Willie Nelson has become a legend in country music. His creative composition has landed No. 1 successes for scores of musicians, including over two dozen for himself, and his recorded output is “so extensive,” as music critic Bob Allen puts it, “as to puzzle all but some of the most committed discographers.”
Willie Hugh Nelson was raised in a Baptist church in rural Texas, where he and his sister, the longtime pianist Bobbie, sang gospel music.
Willie’s grandparents, who raised him and his brother, enrolled him in piano lessons through mail when he was six years old. At age seven he composed his first song, and by age nine he was performing with a local band.
After deciding that picking cotton wasn’t for him, Willie spent his teenage years and into his early twenties performing in dance clubs and nightclubs with local German & Czech polka bands.
Despite his fame and fortune (local women even formed a fan club dedicated to Willie Nelson), he remained a student at Abbot High and participated in football, basketball, and baseball.
He supplemented his income by securing gigs for other performers—including some of his own musical heroes—at nearby venues.
In 1960, when his song “Family Bible” became a success for Claude Gray, Nelson uprooted and settled in Music City. Willie got a job as an assistant writer for indulge Music thanks to fellow songwriter Hank Cochran.
And he quickly became one of the best in the business, with massive hits like “Crazy” (Patsy Cline), “Funny The way Time Slips Away” (Billy Walker), and “Hello Walls” (Faron Young).
However, his offbeat phrasing and plain vocals were not well received, and Nelson grew tired of being ignored and looked for a place to where he could assert himself.
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Profession And Struggle
In 1972, Willie relocated back to Texas. After signing alongside Columbia albums in 1975, he was given entire creative authority over his albums, at which point he grew out his hair and beard and recorded with his own band.
Recorded at October Sound Productions in a Dallas suburb with the aid of engineer Phil York, his first album for the label, The Red Faced Stranger, was a basic concept effort. Part of the album’s success can be attributed to Nelson’s stripped-down rendition of “Blue Eyes Weeping in the Rain” by Fred Rose.
His “Outlaw” style of country music has already become a phenomenon. Stardust, a 1978 album containing classic pop songs, sold more than four million copies, gained him a new consumers, and continues to be viewed as one of his most influential works.
Subsequent albums by Nelson revealed his varied talents and extensive interests, including interactions with artists such as Merle Haggard as well as Waylon Jennings.
Nelson has won an abundance of trophies, notably Eleven CMAs, 12 GRAMMYs, & 6 ACMs. He was given the Country Music Association of America Hall of Fame Award in 1993, the Grammys Lifetime Achievement Achievement Award on 1999, and the Gershwin Prize by the Libraries of Congress in 2015.
CMT ranked him fourth on their list of the “Greatest Men of Country” in 2003. In addition, in 2008, Rolling Stone ranked him as the 88th greatest singer of all time because of his unique vocal style, which had previously been seen as a weakness.
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Although he first gained fame as a country singer, Willie Nelson quickly became a household name in the pop music world as well. He took musical risks even while he was at the height of his fame. Instead, he drew inspiration from several sources, including classic pop.