Country legend Willie Nelson wasn’t always such an emblematic hippie, but he always liked to sing.
See a Young Willie Nelson Sing ‘Mr. Record Man’
In a throwback clip from 1965 now available on Instagram, a young, clean-cut Nelson appears on video singing a few bars of “Mr. Record Man,” a song he wrote himself.
Nelson wrote the song while he was living in Fort Worth, Texas and working as a salesman. According to “America’s Best Loved Country Songs,” Nelson drew his inspiration for the song from a time when he was driving down the highway with the radio on, feeling lonely.
Nelson would later move to Nashville, and by 1965, he had already released two albums and two Top 10 singles. That same year, he released Country Willie: His Own Songs, a sort of early greatest hits compilation.
Nelson made his Grand Ole Opry debut in 1964, soon after he signed a new record deal with RCA Records at the behest of Chet Akins, per K92.3 FM. But over time, Nelson chafed at the restrictions of Nashville, and he moved to the easier-going Austin in 1972 to found the Outlaw Country movement.
Nelson in the Present Day
These days, Nelson is gearing up for the release of his second Frank Sinatra tribute album, That’s Life, due out on Feb. 26.
“Frank Sinatra is my favorite all-time singer, and I read somewhere that I was his favorite singer, so for years and years I’ve been a Sinatra fan,” Nelson told Parade last week. “I don’t think he ever sang the same song twice the same way. He followed his own instincts.”
One of Nelson’s greatest regrets is that he didn’t have time to accept Sinatra’s invitation to go back to his house to hang out after their last show together in Vegas. But by then, the two had already worked together multiple times, Nelson said.
“He and I did a commercial together for something, and then I did a couple of songs with him on one of his albums, ‘My Way,’” he said. “I did that [song] with him and ‘A Foggy Day in London Town.’ I think we did a video on that one. So we’ve been doing things together for a long time.”
While Nelson’s roots are in country, he likes all kinds of music. And he argued that artists should be listened to on the subject of what they can and can’t do because they are best equipped to know what will resonate with audiences.
When it comes to songwriting, including “Mr. Record Man,” Nelson said he just does things the way he feels at the time, even if it’s not the way producers want him to do it.
“If I hear a line or something, I just write it,” he added. “The music is the easiest part for me. I play guitar, so I try to write songs that I can play.”