Enjoy this beautiful recording from Willie Nelson’s soon-to-be-released album: “Summertime: Willie Nelson sings Gershwin”.
“Summertime: Willie Nelson sings Gershwin”, featuring Willie Nelson singing the classics written by the Gershwin Brothers, will be on record shelves on February 26, 2016.
1. “But Not for Me” by Willie Nelson
2. “Somebody Loves Me” by Willie Nelson
3. “Someone to Watch Over Me” by Willie Nelson
4. “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” by Willie Nelson feat. Cyndi Lauper
5. “It Ain’t Necessarily So” by Willie Nelson
6. “I Got Rhythm” by Willie Nelson
7. “Love is Here to Stay” by Willie Nelson
8. “They All Laughed” by Willie Nelson
9. “Embraceable You” by Willie Nelson feat. Sheryl Crow
10. “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” by Willie Nelson
11. “Summertime” by Willie Nelson
I listened to this album over and over while I worked yesterday. It’s that kind of an album, you can’t get enough, it’s so beautiful. Originally released only on cd by Island Records in 1998, last year the album was made available on vinyl, on Record Store Day. The artwork, yellow record, and even liner notes are all so beautiful.
Here’s a track from the album:
FROM THE LINER NOTES: “TEATRO”:
On February 6, 2014, we were lucky enough to share a few minutes with Willie Nelson and Daniel Lanois, reminiscing about the good ol’ days of Teatro. Below is what unfolded. A big thank you to both Willie and Daniel, along with Seth Loeser, Meredith Louie, Henry Owings, Mark Rothbaum and Elaine Schock for making this possible.
— Matt Sullivan and Patrick McCarthy
WILLIE: Hey, Daniel. How you ‘doin?
DANIEL: Oh, Willie, I’m good. Nice to hear your voice. Are you on the road?
W: Yeah, we’re uh… somewhere out here. I think we’re in Oklahoma.
D: Right, right, right. Well, that’s good. Looks like we’re gonna put a little bit of life back into Teatro. That’s great, isn’t it?
W: Well, yeah. Heck yeah.
LIGHT IN THE ATTIC: To start, how’d the record come about?
W: Daniel, what do you remember about how it came about?
D: I’m sure Mr. Rothbaum was at the helm, but all business aside, when we decided to make the record, I wanted to make sure that Willie felt comfortable in the studio and that it did not feel like a usual recording session. I met Willie in Las Vegas, and we rode on his bus to California, where at the time I had the Teatro Recording Studios, an old cinema in Oxnard. We rode from Vegas, and Emmylou Harris joined us on the bus, and we went over some of the material on the bus.
I kept in touch with my crew back in California to make sure that the studio had a nice dance hall feeling because I talked with Willie on the bus, I said, “What was it like when you were getting started man?” He said, “Well, we were kind of a dance band, and people just were providing music for people on the weekends to dance to and have a nice time.”
And I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to provide this tone for Willie? Have a kind of dance hall feeling in the place. So I set up three little stages — one for WIllie, one for Emmy, one for me. And then two drummers. It was a very beautiful, almost like a Cuban nightclub setting. And I think that really helped to set the tone of this album. Whatya think, Willie?
W: Yeah, that’s exactly it. And of course Emmylou was fantastic. We did a video, too. What song was the video, do you remember?
D: Well, we filmed the whole things with Wim Wenders.
W: Yeah, that’s right. Wenders.
D: It’s a beautiful film that goes with the whole thing. It never got aired a lot, but maybe we should try and knock on somebody’s door and say this is a good time to play the film. [laughs].
W: You’re absolutely right. Yeah, I think it deserves to have a chance out there.
D: Yeah. It was really a lovely, harmonious process. I was happy to be on Willie’s bus. We were just chillin’ and workin’ out the songs. When I got to the destination, I made a decision to ask Willie to… the theatre had a nice parking lot, so there was plenty of room outside. We sorta camped out outside, and Willie had his trailer there. I just wanted to make sure that we didn’t burn out Willie, so I said to him, “Don’t even be in in the studio. You stay out on the truck, and I’ll come out and get you, so that when you come in everything’s gonna be fresh.” So I was rehearsing the band on the inside, and when I felt like the moment would strike, I’d go out and get Willie, and we’d get it in one or two takes. [laughs] We did that whole record in four days!
W: Well, you know, when you’re having fun it don’t take long.
LITA: Well said! Willie, what are some of your memories of the album and the recording session?
W: Well, I remember that we had some great rhythms there — I think two drummers and maybe a couple of bass players. I’m not sure. Who all played bass? Did we have two or just one?
D: No, no, no, Willie. I played the bass. I overdubbed the bass after! So we had the two drummers, and then we had two keyboard players. We had Aaron Embry, and then from Toronto a guy named Brian Griffiths on the guitar, the great slide player. I think bass players must make too many mistakes, so I knew the arrangements, so I overdubbed the bass myself.
