Archive for the ‘News and Reviews’ Category

Willie Nelson and Family at the Granada Theater, in Dallas (Jan 3, 2017)

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

photo:  Mike Brooks
by:  Rachel Williams

You’re marinating in the pre-Willie lobby of the Granada Theater. It’s buzzing with giddy anticipation. Old men, old women, young men and young women beam as they swap autobiographical Willie stories: how many times they’ve seen him live, how far they drove to get here. It hits you over the head that you haven’t seen a group of strangers this united since … actually you can’t remember the last time you saw strangers interact with this much camaraderie. Stifle that single tear you feel forming. Fine tune the ability to control yourself, you sentimental sap. You’ll need it tonight.

If you were able to buy tickets to Willie Nelson’s Tuesday or Wednesday shows at the Granada Theater, you are luckier than the 99 percent of people who desperately wished they could have shelled out $125 a pop for tickets. When they went on sale in November, they sold out immediately. Conspiracy theories began circulating. One had to be either a first degree relative of Willie’s or a unicorn to get into one of these shows.

photo:  Mike Brooks

read entire article here

Thanks for all the good things that have happened in 1973

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Thanks Phil Weisman, for this.

Pretend I Never Happened (thanks Waylon)
Willie Nelson Picnic at Dripping Springs, Texas
Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame
Oct. 18 Appreciation Concert
Stay All Night
Shotgun Willie
Willie Nelson Homecoming, Abbot, Texas Nov. 4th


Willie Nelson’s First New York Appearance: Max’s Kansas City (May 16 – 21, 1973)

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Willie Nelson New York Times interview (Feb. 23, 1995)

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Image result for new york times willie nelson

by Alex Witchel
February 23, 1995

Most men will tell you Willie Nelson is a hero. With a copy of his 1982 hit “Always on My Mind” and the phone number of a good florist, they can get away with murder. “Girl, I’m sorry I was blind,” indeed.

They learn from a master. Mr. Nelson, who is married to wife No. 4, may be most recognizable for his Pocahontas braids, but it’s those eyes that start the trouble. Even now, at 62, they are perfectly almond shaped, deep brown and, well, just deep. Look into them for too long and you may regret it.

Mr. Nelson’s misfortune in love may be the reason he can wail his songs about heartbreak so well. Not to mention write them. When he went home drunk and passed out cold for the thousandth time, his first wife sewed him into the bedsheets “buck naked,” as he likes to say, and piled his clothes and the kids into the car and left. It makes you wonder whom he really wrote “Crazy” about.

These days, though, Mr. Nelson insists, he’s a cheating heart no more. His newest album, “Healing Hands of Time” (EMI Liberty), is filled with classic love songs, his and other people’s, accompanied by a 63-piece orchestra. But life can be funny for a crooning cowboy. A new album means going on the road to sell it, so he has to sing his love songs to everyone but his wife, Anne Marie, back in Spicewood, Tex., for whom they are meant.

And being on the road again means living on his bus, Honeysuckle Rose II. The previous night, he played Syracuse; this night, in early February, the United States Military Academy.

At 5 P.M. it’s not quite dark outside, but it certainly is dark in the bus. Up front, there are built-in couches along the sides, and thanks to a satellite dish, CNN is on TV. At the back is the door to Mr. Nelson’s bedroom. In the middle is a small kitchen area with a cut watermelon in the sink. Mr. Nelson sits at the table wearing a sweatshirt, sweatpants and thick white socks. Behind him is what he calls the art museum, snapshots of his two youngest sons, Lucas, 6, and Micah, 5, and a drawing with the message “Hi, Dad From Lucas” surrounded by hearts. His hair, reddish-brown and finely sifted with gray, hangs loose down his back. And his face! It is marked with so many creases, hollows and furrows it looks almost geological. He sits quietly, watching, like a cornered animal that can’t decide if he should pounce, flee or purr.

How was Syracuse? “It was cold.”

What did he do today? “Slept till noon.”

Why did he make this new album? “It seemed like the thing to do.”

How’s his back? (He fractured it baling hay as a teen-ager.) “Let me tell you a strange story,” he says, suddenly animated, as if a quarter dropped into his slot. And with the passion of pain he starts his tale of woe and redemption, which culminates in Rolfing.

“My wife recommended it highly,” he says. “I heard it was painful, but I didn’t care. The first of 10 sessions fixed it.” He rests his thick hands on the table. His wedding band looks loose on his finger. That seems right.

It’s hot in here. Navy velvet curtains hang over the windows, and the dark brown paneling and dark carpet seem to soak up light. “It’s kind of like living in a submarine,” Mr. Nelson acknowledges, showing a small smile. “But I’m happy on the bus. Home is where you’re happy. It can be anywhere, out there playing music, wherever I’m at. I refuse to stay where I’m not happy, and if I can’t change it, because of bad vibes or whatever, there’s no reason to stay.”

“A lot of people get tired of the road,” he continues. “But as much as I enjoy being at home with the toys I have there, I still need to leave that and go play music. I have the best of two worlds, though it’s hard to balance them. They’re both fragile. There’s the desire to be where you are plus the desire to go back where you were.”

The phone rings. It’s his eldest daughter, Lana, 41.

“Hey, nothing. What do you know?” Mr. Nelson asks affectionately. “Oh, we’re traveling to the gig. West Point. Yes, the West Point. As opposed to the east point. I don’t know what we’re doing. We’re playing for the folks.”

He speaks so quietly, barely above a whisper, that it’s hard to conjure visions of his legendary temper. Does he still have one? “If I said I didn’t I’d be lying,” he says. “I don’t show it every time. At least I hope I don’t. People say about me, ‘He’s a tough old bird.’ I must be or I wouldn’t be here.”

He says he doesn’t know exactly how many albums he’s made. “Somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 to 100 legitimate albums, but there’s also bootleg.” From which he doesn’t make money, of course.

Money has been a loaded issue for Mr. Nelson since 1990, when the Internal Revenue Service seized his house and all his assets for nonpayment of $16.7 million in taxes. What happened, he says, was that he owed $2 million in taxes, and on advice of his accountants, Price Waterhouse, was told to borrow $12 million to invest in tax shelters so he wouldn’t have to pay the $2 million. The only problem, he says, was that, after the fact, the shelters were disallowed.

But the story has ended happily. He settled out of court with Price Waterhouse and paid back the Government. When his house was auctioned, a group of farmers bought it for him, grateful for the singer’s Farm Aid concerts, which have raised $12 million, so now he has it back. “There’s a lot of good people out there,” Mr. Nelson says simply.

So, why bother touring, especially if his debts are paid? “Well, I don’t know,” he says. “I seem to be happier when I’m working. I tend to get into trouble with too much time on my hands.”

Like what?

“Like you name it,” he shoots back.

He started working by the age of 5, picking cotton in Abbott, Tex. (When he was a toddler, his mother, a dancer, and his father, a musician, left him and his older sister, Bobbie, who plays keyboards in his band, to be raised by their grandparents.) He played his first professional date at 8, and as an adult sold vacuum cleaners door to door. After working as a disk jockey, he moved in the early 1960’s to Nashville, where he sold his songs and despaired of becoming a singer. The fact that he didn’t sound like anyone else was not an advantage at the time. Now, of course, his idiosyncratic phrasing and nasal twang could be copyrighted.

“I never pretended to have a great voice,” he says. “It works and I can carry a tune. If you have a good song, that’s about all that’s required.”

The new album has lots of good songs. “EMI Liberty, my new record label, said I should do an album of standards. Like ‘Crazy.’ ” He smiles. “I hadn’t been looking at those as standards.”

As a writer, Mr. Nelson has slowed down in recent years, though it’s hard to blame him. He says that between the mid-1950’s and mid-1970’s, he wrote about 2,000 songs.

“I went into the studio last week with my original band and a new songbook of mine,” he says. “We started on the first page, and in two days we did 11 segments. I want to do that with all my songs, the way I hear them and feel them now. People wouldn’t know but one or two of ’em.”

