The Red Headed Stranger

James Ott said to me in the comments of my post on Buddy Holly yesterday, ” Just think what this country would be like without Texas. A ship without a rudder or engine!!!” James hit the proverbial nail on the head with that statement. We’d also be without one of the greatest recording artists, and I do mean artist, singer-songwriters, humanitarian and all around cool dude – Willie Hugh Nelson.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, I had the good fortune of spending some time with Willie after one of his shows in Wichita Falls about 30 years ago. It was a dark and stormy night…I mean, it was raining like hell that night as Willie and I led his band members to his bus for the interview. I was the first one on the bus, followed by Willie, who was followed by his lead guitar player, Jody Payne. As I stepped onto the the bus, Willie not so subtly asked, “Hey, Toby. You got a joint?” I wasn’t exactly stunned. I replied, “No, Willie, I wish I did”. No sooner had I answered Willie’s question when Jody stepped on board and stated, “Don’t worry, I got one”. Hilarity and an interview ensued. When I asked Willie why he did so many duets, he told me that he just loved to sing, then he promptly invited me to record a duet with him! Funny thing is, I think he was dead serious. Or stoned. Or both. At the conclusion of our little pow wow, while saying our adios‘s, Willie gifted to me the leftovers of a partially smoked “tamale”. This laid back guy is as real in person as he is on TV or in a movie. This is Willie Nelson for cryin’ out loud. Willie wasn’t always a superstar. He struggled for twenty years as a singer/songwriter in order to become an “overnight sensation”. Willie has written some of the best-known country music classics ever : Hello Walls (Faron Young), Crazy (Patsy Cline), Funny How Time Slips Away (Billy Walker), Pretty Paper (Roy Orbison), Always On My Mind (Elvis & many others) Night Life (Ray Price), etc.,etc.,etc. The Red Headed Stranger is one of the most critically acclaimed albums in the history of music, period. Willie has sung with many country music legends including, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Hank Williams, Jr., Ray Price and his brother from another mother, Waylon. Besides being a prolific singer/songwriter, Willie has been in several feature films – The Electric Horseman, Barbarosa, Honeysuckle Rose and The Dukes of Hazzard. How many people do you know that would bail you out of a $16million debt to the I.R.S.? Of their own free will, without being asked? That’s what friends of Willie did for him back in the 80’s. I have a feeling that these folks knew that Willie would have done exactly the same thing for each and every one of them, if the need arose. There’s enough material on Willie that I could write a book about it, so I’m sure I left plenty out of this short post. If you’ve got a Willie story, please share it in the comments. Now, Willie, about that duet…..

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