W: Well, it turned out great. I liked it. I think it should have had a bigger run back there. It was kinda quick — it came and went pretty quick, but maybe it’ll get another shot.
D: Yeah, maybe it’ll get another shot. And Willie, you’re absolutely right. There was a very rhythmic foundation that we laid out which was petty sweet. Those two great drummers, Victor Indrizzo and Tony Mangurian. There was some kind of genius in inviting these two guys because one is a left-handed drummer and the other ne is a right-handed drummer, so they could sit at one big drum kit together and not get in anybody’s way!
The one guy’s high hat is on the left, the other guy’s on the right. it was pretty fucking funny. But because they were literally sitting together, their rhythms were locked, so we had some very nice grooves going. It’s hard to describe the full sensation of it.
W: The theatre where we shot it, too, was perfect. There was a great feel. It was like a big nightclub or dance hall.
LITA: One of our favorite songs on the record is one that you wrote, Danel — the song, “The Maker.” It’s a song that really captures the cinematic expansiveness of the album.
W: I love, “The Maker.”
LITA: It’s so cinematic and big.
D: The good thing about “The Maker” is… I thought it was a good song for Willie because it gave him an opportunity to play with the phrasing. The lyric lines are quite brief: [sings] “Oh, deep water, black and cold like the night,” so it’s not a soaring melody. It’s more of a standing melody, and I think that really suits Willie’s way of looking at vocal phrasing. Willie, thanks for doing the song, man.
W: Well, it was a lot of fun to sing.
LITA: It’s been sixteen years now — what do you guys think of the record? Do you feel it stands up?
W: Definitely. I’m just glad to see some folks payin’ attention to it again and thinkin’ about puttin’ it out there again. It certainly deserves another shot.
D: Is it sixteen years already?
LITA: Yeah, 1998!
D: Oh boy. Well listen man, we have no shortage of passion and power and devotion to the music, s if an opportunity comes upt for us to go another rund sometime, Willie can count on me, how ’bout that?
W: Well, you can count on me, too. I’d love to do it. Sounds like a good plan.
LITA: That was our next question, so thank you!
D: Well, we’re very driven by quality and magic. I mean, we hope t get it… It helps when people are talented [laughs], so we had a little bit f an advantage. I think we had Mr. Nelsn in there on the vocals, so we had a pretty good chance.
LITA: Any thoughts, Willie, on maybe performing the album live one of these days?
W: Oh, that would be great. I would be glad to do that sometime. When it comes out, if we can promote it someway and showcase it, I think that would be a good idea.
LITA: Maybe back at the theatre! I think it’s for rent again. I eventually moved outta there. It’s been a church since we had it, Willie, but I saw a “For Rent” sign on it, so…
LITA: Well, the sound you guys got there was just magical. We’re so thankful for your time and for your music. You’ve brought a lot of happiness to us over the years, so thank you.
W: Thank you very much. It was good to hear from you, my friend.
D: Willie, nice to hear your voice, and I’m looking forward to putting a little bit of juice back into Teatro, so if you get any additional ideas, gimme a call, ok?
“Hello, I know you!” Merle Haggard says as he emerges from the bedroom of his tour bus. He’s talking to Willie Nelson, who’s sitting in the bus’s cramped front quarters. Standing nearby, Nelson’s wife, Annie, asks the pair if they’ll sign a couple of acoustic guitars for a charity run by Matthew McConaughey, a friend of the family. “Absolutely not,” Haggard says with a smile. Later, when Annie takes a photo of the two signing the guitars, Nelson grins and gives the camera the finger.
It’s a perfect Saturday night in South Texas, where Haggard, 78, and Nelson, 82, are playing the last of three sold-out shows together at New Braunfels’ Whitewater Amphitheater. Haggard is about to play a set, during which Nelson will join him on “Okie From Muskogee,” “Pancho and Lefty” and a handful of other songs. Backstage, Nelson family members catch up; his rail-thin 90-year-old roadie Ben Dorcy (who was once John Wayne’s assistant) ambles around, smoking a pipe. Directly behind the stage, locals ride down the Guadalupe River in inner tubes, stopping on the bank to listen to the show. “We’ll get somebody out there to sell them tickets,” Nelson jokes.
Sitting side by side on the bus, Nelson and Haggard look like they could be a grizzled Mount Rushmore of country music. “It’s a mutual-admiration society with us,” says Nelson. “Merle’s one of the best. There’s not anyone out there that can beat him. Maybe Kris Kristofferson. But then you start running out of names.”
Haggard and Nelson are about to release a new LP, Django and Jimmie. (The title is a tribute to Nelson’s and Haggard’s respective heroes, Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers.)
One of the best songs is “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash,” an ode to their late friend and a meditation on mortality. “There’s a thousand good stories about John,” says Nelson. Haggard tells one, about the time Cash thought it would be hilarious to dynamite a broken-down car he encountered on the side of the road. “He hooks it all up, hits the plunger and blows it up. And he said, ‘Now, when that guy goes to tell his old lady his car blew up, he won’t be lying!’?” Nelson cackles, adding, “John used to say, ‘I always get my best thinking done when June is talking.’?”
