Archive for the ‘News and Reviews’ Category

Willie’s Remedy Review

Saturday, July 13th, 2019
by: Kevin Curtin

It’s a triple-digit afternoon at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic and I can’t wait to get into the air conditioning of Willie’s bus. You know the bus: holy ground, a rite of passage, one of the most notorious tour vehicles to ever endlessly crisscross American highways: the Honeysuckle Rose. But that’s not the Willie bus I’m getting on.

This bus looks similar to the Honeysuckle Rose – sans the exterior mural of horses running a mountainous terrain. It certainly smells similar to the Honeysuckle Rose. It’s often parked in proximity to the Honeysuckle Rose, but it’s not the Honeysuckle Rose. This is the Willie’s Remedy bus, a promotional RV that currently goes wherever Willie Nelson & the Family Band are playing, spreading the gospel of the country hero’s expanding line of CBD products.

On this day, the bus actually carrying Nelson hasn’t yet arrived to the Circuit of the Americas, but his secondary promotional bus seems to be a popular backstage attraction. Young Canadian folksinger Colter Wall is stepping off as I step on and the motor coach is bustling with people buzzing on cups of Willie’s Remedy coffee – comprised of CBD sourced from Colorado-grown organic hemp that’s bonded to the essential fatty acids in Colombian coffee beans during roasting.

On the Remedy bus sits Devin Jamroz, whose scrappy small business was miraculously transformed by Willie and his wife Annie Nelson.

In 2014, shortly after discovering the healing properties of cannabis while treating a herniated disc in his back, Jamroz and his roommate began experimenting with infusing coffee with THC out of their Colorado home. It was as DIY an effort as you might imagine: roasting coffee in a stovetop popcorn popper, then running into the backyard and pouring the still-smoking beans into a colander, while spritzing it with a marijuana tincture.

At the beginning they made a lot of admittedly bad coffee, but continually refined the process until they were making excellent coffee – the kind of stuff that even impresses coffee snobs and professional roasters. When the CBD market got interesting, Jamroz shifted focus away from THC and began selling bags of CBD-infused whole roasted coffee beans online. Starting out, business was slow; a really good week would see $90 in sales.

“Then there was this random customer online named Annie Nelson, who we didn’t know from ‘Annie Whoever,’” recalls Jamroz. “We’d occasionally have orders from her that were five times what we would do in a really good month. She’d order 10 pounds and we’d wonder, ‘Who is this saint?’ She’d have it shipped all over the country; we’d ship it to Texas, we’d ship it to Hawaii. It was the weirdest thing, this woman buying so much coffee, and we’re shipping it to random places.”

This went on for years. Annie would even send what Jamroz called “secret agents” or “ghost buyers” to trade shows and buy huge amounts of coffee. Eventually one of them spilled the beans on who Annie Nelson was and that her husband, iconic musician and transcendent toker Willie Nelson, was an avid drinker of Jamroz’s CBD coffee.

“We almost fell out of our chairs,” he remembers.

Now that coffee serves as the the flagship product of Willie’s Remedy, a growing line of CBD products rolled out since February. It’s a sister brand to Willie’s Reserve, which formed in 2014 and began selling adult-use cannabis two years later.

On the bus, I quickly down four cups of iced coffee. I’m a moderate – all right, heavy – THC user and I don’t want the positive effects of CBD coffee to get lost in the shuffle of other cannabinoids in my system. It’s a palatable brew; medium dark roast with an exquisitely balanced flavor. The most incredible thing about it: The CBD really balances out the caffeine. You can drink it ad infinitum and not get jittery.

It’s by no means a whopping dose of CBD. I’ve in the past experimented with putting a several-hundred-milligram CBD squirt of tincture under my tongue, which ushers an immediate and undeniable effect. Elizabeth Hogan, who co-founded Willie’s Reserve/Remedy with the Nelsons and Willie’s longtime manager Mark Rothbaum, explains that they view the 10mg dose as “daily supplement model” – good for more minor ailments and regular use.

That suits Willie. She characterizes he and Annie as “night owls” and says Willie will drink coffee long after most people go to bed.

Opening a jar of the WIllie’s Remedy Full Spectrum Soothing Balm, a shea butter/coconut oil/CBD mixture that I later rub on my knee to effectively alleviate post-basketball joint pain, I ask Hogan how seriously involved Willie actually is in the product line that bears his name.

“He’s very involved,” she insists. “First, it’s about his values: personal freedom, medical efficacy and advocacy, agricultural and environmental impact, and, finally, social justice – never looking away from the fact that there are people still sitting in jail for what we can now legally sell. “He also calls himself the ‘Chief Tester.’”

Hogan says that when she gets on Willie’s bus, he’s always eager to know what products they’re going to test.

“I’m not going to lie, he loves all of it. He’s not a scientist, he’s a musician and a poet, but in terms of how to appreciate it: The man has a lot to teach us all.”

