Willie Nelson and Shirley Collie

It was on the road as a bass player with Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys that Willie met a red-haired country singer named Shirley Collie.  She already had a recording contract with Liberty Records in California, and Willie had approached her to pitch one of her songs.

“It was instant love,” Shirley later told Time Magazine.  “I saw things in him that give me goose bumps now.”

At the same time Willie was boiling over with Shirley, Hank Cochran had once again stepped into Willie’s life and given things a lift.  At Cocran’s recommendation, Liberty Records had signed Willie as a singer.  Willie’s first Liberty release featured a Willie Nelson/Shirley Collie duet on ‘Willingly,’ a song written by Hank Cochran. 

That song cracked the Top Ten in March of 1962, and an enthused Liberty released ‘Touch Me’ with Willie Solo.  That song went to Number Seven later that year.  Liberty released a Willie Nelson album, ’And Then I Wrote.’ which debuted to a world of praise. 

The album liner notes, from disk jockey Charley Williams, were bright with promise:

“It is rare that a truly great songwriter,” he wrote, “is also an exciting vocalist; among those are Johnny Mercer, Hoagy Carmichael and a handful of others.  Now, with pride, Liberty Records presents the latest member of that select group.  His name is Willie Nelson.”

The year 1963 dawned clear and full of promise.  After all the years, all the disappointments, Willie was in love and on the charts with his own songs.

He would be a star.

by Michael Bane

Leave a Reply