On the Road Again
Multiple Grammy award-winning American country singer/songwriter and actor Willie Nelson, nicknamed Shotgun Willie, Red Headed Stranger and The Ambassador to Weedville, achieved the zenith of his career in the 1970s during the “outlaw country” movement. First scoring a breakthrough with the 1973 album “Shotgun Willie,” the former radio disc jockey was launched to stardom with “Red Headed Stranger” (1975), which produced the Grammy winning “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” which also became Nelson's first No. 1 hit as a singer. He won his next two Grammy Awards for the songs “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” a collaboration with Waylon Jennings, and “Georgia on My Mind” (both 1978).
In the early 1980s, Nelson released the big country hit “On the Road Again,” which he wrote for the motion picture “Honeysuckle Rose” (1980), in which he also starred as country singer Buck Bonham. The song netted a Grammy Award and an Oscar nomination. After “Always on my Mind” (1982), which won a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance, Nelson took home a 2003 Grammy award for “Mendocino County Line,” a duet sung with Lee Ann Womack, and a 2008 Grammy Award for “Lost Highway,” a collaboration with Ray Price.
Nelson was inducted in to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001. He became an inductee of the Texas Film Hall of Fame in 2002 and was honored with the Grammy Legend and Lifetime Achievement Award. He also received CMA Awards, ACM Awards and American Music Awards.
Nelson joined Neil Young and John Mellencamp in 1985 to create the first Farm Aid concert to help farmers. The Farm Aid organization has raised over $30 million. Nelson also saved the church and grocery store in his native home of Abbott, Texas.
In 1994, Nelson made headlines with his arrest for marijuana usage after some pot was found in his car. The case was later dropped. Twelve years after the incident, he again became the center of attention when he was arrested in Louisiana for cannabis possession. He received six months probation.
Nelson has been married several times. He has three children, including Billy (died in 1991) with first wife Martha Jewel Matthews, whom he was married to from 1952 to 1960. He shares two daughters with third wife Connie Koepke, who lived with him from 1972 to 1998. Nelson and present wife Annie D'Angelo, whom he married in 1991, have two sons.
Childhood and Family:
Willie Hugh Nelson was born on April 1933, in Abbott, Texas, to Myrle and Ira D. Nelson, who was a mechanic and pool hall owner. After his parents' divorce, he and his older sister Bobbie were raised by grandparents William Alfred Nelson and Nancy Elizabeth Smothers, who first introduced the kids to music. Willie received his first guitar at age 6 and started writing songs a year later. By the time he was 9, he had played in a local band.
Willie attended Abbott High School, he worked as a disc jockey for local radio stations and played the local club circuit whenever he had time to do so. After graduating, Willie joined the U.S. Air Force and remained there for nine months until back problems became an obstacle. He returned to school by attending Baylor University, but quit his agricultural studies after a year. Willie relocated to Vancouver, Washington, to give his musical career a shot.
On October 27, 1952, Willie married Martha Jewel Matthews. They divorced in 1960 after having three children, Lana in 1953, Susie in 1956 and Billy in 1958. He then married Shirley Collie in 1961, but they divorced ten years later in 1971. The marriage produced no children. Willie's marriage to Connie Koepke lasted from April 1972 to 1988. The couple shares two daughters: Paula (born in 1969) and Amy (born in 1973).
Willie married present wife Annie D'Angelo, who was a makeup artist, on September 16, 1991. She is the mother of Willie's sons, Lukas Autry (born in 1989) and Jacob Micah (born in 1990).
On December 25, 1991, Willie lost his 33-year-old son Billy, who committed suicide by hanging himself in Nashville, Tennessee. Before the tragedy, Billy underwent 30-days of treatment for alcohol dependency.
Under the guidance of his grandparents, young Willie Nelson developed a love for music while growing up in Abbott, Texas. Playing guitar at age 6 and writing his first song at age 7, the music prodigy made his professional debut at age 9 with a local polka band before joining Bohemian Fiddlers, which was fronted by Bud Fletcher. He played the guitar and his sister Bobby played the piano. At the time, Nelson's music was greatly influenced by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.
