The country music will never be complete without the one and only Willie Nelson. The outlaw country king is one of the biggest names in music, no questions asked.
And as most fans already know, Shotgun Willie has lived a quite colorful life. Here are some things you probably might not know yet about the country legend.
10. He Used The Same Guitar For More Than 10,000 Shows
Willie Nelson’s famed guitar, Trigger, has been with him for 50 years and over 10,000 shows.
“He’s had a couple of problems. We’ve had to go in and do some work on the inside, build up the woodwork in there a little bit over the years. But Trigger’s holding up pretty good,” Nelson said.
Nelson bought the guitar in Nashville in 1969 from fellow guitarist named Shot Jackson. Since he considers his guitar to be his steed, he named his guitar after American singer Roy Roger’s famous horse.
9. He Was Only Seven Years Old When He Wrote His First Song
Willie Nelson started writing music at a very young age. In his 2004 interview with Rolling Stone, he recalled writing his very first song: “Back when we used to take music lessons from our grandmother, we’d go through lessons, and if we’d get the lesson right that day she’d take a gold star—a little star, about the size of your finger, with glue on one side—and she’d stick it on the sheet of music, which meant you’d done well.”
He continued, “So I wrote this song with the line ‘They took a gold star away from me when you left me for another, long ago.’ I’d never been left by anybody, so it was kind of funny.”
8. He had his First appearance at five years old
Willie Nelson recited a poem when he was only five years old for his first-ever public performance. But since he was so nervous about reciting the poem, Nelson picked his nose until it bled, in which he earned the nickname “Booger Red.”
7. He ran into his burning house to save his weed
When Willie Nelson came home to find his house in flames in 1969, he madly dashed into the burning home to save one thing.
“By the time I got there, it was burning real good,” the country icon told People, “but I had this pound of Colombian grass inside. I wasn’t being brave running in there to get my dope — I was trying to keep the firemen from finding it and turning me over to the police.”
The incident marked a turning point in his life as well as his career. He decided to relocate to Austin, and dramatically changed his sound and started sporting the long-haired look that eventually became his trademark.
6. He Wrote The Song “On the Road Again” on an Airplane Barf Bag
Willie Nelson revealed that he was once on an airplane with producer Sydney Pollack and Honeysuckle Rose’s movie director Jerry Schatzberg. Pollack and Schatzberg were looking for songs for the movie, and they started asking Nelson if he had any idea.
“I said, ‘I don’t know, what do you want the song to say?’ I think Sydney said, ‘Can it be something about being on the road?'” Nelson recalled. “It just started to click in my head. I said, “You mean like, ‘On the road again, I can’t wait to get on the road again’?” They said, ‘That’s great. What’s the melody?’ I said, ‘I don’t know yet.'”
The song went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1981.
5. He Used to be a Bible Salesman
Before Willie Nelson became a singer-songwriter, riding the radio waves, he used to sell everything door to door – from Bible, encyclopedias to sewing machines. This is in addition to his job as a disc jockey at a local radio station.
4. Willie Nelson reportedly has an estimated net worth of $25 million
The country icon, though, received one of the highest tax bills in history in the early 1980s, after federal investigations found that he had invested in a tax shelter that the IRS ruled illegal. Nelson was at $16.7 million on the line.
The star made a unique deal with the IRS that some of his album’s revenue, “The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories,” would be going to his debt. He ultimately paid everything off in 1993.
3. He is a big fan of Django Reinhardt
Willie Nelson is a big fan of a jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt, and said he had played as much Django’s songs as he could. “Well, he was the greatest guitar player ever. Period. I had been an admirer and fan of his since the first time I heard him,” Nelson said.
“You know Django only had two fingers on his left hand that he played with, the rest of his hand had been hurt in a fire when he was around 16 or 17 years. Someone made a remark that said, ‘Willie sounds like Django with one finger.’ I thought that was a great compliment.”
2. He Had an Album That Spent Years on the Country Music Charts
Willie Nelson’s album Stardust in 1978, featuring Nelson-ized renditions of pop standards like “Unchained Melody” and “Georgia on my Mind,” has spent two years on the Billboard 200. But what’s even more impressive is that it stayed a total of 540 weeks or a total of over ten years on various country music charts.
1. He Retired In 1972
In 1972, Willie Nelson had to pay $14,000 to buy out his contract so that he could retire to Austin, Texas. However, his withdrawal from the music business didn’t last long. And the Okie from Muskogee is not slowing down anytime soon.