He is the champion of American songwriting. An outlaw, a Nashville cat, a hog farmer, a movie star, a jogger, a cowboy, an American icon, founder of Farm Aid, a honky tonk man, and a granddad. He wrote two of American's greatest ballads--"Crazy" and "Nite Life"--in the same afternoon. "Crazy" frustrated Patsy Cline, "Nite Life" gave Ray Price a second career, and his album of standards produced by Booker T. Jones changed the way rock and rollers considered classic pop music. His break-through song was a forgotten 30-year old country ballad by Fred Rose, "Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain," which was recorded live in two takes with just guitar and bass.
We're talking about Willie Nelson, of course, and last night in Nashville, CMT taped a special Crossroads episode in honor of Willie's 80th birthday at Third Man Records with our very own Jamey Johnson
in attendance along with Neil Young, Sheryl Crow, Leon Russell, Norah Jones, and an all star band that included Epi's Fats Kaplin
and new Jack Casady
bass devotee and bandleader Dominic Davis. The performances were loose but emotional with dead-on commitment to the moment. And when Willie's slash-and-burn Django-inspired solos found their mark, they hit home in a big way. (Certainly Willie is the best--some might say only--friend a Baldwin amplifier ever had.) We won't spoil all the surprises but one thing we can tell you is the show was taped live with only one song getting a re-take--something virtually unheard of in this no-warts-showing era of Nashville. Look for the television spectacular in the very near future and keep an eye out for our behind-the-scenes report soon. Happy Birthday, Willie!