Archive for the ‘News and Reviews’ Category

Willie Nelson & Family at the Mountain Winery, Saratoga, CA (Aug. 16, 2017)

Thursday, August 17th, 2017
by:  Jamie Soja


Willie Nelson performed to a sold out crowd in the vine covered hills of Santa Clara Valley. Nelson took the stage at Mountain Winery in Saratoga with his band, which includes his sister Bobbie Nelson on piano, at dusk performing his classic opener “Whiskey River”. Throughout the night he flawlessly sang renditions of fan favorites such as “On the Road Again” and “Still Is Still Moving to Me” as well as covers of Django Reinhardt and Ray Charles. His faithful guitar, trigger, sounds good as ever.


“Should I date someone who doesn’t like Willie Nelson?”

Thursday, August 17th, 2017
by: David Courtney

Is not liking Willie Nelson’s music a deal breaker?
Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q:   I just found out that the boy I’ve been dating for the past month and a half not only doesn’t like Willie Nelson’s music but actually dislikes his politics and everything else about him. Other than this, I have found him to be a pretty flawless guy. But is not liking Willie a deal killer?

Name Withheld, Lubbock

A:   In all the years the Texanist has been doling out advice to those in need of it, he doesn’t recall having ever been confronted with a situation quite like the strange and troubling one you have presented to him here. But then he’s never in his whole life come across anyone quite like this beau with whom you’ve been carrying on recently. The Texanist isn’t sure where you’d even meet a person like this. And he’s spent time in some of the world’s seedier cantinas, discotheques, and all-night truck-stop cafes. Even among the most unsavory acquaintances he’s had the displeasure of making in these shabby dens, he’s never met anyone who holds Willie Nelson in such low regard.

Of course, everyone is entitled to their own musical proclivities. The Texanist, for example, is an admitted Wayne Newton fan. (Hey, it’s his knocking-back-a-scotch-with-a-splash-of-water-and-two-ice-cubes-while-shining-up-for-a-night-on-the-town music! So what?) But disliking Willie—as a singer, a songwriter, an outlaw (of the mostly harmless variety), an unabashed Mary Jane enthusiast, and an incomparable treasure to all of humanity—speaks to your dude’s character. What’s this guy’s deal, anyway? Nobody is here to tell anybody that somebody has to appreciate a particular musical artist as a prerequisite to being anybody’s boyfriend, but by shunning Willie’s transcendent tunesmithing, ever-pleasant warble, and overall munificence, this fellow has really shown himself to be, at the very least, a birdbrain.

In short, you’d have to be crazy (see what the Texanist did there?) to continue in this doomed relationship. If you’d like, the Texanist would be happy to make the phone call for you.

Willie Nelson tweets about leaving concert early in Salt Lake City last night

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Country icon Willie Nelson had to cut short a concert in Salt Lake City Sunday after suffering respiratory issues.

The 84-year-old singer later took to twitter to tell fans, “The altitude just got to me.”

The 20,000-capacity USANA Amphitheater is located in West Valley City, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City, with an altitude of 4,300 feet.

The tweet posted after the concert read: “This is Willie. I am very sorry to have to cut the Salt Lake City performance short tonight. The altitude just got to me. I am feeling a lot better now and headed for lower ground.”

Texas-born Nelson has recorded more than 60 albums, written songs such as “Crazy,” and appeared in more than 30 movies and TV shows.

Known for his honky-tonk tunes and hippie flair, Nelson rose to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His fame has transcended genres with the release of hits such as “Always on My Mind” and “On the Road Again,” in the 1980s.

Both songs peaked within the Billboard Hot 100, and throughout his career Nelson has had 20 No. 1 hits and 114 chart singles, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Billboard charts rank Nelson as the No. 3 greatest of all time country singer after George Strait and Merle Haggard.

Willie Nelson & Family at Rockin’ River Music Festival

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

photos:  Michael Potestio

Smoky skies lingering in the Nicola Valley couldn’t keep people away from what was the biggest Rockin’ River Music Festival to date.

The August long weekend event in Merritt saw some of the biggest names in country music grace the stage over the weekend, with the likes of Toby Keith and Willie Nelson playing to large crowds.

“I thought the show itself was amazing,” said festival president Kenny Hess. “I had my two favourites, that’s for sure. I thought Toby was good, but Willie was amazing… and I thought Brett Kissel did Canada proud.”

It was the 84-year-old Nelson’s first time in the Country Music Capital of Canada, and he was impressed with the atmosphere of the event.

“Willie personally told me, he said, what it lacks in people this year, it makes up for in vibe,” said Hess. “He said it’s just such a wonderful family feel.”

With the third year in the books, Hess said they had their largest crowd to date with about 32,000 people attending the festival over the August long weekend.

