Archive for the ‘Trigger’ Category

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Repairing Trigger

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Willie Nelson Art: Trigger

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

Trigger

Friday, July 14th, 2017

www.TexasMonthly.com
by:  Michael Hall

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The guitar—a Martin N-20 classical, serial number 242830—was a gorgeous instrument, with a warm, sweet tone and a pretty “mellow yellow” coloring. The top was made of Sitka spruce, which came from the Pacific Northwest; the back and sides were Brazilian rosewood. The fretboard and bridge were ebony from Africa, and the neck was mahogany from the Amazon basin. The brass tuning pegs came from Germany. All of these components had been gathered in the Martin guitar factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and cut, bent, and glued together, then lacquered, buffed, and polished. If the guitar had been shipped to New York or Chicago, it might have been purchased by a budding flamenco guitarist or a Segovia wannabe. Instead it was sent to a guitarist in Nashville named Shot Jackson, who repaired and sold guitars out of a shop near the Grand Ole Opry. In 1969 it was bought by a struggling country singer, a guy who had a pig farm, a failing marriage, and a crappy record deal.

Willie Nelson had a new guitar.

Forty-three years later—after some 10,000 shows, recording sessions, jam sessions, songwriting sessions, and guitar pulls, most taking place amid a haze of tobacco and reefer smoke and carried out with a particular brand of string-pounding, neck-throttling violence—the guitar looks like hell. The frets are so worn it’s a wonder any tone emerges at all. The face is covered in scars, cuts, and autographs scraped into the wood. Next to the bridge is a giant maw, a gaping hole that looks like it was created by someone swinging a hammer.

Most guitars don’t have names. This one, of course, does. Trigger has a voice and a personality, and he bears a striking resemblance to his owner. Willie’s face is lined with age and his body is bent with experience. He’s been battered by divorce, the IRS, his son Billy’s suicide, and the loss of close friends like Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and his longtime bass player Bee Spears. In the past decade, Willie has had carpal tunnel surgery on his left hand, torn a rotator cuff, and ruptured a bicep. The man of flesh and bone has a lot in common with the guitar of wire and wood.

“Trigger’s like me,” Willie said with a laugh on a cool morning last April at his ranch by the Pedernales River. “Old and beat-up.”

He cradled the guitar in his lap, pulled out a pick, and began to play. The song was one of his favorites, Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages,” a melancholy instrumental that was popular in France during the Nazi occupation. Willie knows every square centimeter of Trigger, and the fingers on his left hand ascended the rough fretboard and played the high yearning riff that begins each verse, then descended, gently following the melody as the fingers on his right hand picked single notes and plucked chords. He played the riff again, this time descending quickly, bending a string and shaking the guitar’s battered neck. He started to play the melody again, then bounced a chord off it—da da!—and started to play some other notes, but they slammed into each other—blonk!—and he went back to the main theme. He played the verse again, rushing it slightly and throwing in a succession of loud, falling notes that changed the tune. At the end he paused and finished with a cascade of sounds, like a leaf falling from a tree.

After a sip of coffee, Willie bent his head and played another Django song, fingering a melody at the top of Trigger’s fretboard and playing a descending riff based around a jazz chord. Willie’s hands are large and veined, and his fingers moved quickly over the strings. They sped to the top again for the second verse, and this time the middle finger on his right hand strummed the strings Spanish-style so quickly it looked like a hummingbird. The song came to the bridge, and Willie played loud, clashing chords, then went back to the verse. He ended with a final clanging descent and a soft chord.

Willie Nelson, the country songwriter, pop crooner, outlaw hero, marijuana scofflaw, and farmer’s friend, is also a jazz musician. A really good jazz musician. He improvises, plays what he feels, makes mistakes, and plays some more, always coming back to the melody, buzzing around it like a bee. Some guitarists are careful about every note; they handle their instruments as carefully as a landscape artist handles a brush. Willie treats Trigger like a horse, and he rides him hard.

