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The Oxford American
March-May 2003
(Issue Number 45)

Willie Stories - In celebration of his 70th birthday, friends and cohorts tell their favorite anecdotes about the crown prince of Outlaw country

By Steve Earle

Until Willie Nelson moved back to Texas in the early 70's, I got my ass kicked on a fairly regular basis by great big square-headed cowboys who objected to the fact that I had long hair but insisted on wearing cowboy boots.  No, it wasn't a coincidence.  I know this because I witnessed the power that Willie held over his diverse and growing audience first-hand one night at the Half Dollar Club in Pasedena, Texas.

The Half Dollar, like all Texas dance halls, had a dance floor directly before the stage surrounded by rows of long tables where the regulars sat and drank until the show started.  In the back of the room a bunch of longhairs, most from Houston, waited nervously in the shadow.  When Willie and his band took the stage and kicked off Whiskey River, the dance floor immediately flooded with dancers.  Simultaneously, the Houston contingent rushed to the front edge of the dance floor and sat down.  When some of the less evolved locals began to kick at the "hippies" as they danced by,  Willie stopped right in the middle of the song and said, "There's plenty of room for them that want to dance to dance and them that want to sit to sit."

And that was that.  Everything changed virtually overnight and for the next few years you'd see cowboys and girls rubbing elbows with the longhaired tie-dyed flower children in nightclubs, concert halls, and cow pastures all across Texas.   Oh, I still got my ass kicked once in awhile after that.  But I usually deserved it."

 © 2003 Oxford American Magazine     All Rights Reserved

© 2003-2005   Clint Harris  (clint@steveearle.net) – All Rights Reserved
© 1995-2003Lisa Kemper  – All Rights Reserved

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