Willie Nelson — or Shotgun Willie, as he is fondly called — is a legend in the country music genre. The American Outlaw Country singer was born in the early ’30s and wrote his first song at the young age of seven. His career started quite early as he began touring locally as a high schooler with the Bohemian Polka band as their lead singer and guitarist.
Before his first album, …And Then I Wrote, which he released in 1962, he had served in the US Army for a short period before his discharge due to back problems. He also dropped out of school to focus on his music career. His passion and consistency over six decades cannot be overlooked — which has triggered this trip down memory lane.
Following that successful debut album in 1962, Willie signed with RCA Victor and joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1965. Most photos of Willie in the ’60s showed the singer in a suit, all smiles. There is no doubt that he had a thing for suits at the time — an iconic 1962 photo of him in a plaid jacket, holding up his debut album is one we can’t get over.
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His First Movie Appearance Was In The Late ’70s
Flash forward to the early ’70s and the singer moved to Austin, Texas, where he picked up performing again, especially at the Armadillo World Headquarters. He signed with Atlantic Records and went all-in on Outlaw Country, a sub-genre of country music. There he released 1973’s popular Shotgun Willie, his sixteenth album; followed by 1974’s Phases and Stages. In 1975 he made another switch, this time to Columbia Records, where he recorded 1975’s Red Headed Stranger and Wanted! The Outlaws.
The latter he recorded with outlaw country pioneer Waylon Jennings, his wife Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser. Willie and Johnny Cash performed an iconic duet the same year. The two stars have a throwback photo from the performance, both playing the acoustic guitar.
His first movie appearance was in the 1979 movie, The Electric Horseman, where he played Wendell- sidekick to Sonny Steele, acted by Robert Retford. Of course, Willie sang in this movie and made his performance memorable with the line- “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” He acted in over ten films after that, like Barbarosa (1982), Wag the Dog (1997), etc.
New Hairstyle For The ’80s
Moving forward to the ’80s, Willie, who was 47 at the time, released Honeysuckle Rose, which was a hit, followed by successes like On the Road Again, To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before, and Pancho & Lefty. He went on The Highwaymen, with fellow singers Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson. The ’80s marked the era of a new style for Willie: The famous long braids came out to play, with the singer looking handsome as ever!
Shotgun Willie Had A Financial Crisis In The ’90s But Came Back Stronger
Willie hit a rough bump in the ’90s, dealing with debt and some financial crisis. Despite this, the diligent icon did not stop releasing music. He released albums annually into the early 2000s, even exploring other genres like reggae, blues, jazz, and folk.
His duet with Toby Keith, Beer for My Horses, topped the Billboard hot country songs charts in 2003. The same song won the Best Video category in the 2004 Academy of Country Music Awards. Many other recognitions followed this in the early 2000s, certainly a relief from the tough time in the ’90s.
What Is Willie Up To Now?
During the 2020 pandemic, he raised funds for those affected financially by the crisis with a series of concerts held via live stream. He helped raise over $700,000 in the first two concerts, after which he had the third titled Come and Toke It. This third concert was cannabis-themed, and that is no surprise because the singer likes marijuana and is even a marijuana activist.
The legend, who turned 89 recently, is still making much influence. To celebrate his 89th birthday, the star released his most recent studio album, A Beautiful Time, produced by his longtime partner Buddy Cannon. Cannon co-wrote six songs on the album. The renowned singer is not showing signs of retiring soon, as his website shows that this year is pretty booked! He has more concerts coming up for the rest of the year, even until 2023.
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