In this, his 54th year of performing, does he worry about the show-biz adage “No one is on top forever”? “That’s not my plan,” he says. “There’s a saying I could never decide was mine or Roger Miller’s. I decided I’d take credit for it: ‘I didn’t come here and I’m not leaving.’ ”

Very wise. Does that wisdom extend to fatherhood? He has had seven children in all, yet he has traveled his entire life, leaving home for vast stretches of time. His eldest son, Billy, who had been treated for alcohol abuse, committed suicide three Christmases ago. Should he have done anything differently?

“Well, you have all those guilts and regrets, but you can run yourself crazy,” he says quietly. “You’re not the same person now you were then, so why take responsibility for something you didn’t do?” When he lifts his eyes, the anguish in his face belies the slickness of the words.

The bus has parked, and he goes inside the Eisenhower Hall Theater for a rehearsal. He starts to sing, and his familiar voice lifts, the cry of an old soul who’s seen more than he’s wanted to. He is completely fallible, which is his charm. A frog prince who’d rather stay a frog.

A few cadets peer at him from the wings, while Larry Gorham, a former Hell’s Angel who is Mr. Nelson’s bodyguard, glares. “Be all that you can be,” he grumbles not-so-under his breath.

“Be nice,” Mr. Nelson calls out.

It’s only 7 P.M. Rehearsal is over, and the show’s not until 8. Mr. Nelson heads toward the bus. What’s he going to do now? He smiles.

“I’m gonna roll me up a big joint and smoke it.” Then he eats a plate of vegetables and settles back with some of the band to watch videos of himself, including one from Howard Stern’s cable-television show, in which he handily wins a joint-rolling contest. Everyone laughs. The feeling is easy, relaxed. You would never know that, a few yards away, 4,400 people are growing restless.

Toward the end of the tape, he goes into his bedroom and comes out with his hair braided (he does it himself). At 8:10 P.M. he walks backstage and picks up his guitar with no noticeable increase in energy. He keeps his world small, parking his living room just outside and walking in here now to play. He could be anywhere. On the other side of the curtain are howls and whoops as the lights go down. One member of the band asks, “Should we open with ‘Anchors Aweigh’?”

When the curtain rises and the flag of Texas unfurls behind them, though, they launch into “Whisky River,” their customary opening number. They’re all so used to each other, they’re like fingers on a hand. They just stand and play, with no videos or special effects.

But when Mr. Nelson launches into “Always on My Mind” the yelling accelerates. “My favorite song!” a man screams from the balcony. As Mr. Nelson sings, his energy is intense. He invests the words with all kinds of feeling, every bit he can muster. When he sings “Give me one more chance to keep you satisfied,”the meaning seems to switch and he’s no longer pleading with a woman but with the audience. He’s not young, he’s not pretty, he doesn’t have a fancy headset or smoke machines. He holds Trigger, his old, beaten guitar with a hole in it, and sings his heart. And it goes, the sound, the feeling, the plea, and hits the cadets and the rest full force, and they scream and holler and clap.

And then he asks, “Everybody doing all right out there?” And they roar, “Yeah,” back at him, and someone tosses a cadet’s hat onto the stage, which he puts on — a real sight with those braids.

And when he says, “Good night, everybody,” and the roar intensifies, they somehow find their way backstage, and they’re lining up outside near the bus, and everywhere he goes there are arms and hands and people shouting, “Willie!”

And he talks to each of them, one at a time, in no particular rush now to climb back on the bus and drive into the night. He’d like to stay awhile.

Willie Nelson and Weed

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016


Willie Nelson’s Love Affair With Weed Made Him An Outlaw And A Country Music Revolutionary
by:  Christian Long

Few artists are as readily associated with marijuana as country crooner Willie Nelson. In terms of identifiable pieces of the man, Nelson’s love of weed is right up there with the song “On The Road Again,” his long, braided locks, and his old, beat-up guitar, Trigger. But Nelson’s pro-pot advocacy wasn’t always something he pinned to his sleeve. Instead, his public affair with marijuana came about much like his career in the spotlight: Entirely on his own terms.

When Nelson first started out, the world of country music was drilled down deep into the center of Nashville, Tennessee and mired in tradition. The audience was largely conservative, and as a result, Nelson went along to get along, presenting himself as a buttoned-down Western crooner with a knack for writing songs that had peculiar phrasing, which gave him a signature sound but not a standout look or personality. Eventually, Nelson wouldn’t so much find his niche as make it himself, writing songs that took a new and confident approach to the long-standing traditions of country music. As far as his personal habits, he was a known smoker for many years — and he has the arrest record to prove it — but over time Nelson would become one of the most renowned and outspoken advocates for marijuana legalization.

Here’s a look at how Willie Nelson ended up transforming, not just the sound of country music, but the culture as well.


Even back in Nelson’s crisp white shirt days, he’d always fancied himself a smoker. Growing up in the small town of Abbott, Texas, he told GQ that there was nothing to do there but “f*ck, fight, and throw rocks.” To alleviate the boredom, Nelson took to smoking “anything you could roll up,” which included everything from lawn clippings to tree bark. He first tried pot when he was 11 or 12 while hanging out with his cousin. “He had asthma, and the doctors gave him a cigarette to smoke. An asthma cigarette. And he offered me a puff off it, and I didn’t particularly care for it so I handed it back to him.”

A decade went by before he first tried pot again, this time when starting out as a country singer in the early 1950s. He told Cannabist that he was playing at a club in Fort Worth, Texas, and, like many of us, simply “ran into a guy who smoked pot.” Nelson, already a veteran smoker by then, started to incorporate pot into his routine, but admits that he went a “long time without getting high — for months I would smoke and smoke and I wasn’t getting high, and I couldn’t figure out why.” He eventually blamed the poor state of his lungs for keeping the true bliss of this fresh relationship at bay. Nelson stuck with it, though, and eventually had his eureka moment.

In his 2015 memoir It’s A Long Story, Nelson admits that he dealt with a bit of a stigma as a marijuana user in the clean-cut world of country music, but never opted to quit outright, explaining that he “couldn’t betray marijuana any more than I could betray a family member or lifelong friend.”

Nelson, it turns out, was used to being an outsider. He moved to Nashville in 1960 where he soon got a job as a songwriter and famously penned hits like Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” and Ray Price’s “Night Life.” But while the chord progressions he’d write out on the page would deviate from convention, his style on stage was practically abstract art. He’d sing just off the beat, either a little ahead or a little behind, which proved to be too off-putting to country music fans, most of whom were steeped in decades of tradition.

As the mecca of traditional country music, the Nashville sound was (and is) categorized by slick-sounding productions delivered in a more conventional style. Between his musical leanings and casual marijuana use, Nelson didn’t feel like Nashville was a natural fit and returned to his home state of Texas in 1970. Despite having his song “I’m A Memory” crack the top 30 the following year, Nelson was frustrated to the point that he quit music altogether.


Finding His Voice, His Audience, And His Home

It wasn’t until 1972, when he discovered Austin — at the time, a sleepy college town known for its laid-back attitude and low-key party atmosphere — that he felt right. There, he didn’t feel the creative limitations that Nashville tried to force down his throat and he soon found an audience for his unique brand of country music that was tinged with jazz, blues, and gospel. It was there that he was able to come into his own by putting out some of the most memorable songs of his career; a period that would lay the foundation for the birth of outlaw country.

As Nelson explained to the The Guardian in 2012, he saw Austin as a place to write and perform the songs he wanted to. Finally, he would be able to do it all his own way.

“I saw hippies and rednecks drinking beer together and smoking dope together and having a good time together and I knew it was possible to get all groups of people together — long hair, short hair, no hair — and music would bring them together.”

By 1974, Nelson had his first No. 1 hit with “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.” He’d also grown out his shaggy hair and beard and kept up his outlaw persona, racking up his first marijuana arrest when he was busted for possession in Dallas — first of many he’d experience over the years.

Nelson’s arrest in Dallas began what would become a very public reputation with marijuana, one that even followed him to the White House back in 1976 when he was invited by then-President Jimmy Carter to thank him for all the work on his campaign. Nelson later revealed that he smoked a joint on the White House roof that night, but for years he remained coy about who he smoked it with. Turns out he’s mostly certain that it was Chip Carter, Jimmy Carter’s middle child.

