Archive for the ‘News and Reviews’ Category

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.

Willie Nelson making movies in Corpus Christie in 1979

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

photo:  David Wallace
by:  Allison Ehrlich

It was rainy and cold at the beach when the Red-Headed Stranger came to town in 1979.

Willie Nelson, already a music legend, was just starting his movie career when production crews showed up in Corpus Christi to film a few scenes for “Honeysuckle Rose.”

The movie tells the story of touring country singer Buck Bonham, played by Nelson, and the threat to his relationship with his long-suffering wife when his retiring guitarist’s college-age daughter joins the tour and poses a temptation. Dyan Cannon played wife Viv Bonham and Amy Irving portrayed the tempting young Lily Ramsey, with Slim Pickens as her father.

This was only Nelson’s second film, following his one-line debut in “The Electric Horseman” with Jane Fonda and Robert Redford. Nelson — as one would expect — was not your usual movie star.

A Caller article from Dec. 15, 1979, describes the atmosphere during filming at Malaquite Beach at the Padre Island National Seashore as laidback. “Missing were the glittery costumes, glamorous stars and groupies en masse that seem to accompany the filming of a movie.”

Also missing was the moderate weather that was supposed to serve as a stand-in for a sunny Mexican beach. A steady rain fell and temperatures hovered in the low 50s.

The movie isn’t much remembered except by the most loyal fans. At the time, Roger Ebert stated, “the movie is sly and entertaining, but it could have been better. Still, it has its charms, and one is certainly the presence of Willie Nelson himself.”

The crew members would have agreed. At one point the large, red, white and blue bus labeled with “Buck Bonham’s Band” got stuck in the soft sand on the shoulder when Willie was trying to turn it around. As crew members scrambled to help push it out, Nelson jumped out to help get the bus on the road again.

And in fact, “On the Road Again” may be the most memorable thing to come from the movie. The film’s soundtrack was Nelson’s 27th studio album and made it to No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums. “On the Road Again” also hit No. 1 on the Billboard country chart, No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, won Nelson a Grammy for Best Country Song and was nominated for Best Original Song at the 53rd Academy Awards.

Read article, see more photos here.

Allison Ehrlich is the archive coordinator for the Caller-Times. Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @CallerArchives.

WIllie Nelson & Family at the Smart Financial Center, Sugar Land, TX (Nov. 14, 2017)

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

photo:  Annie Mulligan
by:  Joey Guerra

Texas treasure. Country icon. Living legend. What else can possibly be said about Willie Nelson?

The fact that he’s still touring at all — he turned 84 years old this year — is a miracle. But there he was, braids and red bandana, beaming in front of a sold-out crowd Tuesday night at Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land.

Nelson stepped onstage as soon as the lights went down, kicking off as always with a slow and steady “Whiskey River.” He mostly speak-sings his catalog but imbues every word with sincerity and wit.

The crowd ranged from 20-something hipsters to couples celebrating 40-plus years of marriage. And they rallied throughout the 70-minute set.

photo:  Annie Mulligan

Some stood and cheered. Others swayed in their seats. And some took to the aisles for a two-step. Merch lines were busy throughout the night.

Nelson has so many songs to choose from that every inclusion feels like a small surprise. He repeated several tunes from his Rodeo Houston set earlier this year.

There was a breezy run through “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Crazy” and “Night Life.” He still imbues “Always On My Mind” and Angel Flying too Close to the Ground” with regret and tenderness. And there were plenty of laughs during “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” and “Still Not Dead.”

He paid tribute to Waylon Jennings (“Good Hearted Woman”), Hank Williams (“Move it on Over”) and Tom T. Hall (“Shoeshine Man”). And the crowd let out cheers of approval during “On the Road Again” and “Georgia On My Mind.”

It was fitting that Nelson ended with a medley of “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” “I’ll Fly Away” and “I Saw the Light.” For so many fans in attendance, the night was indeed the gospel according to Nelson.

photo:  Annie Mulligan

Willie Country, by Don Holland

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017


Willie Country
By Don Holland

Howdy!  Willie Nelson came to Abbott on Wednesday, December 3, and it was not so long  before he was surrounded by a lot of friends and fans who turned out to greet him.  Willie was accompanied by his sister Bobbie who plays the piano when they perform with the band.  They had come to Abbott to shoot some publicity photos to be used on the cover of a gospel music album that will be released in the future.  The reason why they came to Abbott is to have the photos taken in front of the Methodist Church that Willie and Bobbie attended when growing up here in Abbott.

