Famous Texans: Willie Nelson

“This is your ol’ cotton pickin’, snuff dippin’, tobacco chewin’, coffee pot dodgin’, dumplin’ eatin’, frog giggin’ hillbilly from Hill County!”

–Willie’s opening line when he became a DJ on KCNC in Fort Worth (1954).

Best known for: being one of the greatest songwriters of all time, an accomplished guitar player, and having a unique style of performing which has ranked him among the finest country singers. 

Born:  April 30, 1933, in Abbot, Texas, to parents Ira, a traveling mechanic, & Myrle Nelson.

Family: Parents: Ira & Myrle Nelson, raised by Ira’s parents.  Sisters: Bobby Lee. Wife: Ann Marie D’Angelo. Children: Lana (born 1953), Susie (born 1956), Paula (born 1969), Amy (born 1973) Lukas (born 1989), Jacob (born 1990)

Education: After he graduated high school, he spent nine months in the Air Force, but was discharged due to back problems. Soon he enrolled part-time in a farming program at Baylor University. 

Career: Willie’s career began at the age of 10 when he joined John Raycjeck’s Bohemian Polka Band.  He worked several jobs when he got a little older as a disc jockey, selling encyclopedias, and selling other door-to-door items.  He had his first country hits, “Willingly” and “Touch Me” both were duets with Shirley Collie, his second wife, and both made it into the Top 10 in 1962.  He joined the Grand Old Opry and became a regular performer in 1964. 

Wanting to start again, Willie moved back to Texas in 1972.  Willie signed with Columbia, recording the album “Red Headed Stranger” which contained the cross-over hit single “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain.” Later, as “the unofficial Mayor of Austin,” he brought together the various groups of Country Music fans and helped start a new interest in the genre by attracting long-haired rock and roll fans. He let his hair grow long, wore a T-shirt and blue jeans, and wrapped a bandana around his neck. He also began to take an interest in karma and reincarnation. 

Various artists have appeared on his many albums, including Johnny Bush, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Julio Iglesias, George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Brenda Lee, Roger Miller, Dolly Parton, Webb Pierce, Ray Price, Leon Russell, Carlos Santana, Paul Simon, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, Faron Young, and Neil Young.  He also has been successful at planning large concert events.  He has planned the Texas Fourth of July Picnics and worked on Farm Aid Concerts and USA for Africa.

Willie continues to pursue his passion for performing with months of touring, year after year. Yet he also manages to always fit in time for a good round of golf, as well as card games with his friends or an afternoon playing dominoes in the little Texas town of Luckenbach



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