Sill, marijuana had become far more than a way to collect wild anecdotes, as Nelson has flatly stated that he “would have been dead if it hadn’t been for pot.” He always had a bad temper, something he blames on his red hair, but he explained that drinking always made it worse. “When I was out in the bars drinking and fighting I was a little bit less of a peacemaker than I would be if I’d had a couple hits of a joint and gone and laid down somewhere. I’d have less bumps on my head, that’s for sure.”

While he’ll still take a drink on occasion, Nelson replaced booze with pot, something he’d eventually do with cigarettes after his lung collapsed while he was swimming in Hawaii back in 1981. After he was hospitalized, he knew that he had to quit one or the other, and told NPR in 2012 that he simply “took a pack of Chesterfields and took all the Chesterfields out, rolled up 20 big fat ones and put [them] in there, and I haven’t smoked a cigarette since then.”

Before long, all of Nelson’s vices were replaced with marijuana, writing in his memoir that “unlike booze, it had never made me nasty or violent. Unlike cocaine, it never sped me up or fired up my ego.” He refers to his use of the drug as something that started as a “love affair” and eventually “turned into a long-term marriage.”


Advocacy And Influence

Nelson’s relationship with marijuana has become more than a running gag for the last several years. As an outspoken advocate of its legalization, he became one of the first celebrities to publicly address it.

As Nelson states early on in the above clip from 2010, he saw the legalization of weed as an inevitability, albeit one that would take not only patience but the right combination of circumstances. That same year, nearly a dozen states had already legalized the drug for medicinal use, and with each passing year, more and more states have changed their laws. In 2012, Colorado and Washington both voted to legalize its use recreationally, without a medical prerequisite, which would’ve been unthinkable a few years earlier.

While no one can single-handedly spark up a movement, it’s clear that the cultural acceptance gained by Nelson’s free embrace (despite the occasional legal dustup) had an effect on a burgeoning movement to legalize or at least decriminalize marijuana across the country. One that has turned conservative bastions like Nelson’s home state of Texas into a place where medicinal weed is now legal and there is talk about going even further in the future.

Of course, this isn’t just about the embrace of pot as an artistic or lifestyle choice, it’s about the cold feel of a law pushing down on something it doesn’t understand, despite the proven benefits that range from helping with anxiety to enriching the lives of those suffering from cancer (and that’s to say nothing of the possible economic effect). Even Nelson himself, who is in large part the face of legalization, has admitted for years that he uses marijuana to simply help him deal with stress, and that if more people followed his lead, “It would make us get along better — all over the world.”

As the laws continue to loosen across the country, including full recreational legalization and sentence re-negotiation for marijuana-related crimes in California, Nelson announced his own strain of marijuana earlier this year, named Willie’s Reserve. Bearing the tagline “Indulge with Confidence,” he announced via press release that he’s “smoked enough and wants to give back.” As a longtime environmental advocate, Nelson was “committed to have our crops farmed in an environmentally responsible way; to revitalize small farms and to grow it as clean as possible.”

In years past, the weed he smoked was met with the highest acclaim from fellow musicians like Norah Jones and Toby Keith (who said he couldn’t function after smoking with Nelson and later wrote a song about it). So when Nelson eventually got around to putting his name on a strain of his own, it came as no surprise that it was met with high acclaim from connoisseurs.

Of course, for all the earnestness in his advocacy, Nelson still finds time to poke fun at himself and his 420-friendly persona, showing up in movies like Half Baked and The Dukes of Hazard, and cultivating a close friendship with fellow weed enthusiast, Snoop Dogg. In fact, Nelson and weed have become so inseparable that earlier this year when Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe grabbed a quick photo opp with him on his tour bus, there was weed right there on the table. There was also a general lack of public outcry over the matter, proving that the times have, indeed, changed.

Nelson’s influence is still found all throughout the fringes of country music. Back in the ’70s, he brought along the likes of Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams Jr. with him into the uncharted territory of outlaw country. Suddenly, the polished arrangements and family-friendly Nashville standards were tossed aside, and each artist brought their own unique voice to the burgeoning genre, deepening the genre while bringing new listeners into the fold.

The resonating influence of outlaw country can still be heard today, from Cross Canadian Ragweed and Reckless Kelly, who bring the same carefree arrangments and good-time spirit to their music that Nelson does. Hank Williams III, whose pro-party anthems bridge the gap between traditional country and hardcore punk, can also count Nelson as an influence. While Nashville’s still alive and well, the longstanding countermovement of bands wanting to explore the whiskey-soaked, smoke-stained side of country music can all be traced back to Nelson as well.

Beyond any creative benefits and assists to the construction of Nelson’s image, the iconic crooner also believes that the drug has a spiritual precedent, readily explaining that “it’s in The Bible,” before citing Ezekiel 34:29, “where Jesus is talking about seeds and he said, ‘I bring you a seed of renown for the miseries of humanity.” But above all that, Nelson believes that “it’s medicine, and it’s already been proven to be medicine. End of story.”

Throughout Nelson’s very public relationship with marijuana, it’s remained a facet of his personality instead of what defines it. A country crooner who’s spent his career redefining the rules as he goes, as the national attitude on weed continues to become more relaxed, Nelson’s been able to incorporate his true feelings for marijuana in a country song, something that would’ve simply been out of the question when he bumped into a stranger at a club in Ft. Worth all those years ago.

Willie Nelson and Family at Billy Bob’s (11/14/16)

Monday, November 21st, 2016
by:  Amy McCarthy

There are few individuals on this planet capable of inspiring more camaraderie, beer drinking and generally upbeat vibes than Willie Nelson. In his more than 50 years in the music business, the “Red Headed Stranger” has evolved from a Nashville nobody into one of country music’s most iconic figureheads. And if you’ve ever seen him live — once or 10 times — you know exactly why that happened.

On Saturday night (Nov. 12) in Fort Worth, Texas, to celebrate the 35th anniversary of iconic Texas honky-tonk Billy Bob’s, Nelson proved that he is still one of country music’s finest showmen. Before he even took to the stage, thousands of fans packed into the sold-out showroom, angling for a glimpse of their braided-pigtailed hero. In Texas, Nelson is a bona fide legend, the face of country music — and the harbinger of one hell of a good time.

Nelson’s set was the culmination of a weekend of celebratory performances for Billy Bob’s 35th anniversary, and there was really no one better to say “happy birthday” than Nelson. The country legend’s relationship with the world’s largest honky-tonk is well-established: Throughout its years, the venue has hosted Nelson a whopping 53 times; for four years, he hosted his legendary Fourth of July Picnic at Billy Bob’s, before moving it back closer to his ranch in Austin.

Willie & the Family took to the stage unceremoniously at 10:30PM, kicking off the night with a raucous rendition of “Whiskey River.“ At this point in Nelson’s touring career, crowds almost expect that tune to come up first because it sets a tone: As soon as you hear those first few chords, it’s impossible to mistake that you’re in the presence of a man who deserves a great deal of credit for country music’s best tunes.

At 84 years old, Nelson is certainly looking frail. In light of the losses of Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell in the last week alone, you’re almost tempted to snatch him off the stage, wrap him up in bubble wrap and send him back to his home in Maui to rest. But in seeing Nelson play, it’s clear that his vibrancy — and his still-entirely-on-point guitar-picking skills — has not diminished since his start in the early 1960s.

You have to imagine that it’s been a tough year for Nelson: He’s lost a number of his contemporaries, most notably his longtime collaborator and fellow outlaw country legend Merle Haggard. Throughout the night, Nelson used song to pay tribute to his peers and his heroes — Waylon Jennings, “the Hag” and Hank Williams — with tracks like “Jambalaya (on the Bayou),” “Good Hearted Woman” and an impeccably played rendition of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood.”

Nelson’s band has always been one of the best in country music, but the Family now boasts plenty of young talent in the form of Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah. They’ve both toured with Neil Young, played in their own bands and released great music in their own right, but being able to hone their skills onstage with dear ol’ Dad has undoubtedly given them quite the leg up. Whether singing harmony on Nelson’s own classics or throwing down a searing guitar solo on “Texas Flood,” it’s clear that both men inherited a whole lot of talent.

