When you’re just a few weeks short of your 89th birthday, it doesn’t take much to set the rumor mill in motion. Four Winds Casino’s recent announcement that Willie Nelson’s forthcoming gig has been canceled did exactly that, prompting concerns and gossip over the country and western legend’s health.
However, Nelson has confirmed via his website that the show will go on, and other dates on his forthcoming tour, including an 89th birthday bash with long-time collaborators and solid gold heroes in their own right George Strait and Randy Rogers, will continue as scheduled.
The original outlaw
Nelson is as famous for his brushes with the law as he is for his music. He admits he’s been busted for cannabis more times than he can remember, most recently in 2010 by Arven West, the Sherriff of Hudspeth County, Texas. Now, Sherriff West has a reputation almost as legendary as that of Willie.
He’s well known for busting big names with inappropriate smoking habits on his patrols at and around the Sierra Blanca border crossing, having previously apprehended Snoop Dogg, Fiona Apple and Nelly, to name just a few.
Willie has always managed to avoid getting into serious trouble, however, usually getting away with a warning or a fine. That must have done wonders for his confidence – how else can anyone explain him having the sheer audacity while visiting the White House in the late 1970s to go up onto the roof and light up a joint?
Years later, lifelong friend Jimmy Carter finally admitted that the story happened during his tenure. Not only was it absolutely true, but Jimmy was also joined up there by the president’s son. These days, attitudes are very different. The White House story is greeted with smiles all around and we read on sites like https://www.cannaconnection.com about the health benefits of weed.
Now some of these are strongly supported anecdotally while others seem a little fanciful. Yet although clinical trials are still ongoing to establish just what the real health benefits of weed might be, we can say one thing for sure. It certainly hasn’t done the music industry’s best-loved octogenarian any harm.
In fact, he has even gone so far as to release his own brand of CBD products called Willie’s Remedy. He says the potion is based on a formulation his wife has been making in the kitchen for years – it’s certainly a new spin on the old “just like momma used to make” cliché.
A family affair
It’s natural when you’re well into your 80s that you want to spend as much quality time as possible with your family, especially when there is such legendary home baking going on. Willie Nelson certainly shares that feeling – the only difference is that he tends to enjoy his family time on stage or in the recording studio. When he first formed his backing group The Family in the early 1970s, it consisted of contemporaries who were like brothers to him. Today, he takes things a little more literally.
Willie’s sons Micah and Lukas and his daughters Amy and Paula are all talented musicians in their own rights and can be heard on Willie’s latest album, called simply The Willie Nelson Family. Yet another new release, A Beautiful Time, is scheduled to hit the stores at the end of April. On it, you can hear Willie and his next-generation harmonizing to an eclectic mix ranging from new material to old standards, and with a few Beatles covers thrown in for good measure!
But it is in their live performances that Willie Nelson and the family really shine. Nelson’s sons and daughters appear regularly with him on stage, alongside regulars like harmonica hero Mickey Raphael and guitarist Sturgill Simpson. Also let’s not forget Willie’s sister Bobbie, a constant presence there at the piano. She turned 91 last month and shows no more appetite for slowing down than her kid brother.
During the lockdown, the Nelson family streamed several live gigs from Willie’s ranch, but the whole family, Bobbie included, are getting back on the road in 2023. The first port of call will be two nights at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville on Mar 10 and 11. From there, it’s a whistlestop tour with dates in New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio, Peoria and Lexington, before a very special night at the end of April.
That will be when Willie and their family are joined on stage by two other legends, George Strait and Randy Rogers. The three have collaborated dozens of times over the years, and are all staunch supporters of Farm Aid.
Geoge Strait has been nicknamed the King of Country and has amassed an incredible 60 number one hits in his 45-year career. He’s famous for packing out stadia and set a new record for the largest crowd at an indoor concert when he played to a crowd of 104,793 people at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tx back in 2014.
The Randy Rogers band, meanwhile, is a set up very much in a style that Willie Nelson will appreciate. It’s another family-based band built around Randy Roberts and his wife Chelsea. Ranfy turns 40 this year, so is young enough to be Willie Nelson’s grandson. It’s comforting to know that the future in county music is in safe hands!
Willie tends to favor more intimate gigs these days, so it will be quite something to see him and his family alongside other such giants as George and Randy. In fact, they’ll be among the first to christen the all-new Moody Center in Austin, Texas, which is officially opened in April.
It’s no coincidence that the gig happens to be on a very special day. Messrs. Strait and Rogers will be there to lend their country chops but more importantly, to wish Willie a happy 89th birthday. The new arena looks amazing and is well worth checking out. We can’t think of a better time to do so, so why not head along and say howdy for yourself on April 29?