“We need to get it a little higher than that before we can start turning it into a business rathe than a hobby,” Hess said with a laugh.

The festival wasn’t in the black this year, but Hess said he felt they still made a lot of headway.

“We lost a little, but not enough to get us nervous. All along we said it’s going to be the fourth or fifth year before you make money and then it takes several years to pay back your investment,” said Hess.

The festival broke even last year, and Hess said he believes the smoky skies and wildfires around the province probably kept some would-be festivalgoers from attending this year

“We were on track to do quite a bit better than we did, but at the same time I’m not complaining. I was happy with where we ended up,” said Hess.

With Eric Church set as next year’s headliner, Hess thinks the festival’s attendance will rise drastically and they can turn a profit.

Hess said the festival’s volunteers play a crucial role in making the event a success.

“We were lucky,” said Hess of the 150 volunteers that helped out at the festival this year. “We got some really good local volunteers and some from all over. We had one from Switzerland and two from Germany, two from Ireland and one from New Zealand.”

Read article, see more photos here.

Willie Nelson & Family in Washington (review)

Friday, August 11th, 2017
by: Dan Nailen

At his sold-out show Tuesday at Northern Quest Resort and Casino, the 84-year-old country legend ran through upward of 30 songs, or at least pieces of 30 songs, over the course of about 75 minutes. Along the way, he and his Family Band paid homage to Hank Williams, nodded to departed peers like Merle Haggard and friends like Tom T. Hall, and showcased why Nelson remains an American treasure after decades in the spotlight.

Nelson took the stage in his customary cowboy hat, bandana and long braids in his grey hair, sporting a “Craft Cannabis” T-shirt and a wide grin as he waved at the audience. He then launched into his customary show opener, “Whiskey River,” before segueing into “Still is Still Moving to Me,” a song that featured his first extended solo on his trusty acoustic guitar, Trigger.

One of the best features of Tuesday’s show was the camera’s near-constant focus on Trigger and Nelson’s hands, projecting his guitar work on the large screens on either side of the stage. Even at 84, his rapid-fire picking and strumming is something to behold, and watching him find subtle new approaches to classic old songs was a treat. Nelson’s not a jukebox; he and his band don’t regurgitate the hits as close to their recorded forms as possible. Rather, he’s a lot like Bob Dylan, constantly tweaking his own tunes to find new ways to express himself, and to keep his band on its toes.

Read entire review here.

Ten Years of Outside Lands Festival (Willie Nelson & Family in 2013)

Thursday, August 10th, 2017


In short: Paul McCartney played in 2013 and, in a backstage meeting with Mayor Ed Lee, agreed to play the final concert ever at Candlestick Park the next year. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails and Jurassic 5 brought back ’90s vibes. Nile Rodgers showed up with Chic for a dance party.

Most Memorable Moment: Always doing things his way, Willie Nelson drove to the stage through the crowd in a white van, strapped on his beat-up guitar with a saxophone strap, threw his hat into the audience, and proceeded to play gorgeous song after gorgeous song to the most carefree, fun-loving crowd Outside Lands has seen. John Stamos from Full House stood to the side of the stage, making eyes and flirting with girls in the crowd before simply joining the band on congas. At the end, the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir joined in for a finale of “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” Never seen a set at Outside Lands quite like it.

Read about the other 9 years here.

Willie Nelson & Family in Edmonton, Canada

Monday, August 7th, 2017

photo:  Fish Griwkowski
by: Fish Griwkowsky

Camrose — It was a mud-clogged Friday that had the frozen-panic feel of waiting for medical test results. Breaking through all this soul-crushing rain, would Willie Nelson even get to play? Were all those weather apps showing giant lumpy weather monsters eking down from the north onto Big Valley Jamboree going to be wrong?

Well, you know the answer, and 25,000 people in the bowl faced that affirmation with giant grins. And boy, could he play guitar.

Nelson, 84-year-old country music giant, right there live and in person, and wouldn’t you know it, for the first time in the entire day, he brought out the sun that would only shine on his performance because, well, gods and stuff.

That was during Georgia, in a bull’s-eye, best-of playlist that was singalong, satisfying and perfectly lovely. Nelson opened with Whiskey River as his voice warmed up, then did Still is Still Moving to Me, then rather excellently, Beer for My Horses. Let me interject and say Nelson prefers Nelson brand red bandannas, because why trust the amateurs with such things?

His banter was spartan, and in every case about others: “Glad to be here with y’all — let’s do one for Waylon,” he told his sharp and perfect band, including his sister Bobbie Nelson, whose keystrokes were perfection on BVJ’s new-and-improved sound system.