Willie and Bobbie were dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meeting finest.  You can see for yourself how sharp they looked in the photos that have been placed on various pagers of the paper.


Rev. Wayne Dunson, the present preacher at the Methodist Church, is the same one that preached there when Willie and Bobbie attended in their youth.  He was in the area when Willie and Bobbie showed up and asked me to take a photo of him and Willie.  “But, he whispered in my ear, I need to go over and change my coat before you take the picture.  I don’t think it would look right with Willie looking more like a preacher than I do.”


Yours truly really enjoyed seeing Willie in Abbott.  He had come through town several times during the past month or so and I was always out of town and missed him.  Again, true to form, I was out of town, but Jan got on the telephone and had me located in Waco.  My brother Ben found me as the screen printers where I was picking up some new T-shirts of Willie as the Red Headed Stranger, and got the message to me.  I returned to Abbott immediately and was able to get the photos that you see in this issue.


While chatting with Willie, I asked him whether the movie entitled “The Red Headed Stranger” would be released.  He said, “Plans are made to release it February 19, 1987.”  So all of you fans stay on the lookout for the movie and remember you can get tee shirts and pictures of Willie as the Red Headed Stranger right here through the Souvenir Shop, either in person or by mail order.

Some of you no doubt read about the Susie Nelson Show that we had booked at the VFW Club in Cameron, Texas, this past November 15th.  The show was very successful as the folks there enjoyed the music and singing of our stars Susie Nelson and her band and Chris Robbins with Stagecoach Symphony.

Several phoots that I took are included in thgis issue (page 7) for your eyeballs’ pleasure.  Enjoy!  Also, we appreciated a big fan of Willie’s coming to the show — Ann Willis of Temple.  Ann showed me a lot of photos that she has taken around the countryside and we will try to run some of them in future editions.

Other recent visitors to Willie Nelson Country have come from Robards, Kentucky, Prag, Oklahoma; St. Joseph, Missouri; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Battle Creek, Michigan; Judsonia Arkansas; Jacksonville, Illionois; and Dallas, Garland, Red Oak, Mesquite, Austin, San Antonio, Temple Branson, Corsicana, Crossroads and Springtown, TX.  Coming the longest distance was Lucas Wegmann from Newcastle, Main.  We really enjoy meeting and visiting with Willie’s fans from all over the country!


Willie Nelson delights in Houston

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

photo:  Matthew Keever
by:  Matthew Keever

Willie Nelson
Smart Financial Centre
November 14, 2017
Assuming I make it to age 84, I pray I’ll still have the dexterity to shave. Beyond that, I hope to have the wherewithal to remember my name and address. And if I’m able to tie my own shoes, I’ll consider it a bonus.

But at that very age, one of country music’s most beloved icons – the one and only Willie Nelson – continues to release music and tour relentlessly, serving as a reminder to us all that the ride ain’t over till it’s over.

Nelson and his band – the Family – visited Houston’s newest venue Tuesday night, packing Smart Financial Centre to the gills with people of all ages and backgrounds. The only thing anyone seemed to have in common was a shared appreciation for the American singer-songwriter, and perhaps a love for beer.

Early in his performance, the redheaded stranger displayed a few imperfections that have come with age. He began his set with “Whiskey River” – which has become a staple of Nelson’s live performances despite originally being sung by Houston’s own Johnny Bush – but his fingers just couldn’t find the right chords for much of the song.

He fiddled with his earpiece and tuned his guitar a bit before motioning to the soundboard to turn his stage monitor up. All the while, the Family kept the track from going off the rails and fans belted out the lyrics in solidarity with the man of the hour.

By the third song – a solo rendition of his 2002 duet with Toby Keith, “Beer For My Horses” – Nelson hit his stride. His microphone and guitar were adjusted to his liking, and his fingers found their step. He didn’t miss another chord for the rest of the night.

Nelson’s repertoire Tuesday night paired longtime favorites such as “On The Road Again” and “Always On My Mind” with newer tracks liked “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die,” giving longtime and new fans alike a chance to sing along.

He spent just over an hour onstage, tossing bandanas into the crowd in between every few songs and smiling broadly. In between dedications to deceased pals Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard, Nelson sang lightheartedly about rumors of his own demise on “Still Not Dead.”

