John Rowlands Writer/Photographer
Like an old friend who has been crooning his hits to us for most of our lives Willie Nelson and The Family returned to Southern California on Friday night for his latest version of his jukebox full of country music gold and platinum records.
Previously backed by Nashville session musicians in his recordings, Nelson formed the his current support musicians, Family. The original lineup included his sister Bobbie, who performed on the piano during his childhood through the Texas Honky-Tonk circuit; His road drummer, Paul English, who he met during the mid 1950s at Gray’s Bar in Fort Worth, Texas; Steel guitarist Jody Payne; bassist Bee Spears, and harmonicist Mickey Raphael. The Family performed together for the first time at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas, where they were acclaimed by the audience.
In 2010, Billy English, joined the band helping his brother Paul in the drums, after he suffered a stroke in 2010. In 2011, Kevin Smith joined the band as the lead bassist after the death of Bee Spears earlier the same year. Smith had already backed Nelson on his 2009 album Willie and the Wheel. Willie & Family tours North America in the bio-diesel bus Honeysuckle Rose IV, which is fueled by Bio-Willie.
The show opened, as always, with WHISKY RIVER and ran through the country music history that Willie has helped write for the last 6 decades. Like a warm wool blanket in the desert’s cool winter air Willie always delivers a familiar wave of memories, smiles and good carefree comfort.