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Wilie Nelson and Mary Pat Davis perform “Walkin’ After Midnight” originally by Patsy Cline at Farm Aid VI in Ames, Iowa, on April 24, 1993.
Billy Joe Shaver says it best when it comes to Willie Nelson: “Willie Nelson is everybody’s brother.” And in the country music world he is. He’s performed with virtually every artist in the genre and the new artists in every genre flock to be able to say they shared the stage with Willie. Like many artists his age, 70 year-old Willie Nelson has recorded albums for a lot of labels. He’s seen numerous greatest hits packages and best of collections but never before has there been a collection of the best songs from his entire career; until now.
To kick off his 70th year on the planet, Columbia/Legacy has secured agreements with each of the labels Willie has recorded with in the past to create a vital collection simply titled The Essential Willie Nelson.Containing 41 songs over the course of 2 CDs, the collection is truly one of the best albums to be released in a long time.
To many, Willie Nelson is the Red-Headed Stranger with the funny guitar with a hole in it. To others he’s the wild outlaw from Texas. To yet another set of people, Willie is virtually the ambassador for all of music. Quite simply, Willie Nelson is all of those men rolled into one unique gifted poet who overtime has become a stylist.
Starting out in 1961 on a tiny label called “Bellaire Records” with the song “Night Life”(later a hit for Don Ho and others) Willie showed off both a solid voice and writing ability.
Those who hear the next couple tracks, “Hello Walls” and “Crazy”will not realize that, while Willie recorded these songs after they were hits for other people, he is the writer of them. The average fan who knows these standards will identify them with their singers Faron Young and Patsy Cline. Along with these stellar renditions of timeless classics (these tracks are from the early 1960’s for Liberty Records).
After a minor chart hit for Monument Records with the Tex-Mex styling of “I Never Cared For You,” Willie went on to have some more minor success with Chet Atkins’ RCA Records. “Party’s Over” features a countrypolitan style from Willie that really didn’t seem to fit him. His follow up single, “Good Times” went on to be a bigger hit in 1981 (from a greatest hits collection released during a red hot time for Willie). From there Willie recorded and released a few singles for Atlantic Records (as their first country artist). Produced by the famed producer Arif Mardin, the song “Shotgun Willie” would be the first song to showcase Willie’s own style and begin the process of creative control that would go on to change the way that Nashville does business. Also recorded during this time Willie’s “Bloody Mary Morning”became his first Top 15 hit in 1974.
In 1975 Willie released his first song from the Red-Headed Stranger album “Blue Eyes Cryin’ On The Rain”and Fred Rose’s 1945 composition became a smash hit and Willie’s first No. 1 hit song. The song literally changed 1970’s Nashville from pop oriented songs to a more organic sound that was prevalent on albums by Willie and friends for the majority of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Always a man who liked to record songs with his friends, Willie got that ball rolling with his songs with his “partner in crime” Waylon Jennings. “Good Hearted Woman” went on to become a smash hit and the version from the first platinum album Wanted: The Outlawsis a wonderful achievement of both song and friendship.
Another standout duet by Waylon and Willie is the classic “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.” It’s one of those western steel guitar drenched songs that has been covered by numerous people since the original from the Waylon and Williealbum.
The pundits all said that a concept album like Red-Headed Stranger wouldn’t work, and it did. They said that again when Willie released the album Stardust. All that record did was become the longest charting country music album of all time (and second all time to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon). Produced by Booker T. Jones, the album had covers of standards like “Georgia On My Mind,” “Blue Skies” and “All Of Me.”
Another of the “Outlaws” from the 1970’s was Kris Kristofferson. Willie saw fit to record a slew of this poet’s songs on one record with the best track represented on this record. That track is the beautiful love ballad, “Help Me Make It Through The Night.”
Perhaps one of his better known hits, “On The Road Again” was a song that ushered in the 1980’s with the film Honeysuckle Rose. It’s a wonderful recording with a classic style that Willie has become known for, making music with his friends.
