Willie Nelson Contest
Ok, here’s my ‘Willie Nelson Bus Story’…
Back in late December ’95, Willie and Leon Russell played a ‘number’ of dates at the Roach-oops, I mean Coach House, in lovely and historic San Juan Capistrano, Colli-fornia. Just the two of them trading songs-no band, no hype, just two incredible songwriters with two incredible voices blowing our minds for two shows each night.
I’m a musician/songwriter/photographer (this is all relevant to the story, I promise) and of course a big fan of both artists, so I attended almost every performance, and brought along my trusty Nikon most nights as well. After the first or second night (it’s all a bit ‘hazy’) I had some shots blown up, including a couple double exposures (I still do it live, in ‘real time’ though now everyone thinks I’m using Photoshop) to give to the guys and see about an autograph.
The manager of the club at the time was a friend of mine, and after seeing the images introduced me to Connie Nelson, who loved them, and told me ‘Willie had to see these!’
Sure enough, after the late show she brought me out to the bus, escorted me on, introduced me, and left.
So there I was-just Willie on one side of the table, Leon on the other, me maybe one foot away on the seat across from them. It was dimly lit, and but for the ever-present soft rumbling of the bus engines, very quiet, and a bit ‘heavy’ feeling, like we were about to embark on an all night poker game, or some illicit enterprise…
Willie had a nice pile of real stinky herb, and was in the process of rolling a fairly good sized ‘white man’s joint’, and I showed them both the photos, gave them each copies, and each one signed a couple.
As we passed the joint we talked music, and I told them what I do (multi-genre artist-folk/americana, reggae) and Willie told me about the reggae album he was working on at the time. He popped in a cassette (remember them?) and played me an early version of his cover of Jimmy Cliff’s ‘The Harder They Come’, which was quite good! Thinking back, I actually think it was better than the version he ended up releasing a couple years ago…
Anyway, we had a real nice chat, the two of us, as Leon just sat there with the hat, the beard, the glasses, kind of resembling a very stoned ‘Cousin It’ from the Addams Family-that is, assuming one could see either of their visages-and never really spoke. (Hey, with a voice like his, you don’t need to speak, just keep on singin’!)
When it seemed like it was time to ‘wrap it up’ (you did want weed references) I pulled out a tape of some of my recent songs and handed it to Willie, who graciously said he’d check it out. A few years down the road, on my next ‘Willie’s Bus Adventure’, I reminded him of our cherished time together and asked if he’d ever listened to the tape.
“Probably not”, he said. Him being Willie, at least he’s honest!