In the week following the Picnic, I’ve been engaged in a practice that’s totally foreign to me: drinking hot tea – specifically Willie’s Remedy loose leaf green tea, also infused with full-spectrum hemp oil. When steeped for two minutes (I’ve learned that over-steeping causes green tea to turn bitter), it’s a pleasant, natural-tasting beverage that accentuates the benefit of low-dose CBD that I find most rewarding: relaxation and relief from stress.

In the week following the Picnic, I’ve been engaged in a practice that’s totally foreign to me: drinking hot tea – specifically Willie’s Remedy loose leaf green tea, also infused with full-spectrum hemp oil. When steeped for two minutes (I’ve learned that over-steeping causes green tea to turn bitter), it’s a pleasant, natural-tasting beverage that accentuates the benefit of low-dose CBD that I find most rewarding: relaxation and relief from stress.

Read rest of article here.

Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival, Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre

Monday, July 1st, 2019
By Daniel Durchholz

One of the best things about lineup-shifting, multi-band bills like the Outlaw Music Festival, which played Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre on Saturday, is that it makes possible collaborations between artists you’d otherwise probably never see together.

Musicians sat in with other bands on several occasions throughout the 9½-hour concert, but the best one occurred midway through Phil Lesh & Friends’ set, when Alison Krauss lent her crystalline soprano voice and violin to the Grateful Dead classic “To Lay Me Down.”

Krauss returned later to sing another Dead-related song, “Morning Dew.”

Lesh & Friends’ performance was all Dead-related, of course, and the five-piece band hit a number of cosmic, jammy highlights on its own during “Sugaree,” “Slipknot!” and “Cumberland Blues.” But the addition of Krauss took the songs to another dimension entirely.

That was especially encouraging to see because Krauss’ own set, which preceded Lesh & Friends, was a bit of a dud. Not the performance itself, which had a set list and stage design similar to her 2017 Stifel Theatre concert.

But the sublime vocals of Krauss on “River in the Rain,” “Stay” and “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” were mostly lost on an audience that had come to party. The dull roar of conversations — probably equally dull — often drowned out the music.

Krauss fared better with the crowd on the up-tempo tunes “Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson” and “It’s Goodbye and So Long to You.” She earned cheers when she covered “I Never Cared for You” and “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” by festival anchor Willie Nelson. The response was also enthusiastic for “Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby” and “Down to the River to Pray” from the popular “O Brother Where Art Thou?” soundtrack.

The set’s big finish — covers of John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind” and Keith Whitley’s “When You Say Nothing at All,” plus the rousing gospel number “When I’ve Done the Best I Can, I Want My Crown” received a standing ovation, but it seemed mostly perfunctory. By the time that Krauss and her band attempted an a cappella encore of “It Is Well With My Soul,” the audience had turned its attention to other things and was filing out.

Meanwhile, headliner Willie Nelson — who was really the only legitimate “outlaw” on the bill — just keeps rolling on, even at age 86.

Like Krauss, Nelson didn’t vary his performance much from his previous St. Louis concert, a 2018 show at the Stifel. But as always, his songs come pouring out at such a torrid pace — 21 tunes in an hourlong set — it’s fun just trying to keep up.

Nelson dedicated songs to his late friends Waylon Jennings (“Good Hearted Woman”) and Merle Haggard (“It’s All Going to Pot”) and played a trio of tunes from the Hank Williams catalog (“Jambalaya,” “Hey Good Lookin’” and “Move It on Over.”)

He was having a good night vocally and on guitar. He performed some astonishing tricks on his guitar, “Trigger,” which is so beat up it almost hurts to see it in close-up on the video screens. But it still sounds great when Nelson reels off one of his jazzy, all-over-the-beat solos, or performs a lovely instrumental like Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages.”

Nelson visited some of his classics, including “Whiskey River,” “On the Road Again” and “Always on My Mind,” but some of his best offerings were from his just-released 69th (!) album, “Ride Me Back Home.”

Nelson doesn’t always plug his new albums in concert, but this one is worth it, notably for his takes on Guy Clark’s “My Favorite Picture of You,” Buzz Rabin’s (via Gene Watson) “Maybe I Should Have Been Listening” and Mac Davis’ comic “It’s Hard to Be Humble.”

A long day of music wrapped up with Nelson’s standard closing gospel medley of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and “I’ll Fly Away,” which found Lesh and his bandmates joining in. But the legendary singer and irrepressible pot advocate added one more: “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”

The song would serve as a suitable epitaph for Nelson. But not anytime soon, please.

Old Crow Medicine Show, Dawes, and Shooting With Annie performed earlier in the day.

Willie Nelson setlist:

“Whiskey River”

“Still Is Still Moving to Me”

“Beer for My Horses”

“A Good Hearted Woman”

“Down Yonder”

“If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time”

“It’s All Going to Pot”


“On the Road Again”

“Always on My Mind”

“Jambalaya (On the Bayou)”

“Hey, Good Lookin’”

“Move It On Over”


“Georgia on a Fast Train”

“My Favorite Picture of You”

“Maybe I Should Have Been Listening”

“It’s Hard to Be Humble”

“Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”/“I’ll Fly Away”

“Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die”

“Christians everywhere should be up in arms”: Willie Nelson speaks out on immigrant family separations at border

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
by: Cailin O’Kane

Music legend and Texas native Willie Nelson is speaking out about the immigration controversy currently unfolding in his state and other stretches along America’s southern border.