There’s nothing left for Nelson to prove. His status as an elder statesman in the music community has been intact for years, but each performance lends his legend even more credibility.

Tuesday night was another notch in the Nelson’s belt, another show among the thousands he has played over decades. For others, it was their 10th or 12th time seeing him in concert. But for some, it was their first time.

As memorable a first as any.

Whiskey River (Johnny Bush Cover)
Still Is Still Moving To Me
Beer For My Horses (Toby Keith cover)
Good Hearted Woman (Waylon Jennings cover)
Crazy (Patsy Cline cover)
Night Life
If You’ve Got The Money I’ve Got The Time (Lefty Frizzell cover)
It’s All Going To Pot
On The Road Again
Always On My Mind
Move It On Over
Georgia On My Mind
Fast Train To Georgia
Shoeshine Man (Tom Hall cover)
Mammas, Don’t’ Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground
Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die
Still Not Dead
Will The Circle Be Unbroken
I’ll Fly Away


Willie Nelson: Teatro the Complete Sessions re-replease (10/27/2017)

Thursday, November 9th, 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
by:  John Paul

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

Willie Nelson

Teatro: The Complete Sessions

(Light in the Attic)

Release Date: 27 Oct 2017

For the recording of what would become Teatro, Nelson and producer Daniel Lanois elected to take over an unused movie theatre in Oxnard, California. Aiming for what they conceived as a cinematic sound and feel, the empty theatre seemed as good a place as any to capture just the right atmosphere. Adding to this, they landed on recording the entirety of the album live amidst the red velvet seats of the Teatro. This rawness lends the recordings an urgency and an ever-present threat of going off the rails – words dropped, cues missed and flubbed notes captured for posterity – but also a relaxed, confident air that permeates the whole of the album (the jazz-indebted ballad “Home Motel” is particularly brilliant in its stark simplicity).

Newly reissued by the folks at Light in the Attic, TeatroThe Complete Sessions here is presented as both sound and vision, Wenders’ film accompanying the remastered recording, and seven previously unissued tracks. To watch the recording process is to fully inhabit the world in which the music of Teatro was created and captured. As the camera pans across the performers, you’re able to watch Emmylou Harris looking to Nelson for cues as to when she is to come in vocally. There’s a delicate uncertainty on her entrances, Nelson’s notoriously behind-the-beat style making true harmonic collaboration very nearly impossible. But she still gamely follows throughout, her eyes keyed in on Nelson as he loses himself in the song (“My Own Peculiar Way”, in particular, offers a prime example of just this).

Harris’ presence here adds another level of country royalty, herself having experienced renewed critical interest in the wake of her Lanois-produced Wrecking Ball. Able to harmonize with seemingly everyone with whom she works, she sounds particularly inspired when paired with Nelson, her voice gently seeping into the cracks of his iconic nasal twang. “I Never Cared For You”, a song that had been in the Nelson catalog for some time prior to its recording here, bristles with an immediacy and intimacy, the brushed snare insistently pushing the melody forward, Nelson and Harris intertwining their vocals with a subtle sophistication and Nelson’s own rhythmically dangerous guitar solo lending the track a heightened thrill in its potential to come fully undone.

Given Lanois’ involvement in Harris’ Wrecking Ball, he proves to be a particularly inspired choice to capture what can be seen as the umpteenth phase of Nelson’s career, one built on knowing collaborations that have continued to the present day. Indeed, the one-two pairing of Spirit and Teatro seem to have rejuvenated interest not only in Nelson but Nelson’s interest in the music he was capable of producing. Rather than resting on his laurels – something he no doubt would’ve been more than entitled to by the time the ’90s rolled around – he once more proved himself to be a vital creative force. Just listen to the emotional tenderness with which he and Harris sing “Everywhere I Go” or the shit-kicking blues that underscores “Darkness on the Face of the Earth”. The latter in particular is a savvy choice, going all way back to his 1962 debut, And Then I Wrote, showing the continued relevance of both Nelson the writer and Nelson the performer.

Read entire article here.

Willie Nelson & Friends: “48 Hours in Atoka” (Aug 30 – 31, 1975)

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

By Jan Sikes

Atoka, Okla., is a sleepy little town with a population of about 3,000 situated in the southeastern corner of the state. But what occurred on Labor Day weekend in 1975 changed it forever. It is now known as the home of Oklahoma’s Woodstock music festival.