The Jennings jam: Good Hearted Woman, which led into If You’ve Got the Money and the tender Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground. On the Road Again — damn! — led to You Were Always on my Mind, then tributes to Hank Williams: Move it on Over and Hey Good Lookin’, which got people two-stepping in the honey-gold light during Georgia.

“Thank you, I’m doing all right,” he said to someone yelling from the crowd, who grinned and waved and pointed through the concert. Tom T. Hall’s Shoeshine Man was followed by Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die. Off the excellent Phases and Stages: Bloody Mary Morning. And, Still Not Dead with its fine lyrics: “The gardener did not find me that way. You can’t believe a word that people say.”

Nelson, looking us in the eye, through all the health scares and everything else, saying: Still here, dawg.

read entire article here

Willie Nelson in the Big Apple

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

The News
by:  Todd Katz

While orange-and-white Cadillacs still aren’t often seen on the city’s streets, it appears only a matter of time before dude ranches spring up on Staten Island and Lone Star beer replaces the Mateus wine and Shaeffer’s beer that remind Texans they are in New York.

The most recent sign of Western encroachment was the conversion of the city’s only stereo jazz station into the city’s only stereo country music station, a move announced in a full page advertisement in the New York Times showing the Statue of Liberty wearing handsome ostrich leather cowboy boots.

“This town is going all out for cowboy hats, chicken-fried steak and mechanical bulls — why not country music?” said WKHK, the new call letters for the FM “kicker” station.

By coincidence, Willie Nelson & Family chose this week to invade the Big Apple.  The two shows at the Palladium on Thursday and Friday were sellouts.  The $10 and $15 tickets were bought up a week ago.

Outside the 14th street theater, an edifice with a colorful history of vaudeville and Yiddish theater, as well as generations of concert music, the true Texans and those who came to the fold a little later gathered, shivering a bit in their cowboy hats and sheepskin coats.    It couldn’t have been any colder in the coldest corner of the Panhandle.  Ticket scalpers, cautious at a trade which is illegal in New York, did a brisk business selling tickets for $30, $40, $50 and more.
In the crowd was Toni Weissman of Fort Lee, New Jersey.  “I first saw Willie Nelson three or four years ago,” she recalled.  I was doing something in another room and suddenly I heard this music on TV.   I’d never heard anything like it before in my life.  It was beautiful.

Mr. Weissman, who managed to buy herself a seat on the second tier of the theater, later whipped out her binoculars

Every time Willie started a song.    Between sets, she wanted to know everything about Willie Nelson in Texas.
“Does he always play in those huge fields?” she asked, referring to Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July picnics she’d seen televised.
Since Liz See was wearing a Willie Nelson T-shirt, cowboy hat and cowboy boots, it  didn’t seem unlikely she was from”them thar parts.  “Sure, I’m from Arkansas.” she said with a smile,  while her companion, Jean Marie Fackovev doubled up in laughter. “OK, I’m from Long Island,” she said, dropping her twang for a distinctive nasal pitch.   “But I just collected some money from an accident I was in.   And I’m going to use it to tour Texas.”

High on her list of travel priorities is Gilley’s. in Houston, made famous in the John Travolta movie ‘Urban Cowboy.’  Would they also like to visit Luckenbach.  “Oh, that’s the name of Willie’s new song!  Oh, wow.”

The warm up act for the night was Carlene Carter and Delbert McClinton.  Taking her cue from the more common use of the Palladium by punk rockers, Ms. Carter, daughter of Johnny Cash and June Carter, wore a red leather mini-dress over black tights.  She had a big white “C” sewn on her chest.  Between lyrics Ms. Carter did a few disco steps to the enthusiastic strumming of McClinton.

Then it was time for Willie.

As he began, a 40-foot-wide Lone Star flag fluttered down behind him and his family — about 30 performers and friends who constiuted the show, road crew and groupies.  For two hours, Willie played all the favorites, Bobby Sang the Blues, I’ve Seen the Morning, Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain, Georgia, and On the Road Again, among others.  Audience reaction was ecstatic.
“Whoo-Hooo,”  cried many, again and again.  The men did most of the calling.   “Willie, Willie,” they cried to this hero singer, his brown hair in long woven braids, sporting a red bandanna over a black cut-off sweatshirt, with faded blue jeans tucked neatly into tall cowboy boots.

One huge fellow wearing a gray 3-piece suit, stood up, ran to balcony rail and cried, “Willie, Willie, Willie!”  until an usher came and took him back to his seat.   There, he hung his head and cried for a while.

Toward the end of the show, the musicians exited, leaving the spotlight to Willie, who, alone on the vast stage, dedicated a Leon Russell song to John Lennon, who died only a subway ride away.

I’ve been so many places
in my life and time.
I love you in a place where there’s no space and time
I love you for my life, ’cause you’re a friend of mine
And when my life is over
Remember when we were together,
And I was singing this song for you.

