Posts Tagged ‘Willie Nelson’

Interviewing Willie Nelson

Saturday, February 11th, 2017
by:  Chuck Yarborough

CLEVELAND, Ohio – In 1980, when I was a grizzled two-year veteran of the newspaper business, I was on the politics beat and ended up interviewing Teddy Kennedy, John Connally, John Anderson, Ross Perot, George Bush (the dad), Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.

Nerves? What nerves? I was 23, writing for The Baytown (Texas) Sun and more intimidated by the national press than the candidates. I wasn’t just confident – I was COCKY.

In the 37 years since then, I’ve interviewed hundreds – maybe thousands – of other big names, in politics, in war zones, on playing fields. And in all that time, I’ve been nervous exactly once.

Talking to Willie Nelson scared the crap out of me. It’s not often you talk to God, which is how country fans in general and Texans in particular view Nelson, and he talks back like you’re both sitting on the banks of the stock pond cane-poling for catfish. That microcassette recording of the interview may be one of my proudest possessions.

And now, Willie’s scaring the crap out of me again, only for a different reason. This week, he canceled two shows “due to illness.” It’s not the first time one of the two surviving members of the legendary Highwaymen – the other is 80-year-old Kris Kristofferson — has had to do that, and really, since he turns 84 in April, it’s not all that surprising.

In 2004, he had to take time off for carpal tunnel surgery; the cumulative effects of creating musical poetry on his beloved Martin guitar, Trigger, forced that. But somehow, we all sort of knew he’d bounce back.

Now, though, I’m more than a little worried. Actually, I’m terrified all over again. I’m just hoping that he can do what he did in that interview 15 years ago.

We were supposed to talk for about 10 minutes, which is about average for an artist phone interview. We ended up spending an hour chit-chatting like long-lost friends, some about music and Trigger, and a LOT about being a dirt-poor kid in rural Texas.

Willie grew up in Abbott, a little town just north of Waco and about 200 miles from my dad’s birth “city,” Hamlin, in West Texas. One of Willie’s earliest memories, he said, was picking cotton with his grandmother, who raised him and sister Bobbie.

That was the opening. My father also grew up picking cotton, a backbreaking job that kids of the era were well-suited to do because they didn’t have to bend over as far to pluck the cotton bolls off the plants.

He talked of being dragged on the bag before he could walk, then tagging along once he got big enough to haul his own bag. It was never very full, at least not at first, but that didn’t matter.

He and Bobbie, who is two years older and plays piano in his band, learned music from his grandmother and grandfather. I think I recall him saying he called his grandmother Memaw, which is what I called my maternal grandmother, too, and that’s why it stuck. His grandfather, a blacksmith, died when he was 6, so there weren’t that many memories of him.

None of that made it into the story I wrote at the time. We did talk about Trigger, that oft-repaired Martin which now boasts more than 100 signatures of other artists (the first was Oklahoma native and pal Leon Russell) and just why he hasn’t been able to find a replacement that has the same sonorous tones.

We didn’t talk about one of my favorite stories, when Willie – a known fan of wacky-tobacky, as it were – played the famous Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and the drug dogs alerted on his bus, the Yellow Rose. Problem was, when they searched it, the dogs couldn’t narrow it down to a single spot – the cannabis scent had pervaded the entire thing – so the cops couldn’t do anything.

We did talk about his friends, Toby Keith, Billy Joe Shaver, Porter Wagoner, Roy Acuff and even Kid Rock and Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas, and some of his iconic songs, like “Crazy,” made famous by Patsy Cline, “Whiskey River” and of course, “On the Road Again.” Standard fare for an interview. Nervous as I was, I did my job.

Willie’s publicist, Elaine Schock, whom I’ve known for decades now, reassured me when I reached out to ask about his health.

“Don’t worry. Willie will be in fine form next week for his show in San Antonio,” she wrote in an email.

I’ve taken more solace than I probably should have from that brief note, given Willie’s age and the life he’s led. But I believe it because I want to believe it. I need to believe.

God can’t die.

Dan Rather interview with Willie Nelson (Jan 26, 2016) AXS TV

Monday, January 25th, 2016

“When it comes to country music, he’s about as big as it gets, but he’s also dedicated so much of his life advocating for causes he cares about. Willie Nelson has been connected to the fight to legalize marijuana for decades now. He even has his own brand of weed coming out in a couple of months. It’s called Willie’s Reserve.

Check out what Willie told me about this business venture that is rather “high” on his list of priorities.”

— Dan Rather

Check out our next Big Interview set to air this Tuesday, January 26th at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST on AXS TV.

The Highwaymen

Thursday, January 21st, 2016


Willie Nelson and Norah Jones, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

New Lily Meola album! “They Say” (featuring Willie Nelson and Lukas Nelson)

Saturday, December 19th, 2015


Lily Meola has a new album out, “They Say” and it’ s no surprise that the Willie Nelson family’s fingerprints are all over it.  They are big fans and supporters of Lily and her talents.  Everyone who hears Lily Meola sing falls in love with her voice, including Annie Nelson who heard Lily sing on Maui, where both families live.   Lukas and Micah Nelson went to school with Lily’s brother, Matt Meola (also talented, not a singer but a pro surfer).  Annie  introduced Willie to Lily and her music at one of her local performances in Maui and the Nelson family have become cheerleaders for Lily and her music.