Under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, anyone suspected of crossing the border illegally faces criminal prosecution. Children traveling with adults are being separated from their families and placed into shelters. The Department of Homeland Security said Friday that nearly 2,000 children have been separated over a six-week period, a practice that many leaders in both parties have criticized as “inhumane.”

“What’s going on at our southern border is outrageous,” Nelson said in a statement Thursday, first reported by Rolling Stone Country. “Christians everywhere should be up in arms. What happened to ‘Bring us your tired and weak and we will make them strong?’ This is still the promise land,” Nelson said.

Nelson was quoting lyrics from “Living in the Promiseland,” a song written by David Lynn Jones and recorded by Nelson for his 1986 album “The Promiseland.” The song’s lyrics are a play on the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Nelson’s appeal to Christians seemed intended as a rebuttal to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who defended the policy on biblical grounds. Sessions said last week, “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.” 

Nelson is not the only critic of Sessions’ Bible citation. Members of Sessions’ own denomination, the United Methodists, accused him of enacting policies they call child abuse. The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, along with the Revs. Jesse Jackson and William Barber, in separate statements, called Sessions’ use of biblical scripture incorrect.

“The Bible does not justify discrimination masked as racism, sexism, economic inequality, oppression or the abuse of children,” said the bishops’ group.

Nelson, 85, grew up in Abbott, Texas, and currently owns a home in Austin, where the organization Families Belong Together held rallies and protests against the zero-tolerance policy over the weekend. 

Willie Nelson, Avett Brothers, Alison Krauss (Outlaw Festival, Pittsburgh)

Monday, June 24th, 2019

Ride Me Back Home, by Willie Nelson (previews by Mikal Gilmore)

Monday, June 10th, 2019

Willie Nelson & Family at first ever Beach Life Festival in LA

Monday, May 13th, 2019
photo: Alan Sheckter

Illustrious musicians from the vanguard to the nostalgic, some of who began plying their craft in the ‘60s, and others who are poised for big recognition in the 2020s, all shared a distinctive Southern California seaside aesthetic at the inaugural BeachLife Festival May 3 to 5. BeachLife, the biggest fest ever to blast its jukebox along the Santa Monica Bay at Redondo Beach, combined sun, sounds, sand, and surf and passed its acid test with flying colors.

The fest began with a pre-noon alt-surf-rock set on Friday by local band Alinea, who noted that theirs was the opening performance at the first-ever BeachLife Fest with the apt observation, “If you’re missing this set, you’re missing history.” The event, which drew upwards of 10,000 colorful attendees, ended Sunday night with a sunset serenade by Willie Nelson and Family. The weather was splendid throughout, with highs in the upper 60s – for which some folks were outfitted in long sleeves and long pants, and others in shorts and bathing suits.

Willie and Weed

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019
by: John Nelson

The branding power of Willie Nelson draws a crowd even in states where weed is illegal.

Take Texas, for example.

At the Luck Reunion, an annual music festival held on Nelson’s ranch about 45 minutes outside Austin in March, there was a huge line to get into the Willie’s Reserve merchandise store, where vape pens, lighters, bandanas, hats, T-shirts and other clothing were on sale. No weed was available – at least legally – anywhere at the festival, but that didn’t seem to matter to the cannabis lovers who clamored for the merch.

“There’s a huge demand among fans to show their love for Willie,” said Elizabeth Hogan, vice president of brand and communications for Willie’s Reserve, Nelson’s cannabis brand.

Alan Verhines, a fan attending the Luck Reunion from Indianapolis, walked out of the store with a Willie’s Reserve tote bag, hat and a few other items he had just purchased.

“Most of this stuff I’m going to give away,” he said. “It’s never too soon to think about Christmas.”

Another fan, Ben from Austin (who asked that his last name not be used), purchased a Willie’s Reserve vape pen.

“I’m a big believer in hemp, and I’m a big supporter of Willie,” he said.

Beyond the swag, the Willie’s Reserve cannabis products have an ardent following. You can buy his licensed flower strains and products in states where weed is legal, including Washington, Oregon and Colorado.

Some of the strains sold in Washington include Mr. Nice, LA Confidential, Big Blue and Glitter Glue. Besides flower and pre-rolls, Willie’s Reserve has an ever-growing menu of edible products.

In the Spokane area, Willie’s Reserve is sold at Primo Cannabis, Apex Cannabis, Locals Canna House, Cannabis and Glass, Lovely Buds and Lucky Leaf, according to the Willie’s Reserve website. Pullman, Clarkston and Walla Walla also have outlets.