Willie became the guitarist he is by playing this instrument, which he has worn and shaped with his own hands, working his very personality into the wood until it sounds like no other guitar on earth. Most nylon-stringed guitars have a rich, round tone, and they are difficult to tell apart. Trigger is so distinctive—low tones that thump like they have mud on them, high ones that chime like glass—that you can hear one or two notes on the radio and know immediately whom you’re listening to.

No guitar is as beloved—or as famed. On Trigger’s face you can see the topography of modern music, the countless hours Willie has spent playing country, blues, jazz, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, swing, folk, reggae, thirties pop, forties pop, and eighties pop. Trigger was there at the very beginning of outlaw country. He was there at the first Farm Aid. And he was there when Willie serenaded President Jimmy Carter. He has shared stage and studio with Ray Charles and Bob Dylan. He has hung from Willie’s neck as tens of thousands of fans sang along to “Whiskey River.” And he has sat in Willie’s lap as Willie comforted friends, such as the time the two of them played “Healing Hands of Time” to Darrell and Edith Royal in their home after their daughter’s death, and then again nine years later after their son’s death.

Without Willie, there would be no Trigger. And it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that without Trigger, there would be no Willie. Willie likes to say that his guitar will probably wear out just about the same time he does. But instead of slowing down, as most people do when they approach their ninth decade, Willie keeps doing the things he’s been doing for years, and so does Trigger. The pair did more than 150 shows this year, and they’ll likely do about that many in 2013. They’ll make some more albums and write some more songs. They’ll play as if they’re going to play forever.

Willie Nelson and Trigger

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Thank you, Janis Tillerson, for sharing your great photos of Willie Nelson’s famous guitar.

Famous Guitars

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

www.reverb.com
by:  Ron Denny

Like Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstrat or Jerry Garcia’s custom–built Wolf, there are some vintage guitars that are so closely identified with their legendary owner’s sound and personality that they’ve reached a sort of celebrity status.

Most of the guitars in this league could easily fetch five to six figures at auction, or enjoy a quiet retirement behind a display case in a museum.

But there are some iconic guitars that remain in the hands of the musicians that made them famous. So we wanted to take an opportunity to look at some such instruments that are still going strong, still at home in the studio, and never afraid of the rigors of the road.


Willie Nelson’s “Trigger”

Nelson’s battered and heavily scarred ’69 Martin N–20 is one of the most recognizable guitars on the planet.

Willie Nelson with “Trigger”

Nelson purchased it in 1969 after a drunk guy stumbled into his Guild acoustic guitar onstage and destroyed it. The then–struggling singer/songwriter fell in love with the nylon–stringed N–20’s Django Reinhardt–like gypsy tone. It was the new sound Nelson was looking for to jumpstart his career.

Named after Roy Rogers’s horse and closest companion, Trigger, Nelson’s Martin N–20 has become a symbol of his storied career. That’s the euphemistic way of saying that it has a lot of wear to show for all of those years of hard work.

The famous hole on Trigger between its bridge and sound hole is the result of over 40 years of hard strumming and guitar pick damage. Like all nylon–stringed guitars, the N–20 didn’t come with a pickguard, since it’s meant to be fingerpicked. Trigger is also covered with countless autographs from fellow musicians and friends.

Trigger and Willie Nelson are inseparable. And after nearly 50 years together, Nelson has said that if Trigger ever goes, he’ll probably hang it up, too.


Neil Young’s “Old Black” and “Hank”

If Willie Nelson’s Trigger is the world’s most recognized guitar, Neil Young’s “Old Black” ’53 Les Paul probably ranks second. It was traded to Young by Buffalo Springfield bandmate Jim Messina in 1968 for a Gretsch 6120. By the time Young got it, the goldtop Gibson had already been painted black, modified, and plenty dinged up.

Neil Young with “Old Black”

For Neil Young, it was love at first sight.

He first used Old Black on his 1969 breakout album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. With its crunchy and ragged signature tone, Neil has played that beat–up Les Paul on virtually every album and at every concert for nearly 50 years.

