What would Willie Do?

If I had a dime for every band that I heard say “Being on the road is really hard. We have to play for an hour four times a week!! We are so tired!” I would be rich. My thoughts go back to the Counting Crows, who, after opening for the Rolling Stones for a month (One hour a night, 5 nights a week in front of 50,000 people each night) had to cancel a month long sold out theater tour because they were too tired. WOW, that is really hard work!

Then there is Willie Nelson.

I photograph Willie every year at Farm Aid. He always opens the show, and he and his band close the show at the end of a long day. They usually play for about a half an hour, as the show is usually a little past close time. This year, the day after the show, I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel, editing photos and waiting for a few people to come down so that we could head back home. Mickey Raphael, Willie’s harmonica player and one of the nicest people in the business, sat down next to me to look over my shoulder at the photos. He asked me if I had ever seen a full Willie Nelson show. I thought about it and realized that I hadn’t in about 25 years! So he invited me out to Joliet the following week to see a Willie show.

And what a show it was!! Willie and the band played for 2 ½ hours. There were no breaks in between songs, just one great moment after another. He played country, blues and jazz. He played all his hits, and also played a ferocious lead guitar throughout the show. The band was minimal. Willie on guitar, his sister Bobbie on piano, Mickey on harmonica, a bass player and Paul English and his brother playing drums (a snare drum and a cymbal). The only prop on the stage was a giant flag of Texas as a backdrop. One standing ovation after another! After the show, Willie hopped on his bus and headed down the highway to his next show

Maybe those young guys should go and see a Willie Nelson show and see how it should be done!

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