Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Is that really Willie Nelson’s ranch?

Sunday, April 7th, 2019
By Randal B. Thatcher

I like to keep an eye out whenever I go traveling around Sanpete Valley for those big, iconic ranch gates that dot this agricultural county. I love to read the names of these sprawling ranches on the big gate-signs that hang over the entrances—names like “Lazy 8 Ranch” or “Hill Top Ranch” or “The Double-D” or “Choice Acres.”

While spotting all these ranch gates and reading their respective gate-signs, however, one particular sign on one particular gate has always intrigued me more than all the others.

This gate can be seen along U.S. 89 at mile marker 298 as you pass through the tiny, unincorporated community of Birdseye, which is about 10 miles north of Indianola.

As ranch gates go, it’s pretty simple—lengths of pipe and wrought-iron welded together and painted white.

But it’s the ranch insignia that has always captured my attention and my imagination.        Just two letters: W.N.

Not long after moving here, I was told those letters stood for the initials of the famous country music singer, Willie Nelson. Subsequent inquiries confirmed that this much of the local lore was true.

I then heard that this “WN” ranch was, in fact, owned by Willie himself. Also true.

I subsequently learned that Willie had been obliged to sell the ranch, some years ago, to raise money to pay some back taxes. An internet search quickly revealed the sad proof of this part of the story, as well. (Which means, I suppose, that I can finally stop looking for Willie’s trademark red bandanna at the local grocery store.)

But then came the most disappointing rumor of all—that Willie never even visited his ranch and that it was merely a financial transaction on paper, arranged by some clever money manager.

This part of the story was more difficult to resolve. No one seemed able to conclusively refute or confirm the claim.

But in my dogged desire to know, I finally discovered the one person who was able to persuasively settle the question.

I happened to ask my cowboy neighbor, recently, what he knew about the history of that fabled “WN” ranch, and he promptly introduced me to his longtime friend, Kal, a resident of Mt. Pleasant, who proceeded to give me the following firsthand account, which I paraphrase:

Kal had once been a horse trainer and occasional stunt double for the actor Robert Redford, who introduced him to a friend who was looking to buy some horses. Kal said this would-be buyer did not have the look of a traditional horseman, with his scruffy, white beard, and his dingy, red bandanna tied around a head of long, strawberry-blonde hair.

The buyer turned out to be none other than the famous singer, Willie Nelson.

They instantly hit it off, and before he knew it, Kal was looking for property for the famous singer somewhere in the Central Utah area, where Willie could keep his newly acquired horses and bring friends to visit.

Kal crisscrossed the state from St. George to Spanish Fork looking at over a dozen available properties before finally settling on the 95-acre ranch in Birdseye.

When Willie’s Learjet landed at the Salt Lake International Airport, Kal was there to meet him in his mud-spattered pickup truck, squiring him down I-15, along U.S. 6 (stopping for a cheeseburger at “Big-D’s,” which, sadly, is long gone), then turning onto U.S. 89 and down those few more miles to Birdseye.

Willie approved immediately, declaring the surrounding countryside to be every bit as scenic as that of his beloved Luck, Texas.

Kal took up permanent residence, as the caretaker of Willie’s new ranch, where he soon undertook to build the white-brick ranch house in 1983 you can still see on the property, and to assemble, paint and install that simple, white ranch gate with those two prominent letters—WN—at the top.

Willie owned the property for nine years, during which time he visited the ranch on three separate occasions, always aboard his signature tour bus and accompanied by various members of his band.

During one of these visits, my neighbor had stopped by the ranch to see Kal and wondered aloud, “Who is that old hippie standing out there in the stalls?”

I asked whether Willie had ever considered the prospect of actually living on his WN Ranch during part of the year, and Kal said he likely would have done so at some point if he hadn’t been forced to sell it and that he really had come to love this scenic mountain valley.

Willie’s old ranch gate has become such a significant local landmark for me that it would’ve been heartbreaking to learn he’d never actually been there.

But, as it turns out, I now watch even more eagerly for that familiar “WN” every time I drive through Birdseye.

And, in fond tribute, I never fail, as I pass, to belt out his most famous refrain: “On the road again!”

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019
Photo: Thank you, Janis Tillerson

Willie Nelson 2019 Picnic

Monday, April 1st, 2019
by: Jeff Gage

Willie Nelson’s annual 4th of July Picnic is headed back to Austin, Texas, for its 46th installment this summer, with the soon-to-be 86-year-old joined by a lineup of artists that includes Luke Combs, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Alison Krauss.

