Willie Nelson: Biography
Willie Nelson's life, times, his music, and how he got where he is today. Some of the songs he made and where they hit on the charts.
Williw Nelson was raised by his grandparents and worked cotton fields until he was ten, when he began playing guitar in local German and Czech polka bands. He joined the Air Force and later attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Before dropping out, he sold Bibles and encyclopedias door-to-door, worked as a disc jockey and musician, and taught Sunday school.
While teaching Sunday school in Fort Worth, Nelson was also playing honky-tonk clubs on Saturday nights. When his parishioners demanded he choose between the church and music, he chose the latter.
With the $50 he earned from his first published song, "Family Bible," Nelson went to Nashville where songwriter Hank Cochran got him a publishing contract. Eventually he had a recording contract of his own, but his weathered tenor and his taste for sparse backup were
When his Nashville home burned down around 1970, Nelson moved back to Texas, continuing to record, write, and perform. In 1972 he held his first annual Fourth of July picnic with young and old rock and country musicians in Dripping Springs, Texas -- an event that would soon become a local institution, with the Fourth of July named Willie Nelson Day by the Texas Senate in 1975.
With a hit remake of Fred Rose’s "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain", the album went gold. In 1975 Nelson shared the Outlaws compilation LP with Waylon Jennings, Tompall Glaser, and Jessi Colter, three other country musicians ignored by the Nashville establishment. It was the first platinum country LP. Nelson and his band, which included his older sister Bobbie on piano, toured constantly through the Seventies and were a major concert attraction through the South and West before the rest of the country caught on. 1978's "Willie and Family Live" went double platinum.
Meanwhile, Nelson’s songwriting tapered off; he did an album-length tribute to Kris Kristofferson and made duet albums with George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Ray Price. For Honeysuckle Rose Nelson wrote one new song, "On the Road Again," that became a #1 country single and a #20 pop hit. In the Eighties Nelson had multiplatinum albums with "Always on My Mind" and "Greatest Hits" while maintaining his prolific output of albums and films. The first Highwaymen collaboration with Kristofferson, Jennings, and Johnny Cash #35 went gold -- as did the 1985 "Half Nelson", though it reached only #178 on the pop albums chart.
Willie Nelson was born on April 30, 1933 in Abbott, Texas