Willie Nelson

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The late 1960s and 1970s saw the resurgence of a more traditional country sound. The Nashville sound, by 1970, was well-worn, and had merged into the pre-British Revolution pop culture in many areas.  Southern Country Rockers such as The Outlaws, The Marshall Tucker Band, David Allan Coe, The Charlie Daniels Band, and others took country to a new, higher level. Without a doubt, though, it was the outlaws who defined this era in country music.
My what a good looking fellow he is!!!
Born in Abbot, Texas, on April 30, 1933, Willie Nelson was raised by his grandparents after his own parents had separated. His grandparents taught him some chords and by his teens he was becoming proficient on guitar. After his discharge from the Air Force in the early '50s, Nelson took a job hosting country shows on a Fort Worth station, doubling at night as a musician in some rough local honky-tonks and, whenever he could, he was jotting down songs.

When he finally made his way to Nashville and found a job in Ray Price's band as a bass player, he found that he was finally playing his songs. Price, a huge name of that era, made Nelson's "Night Life" his theme song (more than 70 artists have since recorded "Night Life"). Faron Young cut "Hello Walls," and Patsy Cline "Crazy," both in 1961, and Willie himself recorded "The Party's Over."

After poaching most of Ray Price's band from him, Nelson went on the road, and got remarried, settling in Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and Nashville. Besides recording 18 albums in three years, he also helped the career of Charley Pride, featuring him on his show in the deepest South during the racially sensitive years of civil rights.

During the '60s, the smooth Nashville Sound was in its ascendancy and Willie found himself becoming increasingly disillusioned with big business methods, hankering to make his mark as a singer rather than as a songwriter and preferably on his own terms.

Nelson's music in the early and middle 1960's is credited with sparking the "outlaw" or progressive country music movement. His biggest hits, however, came later, in the 1970s. After leaving RCA (with the help of Neil Reshen, who later became his manager), Nelson signed with Atlantic, an established label new in country music.

Willie reconciled hip and redneck musical interests and helped lead a new explosion of interest in country music, teaming up with Waylon Jennings to top the country charts with "Good Hearted Woman" in 1976, and to be featured on country's first certified platinum album, the "Wanted: The Outlaws" compilation. Nelson recorded his most popular (and arguably his best) album in 1978 with Jennings, Leon Russell, and Ray Price entitled "Stardust," a collection of Tin Pan Alley standards.

Strangely enough, Nelson can also be credited with starting the cross-over movement, with his 1975 pop hit "Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain." Two of Nelson's other pop/country hits, "Always On My Mind," and "On the Road Again," also fueled the Urban Cowboy movement. Included here is a classic Willie Nelson track, "Nothing's Changed, Nothing's New."

Refusing to be tied down to commercial considerations, Nelson has recorded such diverse album projects as "Stardust," "The Troublemaker" (a gospel set), "To Lefty From Willie" (a tribute to Lefty Frizzell), "Angel Eyes" (featuring jazz guitarist Jackie King), and his acclaimed return to mainstream audiences in 1993, "Across the Borderline" (produced by Don Was, and featuring Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and others).