Country Music Magazine (May 1979) Willie Nelson Interview

Country Music
May 1979
Willie Nelson
Further Adventures of the Gypsy Cowboy

Not long before Michael Bane spoke to Wilie Nelson in New York City (a day or two before his concert with Leon Russell in Passaic, New Jersey), Texas writer Nelson Allen, a veteran Willie Nelson camp-follower, braved a backstage throng of whiskey-drinkers, well-wishers and autograph hounds to interview Willie between shows at the Austin Opry House (which Willie recently purchased for a reported $250,000).

Allen who described this adventure as his “last Willie Nelson story,” has interviewed Willie numerous times over the past few years, and, as he’s come to find out it’s not always an easy task:  “I learned a long time ago that if you want to talk to Willie, you have to go straight up to him yourself,” says Allen.  “If you waste time going through channels or talking to whichever go-fers he’s got, you’ll never make it.”  The following is a brief excerpt from their backstage conversation:

Allen:  Where are you living now, California?

Willie:  No, Here and Colorado.  I’m dividing my time between Austin and Colorado.  I’m down here buy my wife and family are up there.  I still like Austin.

Allen:  I read you had some trouble with your place up there.

Willie:  The IRS has a lien on my property up there, but it’s no big dea.

Allen:  How’s the Opry House doing?

Willie:  (He eyes the crowd.)  It’s holding up well and we may even be able to pay for it some day.

Allen:  Which movie did you just finish?

Willie:  Just finished working on one with Robert Redford in Nevada, the Electric Horseman.  He plays an ex-rodeo cowboy.

Allen:  How do you like acting?

Willie:  Well, that movie was a comedy and it was a lot of fun.  We got to improvise some, only once we got the lines down it was hard to remember to say them the same way each time.

Allen:  There are a lot of people, local Texas bands that aren’t on your Lone Star record label.  Why not?

Willie:  Well, we only had so much time and space to begin with, I think we’ll do okay if we can get any promotion.

Allen:  Do you think any of these people can sell records?

Willie:  Well, somebody’d better get a hit soon.  No, but really, I think any one of these guys can get a hit, even the Geezinslaws.

Allen:  You were quoted a few years ago as saying that your career would probably peak after a few years and taper off like Hank Thompson’s or somebody’s, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Willie:  No, I don’t think it is.  I hope not.  I always wanted to get it going then never stop.  That’s what I always wanted to do.  (Somebody hands Willie a Tequila Sunrise.)

Allen:  A lot of people seem to sort of look upon you as a sort of spiritual “advisor” or something; Gary Busey (star of the Buddy Holly Story) said recently that you were the one he talked to when he was having difficulties handling his new-found stardom.

Willie:  Well, I don’t know if I’ve ever really helped anyone but… I enjoy being asked advice, giving my opinion.

Allen:  About the only think I’ve heard you criticized for lately is that you’re not writing as much these days.  How do you react to that?

Willie:  Well, I don’t care.  I could do, and probably will sometime, another Yesterday’s Wine (one of Wille’s earlier albums that was recorded some years ago for R.C.A.  It was a brilliant effort and far ahead of its time; it’s been called country music’s first “concept” album.)  Or Red Headed Stranger, a whole conception thing again, but I wrote songs for forty years, sometimes when I was a kid I’d stack up five or six songs a day, and if I wante to take a little vacation now, that’s my business.

Allen:  What was it like when you played at the White House recently?

Willie:  It was a lot of fun.  Its’s not your average honky tonk.

Allen:  (Willie and I are both getting bored and the interview is about over, but I want to ask him one more question.)  Have you made it with Linda Ronstadt yet?

Willie:  (The famous orange beard parts into a grin.)  Did I what?   (But by now, the Red Headed Stranger is halfway out the door.)

Two days later, Willie Nelson flies out to Utah to make another movie.

— Nelson Allen

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