WUMB December Program Guide

Talking Music On A Legendary Bus

I stood outside a huge vehicle on a May Saturday morning in 2013, and as soon as the door opened, a certain vaguely familiar fragrance wafted out, and I knew I was in the right place: Willie Nelson’s tour bus.

The legendary songwriter and singer was hours away from receiving an honorary doctor of music degree during a college commencement at the Agganis Arena, and I was about to spend 15 minutes with him to talk about his life in music.

Talk about lucky.

As I stood waiting with my video crew, we chatted with Willie’s sons and others, traveling with him as part of a long tour. I was nervous but the comfortable hominess of the bus interior and the genial laid-back-ness of his entourage relaxed me. A minute later, Willie, peanut butter sandwich and plate in hand, invited me to sit down at his table—outfitted with cushiony benches like you might find at a diner.

The video clip linked below features some of the highlights of our conversation—most striking to me was his talk of Django Reinhart’s influence on his guitar playing, but what really sticks with me from that day is Willie Nelson’s warmth, humor, and unassuming air. Despite being one of music’s biggest all-time stars, Willie came across as kind and utterly down to earth.

I bring this up today because Willie will turn 87 on April 29, and he’s busy as ever lately with new album releases and scheduled tour dates (the latter, postponed, of course), and we’ll feature his music during Sunday Morning Brew this month.

There is something so reassuring about hearing Willie Nelson’s voice—as strong and appealing on his latest latest album, his 70th, First Rose of Spring, as ever. At a time when life seems fragile and our elderly friends and family more precious than ever, it is a perfect time to celebrate an artist who has felt like a member of a family to many of us for as long as we can remember.

Happy Birthday and many happy returns, Willie Nelson. As soon as things get back to normal, we look forward to you rolling along in that tour bus, singing those sweet songs, and eating those peanut butter sandwiches. And we’ll keep listening.

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