Willie Nelson: The Journal of Country Music

Willie Nelson
born: April 30, 1933
Abbott, Texas

My grandparents raised me from the time I was six months old, and my grandfather started teaching me guitar when I was five.  The first guitar I ever owned was a Stella, a Sears Roebuck guitar that cost six dollars.  I was writing a few poems then — why, I don’t know.  But all of a sudden I was putting some of the chords I’d learned to the words of the poems I’d written.  My grandmother, who played piano and organ, taught my sister Bobbie how to read music.  She got some sheet music and I would learn from her.  When she’d learn a song, she’d teach it to me.  There were always people coming by the house and wanting us to play a song for them, and we always did.  And at school at study hall or for special programs, we’d play.  Back then, I thought we’d always be together and always be playing.

I grew up listening to Mexican music — I had a lot of Mexican friends in school in Abbott.  I’ve been listening to Mexican and Tex-Mex music all my life.  And I love to play it.  And Django Reinhardt is a hero of mine.  He has the gypsy touch, which is very close to the Spanish flavor.

I listened to the radio a lot and to a lot of country music — Bob Wills, Roy Acuff, Hank Williams.  I listened to the Grand Ole Opry and to the blues that came out of New Orleans.  We listened to the Johnny Mercers and Hoagy Carmichaels.  Whatever was being played in the radio and the jukeboxes was what we were playing because we played a lot of clubs and when you take requests you play what’s current.  We’d play ’stardust’ or “Fraulein” or “San Antonio Rose.”  I was playing with a band called Bud Fletcher and the Texans.  Me and my brother-in-law booked Bob Wills one night in a little club in Whitney, Texas, called Shady Grove.  While he was there, I got up and sang with him that night.  Later on I got to sing with him again.  And I wrote the liner notes for one of his albums.  He and I got to be buddies.

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