With roots dating back to Nelson’s first Independence Day bash in nearby Dripping Springs in 1973, the Picnic celebrates its fifth year in its current home at the Circuit of the Americas racetrack outside Austin. Both Combs and Rateliff — who, as a solo act, was a headliner at Nelson’s recent Luck Reunion festival during South by Southwest — will make their debut at the event, while Krauss returns for the first time since 2016.

Colter Wall is also making his debut appearance, but as usual there are a number of returning faces from the ranks of the Red Headed Stranger’s friends and family. Jamey Johnson, Steve Earle & the Dukes and Hayes Carll are all back on the bill after prior appearances in recent years, while virtual Picnic fixtures Ray Wylie Hubbard, Billy Joe Shaver and Johnny Bush are joined this year by fellow Seventies cohort Gene Watson. Rounding out the lineup are Folk Uke, Raelyn Nelson Band and the Casey Kristofferson Band.

Tickets for the July 4th festival go on sale Friday, April 5th, at 10:00 a.m. CT.

The full lineup for Willie Nelson’s 2019 4th of July Picnic:

Willie Nelson & Family
Luke Combs
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
Alison Kraus
Jamey Johnson
Steve Earle & the Dukes
Hayes Carll
Colter Wall
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Gene Watson
Billy Joe Shaver
Johnny Bush
Folk Uke
Raelyn Nelson Band
The Casey Kristofferson Band

Sunday, March 31st, 2019
photo: Turk Pipkin

Bobbie Nelson at Luck Potluck Dinner (March 13, 2019)

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Outlaw Country Cruise 5

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

Willie Nelson in “Waiting for the Miracle to Come” DVD release on April 29th

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Spotlight Pictures is set to release Lian Lunson’s much awaited film, Waiting for the Miracle to Come, to international markets. Starring Willie Nelson, Charlotte Rampling, and Sophie Lowe, Waiting for the Miracle to Come a gorgeous, evocative, and meditative film about faith, love, and fulfillment in spite of loss.

Set in a magical and timeless world reminiscent of an old photograph, Waiting for the Miracle to Come is the story of how Adeline Winter (Lowe), a trapeze artist grieving the death of her father embarks on a journey to find “the Beautiful Place” in Ransom, California. The Beautiful Place Museum, owned and run by Dixie and Jimmy Riggs (Rampling and Nelson). The Riggs have waited for decades at The Beautiful Place, hoping that the daughter they gave up for adoption would come looking for them. Both Nelson and Rampling capture the heartache of loss and the daring of hope while Lowe’s quietly powerful performance pulls viewers along on her pilgrimage.

Waiting for the Miracle to Come was written by Lian Lunson, especially for Willie Nelson. Her long time mentor, Filmmaker Wim Wenders, is an executive producer on the film.

Waiting for the Miracle to Come is about connections—what they mean, what they feel like,” Lunson says. “It is styled in otherworldliness to bring the supernatural element closer.” Audiences will find themselves transported into this dreamlike world, discovering “gold” in hidden places throughout.

The film features an original song performed by Willie Nelson and written by Bono, who is also an executive producer. Waiting for the Miracle to Come is available for purchase on DVD and digital platforms internationally through Spotlight Pictures.

Farm Aid Supporter Mona Lee Brock passes

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

by: Matt Schudel

In 1985, Mona Lee Brock and her husband lost their farm in Oklahoma. A combination of factors — low prices for cattle and grain, high interest rates on loans, falling land values — led to the most serious financial crisis in rural America since the Great Depression.

At one point in the 1980s, the country was losing more than 2,000 family farms a week, from California to Minnesota to the Carolinas. Loans that kept farmers afloat were foreclosed, costing them their land, their livelihood and their way of life.

In many cases, farmers were uprooted from land that generations of their forefathers had tilled. They looked on as their livestock and farm equipment were auctioned off.

Mrs. Brock and her husband, F.M. Brock, held meetings of farmers, bankers and business leaders at their farm in Lincoln County, Okla., for mutual support. In the end, however, the Brocks were not able to hold on to their land, where they had raised cattle and grown wheat, soybeans and cotton. Within a year, F.M. Brock died of a heart attack.

