January 16

Patsy Cline’s Hit Song “Crazy” Was A Willie Nelson Original 

The country classic “Crazy” has long been associated with Patsy Cline, but most probably don’t know that this was penned by the legendary country singer-songwriter Willie Nelson.

Behind The Scene

When Willie Nelson arrived in Nashville in 1960, he was a 27-year-old ex-DJ and bar musician with a talent that didn’t quite fit in the country genre. His melodies were more complex than the usual and familiar sounds, his phrasings too offbeat and artsy for the Nashville ears’ liking. So, his music was almost always misunderstood. 

That was the same barrier that he encountered with his song “Crazy” (which he wrote in less than an hour). As he described it, “Not that ‘Crazy’ is real complicated; it just wasn’t your basic three-chord country hillbilly song.”

Thankfully, he had Billy Walker and Owen Bradley. Walker, who recorded his song “Funny How Time Slips Away” without any hesitation, talked him up to other artists, including Patsy Cline. She wasn’t really a big fan of “Crazy” and wanted the track Walker recorded. 

It was her producer, Bradley, who convinced her to try it. She ended up recording “Crazy” and making it one of the genre’s biggest hits (and one of the most successful Willie Nelson songs). The song peaked at number two on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles and then crossed over to the pop chart at number 10. 

The Demo Sessions

During their first session, which took four hours, Cline hit a wall as she struggled to get a handle on the song. That and also because she still hadn’t warmed up to the song at that point

But it wasn’t surprising that she had a difficult time. Willie Nelson’s original version, which was released on his 2003 album Crazy: The Demo Sessions, was, as David Freeland of American Songwriter called it, “slow and syrupy.” 

His phrasing was all over the place – a signature characteristic of Nelson’s style because he liked to fool around with the sound. Sometimes, he was ahead of the beat, and then there were times he was behind it. He stretched out syllables and, at the same time, cut some too short. He even sounded like he was reciting the lyrics. 

Nevertheless, Bradley saw its potential. And after hours of picking on the song, he and his team finally nailed it. Three weeks later, in a single take, Cline delivered. And the rest is history. 

Take a listen to Willie Nelson’s version of “Crazy” in the video below. 


Willie Nelson

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