So far, reviews from retailers are positive. Neil Waldbjorn, store manager for Local Roots Marijuana in Everett, said he’s impressed with Willie’s Reserve as a company. Waldbjorn was attending the Luck Reunion wearing a Seahawks ball cap, standing out among the vast field of cowboy hats.

“The company is well organized, which shows me they’ll be around long term,” he said.

Willie’s Reserve partners with farmers who use sustainable practices, giving an assist to “the independent American farmer,” Hogan said, an offshoot of Nelson’s well-publicized efforts with Farm Aid, the long running benefit concert to assist American family farms.

The company’s website lists six growers it works with in Washington, including Leaves of Grass in Wenatchee. On the retail end, outlets offering “good consumer experience” are chosen, according to Hogan.

In Texas, Nelson is supporting efforts to legalize hemp farming, a logical first step in a conservative state that still doesn’t allow medical sales of marijuana.

“It’s very meaningful to Willie to see hemp plants grown in his home state,” Hogan said.

Eventually, that could lead to legal sales of cannabis, she said, given the state’s libertarian streak.

“There’s a strong appreciation for freedom in Texas,” said Hogan, looking around at the crowd of fans scurrying around the Willie’s Reserve store at the Luck Reunion. “The more we can show that cannabis can be sold responsibly elsewhere, the better chance we have.”J

Is Willie Nelson the Top Balladeer? (New York Times) (September 9, 1981)

Monday, May 6th, 2019

WHY is Willie Nelson, who wears his long, graying hair in braids, dresses like a hippie and was singing honky tonk music in Texas roadhouses as long ago as the l950’s, America’s most admired pop balladeer?

Kenny Rogers sells more records with his saccharine love songs and stagey whisky-rasp, and Frank Sinatra is certainly still a force to be reckoned with, but it is Willie Nelson who has turned chestnuts like ”Georgia on My Mind,” ”Stardust” and ”Mona Lisa” into recent pop hits, and Mr. Nelson draws a more diverse audience than either Mr. Rogers or Mr. Sinatra. The last time he performed in New York, pot-smoking rock fans were sitting next to middle-aged businessmen and their wives and a few grandmothers, and all of them were hanging on to Willie Nelson’s every word.

The release this week of ”Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits” (Columbia records) offers some clues, both in the music it includes and in what it omits. On first hearing, Mr. Nelson’s dry, reedy tenor can sound deceptively thin, but listening to his hits back to back, one soon notices a sinewy strength that’s barely hidden behind his apparently vulnerable sound and casual delivery. One also notices that most of his hit records have used a sound, a kind of musical formula, that refers to several traditions, including country music, rock, folk and middle-of-the-road pop, without really belonging to any of them. Their most characteristic sound is a softly strummed acoustic guitar, a wailing harmonica played by his band’s most prominent soloist, Mickey Raphael, and Mr. Nelson singing, straightforwardly and with just a hint of melancholy, about faded loves, rejection in love, and men who are drawn to the open road and can’t seem to help themselves, men who live like cowboys not because they want to but because that’s what they are. A Land of Cowboys

Cowboys – there’s a clue. America needs its cowboys. There’s a cowboy in the White House, a cowboy who likes living on his ranch and gives press conferences with his boots on. There were latter-day cowboys in ”Urban Cowboy,” one of the most successful films and record-album soundtracks last year. There are more and more countryand-western clubs opening, and more and more city slickers in western shirts and boots to go to them, even in Manhattan. And Willie Nelson is a cowboy.

He’s still a convincing cowboy at the age of 48. He crisscrossed Texas for years, playing in roadside honky tonks. He peddled his songs in Nashville, and some of them, most notably ”Crazy” and ”Funny (How Time Slips Away),” became country standards. But record producers in Nashville didn’t think he could sing, and when he did get a chance to record, he was saddled with string orchestras and inappropriate material. By the time he finally became a full-fledged country star, in the mid-70’s, he had been branded an ”outlaw” by Nashville’s conservative country-music establishment, and although he has long since become a pop star, with a fistful of platinum albums and singles and several film roles to his credit, he still projects that outlaw image.

This is a curious thing. What one sees is an outlaw – a cowboy gone wrong. What one hears, especially on Mr. Nelson’s recordings of ”Stardust” and other standards, is a weathe red but reassuring voicesinging the old songs as if they really matte r to him, against a simple, folksy musical backdrop. Apparently, American pop consumers won’t buy records of songs like ”Stardust” when they are performed by entertainers who project an old-fashioned, sophisticated showbusiness image, but they will buy them wh en the singer is a longhaired, pot-smoking rebel. The countercul ture of the 60’s has become the mainstream culture of the 80’s, an d Mr. Nelson is the one American popular singer who gives the impress ion of being part of both the counterculture and the mainstream at the same time. Back to Honky Tonk

Interestingly, ”Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits,” a double album that includes two previously unreleased performances, has only one of his performances of pop evergreens on it -his hit version of ”Georgia on My Mind.” The rest of the album concentrates on hits that are clos er to country music and to country rock. There are several live performances recorded with his wonderfully idiosyncraticband, which l ayers electric guitars and back-country church-style piano over he avy bass and the two-beat cowboy drumming of Mr. Nelson’s long time sidekick, Paul English. There are tributes to Mr. Nelson’s honk y-tonk roots, including a fine reworking of Lefty Frizzell’s ” If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time” and two numbers, ”Fa ded Love” and ”Stay a Little Longer,” that were associated wi th the late Bob Wills, ”King of Western Swing” and probably the most popular Southwestern entertainer or all time. Mr. Nelson’s most celebrated duet with his fellow country ”Outlaw” Waylon Jennin gs, ”Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” is here, too.

