Willie Nelson Part Three
Today is a perfect day for Willie Nelson Part Three, but I wonder if you feel the same. If you are reading this, then you feel the same, so read and listen to Willie Nelson Part Three
Written by Willie Nelson, “Hello Walls”, was a hit for Faron Young in 1961, and the song that gave Nelson national recognition as a songwriter. He recorded the song for his debut album … And Then I Wrote.
Nelson moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1960, but was unable to find a label to sign him. During this period he often spent time at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a bar near the Grand Ole Opry frequented by the show’s stars and other singers and songwriters. There Nelson met Hank Cochran, a songwriter who worked for the publishing company Pamper Music, owned by Ray Price and Hal Smith. Cochran heard Nelson during a jam session with Buddy Emmons and Jimmy Day. Cochran had just earned a raise of $50 a week, but convinced Smith to pay Nelson the money instead to sign him to Pamper Music. On hearing Nelson sing “Hello Walls” at Tootsie’s, Faron Young decided to record it. After Ray Price recorded Nelson’s “Night Life”, and his previous bassist Johnny Paycheck quit, Nelson joined Price’s touring band as a bass player. While playing with Price and the Cherokee Cowboys, his songs became hits for other artists, including “Funny How Time Slips Away” (Billy Walker), “Pretty Paper” (Roy Orbison), and, most famously, “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. Nelson and Cochran also met Cline’s husband, Charlie Dick at Tootsie’s. Dick liked a song of Nelson’s he heard on the bar’s jukebox. Nelson played him a demo tape of “Crazy.” Later that night Dick played the tape for Cline, who decided to record it. “Crazy” became the biggest jukebox hit of all time.
Nelson signed with Liberty Records and was recording by August 1961 at Quonset Hut Studio. His first two successful singles as an artist were released by the next year, including “Willingly” (a duet with his soon-to-be second wife, Shirley Collie, which became his first charting single and first Top Ten at No. 10) and “Touch Me” (his second Top Ten, stalling at No. 7). Nelson’s tenure at Liberty yielded his first album entitled …And Then I Wrote, released in September 1962. In 1963 Collie and Nelson were married in Las Vegas. He then worked on the west coast offices of Pamper Records, in Pico Rivera, California. Since the job did not allow him the time to play music of his own, he left it and bought a ranch in Ridgetop, Tennessee, outside of Nashville. Fred Foster of Monument Records signed Nelson in early 1964, but only one single was released: “I Never Cared For You”.
By the fall of 1964, Nelson had moved to RCA Victor at the behest of Chet Atkins, signing a contract for $10,000 per year. Country Willie – His Own Songs became Nelson’s first RCA Victor album, recorded in April 1965. That same year he joined the Grand Ole Opry, and he met and became friends with Waylon Jennings after watching one of his shows in Phoenix, Arizona. In 1967, he formed his backing band “The Record Men”, featuring Johnny Bush, Jimmy Day, Paul English and David Zettner. During his first few years on RCA Victor, Nelson had no significant hits, but from November 1966 through March 1969, his singles reached the Top 25 in a consistent manner. “One in a Row” (#19, 1966), “The Party’s Over” (#24 during a 16-week chart run in 1967), and his cover of Morecambe & Wise’s “Bring Me Sunshine” (#13, March 1969) were Nelson’s best-selling records during his time with RCA.
By 1970, most of his songwriting royalties were invested in tours that did not produce significant profits. In addition to the problems in his career, Nelson divorced Shirley Collie in 1970. In December, his ranch in Ridgetop, Tennessee burned down. He interpreted the incident as a signal for a change. He moved to a ranch near Bandera, Texas, and married Connie Koepke. In early 1971 his single “I’m a Memory” reached the top 30. After recording his final RCA single – “Mountain Dew” (backed with “Phases, Stages, Circles, Cycles and Scenes”) in late April 1972, RCA requested that Nelson renew his contract ahead of schedule, with the implication that RCA would not release his latest recordings if he did not. Due to the failure of his albums, and particularly frustrated by the reception of Yesterday’s Wine, although his contract was not over, Nelson decided to retire from music.
Outlaw country and success (1972–1989)
Nelson moved to Austin, Texas, where the burgeoning hippie music scene (see Armadillo World Headquarters) rejuvenated the singer. His popularity in Austin soared as he played his own brand of country music marked by country, folk and jazz influences. In March, he performed on the final day of the Dripping Springs Reunion, a three-day country music festival aimed by its producers to be an annual event. Despite the failure to reach the expected attendance, the concept of the festival inspired Nelson to create the Fourth of July Picnic, his own annual event, starting the following year.
Nelson decided to return to the recording business, he signed Neil Reshen as his manager to negotiate with RCA, who got the label to agree to end his contract upon repayment of $14,000. Reshen eventually signed Nelson to Atlantic Records for $25,000 per year, where he became the label’s first country artist. He formed his backing band, The Family, and by February 1973, he was recording his acclaimed Shotgun Willie at Atlantic Studios in New York City.