Willie Nelson on Texas Monthly (2008) “Best Celebrity Cover”

Texas Monthly’s May 2008 issue with Willie Nelson cover was the winner of Best Celebrity Cover in the third-annual best-covers contest organized by the American Society of Magazine Editors.


No celebrity in Texas is as iconic as Willie Nelson. This issue marked the seventh time Texas Monthly featured Nelson on the cover—more times than anyone else. Over the years, the covers watched him go from being a breakout country sensation in 1976, to a tax-evader in 1991, to a senior citizen in 1998, to a symbol of Texan humor in 2002 (he and Kinky Friedman posed for a riff on the painting “American Gothic”). When it came time to design the cover of this issue, which commemorates his 75th birthday with a massive oral history, Nelson’s longevity posed a challenge: What could be done that had not been done before? Ultimately, when photographer Platon came back from Nelson’s ranch with this incredible shot, the decision was made. Cover type seemed irrelevant: For the newsstand, a small “Willie at 75: The Oral History” was placed to the right of his face; subscribers received a cover with no type at all. This turned out to be unquestionably the most popular Nelson cover for the magazine. Within a week it was besieged with requests for posters or prints of the image, a sure sign that it had managed to capture the musician’s incomparable celebrity.

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