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Willie Nelson - An Epic Life Book Signing
Wednesday, August 27, 2008 • Posted August 27, 2008

The Heart of Texas Country Music Museum will host a special booksigning for “Willie Nelson-An Epic Life” on Saturday, August 30, at the museum located at 1701 South Bridge Street in Brady.

Author Joe Nick Patoski and Country Music Entertainer Darrell McCall will be on hand to autograph the 500 plus page “ultimate” book about Nelson.

The signing will be held from noon until 1:00 p.m. The books will be specially priced at $25.00 for the event. Advance copies can be reserved by calling (325) 597-2119.

Written by music scribe Patoski - who’s penned books on Selena and Stevie Ray Vaughan - Willie Nelson: An Epic Life is just what the subtitle promises.

Based on scores of interviews (including with Nelson himself), it’s a lively, substantive account, closer to the treatment given a world-historical figure than a laid-back guitar picker. It is, however, perhaps the only such biography involving pot, whiskey, cocaine, shoot-outs, groupies and Julio Iglesias.

Raised mainly by his grandparents in near poverty, young Willie - known as “Booger Red” for his habit of picking his nose until the blood started flowing - and little sister Bobbie quickly grew enamored of music, whether the conduit was Ernest Tubb or Jesus.

At 6, Willie received his first guitar, a Stella model from the Sears catalog. Four years later, when he was paid $6 for doing a short performance - more than he could make for a whole day of picking cotton - he figured this music thing might be his calling.

It would eventually take him far, far from the fields of his hometown. For Willie, On the Road Again isn’t just a song but a way of life. Home is a tour bus, much to the disadvantage of his various wives and children, of course. Though part Native American, he might as well have been part Gypsy, too, for all the moving around he’s done. Patoski even titles chapters by locations: Waco, Fort Worth, Nashville, Austin.

Local friends like Johnny Bush and Paul Buskirk sustained him through some rough times.

“Houston’s hot, humid, buggy, and muggy climate was one ingredient in a strange gumbo that also included poverty, cheap guns, stoved-up passions, and redneck sensibilities fermented in alcohol; when cooked together, they fostered Houston’s reputation as Murder City, USA,” Patoski writes of the city in 1959. “But Big Houston was big fun, and big business.”

Certainly the reader comes away with an appreciation for Nelson’s tenacity in fostering his career. Despite being told time and time again he couldn’t sing, couldn’t play, was odd-looking, and should stick to writing great songs like Hello Walls, Crazy, and Night Life for others, he scrabbled tirelessly for work. He knew he had more to offer. And he knew people eventually would get it.

When they finally did, in Austin in the early ’70s at the Armadillo World Headquarters and Soap Creek Saloon, his audiences became an odd combination of hippies and rednecks, brought together by the beatifically smiling man sporting long hair, beard and earring, playing a type of country music that both Bud-swillers and bud-smokers could appreciate. They famously came together at Nelson’s annual “picnics,” the first of which, in Dripping Springs in 1973, was bankrolled with a $5,000 loan from Houston lawyer Joe Jamail.

Along the way, Willie’s picked up a traveling coterie of like-minded souls in an extended “Family” the flip side of Charlie Manson’s that might at any time encompass wives, ex-wives, children, business associates, bikers, spiritual advisers, musicians, crazies and the occasional gun-toting heavy. Patoski doesn’t judge Willie’s character or actions but leaves that for the reader.

“Willie liked chaos. He liked anarchy,” a band associate noted. Kris Kristofferson added that being around Willie was like “being around Buddha.” Little seemed to faze him, be it his house burning down or his well-publicized battle with the IRS. And what a convincer, especially with women. When third wife Connie caught him stark naked in a bungalow with his Honeysuckle Rose co-star Amy Irving upstairs in bed, he somehow managed to calm her down, patch things up and send her on her way.

The ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s brought Willie worldwide superstardom on a level Hank Williams could not have dreamed of. It allowed him to follow his muse anywhere: He did an entire record of standards that no one thought would work but which became his biggest seller (Stardust); he did duets with friends and heroes like Ray Price, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings; he co-created Farm Aid; and he now promotes BioWillie fuel. While his recent recorded efforts are heavy on covers, he’s still capable of delivering a surprise (Spirit, Teatro, You Don’t Know Me).

Live shows remain where the faithful come to worship, some sporting “WWWD” (“What Would Willie Do?”) T-shirts. And though the show is something of a rote experience, with a set list that’s changed little in decades and incorporates more talk-singing than singing, when Willie locks eyes with an audience member, you can’t help but feel a tinge of excitement. With Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, Patoski has written a fine book worthy of Willie.

Patoski also acknowledges KNEL radio’s Tracy Pitcox and the Heart of Texas Country Music Museum in his credits and includes interviews with Heart of Texas Recording Artists including Johnny Bush, Darrell McCall, Frankie Miller, Joe Paul Nichols, Floyd Tillman and Hank Thompson.

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