Willie Nelson’s former bassist David Zettner passes

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

His time in the Family, Willie Nelson’s backing band, was cut short when he was drafted into the Army in 1968, but David Zettner remained a member of Nelson’s extended family throughout the years.The bassist for the Offenders, the pre-Family band Nelson formed in 1966 with Johnny Bush and Jimmy Day, Zettner was found dead Tuesday afternoon in bed at his house on Nelson’s property in Briarcliff. His wife, Tomye, said he had an aneurysm, though the official cause of death has not been determined. He was 61.
David Zettner played bass for Willie in the early days and later designed the cover for Nelson’s 1983 ‘Tougher than Leather’ album.Described by friend Mark Safarik as “extremely creative in everything he did,” Zettner was also an accomplished artist, who designed Nelson’s 1983 “Tougher than Leather” album cover and did artwork on Willie’s tour buses.“Even after David was no longer in the band, Willie kept him close,” said Nelson’s nephew Freddy Fletcher. Zettner received his draft notice while on tour with Nelson and recommended his high school buddy from Helotes, Bee Spears, as his replacement. Spears has been in Willie’s band for 38 years.

“David was just a great guy,” said fiddling legend Johnny Gimble, who often played with Zettner.

“Having known the kind of person he was, I think he’s safe where he is now.”

Besides his wife Tomye, Zettner is survived by a son Kevin and brother Stan. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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