The audience cheered and the music ended.  Willie moved to the edge of the stage and he leaned over to shake hands with the men in the audience.  He kissed a few of the bolder women.  His family tensed.  Members of the road crew dressed as cowboys moved closer to Willie.   Someone in the audience grabbed Willie’s arm and he started to lose his balance.   The cowboys jumped forward and Willie’s arm was released.

Willie waved, now with a red rose between his teeth.

Willie Nelson is the coolest musician to play 25 years of Big Valley Jamborees

Friday, August 4th, 2017
by: Fish Griwkowsky

Having been to more than half the Big Valley Jamborees in its 25-year lifespan, here’s something easy to declare: Willie Nelson — playing Friday — is the coolest act they’ve ever booked.

That’s nothing against BVJ, mind you — with a penchant for dope, helping out farmers, troubles with the man and, of course, a catalogue of songs which include some of the most recognizable music ever to beam into space from planet Earth. Nelson is seriously untouchable when you compare him to almost anyone else alive.

Into the modern age with collaborations with Snoop Dogg, his brilliant 1998 album Teatro or a record of reggae songs, Countryman, Nelson’s a true outlaw in the sense of being hard to pin down precisely. Born during the Great Depression in 1933, raised by his grandparents, a brief stint in the U.S. air force ended with lucky-for-us back problems, and as a honky tonk-occupying musician he started spinning records on Texas radio stations.

You might know the Patsy Cline song Crazy he wrote, and he played bass for the legendary Ray Price back in the ’60s. He “retired” from music in 1972 to Austin, at which point his career really took off — with the magnificent albums Shotgun Willie, the essential divorce album Phases and Stages and the mighty Red Headed Stranger.

The 1978, jazzy crossover album Stardust was an international hit, certified quintuple platinum. It included covers as diverse as Hoagy Carmichael’s Georgia on My Mind and Duke Ellington’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, plus classic takes of Blue Skies, All of Me and On the Sunny Side of the Street.

Nelson was memorable starring in the 1982 western Barbarossa, but a bigger moment for him came when On the Road Again was released in 1980 on the soundtrack Honeysuckle Rose, earning him a Grammy for best country song. And of course we all know about the Highwaymen, his collaboration with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.

It’s here one might stop and say, if there was ever a towering country music Mount Rushmore, while you might argue forever who would be the four stone-hewn faces — Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, George Jones … maybe Garth Brooks if you really want a tussle with the oldtimers — Nelson and Cash would be guaranteed spots on that landmark.

Elvis. Willie Nelson. Jesus. He’s just so unique. Print that.

As long as we’ve been friends, Alberta country musician Corb Lund and I have shared a deep affection for Nelson, and the Cardston-ranch-living singer-songwriter has mentioned him many times in interviews. While Lund isn’t playing BVJ — this year, anyway — he’s happy to talk about his 84-year old hero in terms without any reservation.

“He’s got huge balls. He’s been a model for me, career-wise, because he’s got a super wide fan base — cowboys and hippies and bikers all in one room together. Something about his approach rubbed off, I think,” said Lund, whose set list has frequently included Seven Spanish Angels, On the Road Again and Me and Paul.

Lund, especially on his early records, had a jazziness one could compare to Nelson’s, and notes the elder “was a Django Reinhardt guy — heavy into him for a while.”

More importantly: “He’s unafraid to take from wherever, he’s obvious not in a box of any kind. They say he made the Red Headed Stranger album, which is hyper stripped down, and brought it into the label and they said, ‘Those are good demos.’ And he said, ‘No, this is the record.’ And he was right, it was a huge hit. And then Tougher Than Leather was similar.

“And then, he comes in with an album of weird jazz standards, country-style, and they’re like, ‘I don’t know man, you kind of have a good thing going.’ And then Stardust was a massive hit.

“He’s entirely unencumbered. And he had his period of massive country music stardom, but in addition to that he’s an icon.

“He’s grown beyond country music. He’s probably one of the top 10 personages that a person in Japan could point on a chart and recognize. Elvis. Willie Nelson. Jesus. He’s just so unique. Print that,” Lund laughs. “That’ll be good for me.”

Lund has crossed paths with Nelson, but never met him. He was supposed to open up for him in Australia, but Nelson cancelled due to a “throat problem.”

The Alberta singer does have a good Nelson story, mind you. “About a year and half ago I opened for Merle (Haggard) down in Dallas. It turned out to be one of his last shows. The first thing I noticed was looking at his set list and mine — Merle Haggard bag of hits. I was just like, ‘I want to quit now’,” Lund laughs, but of course soldiered on.

“We’re doing sound check and they were trying to figure out, do they set up a different monitor system? And then one of the techs said, ‘Just give him Willie’s line.’

