Willie Nelson tunes

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Crazy Pot-Smoking Outlaw!

Willie Nelson is a country singer-songwriter with a sensational back catalogue.

Usually releasing an album every year (sometimes even two) is not that unusual for artists in the ’60s. What’s unique about Willie is that he wrote almost all the songs!

Before he started releasing his own studio albums, his tunes were performed by other artists, most famously Crazy (Patsy Cline). Crazy was included on his first album, …And Then I Wrote, which came out in 1962.

Willie’s own version of Crazy didn’t chart, but Touch Me, which was the opening tune of the album, did and made it all the way to #7 on the country charts.

These early years were difficult for him. Being part of the Nashville country sound wasn’t really what he wanted; he “went along with it” rather than embracing it.

Referencing how Ring Of Fire had a huge production, Willie thought that “maybe it’ll work for me too.” Unfortunately, it didn’t, and he grew tired of the traditional and somewhat narrow-minded Nashville scene.

However, it didn’t stop him from putting out albums and writing tunes! The aforementioned Crazy was massive, and Pretty Paper was picked up by Roy Orbison and did well too.

Between his debut in 1962 and 1973, when he finally found his formula as a solo artist with Shotgun Willie, he released 15 studio albums and 35 singles!

In 1973, when he released Shotgun Willie, he had left Nashville for Austin and RCA for Atlantic. As a reaction to the slick Nashville country sound, Shotgun Willie came to represent what was referred to as Outlaw Country. The album had great reviews, but sales and chart success kept eluding him.

His next album, Phases And Stages (1974), was recorded in Muscle Shoals Studios over just two days with Booker T. Jones in charge. A concept album, it narrated the process of a divorce, with side A telling it from the woman’s perspective and side B the man’s. Sales and chart success were poor.

The following year, Willie changed labels again and released Red Headed Stranger, another concept album, this time about a fugitive who killed his wife and lover.

This was Willie Nelson’s 18th studio album and his first big success. Hilariously enough, his new record label hated it, calling it a demo and doing everything they could to change it.

But Willie Nelson had grown wise over the years and signed a deal where he had complete creative control, so the label had to release it without modifications.

With the first #1 single in Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, which was actually a cover, and being named #186 on the list of greatest albums of all time, Willie Nelson was finally getting the recognition he’d worked so hard for.

To top it off, Red Headed Stranger was turned into a movie. In true Willie Nelson style, it was a struggle before it was finally released in 1986. Robert Redford turned it down along the way, and Willie ended up playing the role of the stranger himself.

Anyway, back to his recording career and tunes. The next three albums did well and were all slightly strange. One was a cover album consisting only of Lefty Frizzell tunes, another was recorded before Red Headed Stranger but released after, and the third had his version of Amazing Grace on it.

As we get towards the end of the ’70s, Nelson is having success with every release. The 1978 record Stardust has covers of All Of Me and Georgia On My Mind. With 5 million albums sold in the U.S. and ranked as #260 of the best albums ever, it was one of his best efforts.

During the same year, he also released a duet album with Waylon & Willie. This one stayed in the country charts for 126 weeks, selling 2 million copies.

He also recorded an album with Leon Russell in 1979 called One for the Road. Here we find covers of Heartbreak Hotel, You Are My Sunshine, Danny Boy, Summertime, and Stormy Weather.

Next, Willie released an album of only Kris Kristofferson tunes, including Help Me Make It Through The Night and the tune Janis Joplin made immortal, Me and Bobby McGee.

To finish off the decade, Nelson released his first Christmas album named after the old hit Roy Orbison had with his tune Pretty Paper back in 1963.

Willie Nelson post the ’70s

The ’80s was a fantastic decade for Willie Nelson. He recorded cover tunes like Always On My Mind, Over The Rainbow, Angel Eyes, Take It To The Limit (Eagles), and Heart Of Gold, as well as his own On The Road Again.

He also formed a supergroup with Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings called The Highwaymen, and recorded duets with Ray Charles and Neil Young.

