It's a Long Story

My Life


By Willie Nelson

With David Ritz

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Willie Nelson shares his life story in this “heartfelt” bestselling memoir of true love, wild times, best friends, and barrooms (Washington Post).

“Unvarnished. Funny. Leaving no stone unturned.” . . . So say the publishers about this book I’ve written. What I say is that this is the story of my life, told as clear as a Texas sky and in the same rhythm that I lived it.

It’s a story of restlessness and the purity of the moment and living right. Of my childhood in Abbott, Texas, to the Pacific Northwest, from Nashville to Hawaii and all the way back again. Of selling vacuum cleaners and encyclopedias while hosting radio shows and writing song after song, hoping to strike gold.

It’s a story of true love, wild times, best friends, and barrooms, with a musical sound track ripping right through it. My life gets lived on the road, at home, and on the road again, tried and true, and I’ve written it all down from my heart to yours.

Signed, Willie Nelson.


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A SONG IS A SHORT STORY. It might have been my buddy Harlan Howard, a writer I met in Nashville in the sixties, who first said a song ain't nothing but three chords and the truth.

Well, songs come easy to me. I've written hundreds of them. I see them as little stories that fall out of our lives and imaginations. If I have to struggle to write a song, I stop before I start. I figure if it don't flow easy, it's not meant to be.

The truth should flow easy. Same for songs and stories. If you overanalyze or torture yourself to bring them to life, something's wrong. Just the way a mountain stream, bubbling with fresh clean water, keeps flowing, stories need to flow free and easy. The source of the water, like the source of the songs, comes from on high. It's a natural thing. It's a beautiful thing.

But what you're holding in your hands is something more than a simple song or a short story. It's a Long Story is the name of this enterprise. This time I've given myself a different task and a whole new challenge. And while I'll certainly need the truth to guide me, I'll need a lot more than three chords. I'll need more than three minutes and a few rhyming lines to convey the ideas in my head and the feelings in my heart. My head is filled with memories, and my heart, while filled with love, also retains the memories of loss and hurt.

My prayer is that, like the mountain stream, the memories flow freely. My prayer is that the memories, whether joyful or painful, refresh my spirit, and yours, by assuring us that the stream never runs dry.

Memories remind us that every moment of our lives, even the most tragic, have contributed to our strength. We've gotten through. We're still here.

I'm thankful that I'm still here. By the time you read this, I'll be eighty-two. I'm pleased to tell you that since turning eighty, I've written a couple of dozen new songs, recorded five new albums, and performed over three hundred live concerts. I don't say that to boast but only to reassert my belief that the essence of my work as a songwriter, singer, and performer is based on the simple task of telling stories. Telling those stories has kept me alive.

Now that it's time to shape all the short stories into one long yarn, I gotta admit that the job feels a little daunting.

Eight long decades of memories.

Eight long decades of successes and failures, heartbreaks and breakthroughs, miracles and mind fucks.

It's an epic tale. And to tell it right will require all the clarity at my command. But before I move on to glory and return in some reincarnated form, I'm determined to do it, determined to tell this story in my present form as Willie Hugh Nelson, a man who has lived a long and blessed life.

So if I view the task before me as just another song to sing—although a long one—I'll be fine. This isn't the Bible. This isn't the biography of a world leader or a great philosopher. It's just the story of a picker from Hill County, Texas, who got more good breaks than bad and managed to keep from going crazy by staying close to the music of his heart.

So let me just pick up Trigger, my trusty guitar that has comforted me through thousands of stormy nights and thousands of sun-filled days.

Let me find a melody.

Let me find the right words.

And in one fashion or another, I'll sing you this song.



The End

A pal of mine recently pointed out a poem by T. S. Eliot that starts off by saying, "In my beginning is my end," and concludes with, "In my end is my beginning."

I'm no T. S. Eliot, but it reminds me of a song I wrote called "Still Is Still Moving to Me."

We're never still. When we think we're at the very beginning of a journey, we may well be at the end. Or when we're convinced we're at the end, we're really just getting started.

That was my situation in the early nineties.

Everyone was saying that I had reached the end. Everyone was saying it was all over.

The IRS had come down with the hammer. And those sons of bitches came down mighty fuckin' hard.

They said I owed $32 million in back taxes. They came in and took possession of everything I owned. And at that moment, in my late fifties, I possessed a helluva lot. Property in Colorado. A couple of ranches around Austin. A nine-hole golf course. A recording studio. Several homes, including a big beachfront house in Maui. Not to mention cars and jeeps and custom tour buses. There was talk that they were even going after Trigger, so they could auction it off to the highest bidder.