“So Willie apparently had a dedicated channel in Merle’s board if he showed up.

“I got to sing on Willie’s line at a Merle Haggard show,” he laughs.

Tix sold out

While Friday tickets are sold out, $240 general admission weekend festival passes are still available at BVJ’s site.

Whatever your favourite Willie Nelson song may be, one of the most important lessons about him comes out of the fact it’s probably a different one than the person next to you. One woman’s I Never Cared for You is another man’s Bloody Mary Morning, as it were.

But in a modern musical ecosystem where “down by the river,” “the good stuff,” some mention of a vehicle brand and how tight a girl’s jeans are written ad nauseam in brief-hit lyrics, remember that Willie Nelson ended up enduring mainly because of one lasting quality — being different.


Willie Nelson and Family in Cary, NC (July 14, 2017) (Review)

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

by: Dan Schram

Willie Nelson & The Family Band
Koka Booth Amphtheatre
July 14, 2017

With temperatures hovering around the hundred-degree mark, eighty-four-year-old William Hugh Nelson causally walked onstage without introduction to kick off his latest appearance at Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre. After his longtime drummer, Paul English, helped the singer’s sister, Bobbi Nelson, to her seat at the piano, Nelson’s Family Band took the stage to raucous applause as the first notes of “Whiskey River” played and the Texas state flag dropped behind them.

Those who have seen Nelson in concert over the past several years know that they’re going to get essentially the same set with slight variations. Nelson and harmonica player Mickey Rafael liven up their instrumental solos by adding in different flairs, perhaps to entertain themselves while working through this timeless set of songs. These small shifts are what make each Nelson concert different when the setlist remains mostly the same. In this performance, both Nelson and Rafael mixed in flashes of a flamenco sound in several songs, an influence I can’t recall hearing with such specificity in all my considerable experience of seeing Nelson in concert.

At times, the Family Band expands to include Nelson’s sons, Lukas and Micah, and at times guests join Nelson onstage. But in Cary, it was just the core group backing up Nelson, and it moved at a brisk clip. Nelson rightfully minimized his time onstage in the sweltering heat and humidity, which just began to cool ever so slightly as the show began. The first faint breeze of the evening came right as Nelson worked his way into the classic “Nighttime,” which unfortunately coincided with an older woman sitting a few rows in front of me who fainting from the heat.
As the paramedics and Cary police came through the aisles concertgoers cleared the walkways and moved out of the way so the woman could be rolled out and the concert could continue. As is custom at a Nelson show, he typically throws a few bandanas into the crowd after briefly wearing them on stage. After removing one, Nelson’s long grey hair blew furiously from the efforts of his acolytes who had gathered onstage to fan the country legend.

Nelson generally works in a few newer songs toward the end of the show. But he chose not to play the latest tune to work its way into his set lists, “Still Not Dead,” which plays off the frequent rumor of Nelson’s demise. Instead, he treated the audience to to what’s become a set staple in the last year or so, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” The conservative Cary crowd reacted with some tepid laughter, with a few colorful exclamations issued from the hardcore fans sprinkled throughout the crowd.


Willie Nelson and IRS hope for a hit (September 2, 1991)

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

New York Times
by:  Allison Leigh Cowan

Since Willie Nelson’s “Who’ll Buy My Memories? (The I.R.S. Tapes)” went on sale in June, it has sold only 160,000 copies. Under Mr. Nelson’s unusual arrangement with the Government, the collection of 25 songs must sell at least four million copies if it is to erase the singer-songwriter’s tax obligations.

“You got to be positive,” Mr. Nelson said in an telephone interview last week. “It’s not unheard of. I could sell three million albums. I’ve done it before.” He hopes sales will improve when the collection is available in stores; it is sold now only through phone orders advertised mostly on late-night television.

When Mr. Nelson was served last year with a $32 million bill for delinquent taxes — one of the largest ever presented to an individual — it seemed unlikely that anyone, even the cowboy heroes of his country and western songs, could rescue him.

But after months of negotiation with the Internal Revenue Service, Mr. Nelson made a deal that allowed him to bring out the collection — yours, for a limited time only, in cassette or compact disk, for $19.95 (plus $4 for shipping and handling), by dialing (800) IRS-TAPE.

The collection includes 25 examples of Mr. Nelson’s Texas twang and acoustic guitar. [ Review, page 26. ] The plan is to apply at least 15 cents from every $1 of sales to the musician’s back taxes.

Laurence Goldfein, Mr. Nelson’s business manager, said $9.95 of every $19.95 goes to the telemarketing company that is doing the distribution and marketing; about $2.40 goes to the Sony Corporation, Mr. Nelson’s record company, and $1.60 to other expenses.

