From his peaceful, soft-spoken and likeable personality, to the legendary songs that have forever etched his name in the country music history books, to his endearing affinity for cannabis, it’s simply impossible to not like him.
However, there’s one thing about the man that I’ve always wondered…
How’d he get the nickname “Shotgun Willie?”
Turns out, it’s pretty easy to look up…
According to Texas Hill Country, it all began when he learned that his daughter Lana was being abused by her husband Steve.
He ran straight for his truck, kicked it in high gear all the way there, walked in the front door, and told his son-in-law to never lay a finger on her again:
“I ran for my truck and drove to the place where Steve and Lana lived and slapped Steve around.”
After slapping Steve around a little, Willie drove back to his Ridgetop, Tennessee home (where they resided at the time), when next thing you know, Steve pulled into the driveway, and began firing at the house with a .22 rifle.
Willie was standing in the barn doorway, and a bullet barely missed his head.
That’s when Willie proceeded to grab his M-1 rifle and fire right back at the crazed son-in-law.
Steve drove off.
Willie knew that Steve, a certified lunatic, would make a return, so he hatched a plan. He recalled his thought process:
“Thinking Steve would come to Ridgetop to pick me off about dusk, I hid in the truck so he couldn’t tell if I was home… I had my M-1 and a shotgun.”
Sure enough, when Steve came back, Willie came charging out of the garage and put a bullet into one of his tires.
“That’s when I shot his car and shot out his tire.”
Steve then called the police, but instead of explaining the messy situation, Willie thought it would be best to tell the police that Steve “must have run over a bullet.”
And that’s where the legend of Shotgun Willie began.
He went on to write the song “Shotgun Willie” the title-track of his 1973 album, an album that changed the trajectory of the man’s country music career forever. Shortly after that he would release Phases & Stages, and then his next album, arguably the most iconic country album of all time, Red Headed Stranger, came in 1975. It was the first #1 album of his career.
Of course, ol’ Shotgun Willie earned the nickname even more only a few short years later…
Willie Nelson Once Stopped A Police Shootout In A Birmingham Parking Garage
The one and only Willie Nelson…
Country music icon, marijuana enthusiast, living legend… the vault of incredible Willie Nelson stories is as deep as it as wide. I’d just love to sit down with Shotgun Willie for a while and hear him tell these stories face to face… they’re just insane.
Willie and the boys were loading up the bus after a show at the Birmingham Coliseum when they found themselves in the middle of a gun fight in a six-story parking garage.
The Parking Lot Gun Fight
Nelson’s long-time stage manager/bus driver Randy “Poodie” Locke recalled the wild moment very well in the singer’s autobiography, Willie: An Autobiography, beginning on page 289:
“We all carried two or three guns and plenty of ammo back then. Half the band was already on the Tube, Mickey was off chasing the monkey someplace. All of a sudden we hear ‘Kaboom! Kaboom! It’s the sound of a .357 magnum going off in the parking garage.
The echoes sound like howitzer shells exploding. It’s kind of semi-dark, and this guy comes blowing through this parking deck and jumps in the Franks Brothers’ Suburban. Now here comes this bitch with a fucking pistol. ‘Kaboom!’ She’s chasing this motherfucker. It sounds like a fucking war.
People are piling out of the show and they start scattering. Here come the cops from every direction. They’re flying out of their cars, hitting the parking deck, spread-eagling the whole crowd… ‘On the deck, motherfuckers!’… because the cops don’t know who is shooting at who.
We cut the lights and slip around the back of the bus. All you can see are police headlights in a big semi-circle and hundreds of people laying flat on the ground.. all these cops are squatting down in the doorjambs, turning people over, frisking them, aiming guns at everybody, just waiting for the next shot to be fired.”
Willie Nelson: Peacemaker
Leave it to Willie to settle down the noise…
“And here comes Willie.
He walks off the bus wearing cutoffs and tennis shoes, and he’s got two huge Colt .45 revolvers stuck in his waist. The barrels are so long they stick out the bottom of his cutoffs.
Two shining motherf*cking pistols in plain sight of a bunch of cops nervous as shit.
Willie just walks over and says, ‘What’s the trouble?’ Well he’s got some kind of aura to him that just cools everything out. The cops put up their guns, the people climb off the concrete, and pretty soon Willie is signing autographs.”
There ya go… just like nothing ever happened.
The mythical Willie Nelson ladies and gentleman.
And while that’s not how he got the nickname Shotgun Willie, ain’t nobody wanna mess with a legend like that.