Apr. 30th, 1933
Abbott, Texas, USA
Willie Nelson's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
This versatile, eclectic, rather wanderlust country crossover star known for his classic ballads ("Always On My Mind"), autobiographical road songs ("On the Road Again") and catchy rhythms ("Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys") started out life as Willie Hugh Nelson on April 30, 1933, in Depression-era Abbot, Texas. After his mother abandoned the family and his father died, he and sister Bobbie Lee were raised by gospel-singing grandparents. Working in the cotton fields, Willie was handed his first guitar at age six and within a short time was writing woeful country songs and playing in polka bands. During his teenage years he played at high school dances and honky-tonks. He also worked for a local radio station and by graduation time he had become a DJ with his own radio show. Briefly serving a stint with the Air Force (discharged because of a bad back, which would plague him throughout his life), he sold his first song called "No Place For Me" while getting by with menial jobs as a janitor and door-to-door Bible salesman. Married in 1952 to a full-blooded Cherokee, he and first wife Martha had two children. He initially came to be known in Nashville for selling his songs to well-established country artists such as Patsy Cline ("Crazy"), Faron Young ("Hello Walls") and Ray Price (III) ("Night Life"). In 1962 he recorded a successful duet with singer Shirley Collie, whom he would later take as his second wife, but his career didn't progress despite joining the Grand 'Ol Opry. In the early 1970s, after extensive touring with his band (which included sister Bobbie on the piano) and experiencing a number of career downswings, he started performing and recording his own songs instead of selling them to others. Two of his albums, "Shotgun Willie" and "Phases and Stages", helped him gain some stature. In 1975 it all came together with the album "Red-Headed Stranger", which would become the top-selling country music album in history and propel him into the country music stratosphere. His offbeat phrasing, distinctive nasal tones and leathery, bewhiskered hippie-styled looks set a new standard for "outlaw" country music. Around 1978 Willie showed himself to be a loose and natural presence in front of the camera, thus launching a film career. He had roles in several movies, his first opposite Robert Redford (I) and Jane Fonda in The Electric Horseman (1979). His took to leading roles as a country music star in Honeysuckle Rose (1980), which would include a number of his songs on the soundtrack. He played opposite James Caan (I) and Tuesday Weld in Thief (1981) and a legendary outlaw in the western Barbarosa (1982). In the movie Red Headed Stranger (1986), which was adapted from his hit 1975 album, he played a preacher, and he teamed up with pal Kris Kristofferson (I) as a pair of country singers in Songwriter (1984). He and pal Kristofferson went on to form The Highwaymen with the late Johnny Cash (I) and Waylon Jennings and he successfully recorded and toured with the group for a number of years. They also teamed up to remake the classic western Stagecoach (1939) as a TV movie (Stagecoach (1986) (TV)). As a unique song stylist, the bearded, braided-haired, bandanna-wearing non-conformist took a number of non-country standards and made them his own, including Elvis Presley's "You Were Always on My Mind" and Ray Charles (I)' "Georgia on My Mind." He happily married fourth wife Ann-Marie in 1991 and has survived more hard times in recent years, including a $16.7-million debt to the IRS and the suicide of one of his sons, Billy. Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993, Nelson received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1998.
- Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001.
- One of the three "outlaws" of country music, named because of their wild personalities, free spirits, and liberal politics. The other two are 'Merle Haggard' (qv) and the late 'Waylon Jennings' (qv).
- Formed the 1980s country music supergroup "The Highwaymen" with 'Waylon Jennings' (qv), 'Johnny Cash (I)' (qv) and 'Kris Kristofferson (I)' (qv).
- In addition to being a successful country singer, he is also a songwriter and wrote hits for many other singers, including "Crazy" for 'Patsy Cline' (qv).
- His character of Billy "Catch" Pooler in the 1997 movie _Gone Fishin' (1997)_ (qv) was inspired by a real person, Loren "Totch" Brown of Chokoloskee, Florida. "Totch" had a small role in the 1958 movie _Wind Across the Everglades (1958)_ (qv), portraying "One-Note" and acting under the name 'Totch Brown' (qv).
- There is a guest character named after him in an episode of _"Aqua Teen Hunger Force" (2000)_ (qv) (titled "The Shaving").
- Children: Lana (b. 1953), Susie (b. 1956) and Billy (who died in 1991), with Martha; Paula Carlene (b. 1959) and Amy Lee (b. 1973), with Connie; Lukas Autry (b. 1989) and Jacob Micah (b. 1990), with Annie.
- When the IRS seized his possessions to sell at auction to try and collect money to pay his tax debt, many of Willie's fans bought his stuff and then gave it back to him. (It's been said that the fans did this as a way of saying thank you for all the free concerts Nelson performed in support of Farm Aid). The only major possessions not seized by the IRS was Willie's guitar and his tour bus so he could earn a living.