Willie Nelson’s path to becoming a household name was not without its challenges. The iconic long-haired outlaw faced plenty of turmoil and he almost threw in the towel on his country music career.
However, in 1975 he found his saving grace when he recorded “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain,” 46-years-ago today. Before the release, Nelson’s success in music came almost entirely as a songwriter.
After landing a deal with Pamper Music, Ray Price’s company, it opened the door for Nelson to network with other artists. However, it was still a long road for Nelson, partly because his vocal phrasing made him sound more like a jazz singer than a country star.
Even though he struggled to break onto the Nashville scene for over a decade, it wasn’t for nothing. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and developed a friendship with some of his legendary colleagues, including Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.
However, in 1972, he took a break from making music and took some much-needed time off in Austin, TX. While spending many nights in local honkey tonks, he found that distinct sound that made Austin unique. Nelson took this new-found inspiration and came out of his “retirement.”
After signing a deal with Columbia Records, he gained creative freedom that he hadn’t had before at another label. With this, he set off to create another concept album.
This time, he traded Music City for small-town Garland, TX as the setting to lay down his new record, Red Headed Stranger.
‘Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain’ Gives Willie Nelson’s Career New Life
Nelson released “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” as a single, and it soon became the impetus that would give Nelson new life as an artist. The song quickly rose to No. 1 on the Billboard charts on Oct. 5, 1975.
By the end of 1975, it became the third most popular country song of the year. The song also became a crossover hit, hitting No. 21 on various pop charts.
Written by Fred Rose, a handful of country greats recorded their version of the song before Nelson.
Nearly three decades before Nelson laid down the tune, Roy Acuff recorded the song in 1947. Artists such as Slim Whitman, Faron Young, Hank Williams Sr., and Conway Twitty also put their spin on “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain.”
However, Nelson’s stripped-down version gave the new-found popularity, and today his recording is undoubtedly the most iconic.
The song also confirmed Red Headed Stranger as one of the most outstanding country records ever. The song’s success and the album even led to a film adaptation in 1986, which even starred Nelson.
It’s safe to say, Willie Nelson wouldn’t be the national treasure he is today if it weren’t for his version of the simple, classic country hit, “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.”