Another of the songs from the Honeysuckle Rose soundtrack is the beautiful track “Angel Flying To Close To The Ground.” It’s a bluesy ballad about a woman who had fallen to the ground only to be caught by a man who fixes her up and falls in love with her.
The lush and beautiful “Always On My Mind”is one of my all-time favorite songs and it shows a different side to Willie. It’s one of those songs that say stuff that men cannot normally say to their loved ones.
The fun songs “Pancho And Lefty” and “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before”paired Willie with one of his close friends, and a man whom most wouldn’t connect with Willie. Merle Haggard and Willie dueted on Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho” while Willie teamed with pop star Julio Iglesias on the lush “Girls.” Both again show that Willie loves to sing duets as much as he does his own songs.
When Willie recorded Ray Charles’ “Georgia On My Mind” it gave Ray the idea for Willie to sing a song with him on his own record. The fruit of their labor was the song “Seven Spanish Angels”which became a smash hit in 1984. Of all the duet partners other than Waylon Jennings, Ray Charles sounds the best with Willie.
With its lush production, “The Highwaymen”served as the first single and title track for both the super group of Waylon, Willie, Kristofferson and Cash and their first of three CD’s. The song is a nice slice of country music history.
In 1986, Willie recorded David Lynn Jones’ “Living In The Promiseland”and took it to No. 1 on the Billboard charts. It is a song that shows the uniqueness that is America, and how America is the “promised land” for many people. The whole song is an exquisite piece of 1980’s country music.
After a few more hits for Columbia Records, Willie went on to record when he felt like it in the 1990’s returning to the charts with the Grammy winning duet “Mendocino County Line” in 2002 with Lee Ann Womack. Also featured on this CD are a couple of rare duets with the rock band’s Aerosmith and U2. While not really “Essential” tracks, they show that Willie is willing to work with everyone.
With 41 tracks, The Essential Willie Nelsonis the CD to own if you don’t own any of Willie Nelson’s stuff and will only make you wanna dig deeper into his large collection of songs and albums.
Funny How Time Slips Away
I Never Cared For You
The Party’s Over
Me And Paul
Bloody Mary Morning
Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain
Good Hearted Woman(with Waylon Jennings)
If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got The Time
Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys (with Waylon Jennings)
Georgia On My Mind
All Of Me
Heartbreak Hotel(with Leon Russell)
Help Me Make It Through The Night
Stay A Little Longer (Live)
My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys
Faded Love(with Ray Price)
On The Road Again
Angel Flying To Close To The Ground
Always On My Mind
Last Thing I Need First Thing In The Morning
Pancho And Lefty(with Merle Haggard)
To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before(with Julio Iglesias)
City Of New Orleans
Seven Spanish Angels(with Ray Charles)
Forgiving You Was Easy
Highwaymen(with Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash)
Living In The Promiseland
Nothing I Can Do About It Now
Everywhere I Go(with Emmylou Harris)
Slow Dancing(with U2 and Mickey Raphael on Harmonica)
Mendocino County Line(with Lee Ann Womack)
One Too Many Times (with Aerosmith)
Willie Nelson on the Ernest Tubb television show.
The story behind this young boy’s Willie Nelson cover is a truly inspiring one. Logan Blade is autistic, and he doesn’t speak — but boy can he sing!
Blade took the stage recently to cover Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” from the legend’s Redheaded Stranger album. The song was originally recorded by Roy Acuff, but once you see Blade perform it, you’ll know he was, without a doubt, channeling Nelson. Everything down to the inflection in his voice is reminiscent of the braided country icon.
According to Blade’s Facebook page, he was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old. He doesn’t speak often, but he was clearly blessed with the gift of song. It’s incredible to watch his on stage presence in the video above (and in several of his other covers) because, despite his lack of conversational skills, he has no fear on stage. He’s confident and poised and genuinely seems to enjoy singing songs he loves.
Nelson heard the cover and was also impressed, even sharing it on his own Facebook page. “Logan is Autistic. He has little to no speech. But he can sing Willie Nelson’s music. Great job Logan!” the singer wrote with the video before signing it with “love.”
Watch the video of Logan Blade covering Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” above.