So ”Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits” is really the best of Willie Nelson, country singer, an album for his hard-core fans. Perhaps he feels that with his albums of pre-World War II pop standards and his movie appearances, he has been neglecting the people who made his reputation in the first place. At any rate, he is still a winning country stylist. And it is somehow reassuring, at a time when most country entertainers can’t wait to get that first pop hit and start wearing tuxedos and playing Las Vegas, to find one who knows who he is and what he comes from. Maybe that’s why his fans accept the long hair and the rumpled clothes; they are outward indications that no matter how successful he becomes, the inner Willie Nelson is not about to change.

Willie Nelson & Family and Friends in Springfield, MO (April 8, 2016)

Monday, April 8th, 2019


Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson, and Ryan Bingham performed in front of a packed house at the O’Reilly Family Event Center at Drury University Friday night.  Merle Haggard was originally on the ticket with Willie promoting their new album together titled Django and Jimmie but failing health had kept Merle off the tour and he cancelled all upcoming concert dates just a few weeks ago.  Merle Haggard died this past Wednesday, April 6, 2016, due to complications with pneumonia.



willieeww2 willieww  Jamey Johnson performed an entire set of Merle’s songs and Willie closed out the show with Johnson and Bingham singing Merle’s famous song Okie from Muskogee.  Willie’s son Lucas Nelson was a great addition to Willie’s band playing some backup rhythm guitar and he electrified the audience when he took center stage to sing Texas Flood with some incredible guitar work.

Lukas Nelson at Indian Wells Tennis Garden Music Festival

Sunday, April 7th, 2019
Lukas Nelson with Toby Lee at opening night of Indian Wells Tennis Garden music festival. Photo: Marc Glassman
by: Bruce Fessier

Read entire article here.

The annual music festival at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden has had five different names or title sponsors in the past five years. But this weekend’s Wedbush Garden Jam will be remembered as a shred fest.

Some of the most brilliant guitarists in rock and blues, including Lukas Nelson of Promise of the Real, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, Jimmie Vaughan (older brother of Stevie Ray) and Buddy Guy, an eight-time Grammy Award-winning blues legend, put on a fireworks show Friday and Saturday after local guitarists Kal David and John Carey showed they can hold their own with any gunslinger coming to town.

A star for much of the weekend was Toby Lee, a 14-year-old British guitarist who has been called “a future superstar of the blues” by Joe Bonamassa.

Lee, who is appearing on Peter Frampton’s next album, played both evenings on a second stage with David, Carey and session guitarist “Mic Dangerously” De La Torre.

Nelson brought Lee to the main stage Friday night to play Stevie Ray Vaughan’s blues classic, “Flooding Down in Texas,” which Nelson turned into a highlight of the 2017 Stagecoach festival when he played it with his dad, Willie Nelson. This time, Lee proved an equal partner to the 30-year-old Nelson by not trying to upstage him, but just listening for ideas to bounce back. They both got a standing ovation.

But Nelson elevated his game on his next song, “Set Me Down On A Cloud.” It didn’t call for a scorching guitar solo, like “Flooding Down in Texas,” but Nelson added a beautiful, evocative solo that was simply inspiring.

His set delivered on the promise of the real music he’s been playing with his band for a dozen years. Nelson opened with “Come Live the Simple Life,” which featured a Neil Young-styled attacking guitar solo and a plaintive vocal showing his genetic heritage as well as the influence of playing as Young’s back-up band. He also displayed Willie’s finger-picking guitar style on the equally expository “Just Outside of Austin.”

Lukas explained how he came up with the guitar intro on the Oscar and Grammy Award-winning Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga song, “Shallow,” for which he gave most of the songwriting credit to Mark Ronson’s “team.” Then Hunter Elizabeth came on to sing the Gaga part and, after a rough start, got to heaven on the high notes to give that beautiful song its due.

Nelson played a little hoe-down music on “Stay A Little Longer,” got the crowd to sing along on the catchy refrain to “Find Yourself” and had them absolutely silent for his “Turn Off the News,” in which he urged listeners to instead focus on raising their kids to be good people,” providing another example of his old soul. 

Willie Nelson, ‘The Undisputed King of Country Music’ (Dallas Daily News, 9/17/1978)

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

by Pete Oppel
Dallas Daily News
Sept. 17, 1978

South Lake Tahoe, Nev. — The baby grand Steinway piano in Willie Nelson’s hotel suite is flanked by a window overlooking Nevada and a flight of stairs leading to a bedroom overlooking California.