"The heat's not going to blow over," said a group of sophisticated and highly trained advisers. According to them, my tax situation was fucked up beyond repair.

How did that happen?

And why?

Man, I was at a loss. All I knew was that I bought a package of tax shelters I was assured would meet my tax obligations and assure my fiscal future.

When those shelters were disallowed, the walls came tumbling down. Now the world was saying that all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Willie Nelson together again.

I became a punch line for TV comics:

"Heard the one about Willie Nelson? When the IRS served him with a lien for $32 million, he took the papers, sprinkled on some pot, rolled 'em up, and blew his troubles away. Next morning, ol' Willie didn't remember a thing."

Meanwhile, I was telling jokes of my own:

"What's the difference between an IRS agent and a whore? A whore will quit fucking you after you're dead."

The more I delved into the situation, though, I began to see an even bigger picture—a vast landscape made up of mind-boggling mazes. Like a character in some thriller novel, I saw myself trapped in that maze.

I began seeing some of the hows and whys that had gotten me to this point of no return.

Going back over the previous two decades, starting with my close friendship with President Jimmy Carter in the seventies and the political change in the Ronald Reagan eighties, I saw a seismic shift in cultural attitudes.

Jimmy Carter was a mighty good friend who saw me as a soul mate, a country boy who grew up, like him, in a backwoods church believing in the Holy Spirit. Jimmy Carter was good enough to have me spend the night at the White House. He and Rosalynn loved to come onstage and sing "Amazing Grace" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." That was the seventies, when there was a beautiful period of peace in the culture wars, when politicos, rednecks, and hippies were sharing the dance floor and maybe even an occasional joint, all in the name of love.

The eighties were a whole different deal. The eighties got dark. The eighties got crack-pipe evil. The eighties were all about secret arms deals and drug deals, the undercover Iran-Contra Affair. A time of speed, subterfuge, and hidden agendas.

I saw how the Iranian oil embargo had jacked up prices and how speculators were reaping the benefits. Millionaires were sprouting up like weeds on the West Texas prairie. Meanwhile, tax shelters were being packaged and sold like corn dogs at the state fair. Because I was an early buyer of those shelters, my mug was plastered all over those corn dogs. Because I was someone who'd been on the cover of Time magazine, sold a shitload of records, and acted in a bunch of Hollywood movies, the IRS saw me as a prime target.

Can't say for sure, but I have a feeling that in the eighties the federal government was upset by my increasingly public pro-pot stance. The men in charge didn't like how Farm Aid, the yearly event I'd cofounded, led to discussions about how the government continued to fuck the farmers.

By the end of the eighties and the start of the nineties, people were saying that I was a marked man. At first, I didn't take it seriously. I didn't feel important enough to be a marked man. But as the pressure mounted, I couldn't ignore what was happening. More and more, I felt like I was caught up in one of those old Roy Rogers or Gene Autry Westerns I loved as a kid. The posse of bad guys was coming after me. They outnumbered me. They had the horses. They had the guns. They had me cornered.

"If you want to get out alive," said one adviser, "your only hope is bankruptcy."

"But wouldn't that mean the IRS owning me for the rest of my life?"

"Afraid so, Willie."

"They'd be there at every concert, collecting the ticket sales. They'd get every nickel of every record I sell from now till I die."

"Sad but true."

I thought of men I admired, like the great boxing champion Joe Louis, who lived out his life in debt to the IRS. He became a wrestler and a referee before working as a greeter at a Vegas hotel.

They said Joe had been too generous with his family, friends, and colleagues. He had given away too much and trusted the wrong people. Now they were saying the same about me.

"Willie Nelson's glory days are behind him," one writer wrote. "Not only has he gone broke and squandered his fortune before reaching sixty, he's squandered his image as a man of integrity. For the rest of his career—or what's left of it—he'll be seen as little more than a weed-smoking tax dodger."

"Bankruptcy," the adviser kept advising. "Bankruptcy is your only way out. It's your only hope. If you don't declare bankruptcy, you're good as dead."

"You sure of that?" I asked.

"Positive," he said.

The man looked me in the eye.

"What are you thinking?" he asked.

"I'm not thinking," I said. "When it comes to something like this, I don't need to think. I need to feel."

"And what are you feeling?"

"I'm feeling fine."

"Then you'll declare bankruptcy?"

"Hell, no. It's the last fuckin' thing in the world I'd ever do."

"Then what are you going to do?"

"Have a little toke, play a little golf, take a little nap, and play a little dominoes."

"All you're doing is postponing disaster."

"All I'm doing," I said, "is keeping a positive thought."

"That's not enough," said the man. "That's crazy."

"'Crazy' is the name of a song that made me quite a bit of change."

