In the fickle world of country music, Willie Nelson may not be as commercially popular as young guns Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson or Billy Ray Cyrus, but he remains as relevant as a Texas twister. In his 38-year career, Nelson has released 127 albums, sold 75 million records and has logged more miles on tour than most astronauts. "My hat's off to Billy Ray, Garth and Alan," says the philosophical Nelson. "They're good for my business. Every night I see Billy Ray Cyrus or Garth Brooks fans who have never seen me but have come out because of their new interest in country music."
What did you do with your first royalties?
The first big check I received was in 1961 for a song I wrote that Faron Young recorded, called "Hello Walls." At the time I was a bass player for Ray Price, making $30 a day, and suddenly I get this check for $40,000, which blew my mind. I was rich. So I started flying to all the gigs while Ray rode on a bus. And when we'd get somewhere, I'd rent a penthouse in a hotel so when the band got there, we'd all have a party. I blew that money as quick as I could.
Any regrets in your career?
I don't think so. I think I would rather have gone ahead, stumbled through blind, ignorant and stubborn and wound up wherever I am today, because I don't think I had to compromise a great deal, and I feel my music has had a chance. All through the years I've had people tell me, 'Why don't you put on a suit again?' Like hell. The more they've ridden me, the more determined I've been to prove they're wrong.