Nelson, dressed in blue jeans, a blue T-shirt and blue tennis shoes is conferring with an officious looking gentleman in a conservative blue suit. Everything else in the room with the exception of the piano and six huge pillows in various shades of red, maroon and orange is geige or crystal — the sofa, the fireplace, the chairs, the thick carpet, the magazine rack, even the bar and the stereo system. Nelson’s conference is interrupted by a woman’s voice from the kitchen-dining area, located in the loft of the split-level suite.

“Dinner is served, Mr. Nelson,” the voice says.

Willie Nelson, the one-time door-to-door book salesman from Abbott, Texas, who has played every gin joint from Key West to the Puget Sound, has come a long way from the days of knocking about in Nashville and playing on the back of flatbed trucks for the opening of a Ford dealership in some one-horse town.  Nelson is in the middle of a 2-week engagement at the luxurious Harrah’s Hotel in Lake Tahoe, an engagement interrupted for ao one-night only performance at the White House.

Nelson rushes through his meal (one of the few times he rushes through anything) and walks back down into the living room.  He strolls around to the couch and sits.  He looks at the luxury that surrounds him and remembers those earlier days, shows in such unlavish places as Panther Hall in Fort Worth, or the Sportatorium in Dallas, where Nelson returns Wednesday night — exactly one week after his White House gig — for a show with Delbert McClintock and Ray Wylie Hubbard. 

“Harrah’s, Panther Hall, the Sportatorium, they’re all beer joints,” Nelson said, “apolstrey’s just a little bit better in some.”

People flocked to Harrah’s from all over the western United States to see Willie.  The once-maligned (by Nashville recording executives) singer is the toast of the town, the undisputed king of country music.   His infamous picnics made him a king in Texas, his recording of ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” made him a god in national country music circles.   Willie Nelson has reached the stage where he can take a non-country song like ‘Blue Eyes’ and convert it to a number one country single.   He is be sought as a major motion picture star and has three movies in the works, “The Songwriter,” a movie based on his album, “Red Headed Stranger,” and the ultimate measure of success, a project with the working title of, “The Willie Nelson Story.”

And what has nelson done to generate all this recent acclaim?    What has he done differently to change the way the country music establishment regards him during the past couple of years? 

The answer is absolutely nothing. 

“Our music is good and I think it took people a long time for anyone to hear it,” Nelson says.   “And the people who hears it, they like it, and they want to come see a show.  I haven’t changed.  I’m doing basically the same thing I’ve been doing all along.”

Willie was one of the first of the breedof country singers labeled “progressive country.”  There is really nothing progressive about Nelson’s style.  In fact, if anything, Nelson’s music is rooted in the simplistic patterns of Hank Williams, Kitty Wells and Roy Acuff. 

“I’ve never really left the old style,” he says.  “The term progressive country was applied to the appearance of the people who were playing the music and it really didn’t really have anything to do with the music itself.  When a guy had long hair, he played progessive country.  If he had short hair he played AM Top 40 Country.” 

The strange thing about the Willie Nelson success story is that it was the young people — the crowd with the musical diet of the Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, Big Brother and the Holding Company — that first tuned into Willie Nelson and responded to his songs.

“The music has always been something that they always would have liked, had they been associated with it,” Nelson said,  “They just didn’t have any place to go and listen to it.  Then they found out they could go to the Armadillo (an Austin club) and hear good country music.  They’d been hungry for it all along.  They’d been hearing their parents play it while they were playing rock and roll, creating a separation there — there was a barrier between rock and roll and country for a long time because the parents liked country and the kids liked rock and roll.   So somewhere along the way there had to be an agreement of some kind.   And the kids made the concession, if there was a concession to be made, because they were listening to the same kind of music their parents were listening to.  I don’t know if they realized they were conceeding anything or not.”

Willie Nelson performs two shows a night at Harrah’s.  The audience at the 8:15 dinner show consist of the well-heeled, because Harrah’s Showcase is the place to be at Lake Tahoe.   The second show, which begins at midnight, draws the hard-core Nelson fanatics.  They whistle.  They stomp.  They cheer.  They shout.  They won’t let Willie leave the stage, forcing him back for seven encores.   And Willie gives them a show they will not soon forget.   The songs are the same, but Willie and the band play them with abandon.  An instrumental jam on Whiskey River (a song he sings three times for an estatic second-show audience) sounds more like the Allman Brother’s Band than hard-line country music.  But this is Willie Nelson. 

His version of “Georgia on My Mind” in these late night shows has an ending that redefines the term ‘country soul.’  His treatment of ‘Amazing Grace’ is pure enough to reform the gamblers who are tossing silver dollars into slot machines, onto crap tables, around roulette wheels and in the general direction of the black jack dealers not more than a couple hundred feet from the stage where Willie Nelson is singing. 

