[Capital photo © Ben Droz Photography]
Willie Nelson holding the hemp flag that Mike Lewis of Growing Warriors and Joe Schroeder presented to him.
On this Memorial Day, where we pause, remember, and give thanks for those Americans who have died in the service of their country and our freedom, we’d like to share this beautiful photo of Mike Lewis flying a hemp flag.
A military veteran himself, Mike is founder of the Growing Warriors, whose mission is to equip, assist, and train veterans with the skills they need to produce high-quality, naturally grown produce for their families and communities. And more recently, he was one of the first farmers in the country legally allowed to grow industrial hemp.
We were honored that this flag, made from veteran-grown hemp, was flown at the Farm Aid concert in Chicago last year and then presented to Willie Nelson.
Learn more about the project and why Mike is one of our Farmer Heroes at: https://www.farmaid.org/
“We need to finish up with somebody who knows a little bit about music, knows a little bit about America, and loves our troops, Mr. Willie Nelson. Willie says I’m going to have to sing with him, so I’m going to try it out.” — President Obama
by Billy Dukes
Happy Birthday, Willie Nelson! But don’t take it from us. Nearly two dozen country stars gathered to wish the country legend a happy 83rd birthday recently. See special messages from Thomas Rhett, Brothers Osborne, Kelsea Ballerini, Charles Kelley and more.
Cole Swindell, a Thousand Horses, Clay Walker and Dustin Lynch are a few more who were eager to wish Nelson a Happy Birthday. The “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” singer was born on April 29, 1933. His country music career began after a short stint in the military and some time as a radio deejay. First he was a burgeoning songwriter, but beginning with “Willingly” in 1962, Nelson became a hit recording artist, as well.
Lynch and Mickey Guyton were sure to thank for all he has done for country musicians. Rhett and Swindell say meeting the legend tops their bucket lists. Kelley and Jana Kramer refer to Nelson’s favorite habit — you know the one. In all, eighteen country hitmakers took time during the 2016 ACM Awards to offer well-wishes for a country music original in his seventh decade of recording and touring.
Nelson has a lot ahead in 2016. His tour schedule begins in May with a show in Florence, S.C. and he’ll stay busy through the summer. New music is always on the horizon. Just last year he released the Django and Jimmie album with Merle Haggard. The critically acclaimed project inspired a tour with two country icons. Sadly, Haggard became ill before he was able to finish the tour.
Jessica Simpson took some time out on Friday to wish the legendary country singer a happy 83rd birthday, whom she bonded with after the two starred together in 2005’s The Dukes of Hazzard. Simpson played Daisy Duke in the movie version of the hit TV series to Nelson’s Uncle Jesse.
“Happy Birthday” Simpson captioned an Instagram pic of the two gazing at one another. “You are the best human this lady knows. Are you even human? #willienelsonforpresident.”
Several of us gathered around the Willie Nelson statute in Austin and made this video for Willie’s 80th, but it’s still fun to watch.
Dave Thomas continues his week-long celebration of Willie Nelson’s birthday and see more photos
Willie Week: Want to know the Red Headed Stranger? Read these books
By Dave Thomas
If you’re not an anti-marijuana crusader, if you don’t have a Justin Bieber poster above your day bed, there’s a pretty fair chances you like Willie Nelson. But being a Willie Nelson superfan requires a little more education.
It’s easy to like “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” It takes commitment to know all the words to “I Never Cared for You.” It’s easy to know Willie’s guitar is named “Trigger.” It takes some research to know the name of the fellow that takes care of it on the road. It’s easy to remember Willie Nelson was born in Abbott and lives near Austin. But do you know his connection to Fort Worth? San Antonio? Bandera?
Fortunately, the Red Headed Stranger is no more a stranger than he is red-headed these days. All you have to do is want to learn and Willie Nelson U. is in session. Here is your required reading:
“The Facts of Life And Other Dirty Jokes” and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road,” by Willie Nelson: When Willie rolled out the “Roll Me Up and …” book to go along with his 80th birthday and his “Heroes” album, everyone else got the memo: “Don’t be a critic, the man is 80 years old. Just say it’s great.” But this one jerk couldn’t be dissuaded from saying “Hey, it’s the same book he released 10 years ago! Right down to the same golf jokes!” I couldn’t help it. It was true. Pick either book for a mix of philosophical musings, history and humor, but you don’t need to read both.
“Willie Nelson Family Album” by Lana Nelson and “Willie Nelson: Heartworn Memories” by Susie Nelson:The “Family Album” is essentially a scrapbook, a trove of not-seen-elsewhere photos, some news clippings a little biographical exposition and enough song lyrics to pad out the effort to a respectable thickness. But “Heartworn Memories” is a surprisingly effective effort, written through the perspective of a daughter who saw a side of Willie even the most dedicated biographer couldn’t reach. Surprisingly frank at times, it’s the go-to source for understanding Willie’s tumultuous home life.
“It’s a Long Story: My Life” by Willie Nelson: The latest entry on this list and, for the superfan, superfluous. However, this relaxed and comfortable conversation with Willie is the perfect entry-level bio for the curious. A fast read, it covers all the bases, but doesn’t linger long on any.
“Willie Nelson: The Outlaw” by Graeme Thomson: Written by an Englishman, “The Outlaw” offers up a whole new perspective on Willie Nelson, albeit one with an odd spelling every few pages. Thomson left no stone unturned in conducting interviews, talking to heavyweights such as Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard in addition to longtime associates such as Zeke Varnon, Larry Trader and Johnny Bush. In only a few pages, the book offers perhaps the most definitive look at the most off-limits topic in the Willie universe — the suicide of his son Billy.
Willie Nelson, An Epic Life” by Joe Nick Patoski: This is the definitive biography, though, like every other book on this list, it kinda skates through everything that happened after the IRS thing was settled. Still, when I’m old and gray, I’m going sit in my South Texas barn every morning and read a little bit from the gospel of Patoski-describes-Willie-in-Austin-in-the-1970s.“Willie” by Willie Nelson with Bud Shrake: This 1988 book was the top word for a long time, if you liked your Willie recollections unsullied by tiresome and lengthy examinations of his IRS troubles (which happened in the early 1990s). The genius — and the lasting significance — of the book is that most chapters are followed by “The Chorus” … stories, explanations, memories by his friends and family. Particularly telling is the one from first wife Martha, who clarifies that she did not sew up a passed-out Willie in a bed sheet and beat him with a broom handle: “The truth is, I tied him up with the kids’ jump ropes before I beat the hell out of him.” Sewing, she says, would’ve taken much too long.