Here’s what happened:
Last month I traveled to Charlotte to attend the Outlaw Music Festival headlined by Nelson and also featuring Sturgill Simpson, Old Crow Medicine Show, and included a few other opening acts.
Willie was scheduled to perform at 9:40 p.m., following the other performers. He and his band appeared on stage a few minutes late to lively applause from the thousands who had waited through an earlier rainstorm and a hot humid afternoon to see him. He acknowledged the ovation with an easy wave, arm half-raised, and then walked over to where his trusty guitar Trigger sat on a stand.
I saw him pick up his guitar strap, hesitate for a second and then lay it back down. He then walked around behind the band and out through the back stage door.
The band members seemed rather bewildered, not to mention the confused murmurs that reverberated throughout the crowd. After a few minutes, the musicians also abandoned the stage.
We fans were all left in the dark – literally in the dark – for about 20 minutes.
Then we were treated to an almost repeat performance. Willie and the band came out, he waved to the more muted applause and this time he picked up his guitar and strummed out a few notes. Then he put the weathered instrument down, turned to the audience, flung his cowboy hat into the crowd and left the stage. The band soon followed.
About an hour later the house lights came on and voice came over the public address system saying that unfortunately Willie Nelson would not be performing that night because he was under the weather.
From his demeanor, it seemed that Willie was angrier about something rather than sick, but I guess we have to settle for the official explanation.
I was disappointed but I wasn’t really there to see Willie Nelson the performer. I wanted to see the legendary songwriter in person. I figured it was about time I did seeing how Willie has recently reached the ripe old age of 85.
In 1961 Willie Nelson composed the song “Crazy,” which Patsy Cline made into an endearing hit. If Willie’s musical career had just stopped there he would have been considered a great composer. But he didn’t. Not by a long shot.
Since his start as a $50 a week staff writer in Nashville, Willie has penned dozens of hit songs. He just recently released his 67th album. An amazing body of work.
I had to see that legend for myself. Hopefully I’ll get to see more of him some day.