“Even so more in a place like this (a gambling casino), that song is enjoyed because it is so different than what they are hearing around them,” Nelson says.   And they can get in to a song like ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Will the Circle be Unbroken’ beecause they don’t expect to find it here.

“But most of the people here can afford to be here.  There’s nobody here that’s throwing away their rent money, I don’t think.”

Hopefully, the excitement of a Willie Nelson performance in this atmosphere will be captured on his next album.

“My next release is a live album,” Nelson says.  “The last time I was here I cut a live album.  The new album will be coming out in October.”  The album, a two-record set, will contain all of the familiar Nelson songs plus his version of Rodney Crowel’s ‘Til I Gain Control Again’, which he has recently included in his shows.  It will not incude any new Nelson compositions.

“I’ve got some new songs, ‘She’s Gone’, ‘Angel Flying Too Close to the Sun’, and ‘Is the Better Part Over’?  I want to get enough for a new album.  I want to have a whole album of new songs. 

Nelson says the picnics — those July 4th happenings that were either a musical extravaganza or Bataan with all the fun taken out of it, depending on your point of view — are not history.  “The status of the picnics is the same as it is every year after the picnic, I guess,” he says.  “No one knows what’s going to happen next year.” 

The 1978 picnic came during the Texxas World Music Festival at the Cotton Bowl.   

“The accommodations were great, the stage was fine, the sound was good, the shows were good, but I don’t think the atmosphere was a Fourth of July Picnic atmosphere,” Nelson says.  “It would have been a lot more uncomfortable out there in a pasture, somewhere, but personally I would have liked that more.  The Cotton Bowl would be a good place to do a show, in a cooler time of year.  And for the Fourth of July it would be better to have it outside where you have a breeze, a lake you can go swimming.   And I think people enjoy the fact that they are not that well controlled.  Everything is too easy in the Cotton Bowl.   I mean, you can go get a snow cone, a drink of water, or go to the bathroom.  That’ s not a picnic.  They’re supposed to be rougher than that. 

Willie Nelson is 45 years old and to many people around the country, who learned about Willie through “Blue Eyes’, an overnight success, “a real Cinderella story,” Willie says with a laugh.  Not only has he seen it all, he has played in every place he’s seen.   Now Willie has just about done it all.  He has gone from the very bottom to the very top.   Is there any reason to go any longer?   Has he every thought about getting out the rat race he’s sentenced himself to? 

“The thought comes up very often,” he says.  “But, I enjoy playing.   If I didn’t go out and play with my band on the road, I’d be out in some other joint somewhere with just me and my guitar with a bunch of guys I don’t even know, because I like to play.  And as long as I have my health and can travel around and do it, I’m going to do it.  And I’ll quit when I get tired of playing music.”

[Thanks again so much to Christine Majors (and her mother) for saving these clippings about Willie Nelson from the ’70’s, and sharing them with me, to share with you.  I admire anyone who can hold on to newspaper clippings for over 30 years.  I love reading these old interviews and articles.]

This looks like Willie’s Year

Thursday, February 28th, 2019


Micah Nelson The Particle Kid at the Belly Up in Aspen (Feb. 23, 2019)

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019
by:  Andrew Travers

Particle Kid builds beautiful things only to destroy them.

The experimental rock band is the brainchild of J. Micah Nelson (yes, son to Willie Nelson) who brought the project to Belly Up Aspen on Feb. 23 in an opening slot for The Flaming Lips. Playing to a nearly full house of early-arriving, enthusiastic, attentive and heavily costumed Lips fans, Nelson — playing with a drummer and bassist — showcased his strange and inspired vision for the future of guitar rock.

He set the tone at the outset with a jarring dose of extended feedback, emerging from the haze of noise with “Myssus Crow” — from his 2017 album “Everything is Bulls—” — which juxtaposes jangly guitars and sweet bubblegum-pop vocals with harsh and brutal passages of distorted guitar.

If he wanted to, there’s no doubt Nelson, 27, could be writing pop hits and headlining shows with a more slick and commercial sound — he also could be, as evidenced by a handful of intricate guitar solos, campaigning to be his generation’s guitar hero. But clearly he isn’t interested in that with Particle Kid. Instead, the songs that Nelson showcased in this 45-minute set were studies in contrast and subversion.

On “Hollyweird,” from his recent collaborative album with folk-punk rocker Sunny War, he started it as an electric country ballad about Los Angeles, then tore it apart in non-idiomatic bursts of distortion, only to emerge again whistling and singing a sweet pop melody.

By the time Nelson started sweetly singing “I’m in love/I’m in love/I’m in love with the ocean” during the saccharine opening of “The Ocean,” the audience was bracing for it to turn ugly, and it did with a heavy metal burst of bass drum thuds and sludgy guitar.

There’s a playful Frank Zappa spirit in Particle Kid’s arty rock and a refreshing indifference to the pop trends of the moment. His mercurial guitar-based sound, with touches of folk and punches of distortion, is occasionally punctuated with glitchy electronic samples.