The music artists who performed at this festival were some of the top names around at that time. Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Freddy Fender, David Allan Coe, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jessi Colter, Hoyt Axton, Larry Gatlin, Freddy Weller, Johnny Duncan, Red Stegall and many more provided the entertainment.

A very young Reba McEntire performed two songs, “San Antonio Rose” and “Invitation to the Blues.” The next year, McEntire signed with Mercury records and began her journey on the road to a long and successful career. The Atoka Museum has a great McEntire display worth seeing.

That’s a stellar lineup and there is no disputing that the music part of the event was comparable to none other except perhaps Willie Nelson’s famed Fourth of July Picnics.

The promoters had cleared the land with a bulldozer and laid miles of irrigation pipe to water grass seed that never came up. The stage looked across a bowl-shaped area of dry, red Oklahoma dirt they believed would easily accommodate the concert-goers. Local carpenters were hired to build a partially covered stage, 10 feet tall by 68 feet long.

A 12-foot stockade fence was built down both sides of the stage to protect the performers and provide a restricted backstage area. About 200 Porta-Potties were ordered and a large water tank erected to provide lake water for open air showers and to combat the Oklahoma heat. Tickets were printed and promoters advertised heavily.

Law enforcement arrangements were made with the Atoka and Coal County Sheriff’s Departments and they were backed up by 65 private security guards and twenty-seven highway patrol units.

Thanks, Phil Weisman, for this collection of clippings about Atoka


Willie Nelson’s New Year’s Eve Party Live – 12/31/1984 – Houston, TX

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Willie Nelson’s New Year’s Eve Party Live

Guest stars Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter and B.B. King.

Sing in the New Year with our biggest down-home bash ever!

Monday, December 31, 11PM

Hear it on FM stereo on WHMQ-FM  100.5


PG Music Podcast Review: Willie Nelson And Sons

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017
by: Rich Kienzle

Willie Nelson’s  “Me and the Boys,” an album of classic country (seven of the 12 songs by Hank Williams) recorded with his sons, singers Lukas and Micah Nelson.  The original material were recorded at Willie’s Austin studio in 2011 by Willie and Lukas,  with added vocals added by Lukas and Micah.

Cowboys for Indians and Justice for Leonard Peltier

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Willie Nelson & Family at the Starlight Theater in Kansas City, KS (Sept. 4, 2017)

Thursday, October 5th, 2017
by:  Timothy Finn

The weather was dreary, but Willie Nelson and Family were bright and jubilant in KC

Willie Nelson’s show at Starlight Theater on Wednesday night was his first since Sept. 22 — a span of nearly two weeks. And it showed.

Spry and spirited, Nelson and his band took the stage close to sundown amid a steady rain shower and for slightly more than 75 minutes delivered two dozen of his best-known and favorite songs. He delivered each with plenty of zeal, a sign that the rest had reinvigorated him.

The show was originally scheduled for mid-June, part of a bill that also included Dwight Yoakam and Robert Earl Keene, both of whom performed that night. But a hellacious rainstorm rolled in after Yoakam’s set, so Willie agreed to reschedule. Nearly four months later, he fulfilled the obligation, and nearly 7,000 fans showed up again to see the country legend.

He started with his standard opener, “Whiskey River,” performing it with his Family band before an enormous state of Texas flag. It was apparent off the bat that Nelson was deep in the mood.

His voice was strong and clear, he sang more than he song-spoke and he was present and playful, coaxing the crowd on several occasions into sing-alongs.

Most impressive was his guitar playing, which was stellar and invigorated all night, a series of improvised, inspired and spot-on forays into jazz, rock and blues, whether strumming percussive chords or plucking sublime leads.

The set list didn’t stray far from the usual menu. He sang most of the standards, like “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” “On the Road Again,” “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Crazy” and “Georgia on My Mind.”

And he sang a few novelty songs, like “Beer for My Horses” and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” During “Me and Paul,” he substituted “Branson” for “Nashville,” which aroused a big cheer. After “Night Life,” on his guitar he added a dash of “Jingle Bells.”
He was accompanied by a band that included his sister Bobbie Nelson on piano, who, Nelson informed the crowd, was recently inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame; and Mickey Raphael, who embroidered many songs with riffs and fills on the blues harp.

