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Carol Perkins: Willie. Just Willie

'Willie is seventy-nine years old, so he can (and always has) behaved uncharacteristically of what most of us would call normal: the person who keeps his/her moments of bad behavior private, if he/she has any moments. Not Willie.- Carol Perkins
The next earlier Carol Perkins Column: Carol Perkins: Time for annual pity party

By Carol Perkins
Willie. Just Willie. There is probably not a person under the age of 30 who doesn't know Willie Nelson. The author of the recent best seller Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I'm Gone can turn words on a napkin into a classic hit. Plus, who else could get by with a title like that? A title that is bound to raise the eyebrows had it come from anyone else.

Willie is seventy-nine years old, so he can (and always has) behaved uncharacteristically of what most of us would call normal: the person who keeps his/her moments of bad behavior private, if he/she has any moments. Not Willie.

Willie was at Sky Pac back in December and tickets immediately sold out. For one who has been a Willie fan for years, I might have fought for a ticket, but I didn't. Not that I don't still embrace his music, especially songs like Always on My Mind, but I prefer to listen to it because then I will be able to understand the words and sing along to the right beat!

In this recent book, he admits that whether or not he sings the way his songs were recorded or the somewhat unrecognizable version that is more often a beat ahead or behind his band (most of the time they follow him to his off beats) depends largely on how much pot he has smoked before each performance. The avid Willie fan will simply say, "That's Willie." Even though he will always sell out arenas (even though they are getting smaller), will sell millions of books, and appear on any talk show he desires, I can't help but want to see and hear the Willie who is "on" rather than "off." I have seen both. My good memories are of when he was "on."

One of my favorite Willie stories happened at Tombstone Junction years ago. Four or five of us went to the outdoor concert and lined up afterwards for autographs, pictures, and kisses. Yes, indeed, he kissed every woman in line-on the lips! One right after another, he didn't back off from the worst of the lot and certainly not from the best. I was stunned at his free kissing booth but what is a girl to do? As for the autograph, not having a piece of paper, I had him sign my canvas bag, which I still have.

Another Willie incident was when he performed at the Palace Theatre in Louisville several years ago. He was at his best, and we had another chance for an autograph. This time one in the group suggested we find his bus, the Honeysuckle Rose, and catch him as he was departing. Located behind the theater, the bus was a main attraction with other women, and a few men, too. One young guy brought his guitar to be signed, which Willie graciously did.

Having no paper once again, this time I took off my little white Ked tennis shoe and he put his name on the side. What other star would sign a shoe that had been worn all day? Willie just smiled. Willie always smiles. He is always gracious. He is always happy.

The last vivid memory of Willie was at a New Year's Eve show in Nashville. This was actually a Toby Keith concert, but Willie stumbled to the stage at the end, totally surprising the audience. He was feeling exceptionally "happy" that night and Toby laughed at himself for not being able to follow Willie's lyrics or his tempo. No surprise. But then tragedy almost occurred. When Willie staggered over to the guitar stand to place his prized instrument, he missed the stand, which sent the guitar toward the floor, along with Willie. Willie was not in a panic while stagehands dashed from every corner to catch that priceless guitar. Looking back, I see the event in slow motion. The crew caught Willie, but not before saving the guitar!

There are not very many stars that can give audiences fantastic shows and turn around and leave his audiences wondering what happened, but crowds continue to follow him because they know when Willie is "on" no one is better. When he's "off," that's just Willie. - Carol Perkins

This story was posted on 2013-01-20 01:55:32
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