Archive for the ‘Trigger’ Category

Willie Nelson’s Trigger

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Trigger in OKC

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

photo:  Nathan Poppe,

Willie Nelson Art Guitar

Sunday, October 29th, 2017
by:  Joe Nichol

HAMILTON – Tim Joyner has already proven he can croon a mighty fine imitation of Willie Nelson’s pinched, plaintive voice – a talent that once earned him tickets to a concert.

“I’ve always been a pretty big country music fan and I’ve had a thing for Willie Nelson’s music in particular,” said Joyner, a Hamilton-based professional artist and occasional musician. “So to be able to express that in my artwork, I figured it’d be a pretty neat deal to have that, and I thought it might get me a chance to meet (Nelson) besides.”

As the guitar shows, Joyner is neither a take-it-or-leave-it nor a Johnny-come-lately fan of Nelson. He can still remember going to a concert with his family, decades ago, when Nelson was still touring with fellow “outlaw country” musicians Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash. (For Tuesday night’s gig in Missoula, Nelson shares the bill with Lyle Lovett.)

Back in those days, Nelson was already becoming famous for toting around an old and battered Martin guitar, which he nicknamed “Trigger.”

“Those were just some awesome childhood memories, and I guess that’s why I’ve always remained a country music fan,” recalled Joyner.

Since then, Nelson has continued to play Trigger, and Joyner has built a career as a professional wildlife and Western art painter. His realistic work has earned him some choice jobs through the University of Montana Grizzly Scholarship Association, for whom he has produced several official posters – among them the commemorative poster for the 2001 national I-AA championship football team.

Joyner has also become something of an amateur musician. A few years ago, prior to a concert by Nelson in Big Sky, Joyner won two tickets to the show through a radio contest in which he did the best imitation of Nelson’s voice.

“We went to that, camped in our van, sat through the concert in pouring rain,” he said, “but it was still awesome because it was Willie.”

Earlier this summer, when Joyner heard that Nelson was coming to Missoula, he decided to transform his own father’s old Conn guitar into a replica of Trigger, complete with a painted “hole” where the original guitar has been worn through by Nelson’s aggressive picking.

Where the original Trigger is scrawled over with signatures from Nelson’s friends, Joyner instead wrote song titles and lyrical phrases from some of his personal favorite Nelson tunes: “Red Headed Stranger,” “I never cared for you” and “Whiskey River.” He finished it out with a portrait of Nelson, sketched in ballpoint pen; and then painted a remarkably accurate replica of Nelson’s trademark red, white and blue guitar strap draped across the bottom of the guitar.

It wasn’t the first time Joyner had painted a guitar in honor of a musical hero. Several years ago, he painted a guitar with a portrait of Merle Haggard alongside a railroad scene and sheet music for some of his most famous songs.

Joyner took it to a concert by Haggard, hoping to get it signed. But after showing it around, he got more than that.

“I just showed the right people, and eventually someone took the guitar onto his bus,” recalls Joyner. “A few seconds later, this guy leans off and says, ‘Merle wants to meet you.’ It was like, no way. So that was pretty great.”

Joyner’s artistic odes to his musical heroes aren’t limited to painted guitars. Earlier this year, he produced a “country versus rock” chess set, with pieces sculpted to look like famous musicians.

“Elvis is the king on one side, and Hank (Williams) Senior on the other, and Willie (Nelson) is one of the pieces,” said Joyner, who sells the cast set of pieces through his website, “All the pieces have either something about their music or their life. So Willie’s got a road map, and he’s carrying a W-2 form in one hand – in reference to his past tax troubles, you know.”

So at Tuesday’s concert, Joyner hopes to present Nelson with the chess piece in his likeness, and get the guitar signed.

If he can meet Nelson in the process, all the better. But, he acknowledges, it’s probably best if he doesn’t try to serenade Nelson on the instrument.
“I do love to play and sing, but I’m not near as good at it as I am at the other things I do,” he said. “I’m best at getting out around a campfire and making everyone else leave after a while with my singing.”


Sunday, October 29th, 2017

Originally Posted by min7b5 View Post

“My friend Mark played with Willie Nelson on the Grammys.  He texted me an up close pic of a Trigger from sound check. He also gave me one of Willie’s guitar picks. Willie told him: ‘Don’t put it under your tongue until you get home.’

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Repairing Trigger

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Willie Nelson Art: Trigger

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017


Friday, July 14th, 2017
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
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:

Waiting for Willie

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

Trigger Meets Chester in Nashville

Sunday, April 9th, 2017


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



Sunday, March 19th, 2017

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