“Screw Willie Nelson” — Producer Owen Bradley Was Not A Fan Of The Original Version Of “Crazy”

Willie Nelson Patsy Cline country music
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An all-time great country standard.

Of course, Patsy Cline recorded “Crazy” in 1961, and it shot to the #2 spot on the country charts in 1962 when Patsy released her iconic version as a single. Originally written by the one and only Willie Nelson, you’d be hard-pressed to point to a more classic, meaningful song within the genre of country music other than that one.

Patsy’s husband, a promoter named Charlie Dick, famously took Willie to their house in the middle of the night to wake his wife up to listen to it, because he knew “Crazy” was a hit from the first time he heard it. And while Willie didn’t attend the session when it was recorded, he says it almost didn’t happen.

Willie recalled in his 2015 memoir, It’s a Long Story: My Life, that Patsy was “so taken” with the way he recorded the demo that she tried to follow his phrasing… which was a big mistake, he says:

“No one should try to follow my phrasing. My phrasing is peculiar to me. I’ll lay back on the beat or jump ahead.

I’m always doing something funny with time because, to me, time is a flexible thing. I believe in taking my time. When it comes to singing a song, I’ve got all the time in the world.”

Though the producer of the song, Owen Bradley, would probably beg to differ on that philosophy, and he lost patience quickly in the studio trying to do it that way, and told Patsy she needed to forget how Willie sang it and make it her own.

Bradley was an architect of the “Nashville sound” in the 1950’s and 60’s in Music City, and is a legendary name who also worked with the likes of Kitty Wells, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn and even Buddy Holly. He told Patsy to “screw Willie Nelson and his screwy sense of meter,” and I guess that’s what it took to get her to figure out her version of it:

“‘Screw Willie Nelson and his screwy sense of meter,’ Owen was said to say. ‘Forget how Willie sings it. You sing it your way.’

But it’s his song,’ Patsy protested. ‘Okay, but now it’s time to make it your song.'”

Of course, she did just that, and Willie adds:

“Her version of ‘Crazy’ became one of the best-selling songs of all time. Of all the versions of my songs covered by other artists, it’s my favorite. She understood the lyrics on the deepest possible level.

She sang it with delicacy, soul and perfect diction. She didn’t overdo it or underdo it. Patsy did the song proud. She did my proud I’m forever grateful for what I consider a perfect rendition.”

Couldn’t have said it any better myself. I think many fans would agree that it’s the best rendition of any of his songs, or any country song in general, because no one could sing like Patsy Cline and she was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime talent that we’ll never see in music again.

And honestly, the truth is… Patsy would’ve been crazy not to record it, and I think she was well-aware of that fact herself.


Willie also recorded his own version of “Crazy” for his 1962 debut album, … And Then I Wrote:

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock