May 7

Blood Mary Morning: Nelson’s Struggles to Be a Better Parent

Originally released in 1970 with the RCA Records, “Bloody Mary Morning” was written by American country music artist Willie Nelson. In addition, it was produced by Atlantic Records vice-president Jerry Wexler.

Nelson was inspired by his struggles to become a better parent. Hence, he wrote the song.

The following part of the lyrics of the song focuses on Nelson saying that forgetting his wife is the reason why he is flying down to Houston.

Well, it’s a bloody Mary morning
Baby left me without warning 
Sometime in the night
So I’m flyin’ down to Houston 
Forgetting her’s the nature of my flight
Yeah I’m flyin’ down to Houston 
Forgetting her’s the nature of my flight

Blood Mary Morning: Nelson's Struggles to Be a Better Parent 1
Willie Nelson (Photo by

The song was re-released in 1974. Originally inspired by his struggles to be a “good parent,” Nelson changed the context to a man who was left by his woman.  The man then decides to go to Houston, Texas from Los Angeles, California to forget her. The concept was changed in order for it to fit the concept of the album, Phases and Stage.

In November 1973, the first re-recording session happened in Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama. Sadly, the recording did not convince Rick Sanjek, in-charge of A&R in Nashville. Hence, he persuaded Nelson to record all the tracks once again, including “Bloody Mary Morning.” His reason was the songs sounded too R&B and not Country. Consequently, the tracks were then re-recorded and released in late November in the same year.

On the other hand, Billboard defined “Bloody Mary Morning” as a “rollicking narrative.” It was one of the most successful singles of Nelson.

When Nelson Impressed Wexler with the Song

In 1972, Nelson attended a party Harlan Howard’s house in Nashville, Tennessee. He performed “Bloody Mary Morning” along with others, he planned to include on a new concept album. With his performance on the show, Nelson impressed a guest at the party. It was Atlantic Records vice-president Jerry Wexler, who had previously produced works for artists such as Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. As a result, Wexler offered him a contract to be a part of the new country music division of Atlantic. Interestingly, Nelson accepted the offer after ending his unsuccessful run with RCA.

Wexler was interested in Nelson’s music. In spite of the opening of a Country music division on Atlantic, he proceeded to offer him a contract that gave him more creative control than his deal with RCA. When Nelson was released from his RCA contract, he signed with Atlantic for US$25,000 per year, becoming the label’s first country artist.

Song Reception

Bloody Mary Morning” gained popularity in the mid-70’s. It was included in Nelson’s concept album, Phases and Stages. The song peaked at no. 17 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs and no. 26 on Canada’s RPM Country Tracks.

Furthermore, “Bloody Mary Morning” later became an essential part of Nelson’s live performances repertoire.

Watch Willie Nelson perform “Bloody Mary Morning” live in 1974.

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Bloody Mary Morning, Willie Nelson

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