A radio disc jockey while in high school, Nelson again pursued the profession after he dropped out of college. He moved to Vancouver, Washington, in 1956 and released “No Place for Me,” a self-financed album, later that same year. Included in the album was the Leon Payne-written single “Lumberjack,” which was a moderate hit. Nelson then worked as an announcer at a local radio and managed to get singing assignments in clubs. During that same time, he continued writing songs and successfully sold “Family Bible,” which went on to become a hit for Claude Gray in 1960.
In 1960, Nelson headed to Nashville. He did not score a record label contract, but did land a publishing deal with Pamper Music. It was the song “Night Life” that won Nelson attention from Ray Price. After Price recorded the song, which became a big hit in 1963, Nelson was recruited as a bass player for Price's touring band, Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys. It was during the tour that many of Nelson’s songs became hits. Among them were Patsy Cline's “Crazy,” Billy Walker's “Funny How Time Slips Away,” Faron Young’s “Hello Walls” and Roy Orbison's “Pretty Paper.”
Despite his successful career as a songwriter, Nelson was unable to boost his singing career. His first album with Liberty Records, released in 1961, was largely ignored by both critics and listeners.
After appearing at the Grand Old Opry, Nelson signed with RCA Victor Records in 1965. In 1970, after his home in Tennessee was destroyed in a fire, he moved back to his native state of Texas and settled in Austin. It was in Austin that Nelson enjoyed a revitalization thanks to his unique country sound which blended jazz, rock and roll, western swing and folk.
Nelson signed with Atlantic and released what would become his breakthrough album, “Shotgun Willie,” in 1973. He followed it up with “Phases and Stages” in 1974. He wrote all the songs on the album. “Phases and Stages” spawned the popular single “Bloody Mary Morning.” With the release of “Red Headed Stranger” (1975), his first album with Columbia Records, Nelson eventually rose to star status. The album was a big hit and produced the popular cover “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” which marked Nelson's first No. 1 hit as a singer. The song also brought Nelson his first Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
Known as an outlaw country singer, Nelson verified his outlaw image with the album “Wanted! The Outlaws” (1976), which he recorded with Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser. He also released such hit singles as “Good Hearted Woman” “If You've Got the Money I've Got the Time,” “Remember Me,” “I Love You a Thousand Ways,” “Uncloudy Day” and “Something to Brag About.”
In 1978, Nelson released two platinum albums: “Waylon and Willie” and the Booker T. Jones-produced “Stardust.” He picked up a 1978 Grammy for Best Country Performance by Duo/Group W/Vocals, an honor he shared with Jennings for the popular song “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” and earned an additional Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance that same year with Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell’s “Georgia on My Mind.”
Nelson branched out to acting in 1979 with a supporting role opposite Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in the Sydney Pollack comedy “The Electric Horseman.” He went on to have a leading role in the 1980 musical “Honeysuckle Rose.” In addition to acting, he also wrote songs and music for films. The song “On the Road Again” won Nelson an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song and a 1980 Grammy for Best Country Song. He snagged his next Grammy in 1982 for the ballad “Always On My Mind.” Also that same year, he was seen making his TV acting debut in the biopic “Coming Out of the Ice,” costarring John Savage, before being seen in 1986's “Red-Headed Stranger.”
Nelson released two albums in 1984 called “Without A Song” and “City of New Orleans.” Both albums enjoyed success. He gained furthered prominence with the popular ballad “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” a collaboration with Julio Iglesias. The following year, Nelson founded The Highwaymen with Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. The group quickly earned notice with the album “Highwayman” (1985), which spawned a huge hit of the same name. In 1987, he co-won a Bronze Wrangler at the Western Heritage for his work in the TV film “Stagecoach” (1986), in which he starred as Doc Holliday, opposite music collaborators Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. He also served as the executive producer.
