January 13 2021

Folsom Prison

On this day, January 13 in 1968, the “Man in Black” played two shows at Folsom Prison. He was backed by June Carter, Carl Perkins, and The Tennessee Three. The live recordings from these performances would find themselves on an album later that year.

In May 1968, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison was released by Columbia Records. The album consisted of 15 tracks from Cash’s first performance that winter day at Folsom and two from the second.

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison was a hit. The album reached number one on the country charts. This album was a turning point in Johnny Cash’s career as he had seen a downturn due to his drug abuse problems.

Johnny Cash first found an interest in Folsom Prison while serving in the Air Force. His unit watched the 1951 film, Inside the Walls at Folsom Prison. Watching this film, was what inspired Johnny Cash to write the song, “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Inmates from all across the country could relate to Johnny Cash’s perception of what life as an inmate might be like. Some of these inmates wrote to Cash asking him to play for them at their prisons. The first prison Johnny was able to oblige this request was at Huntsville in Texas. Home of Texas death row. Way back in 1957.

Cash later would record other albums from inside prison walls. In 1969 he recorded At San Quentin. 1973 would see Johnny Cash record from a prison in Sweden called, Österåker Prison. From a prison inTennessee in 1974, Cash would join with Linda Ronstadt, Roy Clark, Foster Brooks and the Tennessee Threeto record the album, A Concert Behind Prison Walls.

Cash is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 90 million records worldwide. His genre-spanning music embraced country, rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel sounds. This crossover appeal earned him the rare honor of being inducted into the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.-Wikipedia

“Life is the question and life is the answer, and God is the reason, and love is the way.”

– Johnny Cash

The world needs more Johnny’s do what you love and love what you do and love people and follow your dreams.

Pancho.

November 29 2020

Timeless Preacher

Yesterday, @WhiskeyRiff asked on Twitter, IF? you could only listen to one country artist who would that be? Many of Whiskey’s followers chose Willie Nelson. In my opinion he is the clear choice. Willie has miles and miles of music. So many hit songs, multiple albums, and cross genre successes. At least one wouldn’t get board of listening to his pure voice and his magical chords from the famous guitar Trigger.  

My question today is okay- so it is a no brainer to listen to Willie for the rest of my God given life. But? What if I could only listen to one Willie Nelson Album?

My pick:  The Red Headed Stranger.

Red Headed Stranger is a concept album by Willie Nelson. It was the eighteenth studio album for Nelson. He recorded the album in January 1975 at Autumn Sound Studios in Garland, Texas. The Columbia label released the album in May of 1975.

It was the time of the preacher When the story began

Willie’s contract with Columbia Records gave the artist complete creative control over his works. Columbia executives were unsure of this new album, they felt like it was a demo album. As per Willie Nelson’s contract which cited his total creative control, the Red Headed Stranger was released in it’s original form. No further production needed.

With the choice of a lady And the love of a man

The album’s poetic lyrics along with its arrangement were well received by country music and mainstream audiences. The album has been certified multi- platinum. It has made Willie Nelson who he is today. The Texas Outlaw musician, Willie Nelson is still one of the most recognized artists in country music.

Today, Rolling Stone’s ranks the album at #183 on their list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album ranks #1 on CMT’s 40 Greatest Albums in Country Music.

Chet Flippo once wrote in Texas Monthly about the album, an article titled MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE, AND WILLIE.

“Willie Nelson’s latest album is more than good country music, it’s almost gospel.”

Chet Flippo

Flippo goes on to say, “Of all contemporary songwriters, he has most effectively observed and interpreted life around him.”

Chet Flippo describes the Man- Willie Nelson:

“the master of despair, the poet of honky tonks, the chronicler of personal apocalypse”

Chet Flippo

How he loved her so dearly He went out of his mind

The first hit single from the album was “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain.” It is among the many songs from the  Red Headed Stranger album that were not penned by Willie himself. In October 1975 The song would become Willie Nelson’s first #1 Hit.

Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” was written by songwriter Fred Rose. The original recording of the song was by Roy Acuff. The song has also been recorded by Hank Sr. and Charley Pride. It is Willie’s version that is most recognized. “Blue Eyes” revived Willie Nelson’s career in country music. The 2 minute and 18 second song made Willie Hugh Nelson an icon and a legend among his peers.

Rolling Stone’s ranking of the song is #48 on it’s list of 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time.

