson about Jerry Brown’s contention that a nation of potheads would threaten American superiority.
“I never listened to him that much,” he said, sweetly.
He showed me his pot vaporizer, noting: “Everybody’s got to kill their own snakes, as they say. I found out that pot is the best thing for me because I needed something to slow me down a little bit.” He was such a mean drunk, he said, that if he’d kept drinking heavily, “there’s no telling how many people I would have killed by now.”
I asked him about the time he was staying in the Carter White House — on bond from a pot bust — and took a joint up to the roof.
“It happened a long time ago,” he said, adding slyly, “I’m sure it happened.”
Did he also indulge in the Lincoln Bedroom?
“In what?” he replied, mischievously. “I wouldn’t do anything Lincoln wouldn’t have done.”
Given all the horrors in the world now, I said, maybe President Obama needs to chill out by reuniting the Choom Gang.
“I would think,” Nelson said, laughing, “he would sneak off somewhere.”
by: Scott Mervi
Sometimes legends disappoint you. Other times they are everything they are advertised to be, and more. That was Willie Nelson Tuesday night at the Benedum.
His first trip into our city limits since he played Heinz Hall 14 years ago brought him back to a theater where fans could savor every precious note.
This legend is 81 years old and, dare I say, still near the height of his powers, with a national treasure of a voice aged like a top-shelf whiskey.
A recent profile of him in Rolling Stone dropped a word — rubato — that may be unfamiliar even to hardcore music fans. It was used by producer Jerry Wexler to describe the rare way he uses meter in his phrasing, comparable to the likes of Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles (and, I would add, Bob Dylan).
Nobody delivers a lyric quite the same way as Willie — the way he makes it to the end of the line at his own pace — and he’s written many a good one, going back 50 years.
His set list Tuesday was the jukebox from the roadhouse in some honky tonk heaven. Backed by his understated five-piece band — including drummer Paul English using a single snare, sister Bobbie on piano and soulful harp sidekick Michey Raphael — he offered all the poetry, simplicity and authenticity we expect.
When he first arrived on stage, in black T-shirt, jeans and cowboy hat, doing the traditional opening of “Whiskey River,” his Trigger sounded a little funny. That’s his ancient guitar with the hole in it.
It jumped out of the mix sharp and tinny and even sounding slightly out of tune. It was borderline jarringly punk.
As the songs rolled on — “Still is Still Moving to Me,” “Beer for My Horses,” “Good Hearted Woman” — Trigger managed to settle more into flow. Willie is an offbeat, atypical virtuoso, but there are few guitarists who are more direct and expressive with the notes they choose and abrupt changes in volume and tempo.
Although he has a fine new album out in “Band of Brothers,” he didn’t bother with that. It was all classic — “Crazy.” “Nightlife (Ain’t No Good Life,” “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” one stunning song after and another. “Me and Paul,” about his misadventures with his drummer, was rollicking and hilarious. “Always on My Mind” was slow, gorgeous and bittersweet. His lovely take on “Georgia” was perfectly paired with chugging cover of Billy Joe Shaver’s “I Been to Georgia on a Fast
Train.” As usual, he didn’t say much beyond “thank you’s” and band introductions but he was smiling and friendly, and had fun throwing his bandannas out to the crowd.
The climax of the set took him back to his roots with a mix of Hank Williams (“Jambalaya,” “Hey Good Lookin’,” “Move it on Over”) and gospel (“Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “I Saw the Light”) with daughter Amy joining on vocals.
There have been a lot of so-called “country” concerts around here this summer. There aren’t many things more real, more American and more good for the soul than a Willie Nelson concert.
Still Is Still Moving to Me
Beer for My Horses
Good Hearted Woman
Funny How Time Slips Away
Nightlife (Ain’t No Good Life)
Me and Paul
Help Me Make it Through the Night
Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys (Ed Bruce cover)
Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground
On the Road Again
You Were Always On My Mind
I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train
He Can’t Tell Me What To Do
I Never Cared for You
Hey Good Lookin’
Move It on Over
Will the Circle Be Unbroken
Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die
I Saw the Light