Willie Nelson’s Longtime Harmonica Player Mickey Raphael Says New ‘Live At Budokan’ Album Is The Perfect Introduction To Willie

Willie Nelson country music

Incase ya haven’t heard, Willie Nelson released a live album this past Friday, titled Willie Nelson: Live At Budokan. 

The performance occurred at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan back on February 23, 1984. Originally built to host the 1964 Olympic Games, it had been the site of a number of live albums, including Bob Dylan at Budokan, Cheap Trick at Budokan, and Eric Clapton’s live from Budokan album, Just One Night.

The album boasts a number of renditions of Nelson’s greatest hits, like “Whiskey River,” “Good Hearted Woman,” “On the Road Again,” “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” “Always On My Mind,” and so many more.

With that being said, Nelson’s longtime harmonica player and producer of Live At Budokan Mickey Raphael had some big words for the live performance, the album itself, and some wild memories made there in a recent interview with Texas Monthly.

He hilariously recalled a meetup with one specific Japanese fan before the show:

“I got a call at the hotel that there was a guy in the lobby who wanted to say hello. It was a Japanese man in a ten-gallon hat– like a Hoss Cartwright hat– with toy guns in a holster and woolly chaps.

I introduced myself and asked his name. He said, ‘Tex.’ I said, ‘Of course it is.'”

Needless to say, that puts a great image on what the scene was like that night, showing that Nelson was not just American folklore, but an international celebrity.

Raphael added that he believes this was one of the best live performances Nelson and the band had ever put together (and it was all done without weed, as Japan had incredibly strict marijuana laws at the time):

“We were young and firing on all cylinders. It’s a great showcase of what we sounded like in the eighties, which was a peak for us. It was a special period.”

Not to mention, he also added that this live album is one of the best ones to get somebody acclimated to ol’ Shotgun Willie’s music:

“If I was going to tell someone who’d never listened to Willie what records to start with, I’d tell them ‘Teatro,’ ‘Red Headed Stranger,’ and this one. For real.”

Top 3? You heard the man…

And while I don’t think he’s calling a Top 3 Willie Nelson record of all time, he IS saying that if you need an intro to Willie, this one captures it as well as any album he’s ever released.

I can’t disagree, the album contains nearly every massive hit Willie Nelson has to his name, and between the electric crowd and Nelson’s unique twists to studio versions of his songs, it’s Willie Nelson 101.


A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock