Willie Nelson featured in new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s new exhibit, “Outlaws and Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ‘70s”

www.Tennesseean.com
by:  Juli Thanki

“Outlaws and Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s”
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
(222 5th Ave. S)
Nashville

May 25, 2018 – Feb. 14, 2021. 

General admission tickets ($25.95 for adults, $23.95 for seniors and students, $22.95 for military personnel and $15.95 for youths 6-12 years old) can be purchased online at the museum box office or online at countrymusichalloffame.org. Admission is free for children five years old and younger and museum members.

Information about upcoming exhibit-related programs can be found on the museum website

On May 25, the museum will celebrate its newest exhibition with a sold-out concert in the museum’s CMA Theater. The super-sized lineup, led by musical directors Shooter Jennings and Dave Cobb, features Joe Ely, Jessi Colter, Bobby Bare, Billy Joe Shaver, Kimmie Rhodes and Delbert McClinton, Michael Martin Murphey, Gary P. Nunn, Tanya Tucker and Bobby Earl Smith, several of whom have artifacts in the exhibit. They’ll be joined by Jason Isbell, Jack Ingram, Ashley Monroe, Jamey Johnson, Amanda Shires, Jason Boland and Colter Wall, a new generation of musical renegades who, decades from now, might be featured in a museum display of their own.

One of the most vibrant and creative eras in country music history began with a fire at a pig farm.

In December 1970, the 400-acre spread in Ridgetop, Tenn., belonged to Willie Nelson, a singer and songwriter who had found more success as the latter than the former during the years he spent rattling around Nashville. After the blaze destroyed his house, Nelson returned to his native Texas.

The fire and Nelson’s relocation serve as the beginning of the story told in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s new exhibit, “Outlaws and Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ‘70s,” which opens Friday, May 25, and is scheduled to run until February 2021. The exhibit focuses on “Nashville and Austin, the blossoming of those music scenes, what was happening in each city and the interaction between them,” said exhibit co-curator Michael Gray.

Austin had a thriving creative scene, with artists and musicians making their mark all over town. There, Nelson grew his hair long, traded his turtlenecks for T-shirts and found a community of like-minded musicians. At venues like Armadillo World Headquarters and the Broken Spoke, audiences comprised equally of hippies and cowboys grooved to the progressive country sounds of Nelson, the Sir Douglas Quintet and Jerry Jeff Walker, to name just a few.

“In Nashville, there was a system for a lot of sessions where people like Nelson and Waylon Jennings would go into the studio with company producers and it was almost like they had to take a passenger seat in their own car,” said Peter Cooper, who co-curated the exhibit. “They weren’t able to make creative decisions about what musicians would and would not play on the records, or how the records would sound. They chafed at that.” When artists like Jennings, Nelson, Bobby Bare and Kris Kristofferson fought to gain creative control, Cooper added, it “opened up Nashville’s recording system in a really interesting way.”

While some previous depictions of Austin and Nashville have pitted the two music-heavy towns against one another, museum CEO Kyle Young describes the interaction as a “cultural exchange.”

“Tom T. Hall was coming down to Willie’s Fourth of July Picnic and taking his shirt off and saying how it was country music’s Woodstock. Waylon and Willie were in Nashville studios a lot, as were Michael Murphey and Kinky Friedman,” said Cooper. “It’s a little bit like what was happening at the Armadillo, where people that think they may not be on the same side of things wind up finding out they were playing for the same team.”

“Outlaws and Armadillos” features more film than any of the museum’s previous exhibit thanks to co-curator Eric Geadelmann, an Austin-based filmmaker who has spent the last several years working on a documentary about the outlaw movement. “Based on the narrative we’re telling, we ordered up eight short films (from Geadelmann), six to eight minutes each … These shorts are going to be a centerpiece of the exhibition,” said museum Young. The films include exclusive performance footage and interviews, some of which were conducted with artists, such as Guy Clark, who’ve since died.

That’s not the only thing that may surprise visitors.

Yes, there’s the usual museum fare: stage wear, awards and instruments galore. But there’s also the blade that inspired Clark’s masterpiece “The Randall Knife,” a set of Ringling Bros. coveralls worn by Joe Ely when he left music to join the circus, and a copper moonshine still — parts of it covered in the same green oxidization that blankets the Statue of Liberty — that was used by singer-songwriter Tom T. Hall and the Rev. Will D. Campbell, a self-described “bootleg preacher” and important figure of the Civil Rights Movement who also served as pastor to several country artists.

“Will Campbell was part of our family for years,” Hall told The Tennessean after Campbell’s death in 2013. “He married those who were in love, tried to reconcile those with hate, buried our dead and tolerated the rest of us.”

The exhibit isn’t limited to those who stood behind the microphone, either. Several gig posters designed by Texas artists like Jim Franklin and Micael Priest are featured. One glass case includes a windbreaker that belonged to Darrell Royal, the former University of Texas Longhorns football coach who’s credited with developing the wishbone offense and introducing Willie Nelson to harmonica player Mickey Raphael. Raphael has now been an integral part of Nelson’s Family band for over 40 years, and has a diamond-encrusted ring, which is also adorned with Nelson’s tiny, gold face, to prove it. (That ring? It’s in the exhibit, too.)

By the second half of the 1970s, the outlaw movement had captured the attention of the mainstream. However, “By the time ‘Wanted! The Outlaws’ (a compilation record featuring Jennings, Nelson, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser) comes out in ’76 and is the first certified platinum country record, our story’s almost over,” said Gray. “We’re talking about everything that leads up to the moment when (‘outlaw’) becomes a big marketing term.”

“Outlaws and Armadillos” begins with a pig farm fire, and concludes with artwork. Artist and songwriter Susanna Clark’s rendering of the Pleiades constellation will be on display. The painting was used on the front cover of “Stardust,” Nelson’s sophisticated and sentimental album of pop standards. The 1978 release of “Stardust,” along with two other events that year — Jennings’ arrest at a Nashville recording studio for possession of cocaine (charges were later dropped) and subsequent single, “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out of Hand” — marks the end of the exhibit.

Read rest of article here, see more pics and videos

Leave a Reply