At the end of the month, the Red Headed Stranger will be celebrating a big day! Willie Nelson, one of the original Outlaw Country stars, turns 89 years young on April 29th, and he’s celebrating with a new album. Qello Concerts is celebrating, too - with a collection of concerts and documentaries about the beloved singer/songwriter including The Willie Nelson Show with Ray Charles, Willie Nelson Live at iTunes Festival, Austin City Limits, and many many more.
Qello Concerts celebrates one of country music’s biggest legends
It’s almost a foregone conclusion that everyone loves Willie Nelson! He’s hard not to like because Willie has always stood up for what he believes in; he’s one of the most accomplished songwriters of all time (having composed more than 2,500 songs, of which many were hits for other artists); and he’s an avowed iconoclast, having been a pot activist for decades and getting into trouble with the taxman (hence the badass reputation). There is another aspect to Willie, though - that he is one of the nicest people in music, period. According to Texas Monthly, fellow country star, Kris Kristofferson, claims that out of all of the artists he knows, Nelson is the most comfortable around fans, and numerous family, friends and business acquaintances also attest that Nelson is incredibly personable, no matter who you are or where he is.
From The Red Headed Stranger to Shotgun Willie
Willie, who wrote his first song at age seven, went on to perform with Bob Will (the inventor of Western swing music) as a young teen. But as early as age five, young Willie got his first nickname, Booger Red, because he was so nervous about reciting a poem for his class that he picked his nose until it bled, earning him the cute moniker. He’s had others over the years, including The Red Headed Stranger, which was the song title of a Western ballad originally intended for Perry Como, who passed on it due to a publishing dispute. The song ended up in Willie’s hands. He’s also been known as Shotgun Willie, and he explained the origin of the name to The Daily Beast like this, “[My daughter’s husband] beat up my daughter, and so I went over there and beat him up.” The country legend continued, “He jumped in his car to leave, and I shot his tires out. The police came by and said, ‘What happened?’ and I said, ‘Well, I guess he ran over a bullet’”. Willie also goes by The Ambassador to Weedville - I think we can all figure out why.
Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival Tour
Willie shows no signs of slowing down - the accomplished artist is planning to go out on tour once again, having just announced his Outlaw Music Festival Tour for 2022, featuring Jason Isbell, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Steve Earle & the Dukes, the Avett Brothers, Allison Russell, ZZ Top, Gov’t Mule, Larkin Poe, and many more. “The Outlaw Music Festival Tour has always been about family and friends coming together for a great day of music and fun, and with the amazing group of artists joining us, this year promises to be our most special Outlaw Tour to date” Nelson said in a statement.
Unfortunately, one of Willie’s closest bandmates won’t be on tour with him anymore. His sister, Bobbie, who played piano in his band for over 50 years, passed away at 91 years old in early March. She was a very, very important part of Willie’s life - as the two of them grew up under the care of their grandparents (Alfred and Nancy, who both studied music courses through the mail from the Chicago Music Institute), and both of them got into music at the same time - they even released a memoir together called “Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of the Family Band,” in 2020.
Over the years, Willie played in many many bands, including groups with names like Bohemian Polka, the Cherokee Cowboys, and Bud Fletcher and the Texans - but it was as a solo artist that he found the most success, and his music seemed to resonate with people from all walks of life, not just country fans. How many other artists can duet with Kermit The Frog, Julio Iglesias, and Snoop Dogg without missing a beat?
Trigger, Willie Nelson’s guitar
Willie is not the only one in his close entourage with a creative nickname - his guitar also has a name, and it’s almost as famous as Willie is. Many would argue that Willie’s guitar, Trigger (named after Roy Rogers’ horse), is the most famous acoustic guitar in the world! Trigger, by-now-a-very-beat-up A Martin N-20 nylon-string acoustic with the serial number 242830, was made in 1969 for Willie, as his prior guitar had been stepped on by a drunk concert goer. According to Guitar.com, “Trigger wears the scars of more than 50 years of life on the road. The frets are all original but have worn down, meaning some notes thump or buzz. Rather than fixing the issue, as is standard procedure, the artifacts have become part of Trigger’s aging sound through the years. Just as our voices age over time, the tone of Trigger can be tracked over decades of recordings and live performances.” Trigger has also been there for Willie offstage as well: word has it that he saved Trigger from a burning house (along with a bag of weed), but then when he was facing IRS problems, he re-recorded some of his greatest hits solo (just him and Trigger), and all the proceeds went to pay back his debts, and then some!
When not playing music, Willie had an active life. In 1950, he joined the US Air Force, and he went on to work as a cotton picker, saddle maker, DJ, and vacuum salesman over the years. Music, however, was always in his heart - it was the thing that kept him relevant, passionate, and inspired - it also rewarded him with a nomination to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993 and as a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1998. Some much to celebrate, Big Willie Style!
Willie Nelson's greatest songs LIVE on Qello Concerts!
This month, we celebrate the country legend at Qello Concerts with a unique collection featuring titles like:
Filmed at the Austin Opry House and out on location, this Willie Nelson special features great performances by Willie and his band, who are joined by special guest Ray Charles for duets with Willie Nelson on six songs.
Recorded at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles in early 2004, featuring an extraordinary lineup of guest artists including Joe Walsh, Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan, Shelby Lynne, Carole King, Rickie Lee Jones, Keith Richards, and Jerry Lee Lewis, among many others).
Legends in Concert is a collection of archived performances and interviews from throughout his career and kicks off with a sweet rendition of the Elvis classic Heartbreak Hotel, along with Leon Russel.
This Willie Nelson’s performance was recorded in hi-fidelity in London, UK, in 2014.
These two videos were recorded in 2003, featuring performances from Willie, along with Neil Young and Crazy Horse, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow, Brooks & Dunn, Emmylou Harris, Los Lonely Boys, Hootie & the Blowfish, Billy Bob Thorton and Trick Pony.
This unique film features legendary performances by Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ray Charles, Beck, Alabama Shakes, Wilco, Pixies, and Radiohead. This film highlights the PBS series’ evolution, proving that after 40 years, Austin City Limits is more relevant now than ever before.