The Full Nelson (by Joe Nick Patoski)

The Full Nelson

by Joe Nick Patoski

He’s the country music outlaw who stages the annual Farm Aid concerts, survived a public battle with the internal Revenue Service and made “On the Road Again” a national anthem. Back home, he’s just Willie, no last name necessary — the most beloved man in Texas (sorry, Mr. President).  But no matter how little or how much anyone knows about 69-eyar-old Willie Nelson (below, in 1994), they’re about to learn a whole lot more when Willie Nelson:  Still is Still Moving kicks off the 17th season of American Masters (PBS, October 2, check TV Guide listings).

“Willie is an intensively private and reticent person,” says producer director Steve Cantor.  “It took a while, but it turned out to be something intimate and personal, in a way he hasn’t opened up before.”  Having a lens pointed at his face was hardly unusual for the road warrior, who sleeps on his tour bus even when he’s not touring.  His longtime tour manager, David Anderson, and Nelson’s daughter, Lana, have been shooting behind-the-scenes footage for years, some of which is woven into Cantor’s 90-minute documentary, allowing him to capture parts of Nelson’s life rarely seen in public.  In one scene Nelson plays chess with the blind entertainer Ray Charles, who soundly beats him at the game.  “Now that’s something you don’t see every day,” Nelson says.  “He kicked my ass.”

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