#10 Willie Nelson

Top 100


Here’s my Top 100! I think anyone’s list of the top 100 Country music artist of all time would be skewed towards their own preferences and of course influenced by their age, area and other factors. So with that in mind I wouldn’t be surprised or offended at all if you were to disagree with the order in which I’ve picked my top 100.


#10 Willie Nelson (The Red Headed Stranger)


It would take time and frustration for Willie Nelson to shape his style and gain control of his own music but the result was a sub-genre of Country music known as the Outlaw movement. He along with his friend Waylon Jennings helped create the sound that would influence some of the top artists of the time and those to come for years and years. With his immediately identifiable voice and his Martin Guitar that he nicknamed Trigger, Willie Nelson has developed his signature sound and has become a country music Icon.

Born during the great depression in 1933 Willie Nelson was raised on a farm in Texas by his grandparents. It was his grandparents who taught both Willie and his sister Bonnie how to sing and how to play the guitar. After various jobs as a singing disc Jockey Willie Nelson first moved to Nashville in 1960 after a song he had written called Family Bible became a #1 hit for Claude Gray. He began singing at Tootsie’s orchid Lounge and stood out as a guitar player, singer and especially as a songwriter.  It was at Tootsie’s that Faron Young heard him sing Hello Walls and immediately asked to record it and where Hank Cochran would offer him a job writing songs for Pamper Music. After Johnny Paycheck quit, Ray Price took Nelson out on the road with him as a base player and the two developed a lifelong friendship. At about that time Willie wrote Crazy which was picked up and recorded and became the biggest hit of Patsy Clines career. Although he was well known as a songwriter in Nashville and was a member of the opry, by the late 60’s Willie Nelson was growing frustrated with his own singing career. He was finding more success in Texas than Nashville and then when his house burnt down he decided he would leave Music city. At one point Hank Cochran knew Willie was looking at quitting the music industry so in a desperate attempt to keep him employed with Pamper Music he insisted his own $50 a month raise go instead to Willie. That bought Willie some time but by the early 70’s Willie had decided it was time to get away from music and mostly retired from the industry and moved to Waco Texas. It was while living in Texas that Willie was asked to play and became a regular at the Armadillo World Headquarters. The Club was well known for its Hippie crowd and for its openness to allow pot. It was there that Willie Nelson began playing his own brand of country music and received the response from the audience he’d been looking for. He asked his buddy Waylon to come play the club and at first Waylon thought Willie had lost it until he began to play and also received positive feedback from the stoned crowd. Realizing his career in music was not over Willie began to record again and eventually received what he’d been looking for all along, control of his own music and the ability to get away from the Nashville Sound. That’s when he finally found the top of the Charts for the first time with the 1975 hit Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain off of his Red Headed Stranger album.

 In 1976 Willie teamed up with Waylon Jennings, Jessie Colter and Tompall Glaser for Wanted The Outlaws, an album that turned country music upside down. A mix of rock and country and everything in between, Wanted The Outlaws became a tremendous success selling a million copies in its first two weeks.  Over the next 40 years Willie would continue to take chances with his music and continue to find huge success. In 1978 many executives asked him to abandon his idea of an album made up of pop standards but Nelson went ahead with project and defied the odds. Stardust which took only 10 days to record became a huge success and helped him expand his audience even further. Willie would also become known for his incredible duets and some people joked you weren’t anybody in country music until you had recorded at least one duet with Willie Nelson. He became an advocate for the use of Marijuana and that along with his very public dispute with the IRS has helped reinforce and define him as an Outlaw and trouble maker.


Top 10 Songs



10) Just To Satisfy You (with Waylon Jennings) 

09) City of New Orleans  

08) Mammas Don’ Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys (with Waylon Jennings)  


07) Seven Spanish Angels (with Ray Charles)

06) To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before (with Julio Iglesias)  

05) Pancho And Lefty (with Merle Haggard) 


04) Beer For My Horses (with Toby Keith)  

03) Good Hearted Woman (with Waylon Jennings)


02) Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain  

01) Always On My Mind  


Something You Might Not Know: 

While Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard were recording their Pancho and Lefty duet album, session player Johnny Christopher suggested the two record Always On My Mind. Christopher had helped write the song and thought it would make a good duet for the two superstars. Haggard was against the idea but Willie Nelson who had never heard the Elvis or Brenda Lee version loved the song and decided to record it himself.  



Willie Nelson was inducted into the Country Music Hall of fame in 1993. He was also inducted into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2011 for helping create and for his continuing support of American Farmers through Farm Aid .


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