On July 3, 1980, Willie Nelson’s movie “Honeysuckle Rose” makes its world premiere in Austin, Texas.
Hundreds of reporters and Hollywood types converged at a local theater to watch the screening. The gala was complete with celebrities and several shiny limousines. But in his typical unassuming laid-back tradition, Nelson chose not to use a chauffer and drove himself and his wife, Connie, in a silver Mercedes.
Nelson, in the presence of Dyan Cannon and Slim Pickens, comes off well in the movie. But then again he played the role of a country star bandleader who travels the country in a bus with a handful of renegade musicians. There is plenty of singing and plenty of carousing — activities Nelson is not unaccustomed to in real life.
“I don’t think I ever really get nervous about it (filming the movie), but then I was never asked to do anything that hard. I just kind of go where they point me, really,” said Nelson.
Ms. Cannon, who did a splendid job of singing a few country songs herself, said she was impressed with Nelson.
“Willie has a basic honesty,” she said. “The screen just doesn’t lie. It captured that about Willie.”
Nelson said he had two more movies to do in the next year, including one with Kris Kristofferson, but indicated music would continue to be his first livelihood.
“Honeysuckle Rose, actually will do much for Nelson’s music career.”
Part of Nelson’s contract with Warner Brothers called for him to write several songs for the movie. Time went by and Nelson had not written any songs. But then, during a flight with director Jerry Schatzberg shortly before filming began in Austin last year, the director reminded Nelson of his obligations.
Nelson pulled out his plane ticket and a pencil and wrote the movie’s biggest song, “On the Road Again.”
Thanks to Phil Weisman for finding this cool poster.
Willie Nelson and Glen Campbell perform, “Just to Satisfy You”, then Roger Miller joins in for “Uncloudy Day”
On November 28, 1964, Willie Nelson made his Grand Ole Opry debut, as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly Saturday night country music radio program broadcast live on WSM radio in Nashville, Tennessee. It is the oldest continuous radio program in the United States, having been broadcast on WSM since November 28, 1925. It is also televised and promotes live performances both in Nashville and on the road.
The Grand Ole Opry started out as the WSM Barn Dance in the new fifth floor radio station studio of the National Life & Accident Insurance Company. The featured performer on the first show was Uncle Jimmy Thompson, a fiddler who was then 77 years old. The announcer was program director George D. Hay, known on the air as “The Solemn Old Judge.” He was only 30 at the time and was not a judge, but was an enterprising pioneer who launched the Barn Dance as a spin-off of his National Barn Dance program at WLS Radio in Chicago, Illinois. Some of the bands regularly featured on the show during its early days included the Possum Hunters, the Fruit Jar Drinkers, the Crook Brothers and the Gully Jumpers. They arrived in this order. However, Judge Hay liked the Fruit Jar Drinkers and asked them to appear last on each show because he wanted to always close each segment with “red hot fiddle playing.” They were the second band accepted on the “Barn Dance.” And, when the Opry began having square dancers on the show, the Fruit Jar Drinkers always played for them.
In 1926, Uncle Dave Macon, a Tennessee banjo player who had recorded several songs and toured the vaudeville circuit, became its first real star. The name Grand Ole Opry came about in December, 1927. The Barn Dance followed NBC Radio Network’s Music Appreciation Hour, which consisted of classical music and selections from grand opera. Their final piece that night featured a musical interpretation of an onrushing railroad locomotive. In response to this Judge Hay quipped, “Friends, the program which just came to a close was devoted to the classics. Doctor Damrosch told us that there is no place in the classics for realism. However, from here on out for the next three hours, we will present nothing but realism. It will be down to earth for the ‘earthy’.” He then introduced the man he dubbed the Harmonica Wizard â€” DeFord Bailey who played his classic train song “The Pan American Blues”. After Bailey’s performance Hay commented, “For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera. From now on we will present the ‘Grand Ole Opry.’” The name stuck and has been used for the program since then.