Mr. Nelson’s cut is $6. Of that, $2 will go toward taxes he will owe on the recording’s expected profits. Three-quarters of what is left, or $3, goes to the I.R.S. to satisfy the delinquent tax bill, and the remaining $1 goes into a war chest to pay for the $45 million lawsuit Mr. Nelson filed last year against his former accountants at Price Waterhouse, who he contends put him into ill-advised tax shelters. The Government ruled against many of the tax shelters, and the I.R.S. later disallowed many of the tax benefits that Mr. Nelson claimed.

“It’ll sell a lot better once it hits the stores,” Mr. Nelson said. “All my million-sellers have come through the stores, so my fans are used to going through the stores. And I think a lot of them are waiting for it to hit the stores because when you pick up the phone, it costs $4 for handling. A lot of my fans don’t have credit cards and don’t want to wait four to six weeks for delivery.”

Valerie Thornton, an I.R.S. spokeswoman, sought to play down the unusual aspects of the arrangements with Mr. Nelson. “We try to work with taxpayers, not just Mr. Nelson,” she said. “And if we have to come up with some creative payment plan, that’s what we’re going to do, because it’s in everyone’s best interest.”

Mr. Nelson observed: “I thought they’d be crazy not to take it. The very fact they see a way to make a lot of money real quick made them go for it. They’re not interested in sitting around waiting 10 or 20 years for the money to trickle in.”

Last November, the Government seized Mr. Nelson’s homesteads in three states, padlocked his recording studio, and arranged to auction off his gold records and the family piano. By then, the Government had agreed to take about $15 million less than it originally wanted, but the 58-year-old singer and songwriter was having trouble coming up with cash. Running out of patience, the Government confiscated almost everything but his talent and beat-up Martin guitar.

The ailing real estate market in Texas meant that the sales of Mr. Nelson’s property reduced his debt by less than $2 million. That left Mr. Nelson with a seemingly insurmountable $15 million obligation. A Trove of Old Songs

But Mr. Nelson persuaded the I.R.S.’s district office in Austin, Tex., which is handling his case, to make a major concession in May. It granted him access to 35 years’ worth of seized tapes that he had squirreled away in his Spicewood, Tex., recording studio. Out of that trove, Mr. Nelson created “Who’ll Buy My Memories? (The I.R.S. Tapes).”

“It’s no overproduced album with millions of dollars of studio costs,” Mr. Nelson said. “But I think it’s the best stuff I got. I’ve always wanted to put out an album with me and my guitar doing my original songs. And my fans like it because it sounds like it’s just me in my living room singing.”

Mr. Nelson, considered a patriarch and icon of country music, made his reputation as a maverick and songwriter. In the early 1960’s, his “Night Life” became Ray Price’s theme song, and “Crazy” was a hit for Patsy Cline (and, years later, for Linda Ronstadt). Mr. Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away” has been widely recorded.

While he also recorded as a singer, his grainy voice did not fit the increasingly slick style of Nashville productions, and in the 1970’s, Mr. Nelson moved back to Texas and began recording with more homespun backup. Albums That Tell Stories

He also began to make “concept albums,” in which songs were linked to tell stories, and in 1975, he released “Red-Headed Stranger,” an album about a traveling preacher that became a million-seller and ushered in a wave of Texas-based so-called outlaw country music.

“The Outlaws,” a sampler with Mr. Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Tompall Glaser and Jessi Colter released in 1976, also sold a million copies. And in 1978, Mr. Nelson released “Stardust,” an album of pop standards that also became a million-seller.

Mr. Nelson recorded few new songs of his own in the 1980’s, but his albums of tributes, duets and other writers’ songs continued to sell, and he has been one of country’s most popular touring performers.

Mr. Nelson said he had no qualms about making his tax problems a prominent part of the pitch. “Everybody knows about it anyway,” he said. “It’s been all over the scandal sheets. So why not take advantage of all that advertising?” ‘More Serious Problems’

Despite the hasty effort to produce and market the album, Mr. Nelson indicated that he was not letting the tax bill take over his life. “There are more serious problems in life than financial ones, and I’ve had a lot of those,” said Mr. Nelson, whose lyrics draw on a turbulent youth, three failed marriages and a period of professional drifting. “I’ve been broke before and will be again. Heartbroke? That’s serious. Lose a few bucks? That’s not.”

As for Mr. Nelson’s plan to use part of the proceeds for the costs of his suit against Price Waterhouse, a spokesman for the accounting firm was not amused. “Are you talking about the tax-aid album?” he said. “Anyone can spend their money anyway they want. But really.” Statement Is Issued

Later, the firm issued a statement that said in part: “Mr. Nelson and his advisers made all of the decisions regarding tax shelters in which Mr. Nelson invested. Those decisions and the economic consequences that resulted from those decisions were Mr. Nelson’s responsibility and not that of Price Waterhouse.”