And, where they had raised cattle and grown wheat, soybeans and cotton. Within a year, F.M. Brock died of a heart attack.

One unforeseen consequence of what became known as the “farm crisis” was that farmers began to take their own lives at a shocking rate. Mrs. Brock began to volunteer for the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, which operated a hotline for emergency counseling and suicide prevention. (It was later managed by other organizations.)

A longtime teacher and school principal, Mrs. Brock offered a sympathetic ear and a soothing, understanding presence to people who raised food to feed the world but could not afford to feed their own families. In some of the calls, she could hear despondent farmers putting shells into shotguns as they talked.

Mona Lee Brock is credited with keeping hundreds of farms from being liquidated and with saving an untold number of lives. (Farm Aid Inc.)

During her three decades as an advocate on behalf of farmers, Mrs. Brock spoke to tens of thousands of farmers, taking calls day and night. She was credited with keeping hundreds of farms from being liquidated and with saving an untold number of lives.

Singer Willie Nelson — a founder of Farm Aid, which provides assistance to struggling small farmers — called her “the angel on the other end of the line.”

Mrs. Brock was 87 when she died March 19 at her home in Durant, Okla. She had congestive heart failure, said her son Ron Brock.

Read entire article here.

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

Gabrielle Stravelli Celebrates Willie Nelson Tribute CD Release, “Pick up my Pieces”

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019


Gabrielle Stravelli sings Willie Nelson’s “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces” and “Crazy”
Featuring Scott Robinson, sax, Art Hirahara, piano, Pat O’Leary, bass and Eric Halvroson, drums
“Somebody Pick Up My Pieces”, music and lyrics by Willie Nelson

Singer-songwriter Gabrielle Stravelli celebrates the release of her new album, PICK UP MY PIECES: Gabrielle Stravelli SINGS Willie Nelson (self released / April 5, 2019).

She’ll be joined by the band featured on the CD: pianist Joshua Richman; co-producer and pianist Art Hirahara guesting on organ; bassist Pat O’Leary; drummer Eric Halvorson – and an all-star horn section: Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet, John Allred on trombone, Scott Robinson on tenor sax, Jay Rattman on alto and Jay Brandford on baritone.

The group will play one set starting at 6pm, covering the material from the album, interwoven with colorful stories of Nelson’s singular career and personal life.
Birdland 315 West 44th Street New York, NY Sunday, April 7, 2019 Tickets: $30 Doors 5:00pm / Showtime 6:00pm ONE SHOW ONLY 212-581-2030

During the summer of 2017, when Gabrielle Stravelli told me that she was doing a Willie Nelson show at Birdland that coming September, my reaction was one of great enthusiasm. My reason for being so positive was based on two things; I always considered Willie a country artist who had a lot of jazz influence in his work, and my experience with hearing Gabrielle in the past convinced me that she was capable of doing any genre of material, and effectively bringing her unique vision to whatever she chose to sing.

The show at Birdland was sensational, eliciting a wildly enthusiastic response from the sold-out crowd. I immediately encouraged her to do an album of Willie songs. She agreed, and the album that you are currently listening to is the result of her carefully considering the vast Willie catalog, and choosing the songs that appealed to her artistically and emotionally.

Willie is one of the greatest songwriters in any field. His tunes are wonderfully listenable, but he often takes musical paths that are uniquely individual and often a bit quirky, similar to the approach Thelonious Monk took in the world of jazz. His lyrics are well crafted, and often profound, whether he is in a story-telling mode or singing about life and love.

The career of Willie has extended from the early 1960s right up to the present day, spanning almost six decades. Gabrielle has chosen songs that touch upon the full arc of his career, from early ’60s numbers like “Three Days” and “Blame It on the Times” to a pair of selections from his 2017 album God’s Problem Child, “Lady Luck” and “Butterfly.” She also gives a nod to Willie’s love for songs from the Great American Songbook with the Hoagy Carmichael/Mitchell Parish classic “Stardust.”

As you listen to this collection, you will hear one of the special voices on the current scene. Gabrielle has impressive range, superb control, and flexibility in her timbre that enables her to bring something a bit different to each selection. This is complemented by her imagination and musicality, assets that give her the ability to make each song that she sings sound like it was written with her in mind.

Two selections best demonstrate her creativity. Taking “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” on a bebop ride, and turning “Good Hearted Woman” into a slow ballad sung from the woman’s perspective are stunningly effective reconceptions of the ways that Willie and Waylon approached this material.