In his just-over-an-hour set, Nelson worked his way through all the hits that any casual fan or obsessive would want to hear: “It’s All Going to Pot,” from Django & Jimmie, Nelson’s 2015 collaboration with Haggard, provided some much-needed laughs to an election-weary crowd (press play below to watch a snippet of the performance). Then came “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” which seemed almost a little too prescient; despite the natural levity of that song, it presents a fact that none of us are willing to consider just yet.

As the night drew to an end, Nelson wrapped up his set with a medley of Southern gospel classics that brilliantly weaved together “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “I’ll Fly Away” and “I Saw the Light,” and there was really no more fitting way to close it all down. The medley itself was brilliantly arranged and a sort of natural joy-inducer, but seeing Nelson and his sons sing it together with their beaming smiles was the real treat.

Once Nelson sang his final notes, he signed posters, bandannas even a skateboard deck for the folks in the first few rows, shaking hands and cementing his status as a true man of the people — and then he walked offstage, as unceremoniously as he came. Judging by the crowd’s immediate outpouring of love as he left, Nelson gave them all a little solace after a tough week of nasty politics, loss and bad news.

Watch Willie Nelson Sing “It’s All Going to Pot”

Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, in Canada (8/19/85)

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

by Jason Mitchell

TORONTO:  He’s clad in his trademark red bandanna, black vest and beat up blue jeans.  His beard is almost white now.  And in his best running shoes, Willie Nelson still looks a little larger than life on stage.

Once an outlaw, the country version of Jessie James with pigtails, in 1985 the 52-year-old performer is something of a father figure, a keeper of country and westerner’s most cherished traditions.  Nelson and company’s 3 1/2-hour-show at the CNE Grandstand Monday night, was an on-the-road-again version of the Willie Nelson annual Fourth of July picnic with nothing less than a guided tour through country music history.

Despite some of his recent forays into pop and jazz, this was a vintage country show that’s had a little for everyone, from the grandmas to the bikers.  And if it lacked a little in the way of surprises, the smallish CNE Grandstand crowd didn’t seem to mind.

Jessi Colter, Waylon’s Jennings’ diminutive wife, once again had the job of opening the show. George Strait was supposed to do the honors, but the fine folks at immigration apparently had other ideas.  And Colter provided equal to the task — displaying a convincing range in moving easily from throaty stomper to pretty ballad.  By the time she got the motors revving, she had to turn the stage and the band over to Waylon.

Jennings was something of an enigma.  He has always cultivated a brooding, even menacing sort of persona, but Monday night he seemed especially sombee, running through half a dozen songs without stopping or saying as much as hello. Perhaps he was just trying a little too hard to play his role, or perhaps he was just bored.  Whatever the reason, it wasn’t until half way through his set, when his wife returned to sing a couple of duets, that Jennings shook off his lethargy and showed some signs of life.

But it took Willie Nelson to bring the whole show together, and he did so effortlessly, offering a pleasant tour through country music history and a pretty generous overview of his own career in the process.  In comparison to Jennings’ rather dark tones, Nelson was up form the first note.

While he showed some jazzy flourishes with the guitar, it is still his singing that makes him magic.  His stop-start, talk-sing is a uniquely personal style and enables him, in some way, to get to the truth, the essence of any song he chooses to sing.  His rendition of Always on My Mind was especially pretty.

Nelson’s musical tour wound its way from a gospelish version of the spiritual Amazing Grace and Fred Rose’s 1945 composition Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain, to Nightlife (a song he wrote in 1959 and sold the rights two years’ later for $150), On the Road Again and Good Hearted Woman.  He sang just about every major song he had to offer, and covered all the bases from whoopers to ballads.

It was about as much as any fan could reasonably want, and a good example of why Nelson’s appeal transcends so many of the usual boundaries of country music.

Top five favorites at Austin City Limits Festival (Willie Nelson #1)

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016


photo:  Cambria Harkey

by: Nathan McVay

As Austin returns back to normal following the 15th annual Austin City Limits Festival, we reflect on our favourite performances of the second weekend of the event. The two-weekender festival continues to stand out as one of the best in the world (read our official recap) and while there were many highlights, here are our top five.

#1 Willie Nelson

I am just as surprised as anyone that this was my favorite set of the festival. Country and bluegrass is not necessarily my bag of music. I haven’t spent nearly enough nights at Saloons and country western bars to be able to say that I am a fan of Willie Nelson music but there was something truly special about Willie’s show Sunday evening.

Willie is perhaps Austin’s favorite son and there isn’t a better representative of this town and everything it stands for than Willie Nelson. So the fact he was slated to play the festival’s biggest stage was hugely appropriate and something many people anticipated all weekend. Before the show the festival ran a video package of several of the bands playing the festival thanking Willie for everything he has done. This automatically gave you an idea of the scope of the significance of this show.

At 83 years old, it is an incredible feat that Willie can play one song live, let alone an entire one hour set. But there WIllie was, standing front and center as the only guitarist and strumming and singing like it was back in the 1950s. He hit on so many of his hits like “On The Road Again”, and “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”, and other covers and tributes to his fallen friends.

What made this such an amazing show to be at was realizing the moment and observing the crowd around. Just where I was standing there were kids in their teens singing along with men and women in their 60s and 70s. Looking on the side of the stage, you saw the VIPs and other bands of the festival gathered to take a glimpse of a living legend. Matthew McConaughey, along with his family, stood gleaming and taking pictures the entire show. Members of Mumford and Sons stood watching along with many others. This turned out to be just as seminal and important moment for them as it may have been for Willie himself. This was his home. There were his fans that have supported him for so many decades and there he was at 83, bringing so many people together.

As his show closed, he was joined on stage by probably 40 people including friends, bands and crew members. In this moment it was clear this wasn’t just a concert, it was a celebration of his life and everything he has done. It became clear that this may have meant to him as much as it meant to everyone else. As he wrapped his show, Nelson took several moments to look into the crowd and wave and thank the 100,000 plus in attendance.

The sincerity and the many thanks he was throwing out showed that this meant the world to him as well. Will it be his last time he ever plays ACL? Only time will tell. But for everyone in the crowd and on that stage that Sunday afternoon it was a show they will never forget.

Honourable Mentions

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Die Antwoord
Jack Garratt

To see their other top 5 favorites here.


A Willie Nelson History

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

by:  Brooke Carter

Willie Nelson is an American country singer who is best known for hits Stardust and Red Headed Stranger. One of the most renowned recording artists in the genre, Nelson had an early interest for music and wrote his first song at the age of seven. After joining and singing for a number of bands, he eventually signed a recording deal with Liberty Records during the early 1960’s. Nelson subsequently released his debut album, …And Then I Wrote in 1962. Following the success of his first studio album, he soon secured a contract with RCA Victor and became a part of the Grand Ole Opry in 1965. Throughout his multiple decade-long career, the country singer has recorded over sixty full-length albums and well over a hundred singles!

A veteran and house hold name, Nelson has garnered quite a collection of awards and titles over the years. Since first entering the entertainment industry back in the 60’s, he has received eleven Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, nine CMA Awards, five Academy of Country Music Awards, two Music City News Awards, and a couple of others. A distinguished member of the music world, Nelson also had an award instituted in 2012 by the CMA after himself, termed the “Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award”?an award given to those who have attained the greatest level of recognition in country music (it’s also no surprise that Nelson himself was the first recipient!). In 2008, he was also listed as “One of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time” by the Rolling Stone Magazine.

In addition to being a famed musician, Nelson is also an established actor who has dipped quite frequently into acting. He made his television debut in 1978 when he guest starred in the crime series, The Rockford Files. Some of his other acting projects include The Electric Horseman (1979), Coming Out of the Ice (1982), The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James (1986), Once Upon a Texas Train (1988), Adventures in Wonderland (1994), Nash Bridges (1997), The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning (2007), amongst countless others. On top of those appearances, Nelson has also been featured as a musical performer on dozens of American talk shows such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (2008), The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (2010), Jimmy Kimmel Live! (2014)and Late Show with David Letterman (2014), to name a few.

But what has the country legend been up to these last few years? What has he been spending his time on lately? What happened to Willie Nelson? Where is he now in 2016?

