Willie Wrote It, Patsy Sang It

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In his comment on my recent Lefty Frizzell post, Duncan Walls recommends From Willie To Lefty, Willie Nelson’s tribute record. I’d never heard it before, but have now, and I’ll second Duncan’s emotion: Willie does Lefty right.

Unlike Lefty, who wrote songs for himself, Willie started out in Nashville writing songs for other singers. In 1961, his first full year in Music City, Willie had hits for Ray Price (Night Life), Faron Young (Hello Walls), and Patsy Cline (Crazy), while his own recording career was going nowhere. Could be that writing the way Willie did, with other singers in mind, gave him a different and deeper insight into the process than a singer-songwriter could get, and enhanced both his writing and his interpretive skills. There aren’t many singers who’ve covered a wider range of material: on Stardust, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Kurt Weill and George Gershwin are among the composers represented, and on Across The Borderline, Willie adds Paul Simon, Lyle Lovett and Bob Dylan to that illustrious list. All this and Lefty, too!

But in the beginning, at least, Willie got paid to write, not to sing. I don’t know if he wrote Crazy with Patsy Cline in mind, but I’ve never heard anyone sing it better than she did. Please enjoy, and please pay particular attention to those guitar runs.

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One Response to “Willie Wrote It, Patsy Sang It”

  1. Duncan Walls Says:

    Thanks for the namecheck, Don. You also unintentionally mentioned the reason I even knew who Willie Nelson was when I was young. ONe Christmas friends of our family gave us Faron Young’s LP “Hello Walls” just for the title. My parents were NOT country fans (at least not back in the early 1960s; that was later) but I was already hooked (born in 1951) on the sound of the Steel Guitar as it had infiltrated into pop sounds in the 1950s and through records like Pete Drake’s “Forever”. I must have played the Faron Young record 100 times as a kid ( I still play and sing the song either backing myself on guitar or piano) and with my habit of pouring over everything in print on everything I had, soon enough discovered Willie Nelson’s name along with Buddy Killen, Donnie Young (later known as Johnny Paycheck), Justin Tubb and Roger Miller’s names long before I heard anything more by them. Incidently, that is how I learned so much about music. When my parent’s would go shopping, I would ask to have them let me off at the music store and spend my time ‘reading the stacks’ looking at liner notes, production cedits and son credits. Can’t do that today with CDs (couldn’t with cassettes either) which are4 fast disappearing anyway. It’s kind of a lost art but it served me well. Thanks for your work here. I really enjoy it.

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