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Willie Nelson's Birthday; ACL releasing Willie's 1976 live performance of Red Headed Stranger

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Today is Willie's 87th birthday. At 4:20 p.m., ACL is releasing Willie's 1976 performance of the Red Headed Stranger album. This special performance features Wilie and the family band performing the RED HEADED STRANGER album front to back. This episode was originally aired as the first episode of ACL’s second season in 1977. Here's a link:



When Willie recorded the Red Headed Stranger album, it only took him five days of recording and one day of mixing. The total cost for those six days was 4,000 dollars. Columbia had advanced Willie 60,000 dollars for the recording, which was in keeping with the usual length of time it took to make such recordings back then, the infinite number of times each song was recorded before finally a "winner" was selected to go on the album, etc... The 60k advance was non-recoupable, meaning whatever Willie didn't spend on the advance he got to keep. Enough was left over to upgrade the band bus and instruments and still have some running change. It was the first time Willie had total artistic control over an LP and the lean, spare, laid-back style you hear on the record is exactly what Willie wanted.

Incidentally, folks who heard the LP before it was released were wondering what the hell Willie was doing. Phil York, the recording engineer, said "I didn't know this album was anything special. I knew it wasn't Nashville cookie-cutter formula. I remember thinking, 'What's he going to do with this? Nashville isn't going to buy it. It wasn't cut there and it isn't their sound." Joe Gracey, the famous KOKE-FM dee-jay from Austin said, "I thought it was a career-ending mistake, because it was too stark and too-off-the-wall. I thought he had just taken a really hard road."

Joe Jamail, one of Willie's really good friends, said to Willie, "Willie, that album isn't going to sell sh*t."

History has recorded how wrong they all were. "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," became one of Willie's biggest all-time hits. The album went multi-platinum and made Willie one of country music's most recognizable stars. Joe Jamail may have been a super-smart trial lawyer, but his musical taste sucks!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WILLIE!

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My Grandfather was born on the same day 20 years earlier and loved telling people he was old enough to be Willie's dad when he was in his mid-90's.  HBD, Willie.

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Ended up having to drive from Waco to Pittsburgh, PA for my Grandfather’s funeral in March of ‘08.   Picked one of my uncles up outside of Tyler (he was my mom’s brother, the grandfather was my dad’s father whom we’re both named after).   
 

it was snowing from the time I left waco TIL when I set foot at my grandparents’ house.  Massive blizzard all across the country.  Stuck outside of Columbus, OH for 7 hours in 3 feet of snow.  Took 50 hours to make a 22 hr drive.  
 

we listened to this album on repeat the entire way up there.  
 

that uncle passed away 5 years ago from throat cancer.   
 

mom and I danced to Hands on the Wheel at my wedding 3 years ago, as homage to my uncle and homage to my new life.  
 

memories man, memories with that album.  

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That is a fucking awesome recording.  Love it.

csb/ 

My Dad was there at the recording of RHS at Autumn Sound in Garland, as he was friends with Phil York (RHS engineer) and had opened for Willie a few times.  He particularly recalled the recording of "Remember Me" as Willie had brought in some jazzer friend to do the solo, and all the rednecks were looking at each other going, "What is THIS shit?"  

Phil was a great guy.  My Dad had a bunch of old recordings of his various bands sitting around that Phil had offered to remaster and digitize for him.  My Dad kept fucking around and saying, "I'll get around to it."  One day, I told him, "Dad, you and Phil are both old.  If you don't get this done today, like right now, one of y'all is going to wind up dead and it'll never happen."  So, my Dad took him the tapes, Phil got the remastering done....and died shortly thereafter.  RIP Phil. 

/csb

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Blues Eyes Crying in the Rain is my all-time favorite country song.

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I went back to this today and they've cut it up into 16 separate performances.  Totally sucks the life out of the concept album story arc.  Plus they cut like half of one of the songs for no apparent reason.  Fuckers.

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