“Pretty Paper” Roy Orbison

“Pretty Paper” is a song written by country music singer-songwriter Willie Nelson in 1963. After being signed to Monument Records, Nelson played the song for producer Fred Foster. Foster pitched the song to Roy Orbison, who turned it into a hit. Nelson recorded his own version of the song in November 1964.

Written by Willie Nelson, the song tells the story of a street vendor who, during the holiday season, sells pencils and paper on the streets.   In October 1963, while walking in his farm in Ridgetop, Tennessee, Nelson was inspired to write the song after he remembered a man he often saw while he lived in Fort Worth, Texas. The man had his legs amputated and moved with rollers, selling paper and pencils in front of Leonard’s Department Store. To attract the attention of the people, the man announced, “Pretty paper! Pretty paper!”

In 2013, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram identified the man as Frankie Brierton, of Santo, Texas. Brierton refused to use a wheelchair, choosing instead to crawl, as he learned to move while growing up after his legs were affected by a spinal disorder. Brierton sold pencils in Fort Worth, Dallas and Houston.

Willie Nelson, along with David Ruiz, incorporated the song’s story into a book.

Santa Willie Delivers a "Pretty" Holiday Tale

Blue Rider Press

Pretty Paper: A Christmas Tale

By Willie Nelson with David Ritz
Blue Rider Press, 304 pp., $23

Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Wrap your presents to your darling from you
Pretty pencils to write “I love you”
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue

 

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