Happy Birthday Willie Nelson: Live At The Grand Ole Opry In 1965

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Willie Nelson is an icon. The hair, the headband and the hemp (going for the alliteration there) are all so quintessentially Willie — not to mention his trusty guitar Trigger — it’s hard to think of the legendary singer-songwriter without identifying him with those things that have become synonymous with the name Willie Nelson. But before he was the iconic figure we know him as today, Willie was a clean-cut Nashville songwriter associated with another “H” word: “Hits.”

While Willie started performing at an early age, it was writing hit songs for others that really got his career going in the 1950s and ‘60s. Faron Young would record “Hello Walls,” fellow Texan Ray Price — who Willie toured with as a bassist in the former’s Cherokee Cowboys — lived the “Night Life” and Billy Walker had a hit with “Funny How Time Slips Away.” But perhaps the most famous of Willie’s songs performed by another artist is “Crazy” by the great Patsy Cline.

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All of those songs would appear on Willie’s 1962 debut album — the aptly named, …And Then I Wrote — and he would also perform a medley of those hits at the famed Grand Ole Opry in 1965. Clean-cut and in a suit, Nelson sits on a stool with no guitar and sings — in that instantly recognizable voice — the hits he penned and also mentions the names of the artists who originally recorded them. Yet another “H” word associated with Willie is “heart” and when he comes to the final song, “Crazy,” Nelson gets emotional when he mentions Cline as she had tragically died on March 3, 1963 in a plane crash.

Today (April 29) marks Willie Nelson’s 87th birthday. To celebrate, watch him on a medley of his hits for the Grand Ole Opry in 1965 below:

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JamBase Live Video Archive
JamBase Live Video Archive