Bobbie Nelson — Willie Nelson’s Sister and Family Band Member — Dead at 91
"Her elegance, grace, beauty and talent made this world a better place," a statement about Bobbie from her family reads. "She was the first member of Willie’s band, as his pianist and singer. Our hearts are broken and she will be deeply missed. But we are so lucky to have had her in our lives. Please keep her family in your thoughts and give them the privacy they need at this time."
Bobbie Nelson was raised alongside Willie by their grandparents in Abbott, Texas. She learned to play the piano at a young age, and eventually formed a band with Willie and her husband, Bud Fletcher. The trio performed at honky-tonks across Texas until Fletcher was killed in a car accident. Soon after, Bobbie took up secretarial work and performed various pianist gigs to supplement her income while raising their three children.
That all changed when Willie signed a record deal in 1972. Bobbie soon joined his band and quickly became a charismatic staple of his live performances. She also was featured as a vocalist and musician on many of Willie's most iconic albums, including Red Headed Stranger, Phases & Stages and Stardust.
Bobbie Nelson released her debut solo album Audiobiography in 2007, which included two songs featuring guitar and vocal accompaniment from her brother. In 2017, she was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.
Willie Nelson was known to lovingly refer to Bobbie as "little sister" during their live performances. The siblings kept a close relationship even in recent years, penning a memoir together entitled Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of The Family Band in 2020.
The 2021 album The Willie Nelson Family was a collaborative project from Willie, Bobbie, Willie's sons Lukas and Micah, as well as his daughters Paula and Amy. The project, which would become one of Bobbie's final releases, included a mixture of inspirational classics and new versions of classic Willie Nelson tracks.
Bobbie Nelson was expected to perform alongside her family members at Luck Reunion, a music festival held at Willie Nelson's ranch in Luck, Texas, on March 17.
See Pictures of Willie Nelson Through the Years