The names that Willie grew up idolizing — sequined stars like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy — resonate less with each generation. Maybe you’d expect Willie Nelson to be more philosophical about the subject of his own mortality, but he says it’s not anything he dwells on. “Am I gonna die? there’s a good chance I will. I had always hoped that I’d live to maybe 130 and then get shot by a jealous husband.” When the time comes, he expects the good he’s done in his life will outweigh the bad. Until then there’s always another show to play.
At the moment not even an urgent call from Willie’s road manager insisting that he’s wanted onstage right now can rouse him. This tour is operating on Willie time, where the seconds advance as rapidly or as slowly as he needs them to be. “I was at one time a young Willie Nelson,” he says as he grabs his guitar, Trigger, “and this is pretty much what I had in mind.”
A faded mural on the side of the Honeysuckle Rose II displays an imaginary prairie that extends forever, a place where the tumbleweeds can tumble through eternity. In the loading docks, the buses have been arranged in a circle, the way the pioneers would have set their wagons as they blazed a trail through the Old West, a silent tribute to an era long since passed.