Willie Nelson and the Grateful Dead


Phil Lesh, of the Grateful Dead, talks about the Dead’s connection with Willie Nelson:

Austin Chronicle: For casual observers, the pairing of the Dead and Willie Nelson probably seems odd, but you go back some ways; you did the first Farm Aid via satellite in ’86. When did you first cross paths?

Phil Lesh: I met Willie a couple years ago when we did some gigs together. We visited him on his bus, and he, um [laughs], gave me a copy of his new record and played a couple cuts with me. It was a wonderful get-together. We’ve been doing gigs pretty much every year since, either with my band or with the Dead. So he’s kind of a natural for anything we do. He’s so American, you know, in the finest sense.

AC: Willie’s 70 and still “On the Road Again.” You’re 63; can you see yourself still “Truckin'” in seven years?

PL: Oh yeah, probably. It’s not the kind of thing you want to stop doing, because it really is life enhancing  the playing, that is, not necessarily the touring and traveling. I would hope that I’d be able to cut back a bit in the next seven years, but I’d never want to quit entirely, because taking the music to different people and different places is part of the experience. That’s the payoff.

AC: Any chance of a Willie/Dead duet in Austin?

PL: We’re hoping that can happen. Willie’s going to be opening for the Dead for about a week before that, and I’ve hoped for a long time to hear Willie sing with us, and do some of Jerry’s classic songs like “Stella Blue” or “Comes a Time.”

AC: You mentioned you’ve been on Willie’s bus, which is legendary for the amount of potent smoke on it. Can you confirm that?

PL: They had to turn me around a couple of times before I knew which way to get off. So yeah, it was like going to another world [laughs]. A very, very harmonious and congenial world, of course.

Here was a Fourth of July to Remember  (2003):


Willie Nelson
The Dead
Merle Haggard
Toby Keith
Pat Green
Ray Price
Kimmie Rhodes
South Austin Jug Band
Johnny Bush
The Geezinslaws
Bells of Joy

Willie Nelson
Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Patty Griffin
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Cross Canadian Ragweed
Billy Joe Shaver
Del Castillo
Shawn Colvin
Los Lonely Boys
Cory Morrow
Billy Bob Thornton
Paula Nelson
Matt Powell
Titty Bingo
Pauline Reese
The Jeff Haney Band
Waylon Payne Â

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