Bobbie Nelson took the spotlight a few times, most notably during the instrumentals, like the roadhouse/gospel romp “Down Yonder.”
But the night belonged to Willie, who turned 84 in April but who, on this evening, performed like a much younger man. His shows can be a bit of a crapshoot, depending on how his rigorous touring schedule affects his energy levels. This evening, his tank was full.
His performance on the instrumental “Nuages” was stellar. Most of his vocal performances were sturdy and nuanced. He squeezed all the comic value out of “It’s All Going to Pot” and “Still Not Dead” and all the heart and soul out of “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground.” His cover of Waylon Jenning’s “Good Hearted Woman” was nearly exuberant.

And he orchestrated the night’s loudest sing-along during “Hey Good Lookin’,” part of his Hank Williams tribute.
He closed with his usual valediction: the spiritual “I’ll Fly Away.” It, too, prompted a hearty response from a crowd that had been slowly soaked by a steady mist but whose spirits had been lifted by a music hero who showed up fully in the mood to redeem a belated promise.
Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

Whiskey River; Still Is Still Moving to Me; Beer for My Horses; Good Hearted Woman; Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys; Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground; On the Road Again; Always on My Mind; Down Yonder; Me and Paul; If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time; Georgia on My Mind; I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train; Funny How Time Slips Away; Crazy; Night Life; It’s All Going to Pot; Nuages; Shoeshine Man; Move It on Over; Hey, Good Lookin’; Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die; Still Not Dead; I’ll Fly Away.

Willie Nelson performed Wednesday, Sept. 4, at Starlight Theater in Kansas City. SUSAN PFANNMULLER Special to the Star

Read more here:

Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival (September 15, 2017)

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

photo:  Scott Sandberg
by:  Laura Morrison

This was Willie Nelson’s party.

Sure, the country music legend brought along a slew of favored guests for his Outlaw Music Festival, including the Avett Brothers, Sheryl Crow, Blackberry Smoke, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real and Particle Kid (son Micah Nelson’s band). So many acts, in fact, the Blossom Music Center show had to start around 4:30 p.m. — a tough time for folks rolling off work on a Friday.

Yet, like any good festival, people arriving at various times added to the buzz and movement of the event. There was certainly excitement to see Sheryl Crow “Soak Up the Sun” and the Avett Brothers belt out “I and Love and You,” but rest assured, everyone was there to see the 84-year-old Willie Nelson, who naturally, closed out the show.

(See a whole slew of photos from the night’s event right here.)

And the man, for the record, has still got it. Everyone from teens with braids and bandannas to a whole row of Hells Angels stood up when Willie took to the stage. They all cheered to the heavens.

As soon as Willie kicked into the song “Whiskey River,” a gigantic Texas flag unfurled behind him, just in case for one minute you forgot the man hailed from the Lone Star State (later in the set, the band also took on”Texas Flood” in honor of Hurricane Harvey victims).

Nelson sounded as clear as he always did, which is to say his sing-talking approach is on point as ever. And his guitar skills are still something. Over his decades-long career, he’s always had a way with guitar timing, kind of a jazz timing, that can sometimes feel off. And he played like that Friday night. The band would be locked into a country backbeat and he’d be fingering above it and beyond it. In his own world.

Throughout the night, the fantastic crew took on the hits, like “On the Road Again,” and the raucous “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and a cover of “Georgia On My Mind,” but also a fun tribute to Merle Haggard with “It’s All Going to Pot.”

Nelson’s surrounded himself with family and friends. Fine players every one of them. This is a crew that can weave between earthy blues, rock ‘n’ roll, outlaw country and even spirituals without batting an eyelash. They know one another to their bones.

Son Lukas (who played with his own band earlier in the night) took on the secondary guitar playing and often heavy-hitting lead vocals. Sister Bobbie Nelson, 86, was on the keys with a signature nimble approach. Other son Micah played drums and later vocal harmonies. Mickey Raphael played the harmonica with so much dirt and grit, I was ready to hire him to play my next birthday party.

The Outlaw Music Festival has brought together the likes of Bob Dylan and My Morning Jacket in the past, but to hear the Avett Brothers come out for the close of the show to sing “Will the Circle be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away” was possibly too much. The entire venue smoldered like some sort of spiritual revival. People danced in the aisles. People smiled. It felt like this music was meant to make life better, if only for a little while.

