Saturday, April 29, 2023

Red Headed Stranger Things: Willie Nelson 90


Willie Nelson w. Leon Russell - Stardust Memories


Today is a great day, not least because how many people reach 90 and are still out entrancing people with what they do, having already done it for longer than most of us have been alive?

If I had him in front of me, I'd pass him the J and ask when this picture was taken... and before he could answer I'd say oh never mind, it says "1911" on the back!

We kid, we kid. That one was actually taken in the 1960s, when this bona fide hero was still just a lone songwriter in the night, trying to break through as a performer in his own right.

They say it all happened for him when he got the guitar.
That was in 1969. According to the documentary about it I watched last night -- you know you're iconic to the power of legendary when they make movies about your instrument -- he paid $750 for Trigger back then.

Considering the fact that he's probably at his birthday picnic right now playing it -- and it's been pretty much his only guitar since the day he got it, as identifiable as any axe in the history of all music -- I'd say that was a quarter thousand dollars extremely well spent.

How do you tribute Willie Nelson on his 90th birthday and avoid the clich├ęs that have been repeated our whole lifetimes? I know I'll fall short, but here goes, Honeysuckle Rose.

A figure of this magnitude becomes what they are not just by shattering the previously held boundaries of orthodoxy, but by reaching across them to fashion an appeal beyond the merely demographic.

Of course there's no way around the history, of the fact that he made his breakthrough not just on the strength of his timelessly classic songs, but by creating an aesthetic that almost singlehandedly altered the face, sound and rules of the Country music genre itself.

That he did his Outlaw thing in such a congenial, universally lovable way -- not an easy line to tread! think of Gangsta rappers! -- that crossed both he and the subgenre he invented over to a million mainstreams whilst somehow retaining 101% artistic credibility and relevancy the entire six decades.... well, that says all that anyone somehow unfamiliar with the world of Willie would need to know to start on their path to discovering what makes him one of the most beautiful musical figures of this or any lifetime.

The story, as I've heard him tell it, is that when his house burned down on that fateful day in 1969, he rushed into the burning conflagration and rescued two items: Trigger, and a pound of weed.

You could say that he altered the trajectory of Planet Earth itself using just those two things, you know?

Let's keep the trajectory altering in nice ways with this (Jesus Christ, it's beyond unbelievable) classic bootleg I have remastered and restored to the best version of itself that's ever yet existed (so far!). As if Willie Nelson's galactic-class talents weren't enough, here he is accompanied by none other than Leon Russell, with whom he had, at this time, just made a record.


Willie Nelson with Leon Russell
Capitol Theatre
Passaic, NJ
4.1.1979

CD1
01 WNEW-FM intro & walk-on
02 Whiskey River
03 Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)
04 Funny How Time Slips Away
05 Crazy
06 Night Life
07 If You've Got the Money I've Got the Time
08 Sweet Memories
09 Bloody Mary Morning
10 I Gotta Get Drunk
11 Shotgun Willie
12 Time of the Preacher/I Couldn't Believe It Was True/Blue Rock Montana
13 Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain
14 The Red Headed Stranger/Time of the Preacher (reprise)
15 Under the Double Eagle
16 Heartbreak Hotel
17 Trouble In Mind
18 A Song for You

CD2
01 Come On In My Kitchen
02 Detour
03 Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
04 Amazing Grace
05 Uncloudy Day
06 Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line outro
07 One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)
08 Blue Skies
09 Georgia On My Mind
10 All of Me
11 Stardust Memories
12 Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys
13 I Can Get Off On You
14 Luckenbach, Texas
15 Whiskey River (reprise)
16 Only Daddy That'll Walk the line
17 WNEW-FM talk
18 Good Hearted Woman
19 Sioux City Sue
20 White Lightning
21 If You Can Touch Her At All
22 Truck Drivin' Man
23 Whiskey River (reprise & fade)

Total time: 2:05:34

Willie Nelson - guitar & vocals
Leon Russell - piano & vocals
Jody Payne - guitar & vocals
Mickey Raphael - harmonica & percussion
Bee Spears - bass
Paul English - drums & percussion
Rex Ludwig - drums & percussion
Marty Grebb - saxophone, vocals & percussion

master off-air reels from WNEW-FM in NYC
retracked, repaired & remastered -- with start of CD2 patched from an off-air master cassette -- by EN, April 2023
788 MB FLAC/direct link


I wanna say that both of the designs we made for this occasion -- our "Shotgun Willie" one and the luscious custom drawing by my childhood pal Adam G. with the cursive script shown below-- are up and running on the Teespring page for all y'all that can dig commemorating this man's latest milestone trip around The Sun with a bit of US-made swag!
That finishes up April for me, and I could think of no better way before we May than to pay homage to the monumental Willie Nelson, born this day in 1933! And still crazy, out there making the night life the good life with the energy of someone a third his age! You knew he was right when he told you it was funny how time slips away.--J.