Tommy Duncan of the Texas Playboys once sang, “Time changes everything.” Willie Nelson proves the truth of that statement. Today, Willie is an outlaw icon. His name conjures up the image of long braids, a bandana, and glassy eyes. However, when he got his start he was a clean-cut country singer. He looked similar to every other act that came out of Nashville. A couple of things set him apart, though. His voice and his songwriting skill put him in a class of his own.
Today, we’re taking a trip back in time to around ten years before Willie struck out on his own to become an Outlaw Country pioneer. In 1966, Nelson dropped his fourth studio album, Country Favorites – Willie Nelson Style. The was comprised completely of covers. Among those covers was the Jimmy Work tune made famous by Kitty Wells, “Making Believe.” In the video below, Willie croons the heartbroken ballad on The Ernest Tubb Show.
Willie Nelson appeared on the program many times. He was there so often, in fact, that Tubb’s band The Texas Troubadours backed him on the cover album. So, it made sense for him to perform a cut from the record on the show.
It might be hard for some fans to pick the young Willie Nelson out of a lineup. However, when he starts singing there’s no denying that it’s the Red-Headed Stranger. His voice is unique. At the same time, it is incredibly expressive. So, he is able to inject a Texas-sized heartache into this sad song about a lover who has moved on to someone new.
Country Favorites – Willie Nelson Style
Country Favorites – Willie Nelson Style is packed with some of the greatest classic country songs ever recorded. We can learn a couple of things about the Red-Headed Stranger from looking at the tracklist of this album.
For one, we can see that Willie Nelson knows how to pick songs. He’s one of the most talented songwriters still drawing breath today. However, when he isn’t writing toe-tappers and chart-toppers, he knows how to pick ones that other folks have written. This album proves that in spades. Tracks like “San Antonio Rose,” “Fraulein,” and “Columbus Stockade Blues,” are timeless standards.
We can also see Willie Nelson’s reverence for those who came before him. He adds his own spin to every track on the record. However, he maintains bits of the originals. For instance, listen to his version of “San Antonio Rose.” Willie sped up the tempo a little on his cut. But, he doesn’t stray too far from the swinging feel of the Bob Wills classic.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if Willie is recording his own songs or someone else’s. Nor does it matter if he’s clean-cut or a little scraggly. Every time he steps up to the mic, it’s pure gold.