INK IN THE BLOOD
A s I’ve mentioned before, I cut my teeth on country music, both the Nashville Grand Ole Opry type and “country” gospel music. My mother loved both. On Saturday nights we’d tune the 3-foot-tall Western Auto Truetone radio in to WSM in Nashville for the Grand Ole Opry but Sunday mornings brought an 8 a.m. Dallas KRLD broadcast of the original Stamps Quartet.
Mother saw that the latter was reinforced by regular attendance at a little one-room, wood frame country Missionary Baptist Church where, unsurprisingly, we sang from “song books” published by the Stamps Music Publishing Company.
I can be pretty much musically eclectic in that I loved the 1950s and 60s rock and roll and learned to jitterbug to Glenn Miller big band records. I’d drive several miles today to hear the kind of gospel music I grew up with, old traditional favorite songs.
Marching band music stirs me. Symphonic music is tolerable, but I can’t handle opera or at least I haven’t learned to appreciate it.
But, I can take Willie Nelson music just about anytime. I’ve mitigated my feelings about Willie’s personal life through the years because I’ve learned to listen closely to words he writes when composing songs and to his up-front, take-me-as-I-am approach to life.
Willie lives for his music. I’ve never known him to be rough and rowdy nor to be particularly critical. He’s gentle, kind and friendly to a fault. He’s truly a hillbilly hippie of the “Peace, Brother,” and “Live and let live” genre.
From the early 1970s to the early 1980s, I lived in Conroe. Part of the experience there was watching the development and growth of The Woodlands, a “new hometown” built in 5,000 acres by genius George Mitchell.
One of the attractions for this new hometown was a spectacular golf course, which was, of course, used to promote The Woodlands. Early in that process, an annual golf tournament was played with a prominent name sponsor—Darrell K. Royal, the legendary University of Texas football coach.
Royal was an unabashed country music fan, particularly of Willie and they were friends for many years and played golf together.
So, when The Woodlands had the Darrell K. Royal Celebrity Golf Tournament, one of the attractions was a country music show on Friday and Saturday nights. For three years running, I managed tickets to both nights of the country music show.
Celebrity golfers who were country music fans were also prominent at the tournament. One of my all-time favorites is James Garner.
The first year that Willie played in the tourney, he’d just begun to climb the country music hit charts regularly. He came on at his regularly appointed time in the Friday night music show, did 30 minutes as had other acts and sat down.
Shortly after that, at a break in the music, I availed myself of the opportunity to visit the men’s room. As I stood there at the long trough on the wall, who should walk up beside me but Willie himself and a cohort. “They don’t like my music!” he said, “I’m only gonna do 30 minutes.” Well, I eased back out to the area where the show was about to kick off again, found a Woodlands official I knew and related the statement from Willie.
A short time later, just around midnight, they called Willie back to the stage and apparently assured him his music was enjoyed and more of it was certainly in order. Willie and his band played non-stop for four hours. I loved it.
I’ve managed to see Willie one other time, although not quite as close up as a Woodlands Country Club urinal.
Willie Nelson is a great songwriter and a great entertainer. He’s one of the best lead guitar players in country music and you usually don’t find a vocalist who plays his own lead guitar in country bands. Whenever Willie and his guitar Trigger are playing music, wherever it is—a concert, a jukebox, radio or guest TV appearance—just let me know. I want to listen.