“I didn’t know anything about marijuana,” Haggard says. “It’s fantastic.”
Nelson and Haggard met at a poker game at Nelson’s Nashville house in 1964, when both were struggling songwriters. (Neither would have major success until they left Nashville behind; Nelson for Austin, Haggard for Bakersfield, California.) They didn’t become close until the late Seventies, when they were playing casinos in Reno. “We’d play a couple of long shows a day, then spend all night long jamming,” says Haggard.
In 1982, they recorded Pancho & Lefty together at Nelson’s ranch near Austin, where they’d stay awake for days — “We were living pretty hard in that time period,” Nelson has said — playing golf and then recording all night (Haggard barely remembers singing his famous verse on “Pancho and Lefty”). At the time, they were fasting on a master-cleanse regimen of cayenne pepper and lemon juice. “I think Willie went 10 days,” says Haggard. “I went seven.”
“I still ain’t got over it,” says Nelson. “Still hungry.” Adds Haggard, “You’re still high!”
These days, they share a love of conspiracy theories (both are devoted fans of paranormal-obsessed radio host Art Bell) and making music with their children (Haggard’s son Ben plays guitar in his band; Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah frequently join their father onstage). “It’s as good as it gets, to have your kids up there playing,” says Nelson. “And they’re good!”
On the new album, the two cover Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright).” The track was recorded before Dylan criticized Haggard and other artists in a widely publicized MusicCares speech in February: “Merle Haggard didn’t think much of my songs, but Buck Owens did,” Dylan said. “Buck Owens and Merle Haggard? If you have to have somebody’s blessing — you figure it out.” Dylan later apologized.
Haggard (who toured with Dylan in 2005) thinks Dylan was talking about the Merle Haggard of the Sixties — the guy who took shots at hippies, weed and premarital sex in 1969’s “Okie From Muskogee.”
“I didn’t misunderstand Bob,” says Haggard. “I know what he meant. He figured I was lumping him in with hippies [in the Sixties]. The lack of respect for the American military hurt my feelings at the time. But I never lumped Bob Dylan in with the hippies. What made him great was the fact that every body liked him. And I’ll tell you one thing, the goddamn hippies have got no exclusive on Bob Dylan!” He pauses. “Bob likes to box — I’d like to get in the ring with his ass, and give him somebody to hit.”
In fact, these days Merle Haggard is far more liberal than the man in his classic songs. For one thing, he loves pot. “I didn’t know anything about marijuana back then,” he says. “It’s one of the most fantastic things in the world.” Did he and Nelson smoke in the studio? “Are you kidding me?” Haggard says with a laugh.
Soon, the conversation devolves to jokes. “You know what you call a guitar player without a girlfriend?” Nelson asks. “Homeless.”
Next, they talk current events, Nelson explaining the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit to Haggard. (“They stole more than they were supposed to,” he says. Haggard nods.) Asked if either has any thoughts about communicating with fans through social media, they shake their heads. “Just so long as somebody else can do it,” says Nelson. “That’s why I didn’t learn to play steel guitar.”
“What was that little girl that played steel in Asleep at the Wheel?” says Haggard. “Cindy Cashdollar. Everybody was trying to look up her dress.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t do that,” deadpans Nelson. “I think I had the wrong angle.”
By now, Haggard is supposed to be onstage; his son has been extending his three-song warm-up set for several minutes, telling the crowd his father will be out soon. These co-headline dates sold so well that Nelson says there will be more: “In fact, I was talking to some folks today — I was gonna see what they thought of making us do a tour of it when it comes out.”
He turns to Haggard. “We ought to do whatever we can get — as many days as we need to,” Nelson says with a smile. “Because I know it’s a good record. I think it might sell a couple.”
On February 3, 1978, the album by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson was certified to have sold 500,000 albums. (Today a gold album is for sales of 500,000 albums, but it used to be for one million in sales, at $1.00 wholesale cost for each .)
Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys
Comedian and late-night host Chelsea Handler’s new Netflix documentary series Chelsea Does… touches on a lot of different topics. She saved the best for last, however— the fourth and final episode of the season is called “Chelsea Does Drugs,” which includes a weed-smoking cameo from country music’s favorite cannabis ambassador, Willie Nelson.
“Willie Nelson’s just like, the coolest, obviously, but I was just so stoned, I mean…you walk on that bus and you’re stoned, before you smoke any weed,” Handler told “Vanity Fair” in an interview promoting the show. “And his weed is obviously, like, very good, and potent.”
Handler tackles other topics on the show as well, like marriage, racism and Silicon Valley, but her documentary method takes a more hands-on approach in the “Drugs” episode, as she smokes weed with Willie and partakes in other mind-altering drugs.
And leave it to her to get this great quote from Nelson about if he’s ever smoked weed he didn’t like:
“Pot’s like sex. Some is better than others, but it’s all good.”
See more from Nelson and Handler in the show’s trailer.