And let’s not forget Farm Aid, a festival in aid of American farmers. Nelson has played the festival every year. As a non-profit organization, it has raised millions for its cause.

After such a great decade, things went south as the IRS decided that the way his accountant had set up offshore accounts wasn’t legal, and he was deemed to pay $9 million in outstanding taxes. It took him a few years, including an album nicknamed the “IRS tapes” with all proceeds going to the IRS.

Three years later, he had cleared his debt but was by then pretty low on funds. Nelson simply kept writing songs, recorded albums, toured, and one would assume, got a new accountant.

On a final note, Willie Nelson is widely known for being a pothead, apparently having smoked Snoop Dogg under the table, which has to be considered quite an achievement.

Perhaps his tune Roll Me Up captures this side of him the best.

Willie Nelson Tunes | Related Pages

All Of Me

All Of Me chords

You can learn to play All Of Me by Frank Sinatra (and Billie Holiday) using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, and the original recording.

Bbmaj7 | Bbmaj7 | D7 | D7 |
All of me, why not take all of me…

Angel Eyes

Angels Eyes chords

You can learn to play Angel Eyes by Frank Sinatra using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, and Spytunes video guitar lessons.

Am Am/G Am/F# Am/F | Am/E Am/Eb |
Try to think that love’s not around…

Blue Moon

Blue Moon chords.

You can learn to play Blue Moon by Billie Holiday using chords, lyrics, and the original recording. Practice in three keys!

Abmaj7 Fm7 | Bbm7 Eb7 | Abmaj7 Fm7 |
Blue moon, you saw me standing alone…

Everybody’s Talkin’

Everybody's Talkin' chords T

You can learn to play Everybody’s Talkin’ by Harry Nilsson using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and the original recording.

Cmaj7 G6 | Cmaj7 G6 |
Everybody’s talkin’ at me…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia On My Mind chords

You can learn to play Georgia On My Mind by Ray Charles using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, and the original recording.

G | B7/F# B7 |
Georgia, Georgia…

Have You Ever Seen The Rain

Have You Ever Seen The Rain chords

You can learn to play Have You Ever Seen The Rain by Creedence Clearwater Revival using, chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and the original recording.

C | C | C | C |
Someone told me long ago, there’s a calm before the storm…

Heart Of Gold

Heart Of Gold chords

You can learn to play Heart Of Gold by Neil Young using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, and the original recording.

Em C | D5 G |
I want to live, I want to give…

Me and Bobby McGee

Me and Bobby McGee chords.

You can learn to play Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, and the original recordings.

G | G |
Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin’ for a train…

On the Road Again

On the Road Again chords

You can learn to play On the Road Again by Willie Nelson using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and the original recording.

E | E | G# |
On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again.

Over The Rainbow

Over The Rainbow chords

You can learn to play Over The Rainbow by Eva Cassidy using chords, lyrics, TAB, chord analysis, and Spytunes video guitar lessons.

| Gsus2 /F# | Em /D | Bm7b13 | G7 Amadd4 /B |
Somewhere over the rainbow…


Summertime chords

You can learn to play Summertime by Billie Holiday using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, and the original recording.

Bbm7 F7b9/C | Db6 F7b9/C | Bbm7 F7b9/C | Db6 F7b9/C |
Summertime and the living is easy…

Willie Nelson on the web

Listen to Willie Nelson on Spotify.

Artists & Bands

Artist and Band biographies

Behind every single tune you learn, there’s an artist or band with an entire catalogue of music, waiting to be discovered.

Find out more about these great Artists & Bands, and let their tunes guide you to success.

About me | Dan Lundholm

Dan Lundholm wrote this article on Willie Nelson tunes.

This was an article about Willie Nelson tunes, by Dan Lundholm. Discover more about him and learn guitar with Spytunes.

Most importantly, find out why you should learn guitar through playing tunes, not practising scales, and studying theory in isolation.


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