Willie Nelson honors Harlan Howard with new album, his 150th

Willie Nelson (left) and fellow songwriter Harlan Howard with their boss Hal Smith, the owner of the Pamper Music publishing company, on July 15, 1961.” 

by: John Spong

Even hard-core Willie nerds sometimes forget that his spear-tip position in the mid-seventies’ outlaw movement was actually the second time he revolutionized country music. The first came at the dawn of the sixties, when he signed a publishing deal with Ray Price’s Pamper Music company, joining a writing staff that included fellow young-gun composers Harlan Howard and Hank Cochran, both of whom were also recent Nashville transplants.

The three wrote songs that were more sophisticated, both melodically and lyrically, than what had come before—and, arguably, just better—as evinced by Patsy Cline’s two massive pop-crossover hits in 1961, Harlan and Hank’s “I Fall to Pieces” and Willie’s “Crazy.” Those tunes, brought to life by Owen Bradley’s high-polish production, helped set the template for the cosmopolitan Nashville sound that would dominate the decade. And though Willie was the only one of the three writers to become a household name as a performer, the other two would continue penning classics until well into the eighties, including “Why Not Me,” a Harlan cowrite that the Judds took to number one in 1984, and “The Chair,” a Hank cowrite that George Strait rode to the same spot a year later.

Read complete article at Texas Monthly.

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