Willie Nelson’s Early Life and Gravitation Towards Music

Born on April 29, 1933, in Abbott, Texas, Willie Hugh Nelson is the child of Myrle Marie and Ira Doyle Nelson. Growing up during the Great Depression, Nelson was raised alongside his older sister, Bobbie majorly by his grandparents. As a young boy, he was first exposed to music when his grandmother took him and Bobbie to a small Methodist Church; it was there that be first learnt to appreciate the tunes from the hymn books. Both musicians themselves, his grandparents often encouraged Nelson to pursue and play music; it wasn’t long before he received his first guitar, when he was six years old. Taking quickly to the instrument, Nelson soon wrote and composed his very own song by the time he was seven.

During his teen years, Nelson was involved with a handful of bands including the Bohemian Polka, where he took on the role of being the lead vocalist; together with his bandmates, he toured and performed locally during the late 1940’s. Shortly after graduating from high school, Nelson made the decision to join the Military’s Air Force but was ultimately sent back due to back issues. Upon his return, he went to Baylor University in Waco, Texas before dropping out to chase his dreams of becoming a musician. Wanting to close the distance between himself and the opportunities available in music, he eventually moved to the city of Vancouver in Washington, where he found work as a singer and as a disk jockey at a radio station. After much perseverance, he ultimately secured a major recording contract with Liberty Records in 1962.

Willie Nelson’s Budding Musical Career in the 1960’s

Nelson made his mark in the country music world when he released his debut album, …And Then I Wrote in September 1962. Recorded during August and September of that year, the album featured twelve tracks; six on each side of the disc, all of which were Nelson’s own pieces of work. Although …And Then I Wrote did not chart upon its release, it later gave rise to the singles The Part Where I Cry and Touch Me; the latter would go on to peak at number seven on the Billboard Hot Singles Chart in the US. Warmly received by critics, the single received a four star rating form Allstar and was praised for its “interesting country style sounds” by Billboard.

After signing with a new recording label in 1964, Nelson released his first charting album, Country Willie – His Own Songs in 1965. Produced by Chet Atkins, the album consisted of twelve songs including One Day at a Time, Mr. Record Man, My Own Peculiar Way and several others. Met with greater success compared to his earlier projects, Country Willie – His Own Songs eventually peaked at number fourteen on the US Top Country Albums Chart?making it his first record to chart in the United States. Later that same year, he would also become a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Throughout the rest of the 60’s, Nelson recorded and released six more full-length albums; of the six, five would go on to chart in the US. Most noteworthy is his fifth studio album, Make Way For Willie Nelson, which peaked at number seven.

Willie Nelson’s Continued Career as a Singer in the Later Years

nelson4Following over half a dozen of album releases during the early 1970’s, Nelson got his breakthrough in the country music scene with his album entitled, Red Headed Stranger. Released in in May 1975, the album was also his first produced under Columbia Records. Largely a concept album, the album centred around a fugitive who was on the run after unlawfully killing his wife and lover. Quickly becoming a best-seller, the album topped the Top Country Albums Chart and stayed at the number twenty-eighth position on the Top LPs and Tapes Album for a total of 43 weeks. Given nothing but glowing reviews, Red Headed Stranger was significant in propelling Nelson into celebrity stardom during the 1970’s. Soon spawning two singles, the album has since received 2x Platinum Certification in the US after selling over 2,000,000 copies in the country.

The next year, Nelson released his nineteenth studio album entitled, The Sound in Your Mindin 1976. His second under Columbia Records, the album contained nine songs, all of which were composed by the singer himself. Peaking at the number one position on the Top Country Chart in the US, it later also made its way up to the number forty-eighth position on the Bill board 200. Hailed for its inspiring arrangements and mix of sounds, the album has since sold over one million units in the United States, earning it Platinum status.

After over a decade of making a name for himself, the country singer released his best-selling album to date, Stardust in April 1978. Containing a blend of jazz and pop music sounds, the album was met with immediate positive attention upon its release, charting at the top of the Top Country Albums Chart in the US and at number thirty on the Billboard 200. Named as the “Top Country Album of the Year for 1978”, Stardust later garnered the singer a prestigious Grammy Award for the category of “Best Male Country Vocal Performance” for the track, Georgia on My Mind. Showered with nothing but praises, the album earned over two million dollars for the artist as of 1984 and has also since received 3x Platinum status from the RIAA.

Carrying on with his music career into the 80’s, Nelson released his next bit hit, Always on My Mind in 1982. Dubbed as the “number one country album of 1982”, it stayed at the top of the Top Country Chart for a staggering 22 weeks and also spent a total of 99 weeks on the US Billboard 200 Chart. Internationally, it was also a success in a handful of other countries including Germany, Australia and Canada. A huge sensation, Always on My Mind received much positive feedback from critics and have since been certified 4x Platinum for achieving over 4,000,000 sales.

Over the next decades, Nelson has released over forty albums including Without a Song (1983), City of New Orleans (1984), Across the Borderline (1993), Spirit (1996), Songbird (2006), Heroes (2012), and many, many others; all of which have successfully charted in the US.

What’s Willie Nelson Doing Now in 2016- Recent Updates

In February of this year, Nelson released a new studio album entitled, Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin. Recorded after being honoured with the Gershwin Prize, the album contained eleven tracks including the duets Embraceable You with Sheryl Crow and Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off with fellow musician, Cyndi Lauper. Debuting at the number one position on the Top Jazz Albums Chart, Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin quickly sold over 13,000 copies in the country during the initial week of release; it later climbed to the fortieth position on the billboard 200 Chart.

Not long after the release of the Gershwin album, Nelson released yet another entitled, For The Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price in September 2016. Showcasing twelve countrypolitan and honky tonk tunes, the album was recorded as a means of paying tribute to one of the country’s most legendary musicians, Ray Price, who was also a personal long-time friend of Nelson’s. After its release, the album successfully charted at number five on the US Top Country Albums Chart and at number eighty-four on the Billboard 200.

On top of his work as a recording artist, he has also been busy behind the camera for a variety of different television productions including the documentary, Revolution: The Legacy of the Sixties. Still in the filming stage, the film will explore the western cultural revolution of the 1960’s, according to the primitive summary posted on its IMdb page. Besides this project, Nelson was also involved with The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (which has since been released), Also Starring Austin and Lovey: King of the Roadies?which are both currently in the post-production process. It should be fair to assume that they will be released sometime within the next year.

If you’d like to know more about or stay up to date with the country legend, you can follow him on social media?Willie Nelson is often active on Twitter under his handle, @willienelson. Alternatively, you can also visit his official Facebook page, or visit his website for more of the star’s latest news!

Willie Nelson at ACL Fest (Oct. 9, 2016)

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by: Turk Pipkin

A few years ago, when Willie and I were writing our book The Tao of Willie, I felt that many people would be referring back to the book over the coming years to get a fresh dose of Willie’s Baptists/Buddhist outlook on life (“Bootist” as Willie called it). But I’m not sure I realized that I’d be one of those readers, coming back again and again to Willie’s words in our book during my own times of need.

First the concert. Sunday was a beautiful day at Zilker Park. As I looked out from the stage at 75,000 fans and blue skies smiling at me, Matthew McConnaughey came onstage to intro Willie, and the roar from the crowd was the loudest I’ve ever heard at an Austin show, at least until the roar for Willie one minute later. I have no idea how many Willie shows I’ve seen – a couple of hundred or more – and somehow every show still ends up being fresh and amazing in wonderful ways.

Matthew McConnaughey introduces Willie to 70,000 at ACL Fest in Austin

Last night was much more than that. The joy and connections Willie puts out from the stage are always palpable but for his first ACL fest show in years, 83-year-old Willie was in fine voice (as good as I’ve heard in a very long time), in beautiful spirit (practically shining) and playing Trigger like the true rock-n-roll/country/blues/jazz Zen master than he is. Eight (?) years ago at Willie’s last ACL fest appearance, I stood next to the late, great Willie road manager Poodie Locke, and Poodie and I talked about the magic of Willie and how it all comes together when it needs to.

Last night, I thought about Poodie’s spirit floating around that stage, about the spirit and love of Bee Spears and other Willie family band members that have moved on, and I thought how their spirits are part of what makes the ongoing family band so wonderful and strong and full of love. Consider Sister Bobby, still sounding great and looking beautiful at her giant grand piano, despite the fact that she and her little brother Booger Red, aka Willie, have been playing music together for nearly 80 years.