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, only two of Mr. Nelson’s four dozen previous albums sold more than three million copies, “Stardust,” and “Always On My Mind.” Three others sold two million apiece and one sold one milion.

Mr. Nelson also has income from concerts and other deals that could make a contribution to his debt repayment. And he has a reservoir of good will that he can dip into, especially among farmers who remember the Farm Aid concerts he helped to organize in the 1980’s.

“If I didn’t like his music, I’d still buy the CD to help him because of the help he’s been to the farm organizations,” said Benny Bunting, a mushroom grower in Oak City, N.C.

Still, this is a recession. Are Mr. Nelson’s hard-core fans ready to help him out?

Marcia Gewelber of Santa Ana, Calif., said she skipped Mr. Nelson’s last California concert, saying the tickets were too expensive, since she had lost her job. But when it came to the $19.95 for “The I.R.S. Tapes,” she went into debt — and charged it. “He has given such love and joy to so many fans, and it just kills me that the man just lost everything,” she said.

Photo: The Internal Revenue Service auctioned a poster of Willie Nelson in January to help pay for his back taxes. (Associated Press) (pg. 26) Graph: “Willie Nelson’s Back-Tax Bite,” shows a breakdown of where the $19.95 spent on Willie Nelson’s new album, “Who’ll Buy My Memories” (The I.R.S. Tapes)” will go (Source: Richard A. Eisner & Company) (pg. 26)

Willie Nelson with Dwey Groom and friends

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

photo:  Ron Keown

Thanks, Phil Weisman

Dewey Groom celebrated his 30th anniversary in the country music business with friends in March.  Shown here are some of those frriends and the honoree.  Left to right they include:  Boxcar Willie, Willie Nelson, Chill Wills, Groom (standing behind Groom) Paul English and Rex Ludwick and (seated and applauding) Hank THompson.  Dewey’s anniversary party was held at the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas, an historic honky-tonk where many of today’s stars performed before they were stars as well as after.

Farm Aid 1987 (Lincoln, NE)

Friday, July 21st, 2017

Farm Aid III (1987) (Lincoln, NE)

[Thank you, Phil Weisman, for sharing this clipping about Farm Aid III.]
Chicago Sun-Times
September 21, 1987

LINCOLN, Neb.  Fleeting remarks and lasting impressions from a full day at Saturday’s Farm Aid.
Most valuable players through out the evening’s part of the program were the members of John Cougar Mellencamp’s red-hot band.  After providing hard edge accompaniment for Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane,” they gave John Prine the sort of rough-hewn, roots-rock backing that he’s been missing since he quit working with Chicago’s Famous Potatoes.

The closing set by Mellencamp and band was one of the event’s most rousing.  On “Small Town” and “Pink House” the accordion and fiddle of his band’s expanded lineup fit just fine with the rock n’ roll rhythm section.  The two-song set, way too short for most of the crowd, provided a taste of what wil likely be one of the fall’s strongest tours.

While Willie Nelson received most of the credit throughout the day, and deservedly so, Mellencamp has also been a driving force behind Farm Aid during its three-year existence.  Both Reed and the Crusados thanked him specifically for enlisting their participation.
The most inspired music that was heard by no one at home came courtesy of Neil Young.  “Ain’t singing for Pepsi, ain’t singing for coke,” he sang.  “Ain’t singing for nobody, it makes me look like a joke.  This note’s for you.”  While Young slammed corporate sponsorship, the broadcast had cut to another commercial.

David Alvin has the distinction of being the only performer to play each of the three Farm Aids, as part of a completely different band.  He was with the Blasters at the first Farm Aid, a member o X at the second and the leader of his own band, the Allnighters at Farm Aid III.
The man who was formerly known as a songwriter and guitarist demonstrated that he had already become a far more confident singer than when he cut “Romen’s Escape,” his recently released debut album as a solo artist.  His afternoon set, mixing country ballads and hard-rock ravers, was one of the event’s highlights.

Dennis Hopper, who was raised on a Kansas farm, introduced country singer Lynn Anderson to the crowd as an “easy rider,” who offered to share her bus with other performers who needed a ride to Lincoln.

He later told the TV audience, “Big companies are interested in big profits.  Period.” an economic analysis that was sure to endear him to corporate America.  “Who would you rather see own America?” he asked.

Events such as this inevitably produce a rash of Bruce Springsteen rumors.  The day before the concert, the talk of the town was dominated by eyewitness accounts of Springsteen and Nelson enjoying dinner at a Lincoln country club.  It never happened, according to officials at the country club.

Willie Nelson rocks High Desert

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017


The Daily Press, here to bring you the news of the High Desert, Calif.