At the end of the night, there wasn’t much talking from the stage, just a sincere “thank you.” And then Willie left. No encore. Only the sound of roadies beginning to tear down the stage. Someone helped Bobbie off her piano bench and she slowly walked out of sight.

Farm Aid 2017 Rocks Pittsburgh

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

John Mellencamp performs during Farm Aid in Burgettstown, Washington County Saturday night.

photo:  Steph Chambers
by:  Scott Mervis

The last Farm Aid in Pittsburgh, just a year after 9/11, had an air of nationalistic aggression with Kid Rock and Toby Keith both on board, the latter doing his boot-in-the-you-know-where anthem “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American).”

Farm Aid 2017 on Saturday at the KeyBank Pavilion was more of a lovefest with lots of camaraderie, a couple blasts of hard rock and a sprinkling of artists who define the word laidback.

Among them was Jack Johnson, making his first appearance in these parts since 2002. The surfer-turned-folk-rocker from Hawaii said backstage that he was going to try to lure some other artists up on stage, and he succeeded, getting Sheryl CrowNathaniel Rateliff and Jamey Johnson up there for Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” and the Avett Brothers to play some “Mudfootball” with him.

That’s how the day went at the Pavilion — lots of spontaneity for a hard-drinking, sold-out crowd of more than 23,000 who missed some of the early afternoon highlights, like Nelson’s son Lukas getting alt-country newcomer Margo Price up on stage to do “Find Yourself” with his band Promise of the Real. That was after his brother Micah delivered one of the more “out there” sets with his LA psych-rock band Insects vs. Robots.


Willie Nelson greets the crowd during Farm Aid, Saturday, at KeyBank Pavilion,
Scott Mervis
Farm Aid stars come to a positive message and a warning

Price returned to swap harmonies with Crow on “Strong Enough.” Crow’s energetic, hit-filled set — “Every Day is a Winding Road,” “My Favorite Mistake,” etc. — climaxed with Lukas, Willie and Jack Johnson joining her to pay tribute to Gregg Allman on “Midnight Rider,” ending in a screaming guitar jam.

Not many people saw Valerie June, which is too bad because the charming singer from Memphis seemed as organic as the crops, doing her version of Southern soul. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats had a more scenery-shredding approach to soul and blues, and Blackberry Smoke lit up the Pavilion with some scorching Southern rock.

Country traditionalist Jamey Johnson was in a mood for classics from fallen artists, applying a baritone deep as a well to The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek,” Don Williams’ “Some Tears Will Never Mend,” Little Feat’s “Willin’,” Jerry Reed’s “Eastbound and Down” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

The Avetts, playing Farm Aid and the Pavilion for the first time, made the amphitheater feel smaller than it was, creating an intimacy with the crowd on favorite Avett “hits” like “Laundry Room,” “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” and “Talk on Indolence.” Jack Johnson mellowed things down in the late afternoon with his acoustic island folk, delivering one of the day’s comical highlights with “Willie Got Me Stoned and Took All My Money.”

Matthews, who took a rare summer off from touring with the DMB, did his traditional duo set with longtime sidekick Tim Reynolds, demonstrating how loud and forceful two acoustic guitars and one voice can be. They started with an intense “Don’t Drink the Water,” sung through gritted teeth, and moved through the more delicate “Satellite” and “Mercy” and a furious “What Would You Say.” Matthews also introduced a passionate new song, possibly called “Odds Are Against Us,” that could turn up on that album he talked about releasing next year.

“I don’t know if I was ready,” he said, after playing it, “but too late now.”


Teryn Adkins, 5, shows a plant to Sarah Buranskas during a tour Friday of Kretschmann Organic Farm near Zelienople.
Daniel Moore
Farm Aid spotlights Appalachian farms to shun development and focus on food

John Mellencamp, looking like a preacher all in black, did one of the more topical and hard-hitting sets of the day, hitting the stage with full band doing a rollicking “Lawless Times,” before taking the crowd to a more familiar place with “Small Town.” He promised a variety of songs and delivered that with a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Stones in My Passway,” a jubilant “Check it Out” and a solo acoustic sing-along on one of his biggest radio hits.

“I don’t even know why I play this song,” he said, introducing “Jack & Diane.” “I only play this song ’cause I know you guys want to hear it.”

It turned into loose, messy fun.