I was particularly taken with Willie’s ACL version of “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground”, and thought of all the people I’ve met for whom this song has great meeting (if you have any biker friends, ask them what Hell’s Angels think the song is about).

“I make it a point not to disagree with any of the interpretations,” said Willie in our little book, “as long as you’re not trying to sell your junk food or your god or your war with my song. It’s not up to me to tell you what my songs mean. The meaning is already in the song. And the song is the meaning.”

Later in the book, we came back to “Angels”, a little like how Willie keeps coming back to “On the Road Again” in his concert. Here’s a clip of Willie’s ACL version:

“Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” IS the Tao of Willie,” he wrote (or we wrote, anyway this is all from the book.) “It and a whole bunch of other songs I’ve written are the reflection of what I’ve learned on a really great ride on the merry go round called Earth.”

I felt blessed to experience the ACL show from the sound board, with a great view and surrounded by a huge audience that was soaking up the love, and I was moved to tears as I watched how Willie soaked it all in.

Here’s another passage from our little book, in Willie’s voice, as is the entire book except for my short introduction.

“Sometimes in my concerts, I find that I’ve slipped outside of myself to the same place that I find in meditation. Like the audience, I can see myself on stage. I can see my band behind me and all around me. I can see Poodie and David Anderson in the wings, and Budrocks and Bobby Lemmons, Josh the sound guy on the light and sound boards. All of us are connected to each other and to the audience, and whether we’re all caught up in “Angel Flying to Close to the Ground, or just rocking through “Whiskey River” for the third time of the night, that’s the kind of moment that keeps me coming back on the road again and again. In that moment, I see myself, my family band, and the audience — all of us are a part of one joyful whole.

It’s like the eye of a hurricane, I’m connected to everything.”

Towards the end of his set, I saw Willie pause a little longer than usual between songs and watched him look from face to face in the front rows then lift his gaze up and up to the crowd that seemed to stretch all the way to the sun setting in the beautiful hills he calls home. There was a long history of music and musicians in Austin before Willie, but much of what is great about this city’s love of music and film and arts flows stems from forty-plus years ago when Willie decided he didn’t want to be what Nashville wanted him to be, he wanted to come home to Texas and be himself.

Looking out at the crowd at Zilker, Willie didn’t seem to want to end his set at all. If Mumford and Sons hadn’t been coming up later, he might still be playing.

“I didn’t come here,” Willie is fond of saying, “And I ain’t leaving.”

I’ve known Willie for much of the time he’s been in Austin. In the 70s, I was fortunate to be his opening act on Auditorium Shores not far from Zilker Park, and Christy was a producer at the 1990 Willie picnic in Zilker Park, one of those 105 degree marathon concert days when you wish you were dead and thank God that you’re alive to see it all. We made some movies together and played a lot of golf and poker, all times that I loved and still love, but what I cherish most is the way Willie helped open my heart to the world, and how Willie (and Annie who is a great, and tireless rock of support and inspiration as well) enabled Christy and I to do more with our lives by believing in us and supporting out idea that individuals and couples who want to change the world and are willing to work for their vision can have great impact. There are countless others out there like Christy and me.

If nothing else, Willie helps us know who we are.

So once more from The Tao of Willie, this time from end of the book, Willie’s words again, taken from my journals and scraps of paper where I had noted things Willie said to me over the years.
“Since we know so little of the whole, it’s all the more important to know yourself. That brings us to the last question, the question that will best start your day, possibly every day, of your life.

The question is, “Who am I?”

Within the answer to that question is the thing we call happiness.

As for myself, I am just a troubadour going down the road, learning my lessons in this life so I will know better next time. I believe the lessons are out there waiting to be found, and waiting inside me to be found as well.

As the miles and miles of miles and miles roll by, I try to listen to the voice inside me as it offers advice, tells tales and whispers the melody to what will be my next song.

Depending on the time of day, and what’s been bouncing around in my life, those voices may not always be in my best interest. If an inner voice says, “Tell Gator to stop the bus on the next overpass so I can determine whether I can fly or not,” then I’ll probably have a cup of coffee and choose to listen to some other voice.

I like it when the other voice reminds me that I am the luckiest man on earth, that I am surrounded by a very large family of people I love and whom I love, and that as long as my body and this bus will carry me, I can step on stage and lift my heart in song that will carry me and my audience through the worst that life has to offer.

Knowing this may not spare me from the sorrows of life and the troubles of the world, but together — myself, my family and my friends and fans — we use that common song in our hearts to carry on.

In the end, all of us are just angels flying close to the ground.

Returning to the words of Kahil Gibran that I first read so many years ago, I am reminded that in our quest to return to God, each of us, in our heart, carries a map to that quest, a map that is made of love.

Love is what I live on. Love is what keeps me going.

So all I can say to you is what I’ve said to myself a thousand times.
“Open your heart, Willie, and give love a try. You’ll be amazed at what happens.”
So far, it’s worked pretty well.”

Thank you Willie. In this crazy election year, I think we could all use a little move love. And a lot more people voting.

Willie Nelson is the King @ACL Fest (Sunday, October 9, 2016)

Monday, October 10th, 2016
Willie Nelson plays the Samsung Stage at ACL Fest weekend on Sunday October 9, 2016.  Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

photo:  Dave Creaney
by: Eric Webb

I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, the live music capital of the world. I had never seen Willie Nelson in concert until Sunday.

It wasn’t too hard a feat to accomplish. I am not from a country music family. I am not from the kind of folks who drink from the well of our city’s reputation — we did not do “weird,” nor red-headed strangers and cosmic cowboys. I did not know what weed smelled like until I was 18.

But I know the score. Willie’s legend looms as large over Austin as the spirit of Texas itself. I should know; I write about him all the time for work. With a reputation to protect and a soul to save, my sole wish for Austin City Limits Music Festival’s 15th year could only be granted at 6 p.m., Sunday, weekend two. Willie, or bust. And it looked like a lot of ACL had the same idea.

A cult assembled at the Samsung stage, and shortly after the hour struck, the video screens piped in adulation from fellow fest acts Conor Oberst, Raury, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Local Natives, RZA (most strangely) and Ray Benson (most sweetly). Kind as it was, that presentation soon evaporated from memory with the only celebrity appearance that could top the inherent excitement of pending Willie.

Matthew McConaughey, doing his best John the Baptist. Not long after he rolled out the burnt orange carpet, bidding the crowd to give a “big, badass rowdy hello and welcome,” the main event sauntered out, doffed his hat and got to business. For such a milestone, it felt as casual as a bandana wrapped around braids.

Trigger and Willie, who’ve obviously been down the road with each other more than a few times, shot out of the gate with “Whiskey River” and “Still Is Still Moving To Me.” The sweet fight in Willie’s voice was unmistakable. The tumbling twang of his strings, even if I hadn’t heard them from guitar to ear before, lit up deeply felt memories of a Texas life, from Gruene Hall trips to Hays County fairs at Christmas to radio waves in my grandpa’s truck on trips from Round Rock to Luling. Even the clouds of pot smoke tasted just like I’d always hoped they would.

What, you thought the sun wouldn’t noticeably go down when Willie gave it a lyrical nudge on “Night Life”? I heard a woman many yards away cheering with so much frenzy that she was gargling her screams into the golden hour. Willie threw one out for Merle — “It’s All Going To Pot” — and one for Waylon — “Good Hearted Woman.” He played the songs you want him to play, like “Crazy” and “Georgia On My Mind.” A streak of Austin hymns moved with the spirit: “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” “On the Road Again,” “Always On My Mind.” On the second song, two little girls in front of me braided their hair. Did they know …?

I didn’t listen to these songs growing up, but they must have seeped in by osmosis. The words formed in my mouth as surely as Willie sang ’em.

