Willie Nelson, Country Music Hall of Fame

Country Music Hall of Fame

Since the mid-1970s Willie Hugh Nelson has emerged as one of the most versatile, enduring, and influential talents in late twentieth-century country music.

As a vocal stylist, songwriter, bandleader, and even occasional movie actor, Nelson’s long commercial reign (20 #1 hits and 114 chart singles between 1962 and 1993) has been outstripped only by his boundless energy as a performer and songwriter. Since the mid-1950s, his recorded output has been so vast as to confound all but the most dedicated discographers.

Growing up in central Texas, Nelson came under the influence of a wide diversity of abiding musical influences—not just the Grand Ole Opry stars of the day, but also more indigenous sounds: the Texas honky-tonk of Ernest Tubb, the western swing of Bob Wills, and even the German-American polka bands he often played in as a youth.

Nelson did a brief stint in the Air Force and married Martha Mathews (the first of four wives) in 1952. He played in various local Texas bands and worked as a DJ at stations in Texas and Vancouver, Washington, where, in the mid-1950s, he made his earliest self-released recordings.

Back in Texas in the late 1950s, Nelson worked at various day jobs and performed extensively in rough-and-tumble honky-tonks in the Houston area. He had begun writing songs as a little boy, and by the 1950s he was starting to turn out fully realized masterpieces such as “Night Life” (recorded by dozens of artists over the years, including Frank Sinatra) and “Family Bible.”

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