Me and Willie, by Jerry Wexler

Liner Notes
The Complete Atlantic Sessions

“I think it was in 1972 or 1973 that I first encountered Willie in the flesh.  I was in Nashville checking the c&w scene for Atlantic.  Somehow I was invited to Harlan Howard’s house for his annual pickers party.  Who all was there… I think I remember Ray Price, Conway Twitty, among others.  And Willie Nelson minus a record contract!

How could this be?  Maybe because Willie was in bad odor with the Nashville establishment, he was a ‘rebel’; (whatever the hell that was intened to imply), he was rumored to partake of the herba buena.

Somebody introduced us, and it was instant karma.  I signed him up, and the first thing we did (mostly in our New York studios) was Shotgun Willie.  I had a hand in a side or two, but Aril Mardin did the heavy lifting.

Next came Phases and Stages, and it turned out to be on me.  And so I suggested doing it in Music Shoals, with those gifted Caucasian funksters David Hood, Robert Hawkins, Barry Beckett, Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carr.  The kibitzers were horrified.  ‘You can’t take him to Muscle Shoals — it’s much too R&B for Willie, you’ll never get radio play, you’ll scare off the market, blah, blah, blah.’  The band was augmented with the great Johnny Gimbel on fiddle and mandolin, Fred Carter, Jr. on guitar and dobro, and John Hughey on pedal steel.

If I remember correctly, the whole deal took only two days — vocals, background voices, various sweetenings, and, all.

I have been told time and again by the well informed — including a lot of Willie’s people — that it’s up there with his best recordings.

It is January 2006 as I write this, and two weeks ago I turned 89 — but I am never out of touch with Willie.  I love him dearly, and I occassionaly have the current phone number of his bus.”

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