Willie Nelson is joined by a group of musicians performing at the festival and special guests to sing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," as the finale for his performance at The Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 9, 2016.  (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

Willie Nelson is joined by a group of musicians performing at the festival and special guests to sing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” as the finale for his performance at The Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 9, 2016. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

photo:  Dave Creaney

“Here’s a new gospel song we wrote,” Willie said toward the end of the hour. Of course, it was “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” But fittingly for this church boy, such a religious experience ended with a little gospel. Willie got his own choir, sans robes, for “I’ll Fly Away.” Rateliff, Margo Price and members of Local Natives and Mumford & Sons came on stage for back-up. Couldn’t steal the man’s show, though. He saved “I Saw the Light” for himself, the audience and the Good Lord.

With a few red bandanas flung, a red-white-and-blue guitar strap tossed, goodbye waves distributed to the park and hands shaken with McConaughey and Mayor Steve Adler, Willie was off. He wasn’t a headliner at this year’s ACL, but he was a king.


Willie Nelson Art in Austin

Thursday, September 29th, 2016


Willie Nelson smiles moments after the unveiling of his statue on West 2nd Street, also known as Willie Nelson Boulevard, on Friday April 20, 2012. The statue was created by Philadelphia artist Clete Shields, and given to the city by the nonprofit Capital Area Statues Inc. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
by:  Peter Blackstock

Walk the streets of Austin, and sooner or later you’ll encounter Willie Nelson. Visions of our city’s greatest living icon pop up all over town, from SoCo to the Drag to the Red River District to, well, of course, the stretch of Second Street now known as Willie Nelson Boulevard. Recent new murals that have popped up this year gave us an idea to send photographer Jay Janner on a mission to photograph as many artistic renderings of Willie as we could find. The statue in front of ACL Live is probably the most impressive landmark, but it’s just one of many. The captions tell the stories of these indelible works, which help to ensure that the Red Headed Stranger will always remain familiar in Austin. Willie joins the Austin City Limits Music Festival party next weekend, helping to close out the festival on Oct. 9.



Austin artist Samson Barboza paints a mural of Willie Nelson at Bluebonnet Studios, which is under construction on South Lamar Boulevard, on Tuesday September 27, 2016.  “When you think of Texas heroes one of the guys you think of is Willie Nelson.”, Barboza said. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


A 60-foot-by-20-foot mural of Willie Nelson towers over fest goers during South by Southwest March 19, 2016. Austin artist Wiley Ross completed the mural in February 2016 on the building on East 7th Street at Neches Street. “Willie embodies the spirit of Austin,” says Ross, who has painted several Austin murals including a one on Manchaca Road and Lamar Boulevard. “We wanted to honor Willie and give back to Austin.” After securing permission from building owners, Ross says he spent 80 hours over six continuous days working on the mural in order to complete it before the Heart of Texas Rockfest on March 16-19, which also coincides with South by Southwest. The giant portrait of Nelson will serve as a backdrop for the rock festival. “My favorite part of the mural is that anywhere you go, Willie’s eyes follow you,” Ross says. “It’s like he’s watching over downtown Austin.” JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Mural artists Tom Bauman, top, and Kerry Awn apply anti-graffiti sealant to their 1974 “Austintatious” mural at the 23rd Street Market during a restoration project on Tuesday June 24, 2014. Willie Nelson can be seen standing next to a red pickup in the bottom left corner. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


A two-dimensional cutout of Willie Nelson looks down on Guadalupe Street from a balcony at ACL Live at the Moody Theater, home of “Austin City Limits,” Monday September 12, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Willie Nelson, with his guitar Trigger, stands next to a red pickup in this small detail of the ‘Austintatious’ mural, which was created at the 23rd Street Renaissance Market in 1974 by artists Kerry Awn, Tom Bauman and Rick Turner. Photographed July 14, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


The “Willie Nelson For President” mural on STAG Provisions for Men was painted by Joe Swec from a drawing by Jacqui Oakley and a design by Erick Montes. Photographed Thursday July 14, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


A portrait of Willie Nelson in the alley behind La Zona Rosa commemorates his April 22, 1995 concert at the defunct live music venue. This Willie portrait is part of the larger La Zona Rosa Musicians mural painted by Joe Swec from drawings by artist Jacqui Oakley of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Photographed on September 11, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Willie Nelson watches over the Drag on September 11, 2016. Willie is one of several musicians depicted in a series of portraits by Austin graffiti artist Frederico Archuleta on the old Varsity Theater/Tower Records building. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Read article and seethe art:

Outlaw Music Fest in Scranton, PA (9/18/2016)

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016


photo by: Jason Riedmiller Photography
by:  Brad Patton

The day-long festival, a late addition to the local venue’s calendar, had a little something for everybody as Lee Ann Womack, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Sheryl Crow, and Scranton’s own Cabinet filled the bill. Performances on the second stage included an acoustic set by Lukas Nelson and local artists, including members of Cabinet playing the music of John Prine, Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams.

Young, the now 70-year-old rocker, took the stage just before 7 p.m. for a lovely solo rendition of “Heart of Gold,” accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica.

He then brought out his latest collaborators, Promise of the Real featuring Willie’s sons Lukas and Micah Nelson, for acoustic favorites “Out on the Weekend,” “Unknown Legend,” “Human Highway” with gorgeous four-part harmonies, “Harvest Moon,” and “Hold Back the Tears.”

Young then picked up his electric guitar and a multi-page setlist, tossed the papers to the floor, and started into “Powderfinger” from 1979’s “Rust Never Sleeps.”

Following that same album’s “Welfare Mothers,” Young and his cohorts then played a stunning, 11-minute “Cowgirl in the Sand.” The harmonies were back for 1969’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” the title track of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s second album.

Several minutes of instrumental buildup turned into a nearly-20-minute version of “Cortez the Killer,” followed by an equally outstanding take of “Fuckin’ Up” from the 1990 album “Ragged Glory,” his sixth LP with Crazy Horse.

Young and POTR then tore the roof off with a combustible “Rockin’ in the Free World,” complete with two false endings and some standout guitar work by Lukas Nelson.


photo:  Jason Riedmiller

Willie Nelson, listed as curator of the Outlaw gathering, closed out the festival just one day after his closing set at the 31st Farm Aid in Bristow, Virginia.

Taking the stage with his Family and his ever-faithful guitar Trigger, the elder Nelson, now 83 and still showing no signs of slowing down, somehow managed to fit 19 songs into his hour-long set.

The early going was familiar to everyone who has seen Willie over the past few years, as he began with “Whiskey River,” “Still Is Still Moving to Me,” and “Beer for My Horses.”

Nelson then paid tribute to another musical outlaw, the late Waylon Jennings, with “Good Hearted Woman” and the chart-topping Waylon and Willie duet “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”

Even though the selection was fully expected, Nelson’s version of “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” was especially good at the Outlaw, with his guitar playing nearly matching his heartfelt vocals.

After more of the usual suspects, such as “On the Road Again” and “Always on My Mind,” Nelson paid tribute to Hank Williams (on the day after what would have been his 83rd birthday) with spirited versions of “Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” “Hey Good Lookin’,” and “Move It on Over.”

Mickey Raphael, Willie’s longtime harmonica player and right-hand man, sparkled on “Georgia on My Mind,” while Willie dug just a little bit deeper for a nice version of “Bloody Mary Morning.”

He then honored the late Merle Haggard with the duo’s “It’s All Going to Pot” and the late Ray Price with “Heartaches by the Number” before treating the crowd to the “new gospel” number “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” which featured some great background vocals by sons Lukas and Micah.

Nelson then closed the show with a medley of actual gospel tunes “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

Nothing has been confirmed yet, but here’s hoping the Outlaw Music Festival becomes an annual event on Montage Mountain.

Read entire article here. 

Why Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid is unlike any other Music Festival

Monday, September 19th, 2016


photo:  Brian Bruner
by: Thom Duffy

The 31st annual Farm Aid concert, benefiting the nation’s family farmers, rolled into Bristow, Va., on Saturday, Sept. 17, with the organization’s guiding foursome – Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews – joined during the day-long festival at the Jiffy Lube Live amphitheater by Alabama Shakes, Sturgill Simpson, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Margo Price and others.

Also sharing the bill: Jamey Johnson, accompanied by Alison Krauss; Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real; Insects vs Roberts (featuring Micah Nelson); Ian Mellencamp (the nephew of John Mellencamp); the Wisdom Indian Dancers, and Star Swain.  Swain opened with her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Her impromptu performance of the anthem at the Lincoln Memorial in June became a viral video, leading to her appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.

