Today is the birthday of one of the favorite sons of Texas; Willie Nelson. Fairly successful as a songwriter in the early 1960′s, Willie wrote such classic songs as “Hello Walls”, “Crazy”, and “Funny How Times Slips Away”. His success as a songwriter didn’t translate as a performer, and Willie’s records did not sell well. After a decade of futile attempts to make it in the home of country music, Nashville, Willie retired in 1972 and headed home to Austin. The influx of hippies to Austin in the mid-70′s encouraged Willie to come out of retirement and start performing again. But this time, it would be different;he would do it without the support of Music Row in Nashville. The rest, as they say, is history;
After Willie came out of retirement, Nashville wasn’t interested in his brand of sparse “Western” music. After a long struggle Willie found the backing to record “The Red-Headed Stranger.” After hearing what Willie recorded, the music executives debated long and hard about releasing it. It was sparse, and some tracks were just Willie and a guitar. Nothing like the hit-makers in Nashville were releasing at the time. They had invested a lot of money for Willie to record his vision, and considered it a disaster when he delivered it. They finally released it, and just hoped to make their money back. The Red-Headed Stranger would go on to change country music, spawn the “Outlaw” Country Music Era which put country music in the national spotlight, displaced Music Row as the place to cut a country record, and put the music scene of Austin on the world map. Forgoing the “Wall Of Sound” so popular in country music at the time, Willie and his band of outlaws sent country music back to its traditional roots, no more violins, they went back to using ‘fiddles’. Now, almost a generation later, “The Red-Headed Stranger” is considered as important to Country Music as “Sgt. Pepper” was to Rock music. Willie now is considered one of the most relevant songwriters in any genre.
Before Willie, if you wanted to make it in country music, you went to Nashville, and hoped to please the executives on Music Row. After Willie, all you have to have is talent, and perseverance. And more hit records now come out of the Austin scene than Nashville.
And just for a few giggles today;