As audiences to the live show increased, National Life & Accident Insurance’s radio venue became too small to accommodate the hordes of fans. They built a larger studio, but it was still not large enough. The Opry then moved into then-suburban Hillsboro Theatre (now the Belcourt), then to the Dixie Tabernacle in East Nashville and then to the War Memorial Auditorium, a downtown venue adjacent to the State Capitol. A twenty-five cent admission began to be charged, in part an effort to curb the large crowds, but to no avail. In 1943, the Opry moved to the Ryman Auditorium.
On October 2, 1954, a teenage Elvis Presley made his first (and only) performance there. Although the public reacted politely to his revolutionary brand of rockabilly music, after the show he was told by one of the organizers that he ought to return to Memphis to resume his truck-driving career, prompting him to swear never to return. Ironically, years later Garth Brooks commented in a television interview that one of the greatest thrills of playing the Opry was that he got to play on the same stage Elvis had.
The Ryman was home to the Opry until 1974, when the show moved to the 4,400-seat Grand Ole Opry House, located several miles to the east of downtown Nashville on a former farm in the Pennington Bend of the Cumberland River. An adjacent theme park, called Opryland USA, preceded the new Opry House by two years. Due to sagging attendance, the park was shuttered and demolished after the 1997 season by the Opry’s current owner, Gaylord Entertainment Company. The theme park was replaced by the Opry Mills Mall. An adjacent hotel, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, is the largest non-gambling hotel in North America and is the site of dozens of conventions annually.
Still, the Opry continues, with hundreds of thousands of fans traveling from around the world to Nashville to see the music and comedy on the Opry in person.
On March 23, 1993, Willie Nelson’s ‘Across the Borderline’, his 35th album for Columbia Records, was released.
Getting Over You (with Bonnie Raitt)
Most Original Sin
Don’t Give Up
Across the Borderline
Farther Down the Line
What Was it You Wanted?
I Love the Life I Live
If I Were the Man that You Wanted
She’s Not for You
Still is Still Moving to Me
Record producer Don Was has enjoyed a dazzlingly diverse career since emerging from Oak Park in the early ’80s. Here he recounts some of his professional highlights, from his elemental rap record with Detroit’s Felix & Jarvis to his Grammy-winning work with Bonnie Raitt.
Willie Nelson, “Across the Borderline” (1993): “This is one of my favorites. The title song was recorded in Dublin, live in the studio in one take! After we finished tracking the song, we asked the engineer to mix it for us right away. A mix can take a while and Willie had no desire to sit around the studio all day. So he rolled a spliff and informed the engineer that the mix would be considered finished when the joint was smoked three-fourths of the way down. Sure enough, we had a completed record 20 minutes later. It’s the best track on the album!”
When people ask me which of the songs Ive written are my favorites, “Still is Still Moving” always comes up near the top of the list. The band and I play it at almost every concert, and I’ve recorded it countless times, as well, so you have got to figure the song means something important to me.
Sometimes I wonder if perhaps the song is me.
Whether you look at the song from the point of view of ancient philosophies or from the modern knowledge of quantum physics, there is great motion in all stillness, and true stillness at the heart of all action.
The early Chinese philosophers referred to hits in the concept of something called wu wei, which suggests fulfilling every task with the least necessary action. Two notes are not required when one will suffice. Twenty words may not say something better than ten, or one. For me, that word is stillness.
No matter how still I am, the world around me is abuzz with activity, and the world within me as well. Modern physics tells us that the atoms in our body ” and all the particles and forces that make up those atoms ” are never at rest. While our bodies and the world around us seem solid, that physical appearance is merely an illusion, for each of our atoms is comprised primarily of empty space.
If your life in this modern world seems to pass you by at the speed of light, perhaps you could consult Einstein, who proved that the faster we travel, the more time is compressed. That’s right, the faster we go, the less time we have. So what is your hurry?
This may not mean much to you, but it must be quite traumatic for the atoms. Would you like to hear an atom joke? I didnt think so, but here is one anyway:
A neutron went into a bar and says, “How much for a beer?”
The bartender says, “For you, no charge.”
The Tao of Willie Nelson
by Willie Nelson, with Turk Pipkin