Legendary Country

images (8)Did you know that Willie has eight kids and that he played football in high school? Willie Nelson was born on April 29, 1933, in Abbott, Texas. He was raised by his paternal grandparents during the Great Depression. His granny took Willie to a small Methodist church where he was exposed to music and inspiring lyrics for the first time. Little Willie loved the notes lodged in the hymn books. Both grandparents had a musical background, and at the age of six, he was gifted his first guitar.  He began writing his first songs and he sold his first Gospel song “Family Bible” for $50.00 bucks to his guitar teacher.  A few years later, he started playing professional gigs with a local polka band. In 1947 Nelson joined the gospel group Bud Fletcher and the Texans, which featured his sister Bobbie on piano.  After graduating from Abbott High School in 1950, Nelson enlisted in the United YOUNG WILLIEStates Air Force and was stationed at Lackland in San Antonio. His military career was short lived, however, as persistent back problems led to an honorable discharge less than a year later. Unsure of where to turn next, Nelson enrolled in a farming program at Baylor University. While pursuing his studies, he took odd jobs to make ends meet, including selling encyclopedias door to door.  Nelson never lost his passion for music. He enjoyed working as a disc jockey for various radio stations. He soon abandoned his agriculture studies to focus more exclusively on his music. He played guitar and sand at local clubs while he continued to write songs. He penned “Night Life,” “Crazy” and “Funny How Time Slips Away.” In 1960, Nelson settled in Nashville and landed a job as a songwriter  earning a salary of around $50 a week. images (4)The following year, two of Nelson’s creations became hits for other artists— “Hello Walls”  and everyone remembers Patsy Cline singing his song “Crazy” on the radio. Ray Price’s recording of his “Night Life” was also a Top 40 country hit. His gritty, roadhouse sound, Nelson did not fit the traditional Nashville country music mold. His unusual manner of phrasing, his hard drinking and his raspy voice earned him the reputation of an outlaw. In 1970, when his home in Ridgetop, Tennessee, burned down, Nelson took it as a sign that things needed to change. Returning to his native Texas, he settled in Austin and quickly became an important part of the city’s country music scene, performing regularly at its many venues. In 1975 experienced performer success for  Red-Headed Stranger. That album was #1 on the country charts, it also crossed over to the pop Top 40. In 1979 his outlaw career and his character become famous when Robert Redford and Jane Fonda shared the big screen with Willie in The Electric Horseman. images (14)In 1982, his ballad “Always on My Mind” won the Grammy Award for best country vocal performance, and the album of the same name topped both the country and pop charts. His musical stardom was paired with his educational roots in agriculture. In 1985 Willie shared the stage with Neil Young and John Mellencamp and they put on an America Farm Aid convert. Willie’s sincere compassion and activist work extended into the animal kingdom.  Willie was involved with the Society for Protective Animal Legislation, Best Friends Animal Society and the Animal Welfare Institute. Nelson is deeply involved in a campaign to save horses from slaughter. He wrote the song “Wild Horses” to benefit the cause.    The 1990s led Willie into a swirl of trouble with the IRS. A $16 million dollar bill was issued for unpaid taxes and the IRS seized most of his property. Maintaining his sense of humor in the face of adversity, Nelson released the album The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories? to help pay the debt. On a much more personal level, the following year Nelson was dealt a devastating blow when his son Billy committed suicide on Christmas Day. Despite these difficulties, Nelson managed to persevere, and several of his albums, including Across the Borderline (1993) and Healing Hands of Time (1994), reached the images (10)country Top 20. Willie the Outlaw of Country Music shared the stage with legendary Country greats such as: Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash.  The 2020 Grammy for Best Country Solo Performance has been awarded to Willie Nelson his “Ride Me Back Home.” Nelson did not attend the Grammy Premiere Ceremony.  Over his career, Nelson has been nominated for 52 Grammys. In 2000, he was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to music. In 1990, he won the Grammy Legend Award, and in 1986 he was honored with the President’s Merit Award. In 1982 he was awarded with the Best Male Country Vocal Performance for “Always on My Mind” and once again in 1978 for “Georgia On My Mind.” He took home the Best Country Song for Willie-1024x683“On The Road Again” in 1980. “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” took home Best Country Vocal Performance By A Duo or Group in 1978. His first Grammy Award win was in 1975 at the 18th Annual Grammy Awards for “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.  Willie’s rusty throated singing and guitar playing make him one of the most distinctive and instantly identifiable images (9)performers in the world, but Nelson’s song writing is really what built him his fame.  His original songs include all-time classic like “Crazy,” “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Pretty Paper” and “Hello Walls,” but Willie’s 1975 album ‘Red Headed Stranger’ is widely considered one of the keystone country recordings of all time. In more recent years Nelson has become one of music’s elder statesmen, continuing to keep a busy schedule of recording and touring into his 80s.  The 86-year-old entertainer is such a staunch advocate for the health and psychological benefits of marijuana. Willie was forced to give up smoking pot because of damage to his lungs. With severe emphysema, Willie says was caused by his long-term smoking cigs way before his marijuana use. Nelson said that his previous habits of cigarettes and alcohol were replaced with marijuana which may have actually extended his life. Willie Nelson is one of the most significant musicians of the last century not only in country music, but across all genres.  Best Country Solo Performance Winner for singing these lyrics written by Sonny Throckmorton who lives near Willie’s Luck Studio. Sonny said that he wrote these lyrics after watching Willie’s horses

[Verse 1] “Ride Me Back Home”
We rode into battle barebacked and saddled
You took the wound in your side
You pulled the sleds and you pulled the wagons
You gave ’em somewhere to hide
Now they don’t need you and there’s no one to feed you
And there’s fences where you used to roam
I wish I could gather up all of your brothers
And you would just ride me back home

[Chorus]
Ride me back home to a much better place
Blue skies and sunshine and plenty of space
Somewhere where they would just leave you alone
Somewhere that you could call home
And you would just ride me back home

[Verse 2]
I got a small place up in the foothills
Where green grass is precious as gold
I paid a fortune for what little I got here
But you know that I’d sell my soul
To have all the mountains, the rivers, and valleys
The places where you need to roam
I would just gather up all of your brothers
And you would just ride me back home

2 thoughts on “Legendary Country

  1. Great post! I grew up listening to Willie! I also visited his home in the mountains here in Colorado when I was a kid. We stood outside the gate just looking at his house, which was set back far from the gate. There was an intercom speaker and a man came on and asked us what we were doing. We said we were fans and were just there to look at his house real quick. He didn’t seem to mind and told us Willie wasn’t home. We left shortly after. Real cool place on lots of land. Coloradoans love Willie! God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

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