The signature sound of country music legend Willie Nelson will soon be reverberating off the walls of the Turlock Community Theatre.
Willie Nelson and Family will be riding into Turlock in his fabled tour bus Honeysuckle Rose III for a show on April 6.
“We have been trying to book Willie Nelson for quite awhile,” said Kit Casey, the managing director of the Turlock Community Theatre. “It just hadn’t ever worked out until now when we got lucky.”
Nelson’s career in music began in the mid 1950s when he worked as a country music deejay in Fort Worth, Texas. It was during this time that he started penning his own compositions, including "Family Bible" which became a hit for Claude Gray in 1960.
Nelson moved to Nashville and soon developed a reputation as a talented songwriter, but had difficulty finding recording labels willing to sign him as an artist. It was turning this time that his "Hello Walls" became a nine-week No. 1 for Faron Young and Patsy Cline's version of "Crazy" became an instant classic.
Disillusioned with Nashville, Nelson moved to Austin, Texas, where he started developing a style that mixed his country roots with folk and rock. His first album with Atlantic Records, 1973's “Shotgun Willie,” got the attention of music critics if not the masses, and the 1974 follow-up “Phases & Stages” helped him build a loyal following.
In 1975 he signed with Columbia Records and released one of his most successful albums, “Red Headed Stranger.” The acoustic concept album vaulted Nelson to country music's top ranks and launched a brand of country music that journalist Hazel Smith dubbed “outlaw music” and included artists such as Waylon Jennings, Tompall Glaser and Jessi Colter.
RCA Records seized on the phenomenon, compiling an album of previously recorded material from Nelson, Jennings, Glaser and Colter. “Wanted: The Outlaws” spawned the Nelson/Jennings duet "Good Hearted Woman" and quickly became the best-selling album country music had ever seen.
A fixture on the singles charts over the next several years, Nelson's star rose even further with the 1978 releases “Waylon & Willie” and “Stardust.” The former included "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" while the latter, a collection of pop standards, further exhibited Nelson's ability to defy expectations on the way to tremendous success. "On The Road Again" reached the top of the charts in 1981, "Always On My Mind" was a crossover smash in 1982 and a duet with Latin pop star Julio Iglesias, "To All The Girls I've Loved Before," raced up the charts in 1984. Nelson enlisted Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash for the “Highwaymen” album, released in 1985.
Nelson's stardom soon translated to another medium with roles in feature films including “The Electric Horseman,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” and “Stagecoach.”
It was in 1985 that Nelson used his star power to champion the cause of family farmers with his Farm Aid concert. For more than two decades, Farm Aid has promoted and grown the good food movement and helped family farms keep their land and stay on their land.
The 1990s brought about new creative ventures for Nelson, along with one big challenge. A $16.7 million bill from the IRS forced Nelson to sell many of his assets, including several homes, and resulted in the release of “The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories.” Nelson cleared the debt by 1993, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame that same year.
Enshrinement didn't slow his creative energy, and the decade produced artistic triumphs including Across The Borderline. The album featured Bob Dylan, Sinead O'Connor and Paul Simon among its many guests.
In 2003, Nelson released Willie Live & Kickin' was released and became an instant best-seller with songs performed with guest artists such as Norah Jones and Toby Keith, the latter of which resulted in the chart-topping song “Beer for My Horses.”
In 2004, the Academy of Country Music bestowed him with the prestigious Gene Weed Special Achievement Award honoring Nelson's "unprecedented and genre-defying contributions to popular music over his nearly 50-year career."
Nelson pushed the boundaries of traditional music genres with the release of 2005’s Countryman, his first ever reggae set, and 2006’s “Songbird,” produced by alt-country singer-songwriter Ryan Adams. The March 2006 release of “You Don’t Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker,” a collection of 13 classics written by Country Music Hall of Fame songwriter Cindy Walker, earned Nelson a Grammy nomination for Best Country Album, augmenting a career that has been recognized with eight Grammy wins, a President's Merit Award, a Grammy Legend Award and the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.
Nelson became a fiction author with the release of “A Tale Out of Luck,” co-authored with Mike Blakely.
“We are very thrilled to have a living legend come to our stage,” Casey said.
Those wishing to see Nelson locally will have to act fast. Casey said the show is virtually sold out with just a few individual tickets remaining. However, the theater will be compiling a waiting list to use in case some tickets do become available.
The show is set for 7:30 p.m. April 6. Tickets are $56, $86, and $106. To purchase tickets or get n the waiting list call the box office at 668-1169.