There have been numerous modifications made to Old Black over the years: a Bigsby was added, it’s on its fourth bridge pickup (currently an early ’70s Gibson Firebird mini humbucker), the P90 neck pickup had a metal cover added, and the original plastic pickguard was replaced with a metal one that enhances Young’s legendary feedback.

But Old Black isn’t the only guitar that Neil is known for. He’s also famous for being the current caretaker of Hank Williams Sr.’s 1941 Martin D–41. There are a host of rumors about how it got from Hank to Neil, but it has been one of Young’s main studio and road acoustic guitars for over 30 years.

This is the acoustic Young plays in the Neil Young: Heart of Gold documentary, directed by the late Jonathan Demme.

Neil Young performs “Heart of Gold” with “Hank”

Williams’s old Martin even inspired Young to write “This Old Guitar,” a song on his Prairie Wind album featuring the loving tribute, “The more I play it, the better it sounds / It cries when I leave it alone.”

Read about all the guitars:
https://reverb.com/news/5-famous-vintage-guitars-still-earning-their-keep-on-the-road

Waiting for Willie

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

Trigger Meets Chester in Nashville

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

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photo:  Eric Hanson

Last night at Sing Me Back Home: The Music Of Merle Haggard – All-Star Concert, Willie Nelson’s Trigger met Warren Haynes’ Chester. They hit it off beautifully.

Photo by Eric Hanson, Warren’s tech.

Trigger, by Andrew Shapter

Friday, March 31st, 2017

Trigger

Trigger

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

We spotted Tunin’ Tom earlier in the day, escorting Trigger to the stage.

Willie Nelson on guitar

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Trigger

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

photo:  Texas Monthly

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Trigger’s Doctor (the man who cares for Willie Nelson’s guitar)

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

photo:  David Brown

www.texasstandard.org
by:  David Brown

A few days before Christmas, I got a call that Nelson would be spending a little time in Hawaii, a recharge of sorts before the next tour. Trigger wouldn’t be traveling with him, instead he would be returning to Texas for some repair work. Would I like to come and see? Would I ever.

In a quiet, older neighborhood in the Texas capitol city, tucked behind fences draped with hydrangeas, I walk up to what looks like a backyard studio – an unassuming place, given all the history here. In this cluttered but immaculate workshop, in a dark green smock, Mark Erlewine hovers over his workbench.

He’s surrounded by mallets and electric screwdrivers, bottles of solvent and jars of q-tips. His patients, priceless electric Gibsons and Fenders and more exotic six- and four-stringed creatures hang along the wall, waiting for Erlewine’s undivided attention.

Trigger, New Year’s Eve 2016, in Austin

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

I love seeing Willie Nelson fans flock to the stage when Tunin’ Tom bring Trigger out to his stand before a Willie Nelson & Family Show.   After the first bands have played, and folks are heading for drinks and the bathroom and stretching their legs before WN&F come on stage, and then Tom brings out Willie’s famous guitar.  Budrock has it lit softly, people see it right away and start heading  to the stage to play their respects.  Old folks, young folks, mamas with baby’s in their arms come to the stage for pictures and selfies  with the famous instrument.

I always have to head up the stage too, say hello to the guitar, take a photo, too.  I took this one.

Trigger and Willie worked hard every night playing such great music for us fans.  Here’s the set list from the first of three shows at ACL on December 29, 2016.

Set-list, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 12.29.16

“Whiskey River”

“Still is Still Moving to Me”

“Beer for My Horses”

“Good Hearted Woman”

“Funny How Time Slips Away”/“Crazy”/“Night Life”

“Me & Paul”

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

“Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys”

“Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground”

“On the Road Again”

“Always On My Mind”

“Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms”

“Georgia On My Mind”

“Georgia on a Fast Train”

“Jambalaya (On the Bayou)”

“Hey Good Looking”/“Move It On Over”

“Shoeshine Man”

“It’s All Going to Pot”

“Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die”

“Will the Circle Be Unbroken”

“I’ll Fly Away”