Most of us know Willie Nelson as the bearded, long haired, headband-wearing (probably a joint in his hand) country music icon that we’ve all come to love, but it actually took a while for him to rock his now iconic look.
In fact, it took Nelson quite a long time to break through into the country music industry. Willie moved around the country and took odd jobs all over the place (dishwasher, bouncer, door-to-door vacuum salesman) just to try and keep his music career dream alive.
Once he moved to Nashville in 1960, things started to fall in place for Nelson, who suddenly started making all kinds of connections (Hank Cochran, Patsy Cline, etc.). Willie’s songwriting made him stand out, and before too long, he signed on with Liberty Records in 1961.
It was a whirlwind after that for Willie, who was finally able to shine through in his own right and make a name for himself in the country music industry. That was all but confirmed when he was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, which brings us to the video below.
The black and white footage shows a 32-year-old, clean cut Willie Nelson gracing the Grand Ole Opry stage, which in 1965 was located at the Mother Church of Ryman Auditorium. The young country star was there to perform some of his hits, and specifically in this vintage footage, the song “Mr. Record Man,” which he released in 1961.
Nelson’s introduction before his performance was as follows:
“Where do the writers of the Grand Ole Opry songs get their inspiration? Well, I guess a good man to ask would be Willie Nelson. You see, Willie is a rare combination of a truly great songwriter who is also an exciting vocalist.
And his songs, like all great country songs, are inspired by people and their stories. With such hits as ‘Hello Walls’ and ‘Crazy’ to his recent credit, Willie is hotter than a depot stove.”
And considering that Nelson has still been performing at the age of 90, I’d say that “depot stove” is still burning as hot as ever. It’s great that we can appreciate Willie as the outlaw country icon that he became in the late 1960’s (and stuck with the rest of the way), but it’s also intriguing to see him in his early years, such as this performance of his hit song on the Grand Ole Opry stage.