In celebration of Mr. Americana and Texas treasure Willie Nelson’s 75th birthday.
Hi Willie, do you remember me? Not a chance in hell I’m sure. But anyway, it must have been the early to mid 90’s. Can’t remember for certain, but I do vividly recall a concert you performed in Waco during that time period at the famed Melody Ranch. Of course sometimes there’s a fine line between fame and infamy. Locals referred to the honkytonk as the “Felony Ranch”. It was about that time I started writing songs of my own. And I fancied myself as the next John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Shel Silverstein etc. Willie – well he wasn’t such a bad tunesmith himself. Here was a guy who wrote such classics as Crazy (Patsy Cline), Nightlife (Ray Price), Hello Walls (Faron Young), Funny How Time Slips Away, Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground, and On The Road Again just to name a few. He even starred in a film called Songwriter.
But the sad truth was that my songs were three chords and a mess. The songs about failed farmers, fashion victims, and fast, freaky women were simply horrendous. But thinking that they were great, I made my way to Willie’s concert with cassette tape in hand – my ultimate goal to hopefully give the tape of my songs to one of Willie’s trusty roadies who would then pass it on to the red headed stranger himself. Then of course Willie would listen to them right away and tell me how great they were. Well I was pretty brazen back then and just a little naÃ¯ve. So after surviving two Whiskey Rivers, (for those uninitiated in all things Willie, Whiskey River is normally the opening number and sometimes the closer) both literally and figuratively, I made my way to the edge of the stage where Willie was signing autographs. This was my chance! I would give Willie the tape face to face; there would be no need to contend with a grumpy roadie after all. After he signed several photos and album covers, I approached Willie with tape in trembling hand. He started to sign it but stopped and with a nod and a wink (this must have been the secret sign among songwriters I heard about) and carefully placed my tape on a small table in the back of the stage. Surely a good omen. I was elated, I was in songwriter heaven. But before I knew it, Willie was soon gone and on the road again.
Well it’s been several years now and Willie…you never got back with me. But that’s ok. Even bad songs deserve a proper burial. My hope is that you threw the tape out of your bus and in the haze and blaze of it all, it landed somewhere in the beautiful Texas hill country. That is, if the landfills there are indeed beautiful. My songs are better now. Age and experience will do that to a songwriter. You’ve proven that with your latest effort, Moment Of Forever. You’re as good now as you’ve ever been. Happy 75th Willie, may the songwriting gods grant you 75 more.