Texas born-and-bred musical legend Willie Nelson cracked into showbiz as a disc jockey in Fort Worth. He went on to join the Ray Price band, writing tunes for Price as well as a slew of other artists (Nelson's the man who penned Patsy Cline's signature tune "Crazy"). Fronting his own group, The Outlaws, Nelson played the tanktown and honky-tonk circuit before scoring with his 1975 hit "Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain." In 1979, he made a laudable film debut as Robert Redford's sidekick in The Electric Horseman; one year later, he starred in the C&W "Intermezzo" clone Honeysuckle Rose (1980), for which he also wrote the score, including the chartbuster "On the Road Again." Nelson's acting resumé includes several made-for-TV westerns, among them 1990's A Pair of Aces and its 1992 sequel, and a 1987 remake of Stagecoach; he also appeared as "himself"--and a very weather-beaten self it was--in a 1995 TV-movie biopic of country star Dottie West. Nelson has been awarded five Grammy Awards, and in the early 1980s he organized the annual Farm Aid Benefit, which earned him a Special Humanitarian Award.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Was raised by his paternal grandparents during the Great Depression; his grandfather bought him his first guitar when he was 9 and taught him to play.
- Got his first paying job as a musician when he was in sixth grade and was invited to join the polka group John Raycheck Band, which performed at local bars and fairs.
- Served in the U.S. Air Force for nine months after high school until a back injury resulted in him being honorably discharged.
- Was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973.
- Was named Entertainer of the Year in 1979 by the Country Music Association.
- Organized the first Farm Aid benefit concert in 1985.
- The IRS seized all his possessions in 1991 for nonpayment of $16.7 million in back taxes; he has since settled the debt.
- Was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993.
- Cofounded Willie Nelson's Biodeisel, which markets truck fuel made from vegetable oil.
- Has cowritten several books, including Willie: An Autobiography with Bud Shrake, and The Tao of Willie with Turk Pipkin.