1. He looks a whole lot like Granny Clampett these days, which makes me chuckle merrily.
2. He appeared on King of the Hill and was very patient with Hank Hill, of whom I'm quite fond.
3. He's a country musician from Texas who has never performed—to the best of my knowledge—at any rallies or fund-raisers for George W. Bush.
4. During a 60 Minutes interview, he told the world he smoked a joint in the White House back when Jimmy Carter was president.
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5. I've interviewed him twice, and he seemed stoned off his gourd both times. "But I manage to stay straight long enough to write a song every once in a while," he said.
6. Among the songs he's written every once in a while have been "Ain't It Funny How Time Slips Away," "Crazy," "Hello Walls," "Night Life," "Don't You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me," "I Gotta Get Drunk," "On the Road Again" and "Good Hearted Woman."
7. He has released something like 200 albums in his lifetime and very rarely have any of them actually sucked (Julio Iglesias collaborations aside).
8. He started wearing pigtails in the '70s and looked completely preposterous doing so, but he was so nonchalant that no one ever called him on it. Till now.
9. The IRS almost ruined him, but he didn't seem to give a big fat fuck, even when they took all his money and property away several years ago. "That was a trip, but it wasn't the most important thing in my life," he said. Musta been all that herb, heh-heh-heh.
10. His voice sounds something like Underdog holding his nose and singing through his ears, but you love it anyway.
11. Waylon Jennings seemed a lot less boorish than normal when singing duets with Willie.
12. Country radio ignores him like all the veteran greats, but he doesn't give a big fat fuck about that either, and he never whines about it (that's my job!). "When they're playing your records on the radio all the time, people tend to get sick of you," he told me. "When they don't play your records at all, the only way people can hear you is when they come out and see you. So they're doing me a favor really because the crowds are bigger than ever."
13. Farm Aid.
14. He's one of the most tasteful guitarists you'll ever hear, a guy who seamlessly mixes jazz and blues into country music without sounding like he's even trying to do so. It ain't even really country—it's Willie music.
15. That battered old Martin he plays is so thrashed it looks like it might dissolve into powder in his hands midsong. He stays loyal to that guitar, even though he could afford a whole truckload of new ones.
16. He's little 'n' cute 'n' cuddly 'n' lovable, kinda like one of Santa's elves or a character out of Tolkien or your old Uncle Zumo.
17. Betcha he could whip your ass at poker or horseshoes.
18. Betcha he has no use for Viagra, either, even though he's pushing 70.
19. When he shaves his beard, he looks even more like Granny Clampett.
20. Willie plays the Sun Theatre Tuesday night. Jonny Lang will not be opening the show.
If Willie has been a force for positive innovation and revolution in country music, there's still a lot to be said for traditionalist moldy figs on the order of Riders in the Sky. These harmonizin' hayseeds keep the sound of western music alive in a very literal way, all the while ribbing the very traditions they hold so dear in a gentle, loving manner. Copping the dulcet tones, sound-barrier-defying yodeling and timeless cowboy imagery of acts like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Foy Willing's Riders of the Purple Sage, and Sons of the Pioneers, these guys sing and play (Woody Paul is a fiddlin' genius) like they just emerged from a time machine. If the camp of their absurd, B-movie western duds and often wildly unfunny comedic overtones come off a bit on the cutesy-wutesy side, it's always redeemed by the sheer, sumptuous beauty of the sound they produce and the genuine affection for cowboy heritage they marinate in. Yippie-yi-yo-ty-yay Saturday night at the Crazy Horse Steakhouse.
If you were sucked in by Ken Burns' recent, expansive Jazz series but are frustrated by the glaring lack of big-name jazz acts to play live in OC, Telarc Records' new Jazz: Live from New York might offer a modicum of relief. This twofer CD offers an exciting sampling of live performances from a cast of jazz royalty, including Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Mel Torme, James Moody, Lionel Hampton, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Jon Hendricks and Stephane Grappelli. If it's comforting to think that all this great music was recorded in the past 10 years, it's even more depressing to note that most of that crew has passed away since these tracks were produced (at such fabled NYC nightspots as the Blue Note, Village Vanguard and Iridium). No matter. Close your eyes, block the condos out of your mind and be transported to a place where jazz continues to live and thrive—it's a most gratifying experience.
WILLIE NELSON PERFORMS AT THE SUN THEATRE, 2200 E. KATELLA AVE., ANAHEIM, (714) 712-2700. TUES., 8:30 P.M. $55-$65; RIDERS IN THE SKY PLAY AT THE CRAZY HORSE STEAKHOUSE, 71 FORTUNE DR., IRVINE, (949) 585-9000. SUN., 5:30 & 8:30 P.M. $15-$30.
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