The new song “Easy Target” was the darkest of the day, with him spitting out the words, “So black lives matter/ Who we trying to kid? Here’s an easy target/ Don’t matter, never did.” “Rain on the Scarecrow” cut right to the heart of Farm Aid, as did a finale of the Americana classic “Pink Houses.”

Young, who has been woefully scarce in 2017, was not gonna go quietly into the night. He came out with “Promise of the Real” in vintage Godfather of Grunge form, roaring through “F—ing Up.” A gorgeous “Cortez the Killer” came with a smoldering intro almost as long as some of the day’s early sets, and “Cinnamon Girl” was a blast of heavy rawk the rowdy crowd seemed to crave.

He stopped to thank the fans for coming to Farm Aid and tell them, “Farmers are the American heroes today. They’re living a real life.”

Young strapped on a harmonica (to a big cheer) and shifted into acoustic mode for “Human Highway,” “Heart of Gold” and “Comes A Time,” his voice sounding as strong and pretty as it ever did. He and POTR closed back in wild Crazy Horse mode, rumbling through “Like a Hurricane” and “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

One of the downsides of Farm Aid is you want another hour of that. In any case, people will be talking about that being the best hour of music they saw all year.

Willie’s set, closing out Farm Aid — and the KeyBank season with it — had its own kind of grandeur and ragged glory, starting with the traditional “Whiskey River” and “Still is Still Moving to Me.” He rolled quickly through some country staples, including “Beer for My Horses” and “Good Hearted Woman” (”one for Waylon,” he said). Johnson (Jamey, not Jack) took the Merle Haggard part on the comical “It’s All Going to Pot.”

Willie and the Family took it to church with a choir that included Crow, June and the Avetts on “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away,” and Lukas belted out the blues on a sprawling jam through “Texas Flood.” They put a bow on the 32nd Farm Aid with a spirited run through “I Saw the Light,” a song that plenty of farm folk will be hearing, at varied tempos, at church on Sunday morning.

Willie Nelson & Family in Sioux City, Iowa

Monday, September 11th, 2017
by:  Al Sturgeon

Woke up still not dead again today.

The internet said I had passed away.

But if I die and I wasn’t dead to stay

and I woke up not dead again today.

“Still Not Dead” by Willie Nelson

Not only is 84-year-old Willie Nelson not “dead again today,” he is thriving and touring across the country, including a recent stop at Sioux City’s Hard Rock Casino.

But Nelson is not alone. More and more older Americans are starting to realize that age 65 is not a final destination after a long work life, but a transition to new opportunities and experience including continued work and productivity. Much of this, of course, is being driven by the baby-boomer generation which is in the midst of retirement age and the critical decisions that come with it. It is interesting to note that 2016 presidential candidates Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were in their 70s, which would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

As a member of the baby-boomer generation (DOB: 2/14/56 … “mama’s little valentine”), I’ve often looked at the claims of the boomers’ longer lives with a great deal of skepticism. It seemed to me much of this was about denial. You’ve heard the slogans like “60 is the new 50″ and “50 is the new middle age” (if you live to be 100).

But a recent report in the Economist magazine, “The New Old” (July 8, 2017), really dispels a lot of myths about the traditional three-stage life cycle paradigm of education, work and retirement at age 65. The article points out that at least in Western societies there is a new stage of life emerging between the 65-year-old milestone and the onset of old age as it used to be understood – “the new old.”

According to the report, today’s 65-year-olds are in much better shape then their grandparents were at the same age. In America today, a 70-year old man has a 2 percent chance of dying within a year; in 1940, that projection would have been at just age 56. The average 65-year-old in the “rich” world (as the Economist calls it) can now expect to live for another 20 years, 10 of them free of disability.


Wake N Bake Donuts celebrate Willie Nelson’s visit to Wilmington

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017


A Carolina Beach doughnut business is capitalizing on an opportunity to make a unique treat instead of letting the chance go up in smoke.

Wake N Bake Donuts is making special doughnuts in honor of country music star Willie Nelson, who is scheduled to play at The Shell in downtown Wilmington on Tuesday night.

The cheesecake filled creations are topped with vanilla icing and have crushed Oreos on the end, giving the doughnut a striking resemblance to the marijuana cigarettes, aka joints, that Nelson enjoys.

Wake N Bake Donuts

Wake N Bake has also designed specially made doughnuts for rap artist Snoop Dogg and the Avett Brothers.