Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Full Nelson

Welcome to Wednesday and a very special tribute to an absolute icon of American song.
There's nothing to really say about him that hasn't been said more eloquently elsewhere, other than he (and perhaps Tony Bennett) might be the oldest living treasures of American music. Beginning in the mid-1950s and all the way to now -- I was just looking at his tour dates for May, and friends just saw him play last month here in the Bay Area -- he is one of the few remaining constant figures.
Probably one of the most universally respected and revered musicians of all time, Willie Hugh Nelson has seen it, done it, heard it, played it, and smoked it all. That he is 82 today seems almost irrelevant... he is ageless. He plays with the passion and intensity of someone a quarter of his age and I truly hope he lives to be 182. Maybe by then he'll actually look and seem 80.
I could go on about the career that has him in several Halls of Fame, the iconic songs he's written, the activism on behalf of US small farmers, the champion advocacy for the sacred herb going back decades, the collaborations with other monumental artists, and back again. I mean, he kicked off one of the greatest music-related TV programs of all time, didn't he?
He sure looks young there, huh? That picture is from 40+ years ago and the premiere, pilot episode of Austin City Limits, like Willie still going strong after all these years. It was filmed in Austin, Texas on October 17th, 1974 as the Red Headed Stranger was touring his tremendous Phases & Stages opus, and it's (ridiculously) never been officially issued. It's often thought of as one of, if not the, best episode in the history of that legendary show. And it's today's share, direct from a VHS tape of the U-matic master.
Willie Nelson
"Austin City Limits" pilot
Studio 6A
LBJ Communications Bldg.
University Of Texas @ Austin
Austin, TX

01 Whiskey River
02 Stay All Night
03 Bloody Mary Morning
04 Redneck Mother
05 Okie from Muskogee (Bee Spears - vocals)
06 Funny How Time Slips Away
07 Crazy
08 Devil In a Sleeping Bag
09 Phases and Stages
10 I Still Can't Believe You're Gone
11 It's Not Supposed to Be That Way
12 Good Hearted Woman
13 Pick Up the Tempo
14 Will the Circle Be Unbroken
15 When the Roll Is Called
16 Mountain Dew
17 A Song for You
18 Turn Out the Lights
19 Nelson Family Jam
20 Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms

Total time: 59:25

Willie Nelson - guitar, vocals
Jody Payne - guitar, vocals
Bee Spears - bass, vocals
Bobbie Nelson - piano, vocals
Mickey Raphael - harmonica
Paul English - drums

NTSC DVD from a Hi-Fi VHS tape recorded from the KLRN-TV (now KLRU) master
I found it an astonishing coincidence that Willie's middle name also belongs to another amazing musical luminary, Hugh Hopper, who passed away several years ago but would have been 70 today. Amazing as well that a life of legend and prolific music such as Hugh's would be circumscribed by his birthday mate and today's honoree, a still-vital figure of almost Olympian status as both a man and musician. We'll get to Hugh Hopper next April 29th, but here's wishing Willie Nelson the best possible 82nd Earthiversary, and long may he ride.--J.

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