WATCH: Unrecognizable Willie Nelson Performs on Grand Ole Opry in 1965

by Joe Rutland

Get a picture of Willie Nelson in your mind. See him with braided hair, wearing jeans and a T-shirt. He did not always dress that way.

Yes sir, the “Redheaded Stranger” first took to places like the Grand Ole Opry dressed like traditional country music acts. One might say Nelson was “clean country” before going into “outlaw country” later in his career.

Nelson was gathering up quite a collection of songwriting credits in 1965.

In this appearance at the Opry, Nelson sings “Hello Walls,” which became a big hit for Faron Young. Other songs include “Funny How Time Slips Away,” a hit for Ray Price with Faron Young; “Night Life,” which was inspired during one of Nelson’s trips home to Texas from Nashville; and “Crazy,” which was one of the biggest hits Patsy Cline ever recorded.

Nelson is shown in this video wearing a suit and tie and – wait for it – clean cut. Yep, hair parted and no facial hair to be seen. It’s a throwback to a time when he was trying to “play by the rules” and succeed.

Anyway, enjoy Willie Nelson singing a few of his songwriting hits for the appreciative Opry crowd at the Ryman Auditorium.

Willie Nelson Makes His Opry Debut In 1964

The video shows Nelson performing just months after he made his debut on the famous Nashville radio show.

On Nov. 28, 1964, the Texas native had released two albums by this time and scored a pair of Top 10 singles. Two weeks earlier, he was recording with legendary musician Chet Atkins.

Nelson was living in Nashville at the time and under an RCA Victor recording contract. He became a member of the Opry and played a few dozen shows a year until he retired and moved back to Austin, Texas in 1972.

It was the music sound emerging in Austin that brought Willie Nelson out of his retirement.

Good thing. He and Waylon Jennings helped lead a contingent of country music artists that zigged while Nashville zagged. In other words, they chose to go against traditional country music sounds and make their own style.

Nelson, though, has a place in his country-sized heart for American standards. Those songs are sung by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and many others. In fact, Nelson has his second album of songs from the Sinatra songbook, “That’s Life,” available for pre-order.