What’s a Major No-No on Tour With Willie Nelson?
Willie Nelson is the subject of many (and we mean many) of country music’s most legendary tales, so fans might think that anything goes when he’s out on the road — but there’s one major rule: Always be good to the fans.
“You can get drunk and miss a show, and that’s no problem,” says Tony Sizemore, who has been Nelson’s bus driver since 1983, “but if you’re rude to one of the fans, you’re in big trouble.”
Fellow country star Kris Kristofferson tells Texas Monthly that out of all of the artists he knows, Nelson is the most comfortable around fans, and numerous family, friends and business acquaintances also attest that Nelson is incredibly personable, no matter who you are or where he is.
“When he got the Kennedy Center award, in 1998, he left the security and went over and talked to the guy running the elevator. When we play at a fair, I’ve seen him break away from security and go out to the gate and talk to the fans for about two hours,” recounts Paul English, Nelson’s drummer since 1956. “I’ve heard people ask him, ‘Does it bother you when people are always trying to talk to you?’ And he said, ‘It’d bother me a lot more if they didn’t.'”
If there’s a surefire way to get Nelson upset, it’s pulling him out of a conversation.
“You want to see Willie get mad? Let Willie get in a conversation with a stranger, and then go up and interrupt him. Go up and try to tell him that he doesn’t have time to talk to her because he has to be somewhere else, and you’ll see a little flash in those eyes,” says Turk Pipkin, the co-author of The Tao of Willie. “He’s having a moment that he thinks is important, an important human moment with someone. It’s up to him to determine whether he has time to talk to that lady.”
With his incredible career, Nelson doesn’t have to act that way — but it’s refreshing to know that the country legend enjoys his fans as much as his fans enjoy him.
Press play on the video above — an installment in Taste of Country‘s You Think You Know Country? series — to get the rundown on some of the most legendary stories about Nelson … and be reminded of why he truly deserves his place as a country music icon.