July 15

Willie Nelson Tip His Hat To The Wee Small Hours in The Song “Night Life” 

In the late 1950s, Willie Nelson– who would one day become Nashville’s hottest star – was struggling with financial issues. He worked at his school as a guitar instructor and sang at Houston’s Esquire Ballroom, in which he would take a thirty-mile commute. But in that very moment, one of his best songs was born – “Night Life.”

The Strange Kind Of Song That Reflects Willie Nelson’s Life

Willie Nelson wrote this very unique composition as he reflects on his wild and crazy life. 

One night, on his way home in Pasadena, Texas, from playing in a club, Nelson took a closer look at folks that normal people would not notice on the streets. These are the winos and junkies, the hookers and pimps, the street workers and loners, the cops and hoods, and the lonely drifters who take advantage of the night to hide their sadness. 

The very vivid portraits Nelson observed in the late evening became the inspiration for “Night Life.”

He recorded it and gave it to Pappy Daily, but it was rejected. Thus, Nelson released his recording on another studio. Pappy Daily warned Willie that they will sue him if he releases his record with another studio. Either way, Willie gave it to another studio, but he changed the title of the song to “Nite Life.” Moreover, Willie said that it was written by Paul Buskirk and the Little Men featuring Hugh Nelson. However, Nelson’s single was not commercially successful.

In 1963, Ray Price cut the tune and included it in his sixth album of the same name – which became his first record to hit the charts. With a voice that’s so perfect for the song’s bluesy sound, Price’s version of “Night Life” earned a commercial country appeal. Eventually, it was relegated to the “B” side of Price’s cover of Hank Cochran’s “Make The World Go Away.” While “B” sides rarely chart at all, it also racked up some numbers, peaking at No. 28. 

Even though Price’s “Night Life” failed to generate much heat, its fire did not die easily! Soon enough, fans would request the song in almost all of Price’s shows. Other acts eventually started to pick it up for both album and single cuts. George Jones and Waylon Jennings released their version in 1979, off Jones’ album “My Very Special Guests.”

You can listen to “Night Life” in the video below.


Willie Nelson

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