The Nelson family (Generation I)
I’ll admit I was definitely late to the Willie Nelson party. Like around 50 years late. My college friend Woody used to go on and on about him, showing back up at school from Houston after every break with some worn-out Willie albums and a couple cases of Lonestar longnecks, and we’d sit around listening to the nasal warbling and acoustic picking that had him paying homage and had me checking my watch (the Lonestars, however, I had no quarrel with). I just didn’t get it. Maybe I associated Nelson too much with the cornball Julio Iglesias duet ‘To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before’ or even the over-played ‘On The Road Again’, and less as Shotgun Willie and the Red Headed Stranger, one of the true pioneers and icons of the Outlaw Country music genre that’s become my absolute favorite in the last half-decade. He seemed old to me then, and yet somehow sprightly to me now, a virile 84 years young and singing glib lyrics appropriate to his current time of life like from his jaunty, most recent 2017 single, ‘Still Not Dead’, whose opening line dryly declares “I woke up still not dead again today.” And that beat-up old Martin acoustic guitar called “Trigger” that Nelson obtained in 1969, rescued from a house fire later that year, and plays in its battered condition to this day, well that’s gone from garbage to vintage.
Of course Willie’s known nearly as much for his lifetime of prolific smoking as for his songwriting – long ago he declared that for him cannabis culture is simply a way of life, and in 2015 he actually created his own hemp brand, Willie’s Reserve. So I chose this carefree 2012 tune as perhaps most emblematic of both his interest and his attitude (and fittingly, it also features another of history’s most ravenous reefer role models, Snoop Dogg). What could be more Willie than the lyric “Roll me up and smoke me when I die.”