When Willie Nelson takes the stage at the fourth annual Heartbreaker Banquet at his Luck, Texas ranch outside of Austin, he’ll be doing so as a legend. Nelson has earned the title a few times over, thanks to a career that’s been chugging since 1956, leaving an impact on music that most artists can only dream about.
The red-headed stranger’s history is littered with names that have gone on to achieve their own acclaim, including the likes of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson. It’s intertwined with countless others from across popular music and isn’t an exclusive club, as is evident from the lineup at the annual SXSW bash.
Willie Nelson today is a the new age, pot-smoking, torch bearer for country music. An outlaw who’s experienced life at all levels. His legacy has earned him notoriety as one of the most recognizable faces in all of music, but it wasn’t always looking that way.
In the late ’60s, Nelson traversed the frustrations of the Nashville scene, seeking the relief of the road against the rhinestones of Tennessee. Kinky Friedman put it best in the foreword to Nelson’s book Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die:
“Like Davy Crockett before him, Willie would walk into history by way of his pilgrimage to Texas.”