Saturday’s high-spirited show was an 11-hour celebration of American roots music – rock, country, folk, soul and R&B. It was carried live at and on the SiriusXM channel Willie’s Roadhouse. The back-to-back triple play of the hottest acts on this year’s bill – Rateliff, Simpson and Alabama Shakes – lent a strong blues and soul feel to the day.

As in previous years, Farm Aid 2016 was like no other festival you’ve ever seen. Here are 10 reasons why.

1. Farm Aid’s headliner is 83 years old – but you’d never know it.

It’s funny how time slips away. Willie Nelson turned 83 on April 29. To put that in perspective, consider that the oldest superstar headliner at the Desert Trip festival – dubbed “Old Chella” and taking place in Coachella, Calif., in October – is Bob Dylan, who is a mere 75. Nelson opened the afternoon set with his traditional singing of “The Lord’s Prayer” and closed the show after 11 p.m. with an all-star finale. From his nimble guitar solos on “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” (played on his battered six-string nicknamed Trigger) to his vocal romp through “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” Nelson never sounded better.

2. This is the nation’s longest-running concert for a cause.

“This is number 31,” said Nelson. First staged on Sept. 22, 1985 in Champaign, Ill., in response to that era’s farm foreclosure crisis (and inspired by a remark made by Bob Dylan two months earlier during the Live Aid benefit for Africa famine relief), Farm Aid hasn’t stopped. The organization has raised more than $50 million to promote a strong and resilient family farm system of agriculture. While the annual concert draws the headlines, Farm Aid has a staff that works year-round to keep family farmers on their land, promote the Good Food movement and help shape government food policy. John Mellencamp said he recently was asked, “Farm Aid, you guys still doing that?” He replied, “You still eating?”

3. Farmers themselves are the opening act.

At an onstage press conference before the music began, farming activists from the region shared the spotlight with the musicians. Organizers of Appalachian Harvest described their efforts to build a family-farm-based economy as an alternative to tobacco and coal industries. A nurse practitioner from Charlottesville, Va., described how connecting patients to food from family farmers through the community group Local Food Hub helped battle diabetes and other health crises. Activists with Dreaming Out Loud in Washington, D.C. described how urban farms had become a tool for community organizing. Said Neil Young: “These people are the heroes. These people are warriors for tomorrow. This revolution starts with us. Try to make sure when you buy your food, you support the people who are growing it.”

4. Farm Aid moves to a new state every year – with a purpose.

Unlike destination festivals staged on established sites, Farm Aid takes place in a different region every year, allowing the organization to connect with farmers nationwide. The Jiffy Lube Live amphitheater, which most recently hosted Farm Aid in 2000, is some 40 miles west of Washington., D.C. The week before the concert, Farm Aid-affiliated groups teamed up with the National Farmers Union to fly in 275 farm families to the nation’s capital to press for emergency aid amid a new farming crisis of falling income and rising costs. “We know that they are hurting,” says Farm Aid executive director Carolyn Mugar. “They have been left behind by their elected officials often and exploited by corporations who have so much power over their markets.”

5. For Farm Aid performers, this cause is personal.

Dave Matthews described a recent encounter with the neighbor of a North Dakota farmer, who became sick with cancer. “Then Farm Aid came in and took care of him” with financial help, Matthews was told. Margo Price, whose debut solo album is titled Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, remembered when her father lost their family farm in Illinois, during the same foreclosure crisis of the `80s that led Nelson to launch Farm Aid. Jamey Johnson spoke of his realization that “the more time I spend in my grocery store looking for food from family farms, the less time I spend in my doctor’s office.” Nathaniel Rateliff, a native of Missouri, says he was very aware of Farm Aid from its start. “Everybody was losing their farm in our region when I was a kid.  Even up until 1997, I was working in a plastics factory with [Night Sweats bassist] Joseph Pope and there was an old man working with us, who had been a pig farmer. He said, `I’ll butcher and give you a pig for $80.’ The factory farms had overproduced so much pork that they’d driven the price down” and he lost his farm.

6. Pictures of pigs, potatoes and poultry.

And kale, tomatoes, tractors, silos, barns, windmills and more.  Among the most striking aspects of Farm Aid’s production is the spectacular farm-centered photography projected both behind the performers and on video screens.  The images this year, which powerfully complemented the performances, were the work of photographers Patty O’Brien, Molly M. Peterson, Lise Metzger and Sabine Carey.

7. The food at Farm Aid is Homegrown – with a capital H.

Homegrown Concessions  – a registered trademark of Farm Aid – “is the way in which everybody who goes to a concert can eat healthy great food from family farmers,” says Farm Aid associate director Glenda Yoder. “This is our tenth year of doing this.  And we make it a deal point [with the venues] that all the food on the property comes from a family farm, is produced to an ecological standard, with a fair price to the producer.” A choice menu item: the pasture-raised pork chop sandwich from Missouri’s Patchwork Family Farms cooperative has been a staple at Farm Aid since 1999.

8. Homegrown Village makes Farm Aid feel like a revival meeting.

Longtime fans of Farm Aid come for more than the music. The event is an impassioned gathering for activists involved in environmental and social justice issues, as well as farming. At Homegrown Village, an assembly of tents to the side of the amphitheater, more than 35 exhibitors discussed issues and offered farming skill sessions. Among the organizations on site this year: Food and Water Watch, the American Farmland Trust, the National Young Farmers Coalition and the Farmer Veteran Coalition.

9. The community of Farm Aid musicians is a powerful thing.

Performers at Farm Aid donate their time and travel expenses, playing this festival for love, not money. (That helps the organization earn the highest rating from charity watchdog groups.) The affection among the four core activists was clear, for example, when Young embraced Nelson onstage after a duet on “Are There Any More Real Cowboys.” Others, like Jamey Johnson, return to the Farm Aid bill each September to support its cause and share in the community. Nelson’s finale, which flowed from the gospel hymn “I’ll Fly Away” to Hank Williams’ “I Saw The Light,” drew everyone back to the stage for a spirited closing to this year’s show.

10. Willie is always on their minds.

Let a farmer have the last word. Rhonda Perry and her husband Roger Allison, hailing from Howard County, Mo., are co-founders of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and Patchwork Family Farms, a farming cooperative that Farm Aid funding helped establish. “We’ve been involved with Farm Aid since 1985,” says Perry. She recalled when her husband and Mugar traveled by train from a rally by farmers in Ames, Iowa, to the first Farm Aid concert in Champaign, Ill. “It was one of the darkest hours that we had seen in generations of farming,” she recalls. “And as the train was going down the tracks, there were farmers on the side of the road, with flags and signs that said, `Willie is our hope.’

 “To be here now, all these years later,” says Perry, “with all this energy around food and around people who care about how their food is raised, it’s incredible.”

Country Singers to Stage ‘Farm Aid’ (Chicago Sun-Times) (Sunday, August 18, 1985)

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016


Chicago Sun-Times
Sunday, August 18, 1985

CHAMPAIGN  – Taking their cue from rock music’s Live Aid concerts for victims of African famine, country singers and other will stage a 12-hour “Farm Aid” concert here next month to help struggling American farmers.

Singer Willie Nelson told a press conference that he will be joined in the September 22 show at Memorial Stadium by Neil Young, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, John Cougar Mellencamp and Bob Dylan.

“What it really amounts to is we are going to call some attention to the farmer’s situation and raise some money and see where this money can be spent,” Nelson said.

The musicians might record a benefit album for farmers to raise money and attract attention to their plight, he said.

“I see no reason why we shouldn’t try and get everything out of this that we can,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he will meet with farm representatives from around the country to discuss how money raised by the concert should be spent.  He said he thought the most immediate use would be feeding farm families.

Nelson said the group has set up a toll-free number to accept contributions:  1-800-FARM-AID.

A group of musicians came up with the idea to hold the concert after the Live Aid concerts in Philadelphia and London raised more thatn $70 million for famine relief in Africa, Nelson said.

When asked if the musicians would compose a song similar to “We Are the World”, which was recorded by dozens of rock and pop singers to promote awareness of hunger in Africa, Nelson said, “I hope someone will come up with one.”