Although Nelson dealt with personal problems in the early 1990s, including a long-running dispute with The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the death of his son, Billy, Nelson maintained a strong presence in show business. Several of his albums in the 1990s, namely “Across the Borderline” (1993), featuring guest appearances from Bob Dylan, Sinéad O'Connor, David Crosby, Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson and Paul Simon, and “Healing Hands of Time” (1994), became Top 20 Country hits. In 1996, he recorded “The Warmth of the Sun,” the Beach Boys' song in 1964 that was included in the “Stars and Stripes Vol. 1” album. The song featured the harmonies and backup vocals from the Beach Boys. As for acting, Nelson had roles in such movies as “Another Pair of Aces: Three of a Kind” (1991, TV), “Dust to Dust” (1994), “Gone Fishin'” (1997), “Half Baked” (1998) and “Outlaw Justice” (1999, TV). He picked up his next Bronze Wrangler award in 1997 for his work in the TV series “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” in which he made guest appearances as Marshall Elias Burch.
In the new millennium, Nelson could be seen acting in “Stardust” (2000), “The Journeyman” (2001), “The Big Bounce” (2004), “The Dukes of Hazzard” (2005), “The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning” (2007, TV) and “Blonde Ambition” (2007). He was handed a Grand Jury Prize for Best Male Actor for his performance in ”Fighting with Anger” (2007), an action film directed by Sam Um. He has also continued to produce albums. Nelson won a 2003 Grammy for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals for his collaboration with Lee Ann Womack on the song “Mendocino County Line.” He went on to collect Grammy nominations for his albums “Outlaws & Angels” (2004) and “Mendocino County Line” (2006).
More recently, in 2008, Nelson released the critically acclaimed album “Moment of Forever.” The song “Lost Highway,” a collaboration with Ray Price, won a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals. Nelson is set to play roles in the upcoming movies “Surfer Dude” (2008), “Shoot Out of Luck” (2008), “Beer for My Horses” (2008) and “The Boom Boom Room” (2008).
Grammy: Best Country Collaboration With Vocals, “Lost Highway” (with Ray Price), 2008
New York International Independent Film & Video Festival: Grand Jury Prize, Best Actor- Male, “Fighting with Anger,” 2007
CMT Flameworthy Video Music: Video Collaboration of the Year, 2004
Grammy: Best Country Collaboration With Vocals, “Mendocino County Line” (w/Lee Ann Womack), 2003
Grammy: Best Country Collaboration With Vocals, 2002
CMT Flameworthy Video Music: Video Collaboration of the Year, 2002
CMA: Vocal Event of the Year, 2002
Grammy: Lifetime Achievement, 1999
Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler, Fictional Television Drama, “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” 1997
TNN/Music City News: Minnie Pearl Award and Living Legend, 1995
Grammy: Legend Awards, 1990
Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler, “Stagecoach,” 1987
American Music: Favorite Male Artist, 1984, 1986, 1987
American Music: Favorite Single, 1986
ACM: Single of the Year, 1984, 1985
CMA: Vocal Duo of the Year, 1983, 1984
American Music: Favorite Album, 1983
ACM: Album of the Year and Single of the Year, 1982
American Music: Favorite Male Artist, 1982
CMA: Album of the Year and Single of the Year, 1982
Grammy: Best Male Country Vocal Performance, “Always on my Mind,” 1982
Grammy: Best Country Song, “On the Road Again,” 1980
ACM: Entertainer of the Year, 1979
CMA: Entertainer of the Year, 1979
Grammy: Best Country Performance by Duo/Group W/Vocals, 1978
Grammy: Best Male Country Vocal Performance, “Georgia on My Mind,” 1978
American Music: Favorite Single, 1977
CMA: Album of the Year and Vocal Duo of the Year, 1976
Grammy: Best Male Country Vocal Performance, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” 1975