Willie Hugh Nelson was born on April 29, 1933, in Abbott, Texas. He began writing songs at the age of seven and joined his first band at the age of 10. He didn’t release his first commercially successful album, “…And Then I Wrote,” until he was in his late 20s. Since then, he has gained a diverse following of followers ranging from Western movie fans to marijuana activists. Nelson is now regarded as an essential figure in American history in addition to being an icon of country music.
William Hugh Nelson
Red-Headed Stranger, Shotgun Willie
April 29, 1933
Considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time by “Rolling Stone” magazine, Willie Hugh Nelson was born on April 29, 1933, in Abbott, Texas. After his father died and his mother left, Nelson and his sister, Roberta Nelson, were raised by their grandparents. The country icon began writing songs at the age of seven, and while still in high school, he went on his first tour as the lead vocalist and guitarist for Bohemian Polka. Nelson entered the United States Air Force shortly after graduating but was released owing to back difficulties. When he returned, he attended Baylor University for two years before dropping out because he was becoming successful in music.
After Nelson relocated to Nashville in 1960 and found work as a songwriter there, some of his songs, particularly ‘Crazy,’ which Patsy Cline covered, and ‘Night Life,’ which Ray Price sang, became country standards. However, his albums were a failure despite his successful songwriting career. Disillusioned, Nelson decided to buy a farm outside of Nashville and embark on a career as a farmer-songwriter. After the fire that destroyed his Tennessee home in 1970, Nelson decided to go to Austin, where he became a part of the outlaw country music scene. In the following few years, he would host the well-known Fourth of July picnic, and his recordings, especially “Red Headed Stranger” and “Stardust,” would help establish the beginning of a tremendous legacy.
Nelson has almost 350 songs and 100 albums under his belt, as well as roles in 30 movies, novels, and agitation for the use of biofuels and marijuana legalization. He still performs on tour regularly today, working with musicians like Dolly Parton and Snoop Dogg while continuing to play the Martin N-20 classical guitar he has used since 1969.
Nelson makes his first two recordings, ‘The Storm Has Just Begun’ and ‘When I've Sung My Last Hillbilly Song.’
Nelson signs with Liberty Records and releases his first album, "...And Then I Wrote."
With the release of the most successful record of his career, "Stardust," Nelson becomes the top concert act in the country.
Nelson receives the first Grammy Living Legend Award, alongside Smokey Robinson, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Liza Minnelli.
Nelson is inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The C.M.A. offers Nelson a Lifetime Achievement Award for his long-term positive impact on country music.
Why We Love Willie Nelson
He is an animal advocate
Nelson fights for the humane treatment of animals and the prevention of their suffering. He is on the board of directors of Habitat for Horses and has adopted several horses from the organization.
He co-founded a non-profit organization
Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp started a nonprofit organization whose mission is to keep family farmers on the land. Farm Aid has raised more than $64 million since its first concert in 1985.
He doesn't hesitate to help others
From supporting his hometown hospital to raising money for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, it seems Nelson can't say “no” when it comes to charitable work. We love how kind he is.
5 Surprising Facts
He used to be a Bible salesman
Before becoming a famous musician, Nelson worked as a Bible, vacuum cleaner, and encyclopedia salesman.
His fifth-degree black belt
On his 81st birthday, Nelson got his fifth-degree black belt in Korean martial art.
He survived a plane crash
Although witnesses expected to find Nelson severely injured, he walked out of the destroyed plane as if nothing had even happened.
He has his town
Luck, Texas, was originally built to serve as the set for the 1986 film "The Redheaded Stranger," but it has stood ever since.
He was sued for $50 million
Nelson’s ex-girlfriend sued him for promising to marry her and not following through.
Willie Nelson FAQs
Who is Willie Nelson's wife?
Willie Nelson’s fourth wife, Annie D’Angelo, is a former makeup artist. They met on the set of the 1986 film “Stagecoach”, starring the country singer.
What is Willie Nelson's son's name?
He has three sons, Lukas Nelson, Micah Nelson, and Billy Nelson, who passed away in 1991.
What is the name of Willie Nelson's guitar?
The Martin N-20 nylon-string classical acoustic guitar called Trigger has been with him for 50 years and done over 10,000 shows.
Willie Nelson’s birthday dates