Willie and Lukas sing with Lily on her new album and Willie contributes some guitar gems on two other songs.  Micah Nelson has producer creds on the album and Annie Nelson supports the project too, but behind the scenes and out of the limelight.   And Kris Kristofferson duets with her on “Me and Bobby McGee.”   Jamey Johnson  invites Lily on stage to sing with him when they are sharing a festival anywhere.  Yeah, that’s the kind of recognition and acknowledgement she gets from other artists.

Thousands of us were first introduced to Lily Meola at Farm Aid in 2013, when Farm Aid President Willie Nelson invited the 18-year-old singer from Maui to perform with him.  They sang “Will You Remember Me”, and the video is below.  Her voice is so beautiful, timeless like the best of the best female vocalists from the 40’s and 50’s and ’60’s, every decade.   Willie also asked Lily to sing with him on his 2013 album, “To All The Girls.” And he can pretty much get anyone he wants to sing with him.  (Even Barbra Streisand — but where is that cut, Barbra?)

If you live on Maui, you can run over and get your copy (and one for a loved one) today at Nuage Bleu Collections Maui,Designing Wahine Emporium Hale Zen Alice In Hulaland Driftwood Maui Letarte Swimwear Biasa Rose Request Music WaterLily Maui Hi-Tech Surf Sports

For those of us who don’t live on a tropical island, rather are here in frozen Colorado like me, we can get it on the world wide web from Lily’s website:

And Lily’s a really nice person, too, and her mom is great, too.  This is the kind of gift you want to give, the music you want so support — artists like Lily Meola.   This is where you want to spend your music money.  Buy her cd; you’ll thank me later.

Willie Nelson presents Kris Kristofferson with Veteran of Year Award

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

Willie and Waylon

Saturday, December 12th, 2015


Enter for chance to win “Angels Sing”, with Willie Nelson, Harry Connick, Jr.

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015


Willie Nelson’s Facebook Page is having a contest to win a copy of  the”Angels Sing” movie.

Tell us one of your favorite holiday moments that involve Willie, either a song, gift, concert, etc.

We have 4 ‘Angels Sing’ DVDs to give to our favorite ones!

#angelsing #willienelson #contest


Willie Nelson signs the Farm Aid Grant Checks for 2015 ($610,000.00)

Friday, December 4th, 2015


Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, “A Horse Called Music”

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Kinky Friedman birthday concert, cd release party and Willie Nelson guitar Auction in Forth Worth (Dec. 10)

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

“My good friend Willie Nelson signed this guitar to auction off at my big Bash in Ft. Worth! It could be yours…All you have to do is come to the show, and bid! Tickets start at only $35!

And, there will be a special performance by a Grammy winning Legend, that will blow you away!” — Kinky Friedman

Get your tickets HERE:


Win tickets and trip for two to see Willie Nelson & Kacey Musgraves on December 30, 2015

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015



Texas Lottery is giving a chance to win a trip for two to Austin, to see Willie Nelson and Family on December 30th.


  • Premium Concert Tickets for Willie Nelson & Family Show on 12/30/15 at ACL Live venue
  • Airfare (within Texas)
  • One-night stay at W Hotel Austin
  • Dinner at Trace Restaurant
  • Private Tour of ACL Live venue
  • ACL Live Merchandise

President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Carter congratulate Willie Nelson on Library of Congress Gershwin Prize

Monday, November 23rd, 2015



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To Willie Nelson:

Although we regret we couldn’t be with you today, Rosalynn joins me in congratulating you on receiving the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize, a prestigious and well-deserved award.  Your music has enriched the lives of people far and wide for decades, and it is only fitting that your life’s work be honored in this way.

Your friendship has been important to us for over 30 years, and we were proud to host you at the White House and in Plains. We also loved having you in Oslo for the Nobel Peace Price concert in 2002. Your music has become the soundtrack of our lives, and we are pleased to see your tremendous talent recognized today.

Please know you have our warm best wishes on this special occasion, and we hope to see you soon!


Jimmy Carter

Willie Nelson and Cyndi Lauper, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” (#Gershwin Prize Concert)

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

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Cyndi Lauper was one of the many artists who gathered in Washington DC last week to honor Willie Nelson, when he was presented with the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize.

With a tip of the hat to George and Ira Gershwin, who the Prize is named after, Willie an Cyndi sang, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” When Willie introduced Cyndi and called her out to the stage, Willie announced that they had recorded the song for a new album coming out early next year to honor the Gershwin brothers, “Summertime.”

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Janis Tillerson took all these great photos for us all to enjoy.

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The Highwaymen, “Why Me, Lord?”

Sunday, October 4th, 2015