It really doesn’t get much better than Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard on the same stage, so it is no surprise that “Pancho & Lefty” is one of my all-time favorite duets.
In 2007, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Ray Price teamed up for a taped concert series with PBS titled “Last Of The Breed: Live In Concert,’ featuring a number of hits from all of the artists.
The album is accurately named as these artists have made countless contributions to country music, and have influenced just about anyone who has ever picked up a guitar to play country music.
“Pancho & Lefty” is a classic from Nelson and Haggard’s duo album Walking the Line, so naturally, it made this setlist.
The tune was originally written and released by Townes Van Zandt in 1972 for his The Late Great Townes Van Zandt record and is widely considered his greatest song.
Nelson and Haggard recorded their version nearly a decade later in 1983, the title track from their Pancho & Lefty duets album. It reached number one on Billboard’s Hot Country chart and Townes himself was actually featured in the music video.
And fun fact about the Willie and Merle version, Merle barely remembered recording it (more on that here).
When the two start the opening guitar licks, you know exactly what is coming, and the crowd cheers as Nelson starts to sing the first verse.
The two take you through the storyline of Pancho, who was a bandit, and how Lefty murdered him in Mexico as a hitman. Lefty then uses the money to try and make a life for himself outside of Mexico but grows old, moving from motel to motel.
It tells a great story, and Nelson and Haggard pose as the perfect storytellers.
If you like that, here are some other tunes from the night.