April 21, 2010
Mr. Willie Nelson has always had a soft spot in my heart, a very soft spot. I first fell in love with that voice when my dad bought a generic Best Of Willie Nelson audio cassette tape, probably from a TV info-mercial. It was the late 80s, Best Ofs and info-mercials were big. My dad would play it as we drove around in his big-ass brown and beige dually truck. I insisted that we play “On the Road Again” 18 million times, which took awhile considering we had to wait for the tape to rewind each time in order for the song to repeat. But that voice! It was something else, and I totally felt it even as a 9-year-old. It was like a gorgeous, wise old man. Like a god almost. But a nice, nurturing god. I developed a strange (non-sexual) obsession with old men, old men shoes (like Willie’s signature Wal-mart sneakers), old men clothes (pleated, work jeans and pearl-snap shirts and worn-out t-shirts), etc. when I became a teen-ager, and I’m 100% sure it was due to Willie Nelson’s aura of cool-as-shit. Plus, he looked like my red-headed, freckled grandpa whom I adored.
When I grew up to be a sparkly-country-eyed college girl in New York City, I wasn’t off the boat from Oklahoma more than a week before I began to see the downside of the big city that I had always idealized. It was a stiff and dirty martini, and I just wanted a Coors Light. Then I saw a poster in the live music section of the Village Voice for a Willie Nelson concert. He was playing in a little mid-town bar; the show was 18+ to enter and I was 18.5! Also, he was playing with Merle Haggard (whom I honestly didn’t know except as the other voice in “Poncho & Lefty”) and his little sister Bobbie per usual on piano (“Whenever our band plays, Sister Bobbie is the best musician on the stage,” Willie says). So I called my dad, told him the deal, and asked if he would buy me a ticket. He said of course, be careful, I love you, princess.
I hiked a couple of miles up the island of Manhattan at dusk, and I got to the bar as early as I could. I brought my camera and a pocket tape recorder to record the show for my 5 roommates who were like, “Dude, Spring, you’re crazy. Some old trucker is gonna kidnap you!” And I was like, “Um, I’ll sell my firstborn if the Willie Nelson concert tonight is not the safest place in all of NYC for a young country girl to go by herself.” And they were like “Whatever. Wake us up when you get home.”
Inside the bar, I was standing at the back of a small crown of about 30 middle- and upper-aged folks that all looked like they rode motorcycles and drank Coors Light. They looked like people I had never seen in NYC before. They were wearing denim, the ladies had big perms and highlights in their hair, and they all had beer bellies. They looked like they were from Holdenville, Oklahoma, and clearly so did I. I wasn’t standing at the back of the crowd long when a buzzed-up 50-year-old angelic barfly touched me on the shoulder and asked me if I had ever been to a Willie Nelson show before. I giggled and wrinkled my nose, raised my eyebrows and said nope. She grabbed my hand. Then, “Excuse me, coming through, we got a virgin here!”
And so I watched my first Willie Nelson show in a smmmmmokey bar in NYC at the foot of the stage, and then I waited after the show for him to autograph the tape that I made and… then he kissed me on the cheek! And I haven’t washed it since
I don’t care if his new album Country Music (released on 4/20 by Rounder Records) is being sold at Starbucks. I don’t care that he is a bit financially irresponsible, a bit of a pothead (seriously, people, legalizeit!), and/or a philanderer. He’s TOPS in my book!!!