Willie Nelson

April 29, 1933

Willie Nelson Artistfacts

  • Nelson thought he was born on April 30, 1933, but he discovered late in life from an elderly relative that he was actually born just before midnight on the 29th and the doctor didn't record his time of birth accurately. Now, Willie celebrates both days.
  • He and his sister Bobbie were raised by their paternal grandparents, who proved to be very influential in developing their love for music. Their grandparents taught them guitar and piano, respectively, with the help of mail-order music lessons.
  • Nelson wrote his first poem in church at the age of five and recited it for his debut public performance. He began playing guitar (a Sears Stella) a year later and shortly thereafter began putting melodies together with his poems. By the age of nine he was playing in a band with his sister.

    Willie recalled his first poem during an interview with UK's Uncut magazine. It went:

    What  are you looking at me for
    I ain't got nothing to say
    If you don't like the looks of me
    You can look some other way.
  • Willie didn't always pay his taxes, and in 1990 the IRS moved in, seizing his bank accounts and real estate holdings to claim $16 million in back taxes. Nelson worked to settle his IRS tax debt by releasing a double-album called The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories? >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Nelson's son is Lukas Nelson of the band Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. In our interview with Lukas, he talked about taking 6 months off from smoking weed, stating: "I needed to clear my head and think about things and get back on track in my own life and deal with some personal things. Weed is nothing, man. You can smoke weed or not smoke weed and you're the same guy, in my opinion. I see that first hand, because my dad's been smoking it every day for 40 years and he's all right."
  • In 1960 Nelson moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and later signed a publishing contract with Pamper Music. His $50-a-week salary was paid from a raise that fellow songwriter Hank Cochran was due to get but had sacrificed so Willie could be signed.
  • Nelson's debut album 1962's And Then I Wrote, included "Crazy," and "Hello Walls," songs that would initially become huge hits for Patsy Cline and Faron Young respectively.
  • Nelson has been playing the same Martin Classical N-21 guitar since 1969. He calls it Trigger after Roy Rogers' horse. The guitar has been signed by friends, family, lawyers, and Johnny Cash. Nelson gets it repaired every year at the same shop in Austin, Texas.
  • Nelson's 1978 LP of pop standards, Stardust, remained on the country album chart for 540 weeks - from its release until 1988. The record was later inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame class of 2015.
  • In 1979, Nelson made his big-screen acting debut in The Electric Horseman, starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. The following year he starred in Honeysuckle Rose, in which he played a veteran country musician performer.
  • Nelson - along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp - organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 in an effort to help family farmers. The Farm Aid organization continues to work to keep small farmers on their land and in 2011 Nelson was inducted into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame for his support of family farms.
  • He's a proponent of simplicity in the studio. "Get in there. Sing the song. Get out," he wrote in his memoir It's a Long Story. "My kind of singing isn't meant to be perfect. It's meant to reflect the imperfections of a human being like me."
  • When he was 14 Willie Nelson premièred a show by Bob Willis and his Texas Playboys. He made enough money to pay Willis, but earned nothing for himself, except a lesson in professionalism from a legend.
  • On top of smoking dope, Willie Nelson used to get through two to three packs of cigarettes a day. After suffering pneumonia several times, Willie knew he had to quit one or the other. He chose to quit tobacco.
  • In 2007, Ben & Jerry's created "Willie Nelson's Country Peach Cobbler," a combination of peach ice cream and cinnamon-sugar shortbread pieces, in honor of the Red Headed Stranger.
  • Once when visiting President Jimmy Carter, both Willie Nelson and the president's son, James Earl Carter III, were caught smoking weed on the roof of the White House.
  • Willie Nelson owns a 700-acre ranch in Texas where 70 horses roam free; all of which he rescued.

Comments: 1

  • Jerry from Benton, LaHappy Birthday Willie!! Both of days!!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Thomas Dolby

Thomas DolbySongwriter Interviews

He wrote "She Blinded Me With Science" so he could direct a video about a home for deranged scientists.

Songs Discussed in Movies

Songs Discussed in MoviesSong Writing

Bridesmaids, Reservoir Dogs, Willy Wonka - just a few of the flicks where characters discuss specific songs, sometimes as a prelude to murder.

Rick Astley

Rick AstleySongwriter Interviews

Rick Astley on "Never Gonna Give You Up," "Cry For Help," and his remarkable resurgence that gave him another #1 UK album.

Lace the Music: How LSD Changed Popular Music

Lace the Music: How LSD Changed Popular MusicSong Writing

Starting in Virginia City, Nevada and rippling out to the Haight-Ashbury, LSD reshaped popular music.


WeezerFact or Fiction

Did Rivers Cuomo grow up on a commune? Why did they name their albums after colors? See how well you know your Weezer in this Fact or Fiction.

Jesus In Pop Hits: The Gospel Songs That Went Mainstream

Jesus In Pop Hits: The Gospel Songs That Went MainstreamSong Writing

These overtly religious songs crossed over to the pop charts, despite resistance from fans, and in many cases, churches.