HomeEntertainmentMusicBobbie Nelson, Willie Nelson’s Sister and Founding Member of Family Band, Dies at 91

Bobbie Nelson, Willie Nelson’s Sister and Founding Member of Family Band, Dies at 91

by Joe Rutland
Photo credit: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Sad news from the world of country music as Bobbie Nelson, sister of Willie Nelson, has died. She was 91 years old. Bobbie was an original member of Willie Nelson’s Family Band. Bobbie Nelson, whose traditional-yet-graceful piano playing was a key component of Nelson’s live show, died Thursday morning surrounded by family, according to a statement from the Nelson family.

“Her elegance, grace, beauty, and talent made this world a better place,” the statement reads. “She was the first member of Willie’s band, as his pianist and singer. Our hearts are broken and she will be deeply missed. But we are so lucky to have had her in our lives. Please keep her family in your thoughts and give them the privacy they need at this time.

Bobbie Nelson Dies and Leaves Void In Life of Willie Nelson

Bobbie Nelson was born on January 1, 1931, in Abbott, Texas. She was three years Willie’s senior, but that didn’t stop him from referring to her as his “Little Sister Bobbie” onstage. When she was just in her teens, Bobbie married the aspiring musician Bud Fletcher, who formed a band with his young wife and her brother. We get more from Rolling Stone.

After Fletcher died in a car accident, Bobbie Nelson abandoned music for a secretarial job. But those keys that she learned to play as a child were always within reach: Her office job was with the Hammond Organ Company. Eventually, she returned to performing and in 1972 reunited with her brother, who had just signed a record deal with Atlantic Records.

Bobbie appeared on many of Willie’s studio albums, but it was her role onstage behind the piano where she left an indelible mark. An inconspicuous visible presence at Willie’s concerts — in later years, just the top of her hat would peek out from behind her grand piano — her playing was impossible to miss. She added graceful accents to Willie’s Crazy and helped set the rhythm for On the Road Again, while her solo turn on Down Yonder became a cornerstone of the Family Band’s concerts.

Sister Was Part Of Willie’s Gospel Album That Debuted Last Year

Last November, Bobbie Nelson was part of a new album that her brother released. It featured her and Willie Nelson’s four children. It was a gospel-heavy album with the title of The Willie Nelson Family.

According to Fox News, Nelson has long worked alongside Bobbie, who played keyboards in his family-backed band. Willie’s sons Lukas and Micah feature prominently on the album. His daughters Paula and Amy join Nelson occasionally as well. For the new album, Willie Nelson is on the album’s cover. Next to him is Bobbie and the country star’s four children.