If my Grummy were alive today, she would fight tooth and nail to say the song should have been named #1

When she left him for someone That she’d left behind

The Decision made by Willie to leave Music Row for the outskirts of Austin, Texas and his managers negotiation of the contract with Columbia most definitely defined the album. Willie’s new found self control of his own music was his saving grace.

Willie no longer focused on image, he was able to focus on his sound. His sound reflects his raising in Abbott Texas. It is influenced by Mexican and Czechoslovakian music. His childhood neighbors of Mexican and Czech descent introduced him to such scores of music from their homelands. His raising in the church stuck a gospel soul into his head.

In 1986 Willie Nelson took the Red Headed Stranger onto the big screen. His Movie The Red Headed Stranger took five years for Willie to fund. He mortgaged property In order to raise money for the wardrobe and props. Towns were built on land that adjoined Willie’s private golf course in Austin.

The movie’s director, Bill Wittliff explained to Life Magazine in 1987:

“In a funny kind of way, I just simply stepped into Willie’s dream…. It’s (the movie) has become an obsession for me.”

Bill Wittliff

If I only could listen to only one Album for the rest of my life, Red Headed Stranger is the album for me. This Grammy Award Winning Album featured some of  the best musicians in country at the time of it’s release. The powerful storytelling songs and instrumentals are among my own list of The Greatest Songs of All Time. Willie Nelson is a showman and an all star musician. No one is ever going to replace his style of outlaw music.

“Time of the Preacher”

It was the time of the preacher When the story began

With the choice of a lady And the love of a man

How he loved her so dearly He went out of his mind

When she left him for someone That she’d left behind

Songwriter- Willie Nelson Release Date -May 1, 1975

The Red Headed Stranger is a perfect example of Willie’s style. In his Willie Way, the pitch perfect self-produced sound can never be duplicated.

Pancho.

October 23 2020

Stardust

Everybody has a favorite. Willie Nelson has always been mine. Out of all of his Albums, I have a hard time deciding which one is the best, but I do know that Stardust is near and dear to my heart.

In 1977, Willie Nelson decided to record a collection of American pop standards. He chose ten songs from among his personal favorites. The list started with Stardust. Nelson also picked for the album “Georgia on My Mind“, “Blue Skies“, “All of Me“, “Unchained Melody“, “September Song“, “On the Sunny Side of the Street“, “Moonlight in Vermont“, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and “Someone to Watch Over Me“. This would become the album Stardust. Nelson’s twenty-second studio album was born.

Executives at Columbia Records feared that the album would be a failure. They were unsure of success with a pop and jazz record.

Willie had already established himself in the Outlaw Country scene. He had built a huge following in and out of Nashville with his previously successful albums Red Headed Stranger and Wanted! The Outlaws.

Wanted! The Outlaws is a compilation album by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser, released by RCA in 1976. It was the first country music album to be certified Platinum.

Stardust only took 10 days in the recording studio.

The album was produced by Booker T Jones. At the time, Jones and Willie Nelson were neighbors in Malibu.

Jones was once the front man of the band Booker T and The MG’s. Often Jones is associated with the saxophone. Jones was a session musician for Stax Records and  played with Stephen Stills on his Eponymous album . Jones was familiar in R&B, soul, and electric blues.

Vocals and instrumental credits to the album :

Willie Nelson – vocals and guitar Bobbie Nelson– piano Paul English– drums Rex Ludwig– drums Jody Payne– guitar Bee Spears– bass Chris Ethridge-bass Mickey Raphael-Harmonica Booker T Jones– organ and piano

The cover of the stardust album was designed from a painting done by Guy Clark’s wife, Susanna Clark. The rear features a photograph by Beverly Parker of Willie Nelson wearing a top hat. The hats band has a beaded tribal design.

Stardust released in April 1978. The Album peaked to number one in Billboard Top Country Albums.

Songs fromthe album, “Blue Skies” and “All of Me” charted number one and three on Hot Country Songs.

By December of 1978 Stardust had been certified as Platinum. It was named Top Country Album for the Year 1978.

Willie Nelson became the highest-grossing concert act in the United States.

 In 1979, Nelson won a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for “Georgia on My Mind.” Soon after “September Song” peaked at number fifteen in Billboard’s Hot Country Singles.

Stardust spent two years on the Billboard 200.

Rolling Stones ranks Stardust at #260 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

I gotta go, it’s time to turn the record over. I can listen to this music all night long.

Pancho.