Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hello Willie

Today, April 30th, is Willie Nelson's 76th birthday. Everyone knows Willie's persona as a country music outlaw, the Redheaded Stranger who likes to smoke some pot now and then and be his own man. But, there is a side of Willie that has been somewhat forgotten over the past 30 years or so. That is Willie Nelson the songwriter. Prior to making it on his own as a performer, Willie provided hit songs for a multitude of country performers. Willie wrote "Crazy" which Patsy Cline turned into an all time classic. In fact, "Crazy" is thought to be the most played song in the history of the juke box.

One of my favorite Willie compostions is "Hello Walls", which Faron Young had a monster hit with in 1961. The story behind Young's recording of "Hello Walls" is fascinating. In 1960, a broke Willie Nelson brought the song to Faron Young, offering to sell the songwriting rights to Young for $500. Young refused to buy the song off of Nelson. Instead, Young pulled out $500 and handed the money to Willie telling Willie it was a loan Willie could repay after Young made the song into a hit. A few months later, Young followed thru on his promise. "Hello Walls" was #1 on the country charts for nearly two months, beginning in May 1961. The song also reached #12 on the pop charts. In his 2002 book The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes, Willie tells this story and then goes on to say he made over $1 million in royalties from "Hello Walls" over the years since 1961. It's a good thing for Willie that Faron Young refused to buy it.. Here is Faron performing the million dollar song.

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