Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Willie


Texas Monthly has the most awesome cover pic of Willie Nelson for the May issue. The editors asked for Willie stories, and I actually have a few.

In the early 1950's, my parents were very good friends with another couple who owned a bar in West, Texas (the town, not the geographical locale). West is also known as the kolache capital of Texas, due to its large Czech population - who know kolaches!

The couple would book bands and musicians on the weekends, and one particular young man caught their fancy with his unique voice and style. He played their beer joint frequently. The downside was the young musician often got too deep in the suds, ending up in the drunk tank, and having hocked his guitar sometime during the night for some pocket money. They would pay his bail and get his guitar out of hock for him so he could return for another gig.

Little did they know this same trouble-maker with the terrific Texas style would someday be known 'round the globe as Willie Nelson.

In later years, my folks would never miss an opportunity to see Willie perform at Fort Worth's Panther Hall. I remember staying up late watching channel 11 to see if I could spot them in the crowd. Panther Hall seemed like a huge place to me back then; guess that's just typical of things you remember from your childhood - bigger than life.

Then, in 1974, I saw Willie in person in Austin at the Armadillo. We sat right up near the stage. It was a concert I'll never forget. Best way to hear Willie, in a small venue.

One other Willie story:

During his wild and woolly single days, Kman and his frat brothers would often catch local concerts. Once he and "ol' Hoot" were at a Willie concert. Hot evening and the beer was flowing. Kman and Hoot were backstage, courtesy of some other friend who could get them passes ( or maybe it was some chick they were flirting with, I forget). Anyway, it seems security was missing some bouncers and bodyguards and thinking Kman and Hoot (who are both big and healthy Texas boys)were part of Willie's entourage, jostled them to the front wings of the stage for crowd control and to protect Willie and band from overzealous fans.

As the concert was winding down, one of the security guys told Kman and Hoot to stay close to Willie until they could get him into his limo from the stage exit. Kman said some drunk cowboy pushed his way up to Willie and was making a pest out of himself. The security guy motioned to Kman, and he did what any good bodyguard is supposed to do, he decked the dude. Kapow!

Willie, though I am sure you have no memory or recollection of any of these "Willie Moments", you have surely been a part of our family through the years. Here's wishing you a very happy birthday, and thanks for the memories.
Posted by Picasa


Pete said...

I'm a Maine Yankee, but ya gotta love Willie. He sometimes ventures this far north and has even been sighted at L.L. Bean in the wee hours of the morning.

The only time I ever saw him live was in Tulsa in about 1977. I remember a gigantic Lone Star flag unfurling behind the band as they sang Okie from Muscogee.

There was some confusion in the audience. It was irony, people of Tulsa. Irony. Willie does that a lot.

These days I sing in a quartet that has moved beyond barbershop into doo-wop. Some of those old songs like Duke of Earl are pretty silly, but you have to believe. So Willie is my guide.

Willie can sell absolutely any song (even Frosty the Snowman) because he believes every single word while he's singing.

Not a bad way to be generally, now that I think of it.

MotherPie said...

What a legend!!! Anyone who has lived in Texas loves the guy. Central Texas produced a lot of great music. Gruene was one of the places to go. Thanks for putting up the cover.

joared said...

Reminds me of a friend's Willie story -- WN appearing in concert at a Univ. in state next to Texas. He had my friend come back stage before the show to discuss country lyrics (content of a couple books my friend wrote.) The two of them got so caught up in conversation the concert started an hour late and the audience got mighty restless waiting. My friend was concerned the temper of the crowd became so riled that they might have attacked him if anyone had found out he was to blame for delaying WN's appearance.

Anonymous said...

Willie isn't my cup of tea, so I feel like the "lonely little petunia in an onion patch", here.

; )

Cop Car

Mildred Garfield said...

I loved those Willie Nelson stories especially the one where Kman amd Hoot were appointed bodies guards and did their thing!! What a memory!!!

Cowtown Pattie said...

Jo - great tale! Why weren't you in the crowd, or better yet, with your friend backstage?

CC - aw, come on...who doesn't at least like ONE Willie tune? He wrote "Crazy" BTW.

Millie - Don't you just love the nickname "Hoot"? He is the real deal, too.

joared said...

Pattie, I wasn't in the State at the time and have never been at that Univ. -- didn't hear the story 'til later.

Texas T-bone said...

Gee, thanks. I'm starving and you have to start this out by reminding me of the yummy goodness to be had at the Czech Stop in West. *tummy grumbles in emptiness *

Kevin Fowler's song, "Don't Touch My Willie" was playing in my head while reading your post.

tracy said...

Lovin' Willie Always!

Lovin' your stories too..

DarkoV said...

"KaPow", indeed. Having seen pics of the KMan on your site, CP, I'm surprised there weren't stars and constellations around the "KaPow".

..and kolache. Yum....kolcahe are, well next to keksi, the things that keep peace in some parts of the world.