The album also benefits greatly from the imaginative arrangements by Pat O’Leary, and the amazing cast of musicians who have brought his vision to life. When given solo space, each of the players rises to the occasion, saying quickly and impressively what is on his mind.

At some point this album will surely gather the attention of Willie. There is no doubt that it will make him smile, and feel satisfied that his music has inspired such a heartfelt and impressive tribute to his genius.


Willie Nelson & Family on Tour

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019


March 29 (Rescheduled from Feb. 22)
Firelake Arena
Shawnee, OK

March 30
(Rescheduled from Feb. 23)
First Council Casino
Newkirk, OK

April 2
Michiana Event Center
Shipshewana, IN

April 3
Old National Events Plaza
Evansville, IN

April 5
EKU Center for the Arts
Richmond, KY

April 6
(rescheduled from Jan 10)
Tennessee Theater
Knoxville, TN

April 8
(rescheduled from Feb 25)
Saenger Theater
Mobile, AL

April 9
(rescheduled from Feb 27)
The Fillmore
New Orleans, LA

Apr 12, 13
Whitewater Amphitheater
New Braunfels, TX

May 5
Beachlife Festival
Los Angeles, CA

May 7
Luther Burbank Center for the Arts
Santa Rosa, CA

May 8
Fruit Yard Amphitheater
Modesto, CA

May 10
Grand Sierra Resort and Casino
Reno, NV

May 11
Kaiser Permanente Arena
Santa Cruz, CA

May 12
Vina Robles Amphitheater
Paso Robles, CA

May 15
San Diego, CA

May 17
Rio Vista Outdoor Amphitheater
Harrahs Laughlin
Laughlin, NV

May 18
Agua Caliente Casino
Rancho Mirage, CA

May 20, 21
Celebrity Theater
Phoenix, Arizona

June 14
Outlaw Music Festival: Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion
Bangor, ME
Willie Nelson & Family, Phil Lesh & Friends, Alison Krauss, The Revivalists, Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real, Particle Kid

June 15
Mountain Jam at Bethel Woods
Bethel, NYWillie Nelson & Family, Phil Lesh & Friends, The Revivalists, Alison Krauss, Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real, Particle Kid

June 16
Outlaw Music Festival: Xfinity Theatre
Hartford, CT
Willie Nelson & Family, Phil Lesh & Friends, Alison Krauss, The Revivalists, Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real, Particle Kid

June 19
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Columbia, MD
with Alison Krauss and Lukas Nelson

June 21
Outlaw Music Festival: Budweiser Stage
Toronto, ON
Willie Nelson & Family, The Avett Brothers, Alison Krauss, Matt Mays, Jessica Mitchell

June 22
Outlaw Music Festival: KeyBank Pavilion
Burgettstown, PA
Willie Nelson & Family, The Avett Brothers, Alison Krauss, Old Crow Medicine Show, Dawes

June 23
Outlaw Music Festival: Nationwide Arena
Columbus, OH
Willie Nelson & Family, The Avett Brothers, Alison Krauss, Old Crow Medicine Show, Dawes

June 27
Outlaw Music Festival: Summerfest
PM Milwaukee, WI
Willie Nelson & Family, Phil Lesh & Friends, The Avett Brothers, Counting Crows, Alison Krauss, Dawes, Trapper Schoepp

June 28
Outlaw Music Festival: Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Tinley Park, IL
Willie Nelson & Family, Phil Lesh & Friends, The Avett Brothers, Alison Krauss, Old Crow Medicine Show, Dawes, Lissie

June 29
Outlaw Music Festival: Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Maryland Heights, MO
Willie Nelson & Family, Phil Lesh & Friends, Alison Krauss, Old Crow Medicine Show, Dawes

July 3
Outlaw Music Festival: Dos Equis Pavilion
PM Dallas, TX
Willie Nelson & Family, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Alison Krauss, Casey Donahew, Steve Earle & The Dukes, Hayes Carll, Colter Wall

Willie Nelson & Family, Luck Reunion 2019

Saturday, March 16th, 2019

Thank you so much, Jenny Thompson, for sharing your great photos from the Luck Reunion last Wednesday.

Paula Nelson

Micah Nelson

Mama Terry with the horses.

Long Live Willie Nelson (Texas Highways Magazine, April 2019)

Sunday, March 10th, 2019