Victorville, Ca

Willie Nelson & Family at Merriweather Post Pavillion

Friday, July 14th, 2017
by:  Sriram Gopal

Jean Parker has accumulated an impressive collection of stories over her years working at Merriweather Post Pavilion. She joined the staff in 1977, now serves as the venue’s general manager, and can recall watching President Jimmy Carter join Willie Nelson on stage to sing “Georgia On My Mind”, or that time when a mix-up resulted in her having to pick up Depeche Mode from the airport in her family minivan. However, one memory stands apart from the rest.

“The Grateful Dead story is the number one story,” Parker said in a recent interview with DCist.

The Dead came to Merriweather in 1985. In those pre-Internet/cellphone days, it was hard to get the word out about day-of sellout concerts. Seven thousand ticketless fans showed up and the staff had to work alongside the Howard County Police Department to find a way to handle the crowd. Step one: Reduce the price for lawn seats from $12.50 to $10 for the sake of efficiency. Step two: Set up makeshift box offices consisting of a staffer on one side of the fence and the fans on the other side. After collecting the money, venue employees or police officers would help attendees jump over the fence.

The 50th anniversary bash takes place on Saturday and features Jackson Browne and Willie Nelson.

Merriweather Post Pavilion was a central component to James Rouse’s vision for Columbia, Md., one of the the country’s first fully planned suburbs. Rouse expected the amphitheater, designed by Frank Gehry, to be an arts center that would showcase orchestras, ballet, and opera. The venue at one point served as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s summer home, but the pavilion struggled in the early days. Opening the doors to rock and pop concerts put it on firmer footing. Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and Led Zeppelin all played Merriweather, including the only time the the latter two ever shared a bill. Jimmy Buffet made the shed a home-away-from home and has played there more than any other act.

Despite a rich history (read The Baltimore Sun’s excellent account of MPP’s early years), Merriweather fell on hard times as the 21st century began. In 2003, development plans threatened to close the pavilion, which resulted in a successful Save Merriweather campaign. The pavilion got an additional boost in 2004, when I.M.P., the Seth Hurwitz-run company behind the 9:30 Club, Lincoln Theatre, and the soon-to-come The Anthem, started booking acts there.

“The venue never had any accolades and was never being touted or highlighted in the industry before Seth started working in 2004,” Parker said. “Since then, Merriweather is often near the top for ‘Best Amphitheater.’”

Ownership of the venue recently transferred to the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, a non-profit whose executive director, Ian Kennedy, was a driving force in the Save Merriweather effort. The DCACC hopes to expand the programming at Merriweather to include movie nights, the return of orchestras, speaker series, visual arts displays, and other types of events that need not turn a profit so long as costs are covered through the DCACC’s funding apparatus.

Credit for Merriweather’s rebound must also go to to I.M.P. and the ethos it brings to all of its endeavors. This has allowed the company and the amphitheater to thrive as independents in a concert industry that national corporations dominate.

“Live Nation is an 800-pound gorilla. They don’t just own almost every single amphitheater, but also have a management firm so they can basically tell artists where to play,” said Audrey Fix Schaefer, I.M.P.’s communications director. “We’re about creating the best possible experience for the artist that we can. It gives us a chance to get that artist to work with us.”

“When an artist is here, whether they’re a sellout show or nowhere near a sellout artist, everyone is treated here like a sellout artist,” Parker added. “It’s about treating the artist correctly and that’s what’s passed down to all of us from the top.”

I.M.P. recently signed a 40-year lease on Merriweather, which allowed it to invest heavily in upgrades. The $60 million effort includes a rotating stage for festivals, improvements to the amphitheater itself, additional parking, and the construction of vast backstage facilities for staff, artists, and VIPs. Most visible to concert-goers is the Chrysalis stage, a smaller platform that takes advantage of Merriweather’s wooded surroundings. Greensky Bluegrass will be the first Chrysalis headliner on July 22.

“There aren’t many venues with the environmental ambience that we have here,” Parker said of the new space. “The property is unique because of all the trees.”

While Merriweather Post Pavilion’s ownership and partners are taking concrete steps to move into a prosperous future, its success will largely hinge on the sound decision making of its past.

“Merriweather is located right in between two major cities, that’s not going to change. The seasoned staff is not changing, it’s only going to get more seasoned,” Parker said of Merriweather’s prospects. “Now the venue is owned by a non-profit, so that opens up the possibilities for more creativity.”

Correction: A previous version of this article indicated that I.M.P. had signed a 50-year lease with Merriweather Post Pavilion. The story has been updated to reflect that I.M.P.’s lease is for 40 years.

Merriweather Post Pavilion’s 50th Anniversary Concert takes place on Saturday, July 15, with Jackson Browne and Willie Nelson. Father John Misty opens the show and Grace Potter hosts the event. 6 p.m. $55-$125.