Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson performing on stage

Willie Nelson

(b. 1933)

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Willie Nelson

(b. April 30, 1933)


Willie Hugh Nelson (born April 30, 1933)--is an American country singer-songwriter, author, poet, actor and social activist. Nelson achieved his greatest level fame during the "Outlaw Country" movement of the 1970s. He is considered in some circles as an elder statesman for country music, due in part to his social activism and his public support for the legalization of marijuana.

Willie Nelson was born in Abbot, Texas in 1933. His father worked as a mechanic, and also owned a pool hall. Young Willie took to music at an early age, writing his first song at the age of seven. In high school, he had a band called the Bohemian Fiddlers. Also, while still in high school, Nelson worked as a disc jockey for local radio stations. Willie Nelson also had short DJ stints with KHBR in Hillsboro, Texas, and later with KBOP in Pleasanton, Texas, while singing in local honky tonk bars.

After a short stint in the Air Force after high school, Willie Nelson studied agriculture at Baylor University for one year. Then, in 1956, Nelson moved to Vancouver, Washington, to begin a musical career, recording "Lumberjack," a song written by Leon Payne. The single sold relatively well, but not well enough for Willie Nelson to work as a full-time recording artist. Nelson continued working as a radio announcer in Vancouver and singing in local clubs. He sold a song he wrote called "Family Bible" for $50; the song was a hit for Claude Gray in 1960.

In 1960, Nelson moved to Nashville, the heart of the American Country music industry, but was unable to land a record label contract. nelson did manage to receive a publishing contract at Pamper Music. After popular singer Ray Price recorded Nelson's "Night Life", Nelson joined Price's touring band as the bass player. During this time playing with Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys, many of Nelson's songs became hits for some of country and pop music's biggest stars of the time. These songs include "Funny How Time Slips Away" (Billy Walker), "Hello Walls" (Faron Young), "Pretty Paper" (Roy Orbison) and most famously, "Crazy" (Patsy Cline). Nelson signed with Liberty Records in 1961 and released several singles, including "Willingly" (sung with his future second wife, Shirley Collie) and "Touch Me."

In 1965, Willie Nelson moved to RCA Victor Records and joined the Grand Ole Opry. He then recorded a string of country albums, mostly produced by Chet Atkins. He had a number of mid-level chart hits throughout the remainder of the 1960s and into the early 1970s, before retiring and moving to Austin, Texas. While in Austin, with its growing "hippie" music scene, Nelson decided to return to music. His popularity in Austin soared, as he played his own brand of country music marked by rock and roll, jazz, western swing, and folk influences. A passion for running and a new commitment to his own health also began during this period.

After this renaissance of his career, Nelson became known as one of the major players in the so-called "Outlaw Country" movement, which also featured his frequent recording partners, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser, and Kris Kristoferson.

The 1980s saw a series of hit singles for Willie Nelson, including: "Midnight Rider" (1980), a cover of the Allman Brothers song, which Nelson recorded for The Electric Horseman soundtrack; "On the Road Again" (1982) from the movie Honeysuckle Rose; and "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" (a duet with Julio Iglesias). There were also more popular albums, including Pancho & Lefty (1982, with Merle Haggard), WWII (1982, with Waylon Jennings) and Take it to the Limit (1983, with Waylon Jennings).

In the mid-1980s, Nelson, and his "outlaw" friends, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Johnny Cash formed a group called The Highwaymen. They unexpectedly achieved success, including platinum record sales and worldwide touring. Meanwhile, Nelson became more and more involved in charity work, as singing on the We are the World single in 1984 and establishing the Farm Aid concertsin 1985 to aid struggling family farms in America.

In 1990, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) seized most of Willie Nelson's assets, claiming he owed $32 million in back taxes including penalties and interest. It was later discovered that his accountants had not been paying Nelson's taxes for many years. He released The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories? as a double album, with all profits going straight to the IRS. Many of his assets were auctioned and purchased by friends, who gave his possessions back to him or rented them at a nominal fee. He sued accounting firm Price Waterhouse, contending that they put him into tax shelters that were later disallowed. The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount. His debts were paid by 1993. In 1991, Willie Nelson's son Billy committed suicide


Even into his 70s, Willie Nelson continues to tour perform in concerts and fundraisers with other major musicians, including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Dave Matthews. He also continues to record albums prolifically in new genres that embrace reggae, blues, jazz, folk, and popular music.

Willie Nelson was arrested November 26, 2010 on charges of marijuana possession by the U.S. Border Patrol in Sierra Blanca, Texas. Border Patrol agents entered Nelson's tour bus and detected the odor of marijuana. Willie Nelson, who makes no secret of his marijuana use, admitted possessing pot to the law-enforcement officers.



Studio Albums:


Album Name


And Then I Wrote


Here's Willie Nelson


Country Willie - His Own Songs


Country Favorites-Willie Nelson Style


Make Way for Willie Nelson

"The Party's Over" and

Other Great Willie Nelson Songs


Texas in My Soul


Good Times

My Own Peculiar Way


Both Sides Now

Laying My Burdens Down


Willie Nelson and Family

Yesterday's Wine


The Words Don't Fit the Picture

The Willie Way


Shotgun Willie


Phases and Stages


Red Headed Stranger


The Sound in Your Mind



To Lefty From Willie


There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight



Sings Kristofferson

Pretty Paper

The Electric Horseman


Honeysuckle Rose

Family Bible


Somewhere Over the Rainbow


Always on My Mind


Tougher Than Leather

Without a Song


City of New Orleans

Angel Eyes


Me and Paul



The Promiseland


Island in the Sea


What a Wonderful World


A Horse Called Music


Born for Trouble


The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories?

Any Old Arms Won't Do


Across the Borderline


Moonlight Becomes You

Healing Hands of Time


Six Hours at Pedernales

Copyright 1998-2010 Roger A. Lee and History Guy Media; Last Modified: 12.04.10

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Family, Career, and Personal Highlights

Ira Doyle Nelson--Father

Myrle Marie Greenhaw Nelson --Mother

Marla Mathews- 1st Wife (Married 1952-1962)--Children of this marriage: Lana, Susie, Billy

Shirley Colle--2nd Wife (Married 1963-1971)

Connie Koepke--3rd Wife (Married 1971-1988)--Children of this marriage: Paula Carlene and Amy Lee

Annie D'Angelo--4th Wife (Married 1991-Present)--Children of this marriage: Lukas Autry and Jacob Micah


1951: Graduated, Abbott High School (TX)

1954: Attended Baylor University, studying Agriculture (left college after one year)


1956-Present: Recording Artist, specializing in Country music


Military Service:

1951-1952: Air Force (discharged after nine months due to a back problem)

Bio of the History Guy


Site Map--revision in progress

 Willie Nelson Links and Sources:

Willie Nelson Official Website