Willie Nelson: Entertainer of the Century

by Joe Nick Patoski
Texas Monthly
December 1999

When you ride shotgun with Willie Nelson around the back roads of Willie World, the self-contained universe he created for himself and his extended family in the Hill country west of Austin, you realize what it is that makes him such an icon.  It’s his Willieness  It hits you while watching the old guy in black with scraggly beard and the puppy-dog eyes undo a braid on his pigtail.  He doesn’t fit the sterotype of a 66-year-old veteran of a profession that eats its young.

The goofy grin he flashes conveys the vibe that he really and truly likes what he’s doing.  We like it too.  Riased in the heart of the state and steeped in his ways, coming up the hard way and going against the grain, he’s a Texan’s Texan.  He’s seen the wilder side of life and isn’t uncomfortable in the company of thieves, a few of whom have been his friends and business associates  (that’s Texas too).

A little bit honky-tonk and a whole lot of cosmic, he’s a cultural evangelist who knows how to lead a flock of true believers — a technique that serves him well in Vega or Vegas, whether he’s washed in the neon glow of a beer joint or basking in the klieg lights of the great performance halls in the Western world.  Through it all, ol’ Will grins away.  As he tools around in his pickup truck in a state of herbal bliss, he’s locked in a zone of his own and right in sync with the master plan hatched at age eight.  “I started out watching Gene Autry and Roy Rogers every Saturday on the movie screen in Hillsboro,” he says in his relazed drawl.  “I knew what I wanted to do:  I wanted to be a singing cowboy, ride my horse, play my guitar, shoot my gun.  So here we are.”

Joe Nick Patoski has written a new book about Willie Nelson, ‘Willie Nelson:  An Epic Life,” published in April 2008.  Michael Corcoran, of the Austin, wrote this:

Willie Nelson: An Epic Life” by Wimberley writer Joe Nick Patoski looks to be an epic biography. Publisher Little Brown lists the book, set for release the week before Nelson’s 75th birthday, April 30, at a whopping 480 pages. Patoski conducted more than 100 interviews for the book, which looks to be Willie’s  biography.

“It’s the most fun I’ve ever had working on a project,” Patoski said in August, soon after he turned in the first draft. He said he was actually a bit sad when he was done. The book not only chronicles Willie’s amazing career and humble upbringing, but it delves into the characters that make up the icon’s extended family.”



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