Nelson closed his set with the clever and subversive “Everything is Bulls—,” which recaps the history of life on Earth, from the first bit of conscious matter through our 21st century reality of Snapchat and drone bombs and cat videos.

“It’s not as cynical as it sounds off the bat,” he told the crowd beforehand. “It’s actually a healing, cathartic song.”

A kinetic performer, Nelson bounded around the stage — cluttered with the Lips’ gear, balloons and strings of lights — and ended by smashing a mic stand and doing a trust fall into the crowd.

Performing in a paint-spattered jumpsuit, with a mop of dark hair covering his eyes through most of the set, Nelson regularly raised a fist in the air to pump up the crowd and express his gratitude for their attention.

“Never in my wildest, greatest fantasy and dreams did I think I’d get to share this stage with the greatest band in the world: The Flaming Lips,” he told the Aspen crowd.

In a Facebook post before the show, he recalled how the Lips inspired him and led him into psych-rock at age 12, when he stumbled upon the concert DVD “UFOs at the Zoo.”

Nelson has been releasing music as Particle Kid since 2012, beginning with supremely DIY cassette-tape releases. He dropped two albums in 2017 — a self-titled disc along with “Everything is Bulls—” — and last year’s “Particle War” with Sunny War.

His Particle Kid tours are bare-bones affairs — hitting the road to play clubs with no crew — but he’s no stranger to full rock star treatment as a son of Willie Nelson, a member of Neil Young’s touring and studio band and multi-instrumentalist for his brother Lukas Nelson’s roots rock outfit the Promise of the Real (an Aspen favorite, they’re back at Belly Up for a sold-out show March 19).

But what Nelson seems to be after with Particle Kid is artistic freedom. He also is an animator, experimental artist and general visionary weirdo with countless multimedia projects going beyond his musical ventures. Rolling Stone included him among the next generation of visionary artists its “New Classics” series last year.

Whether it’s as Particle Kid or in some other guise, we’re going to be hearing a lot from Micah Nelson in the years to come.

Willie Nelson in Japan (February 1984)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019


Feb. 21, 1984

American country western singer Willie Nelson, surrounded by a troop of photographers, speaks to the press in Tokyo, as he kicked off his five-city tour in Japan.  He said he intends to offer “both standard and original jazz” to the Japanese audience.

Willie Nelson & Family in Concert in (March 19, 2019)

Monday, February 18th, 2019

Being 85 hasn’t appeared to slow down the Red Headed Stranger at all.

In fact, Willie Nelson was honored with his eighth Grammy award on Sunday during the 61st Grammy Awards for best traditional pop album for “My Way.”

West Texans will have the chance to see the star perform live with Willie Nelson & Family next week.

Willie Nelson & Family are scheduled to perform Tuesday at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center. Nelson’s prolific career includes music, moves and helping found Farm Aid in 1985.

Nelson’s new Grammy is his eighth and he has been nominated a whopping 51 times.

This year his album beat out “Love Is Here To Stay” by Tony Bennett and Diana Krall, “Nat “King” Cole & Me” by Gregory Porter, “Standards (Deluxe)” by Seal and “The Music… The Mem’ries…The Magic!” by Barbra Streisand.

It was a big week for Nelson as he was also honored Feb. 6 at the Recording Academy’s Procucers & Engineers Wing 12th Annual Celebration in Santa Monica, Calif., for his years of “artistic achievements and creative genius.”

The Associated Press reported that Kacey Musgraves, Dave Matthews and Lukas Nelson saluted the outlaw king of country music with tributes and performances.

The 85-year-old Texas singer-songwriter was a man of few words when he was presented with a plaque, jokingly asking if he was graduating. He thanked all the producers and engineers, adding that “I’m glad they liked me ‘cause they could have really screwed me up.”

Nelson was nominated for two Grammys: best traditional pop vocal album for “My Way,” a covers album of Frank Sinatra; and best American roots performance for “Last Man Standing.”

Musgraves, who was also a big winner during Sunday night’s Grammy’s including winning album of the year, had much more to say about the “Red-Headed Stranger.”

She said her fellow Texan has an ability to bring together people, no matter their differences: “Underdogs, outliers, Republicans, rappers, presidents. Everyone loves Willie,” Musgraves said.

Nelson’s songs are so iconic, “they’re never going to die, and let’s get real: He’s probably not either,” she said Matthews was joined by two of Nelson’s sons, Micah and Lukas, to help cover songs like “Crazy,” and “I Thought About You, Lord.” Lukas Nelson, who worked on the soundtrack and film for “A Star Is Born” with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, can sing a dead-on impersonation of his father’s unique high singing style.

Nelson was born in Abbott, Texas, and during the 1960s he wrote for Ray Price, Patsy Cline and Billy Walker. He aligned with Waylon Jennings in the 1970s and met critical acclaim with his album “Red Headed Stranger” and the song “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”

His first Grammy win came in 1975 for “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”

His 1982 hit “Always on My Mind” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.