"That was a long time ago, Willie. That was a different day, a different world. This is today, and today your world is about to collapse."

I thought about what the man said. No doubt he had a sharp mind. He'd been to a distinguished college, earned several graduate degrees, and was well versed in the nuances of high finance.

I asked myself the question, who am I to so blatantly ignore his sage advice?

To answer the deepest question of all—who am I?—won't be easy. To do so, I need to reinvoke the poet who said, "In my end is my beginning."

I need to tell you about my beginning.



MUSIC IN THE BLOOD. MUSIC in the house and music in the fields. Music in the air, in the songs sung by the birds flying through the clear blue Texas sky, in the sound of the wind and the thundering rain. Music in the heart of my father, a fine fiddler, and my mother, a beautiful singer, who gave birth first to my sister, Bobbie, a wonder child of music, before two years later giving birth to me.

Mother was Myrle, three-quarters Cherokee Indian, who'd traveled down from dirt-poor Arkansas with Ira, my father, who had followed his father, Alfred, and his mother, Nancy, to Abbott, Texas, where the land was dark and fertile and the farmland offered a degree of hope.

When I came into this world on April 29, 1933, hope was a sparse commodity. The Great Depression had hit the homeland hard. As an adult, I realized that I had grown up in rural Texas during one of the worst periods in American economic history. But that was something I learned out of books. What I learned out of life was something entirely different. What I learned was love. Like music, love was everywhere I looked and everything I felt. Fact is, I equated music with love, 'cause to hear or play or sing a song put me in a loving mood.

Myrle and Ira married when they were sixteen. They divorced when I was six months old. Other than giving life to me and Bobbie, I don't think they were ever meant to be together.

Myrle was a Greenhaw, a big family spread out between Arkansas and Tennessee that included a number of moonshiners and musicians. My mother had a wild side, no doubt, and an exotic allure that had Texans believing she was Mexican and Oklahomans believing she was Indian. She was a card dealer, a dancer, a waitress, a woman who sought adventure and the open road.

Ira's people, being from the Ozarks, grew up among the Irish and English who carried with them the tradition of Old Country storytelling, folk singing, and fiddling. More than a fiddler, though, my father was a first-rate mechanic. In fact, his main gig turned out to be chief mechanic for Frank Kent Ford Company in Fort Worth. He had a lot less wanderlust than Mom and was happy to fiddle around the honky-tonks along the highways and byways of north central Texas.

You'd think the absence of a mother and father would cause little kids like me and Bobbie all sorts of emotional damage. Well, I'm here to say that it didn't. It didn't because my grandparents—whom we called Mama and Daddy Nelson—took over. They were unflinchingly responsible. In addition to watching over me and Bobbie, they took in my older cousin Mildred. They devoted their lives to our care. Hell, in my case, they spoiled me rotten.

So there I was, in the middle of the Depression in the farmland of Hill County, Texas, in this tiny town of Abbott, population somewhere around four hundred, seventy miles south of Dallas and thirty miles north of Waco. Closest towns were West, population three thousand, six miles to the south, and Hillsboro, population eight thousand, twelve miles to the north.

You might say that I was born in the middle of nowhere, but I feel that I was born in the middle of everywhere. I was born in the middle of what I look back on as a musical miracle. I call it a miracle because so many different kinds of music were coming at me strong and sweet. My heart was being filled up by melodies, just as my body was excited by rhythms—maybe the rhythms that got my father and my mother to run off into the night, rhythms that would soon have me running in a hundred different directions. But mainly the music kept me home because home—the home of Mama and Daddy Nelson—was where the music was strongest. That's where the music was not only played and sung, but where it was taught.

I'm thankful for being born in the heart of Texas in the care of loving grandparents who were also dedicated music teachers. I'm grateful and amazed when I think about the passion these two people had for music. They passed that passion on to me and Bobbie and let us know that there was nothing more beautiful in this world than to make music.

Bobbie became accomplished at an early age. I lagged behind—and remain so to this day. Bobbie is a musician in the true sense of being able to play with great facility in any style. She learned to read beautifully and was known far and around Hill County as a genuine piano prodigy.

That had a lot to do with my grandparents ordering music books that came all the way from Chicago. The method of symbolization was called "shape notes"—"do re mi fa so la ti" each had its own configuration. Many churches used this method to help the whole congregation sing along. Mama and Daddy Nelson were principally church musicians.

Our church was the Abbott United Methodist, but there were also the Baptist, Catholic, and Church of Christ congregations, all right close to each other. Maybe there were differing opinions among the church members about which one had the true line to God, but I'll be damned if I remember a single day of disagreements among the Christians in Abbott. We all went about our religious business in our own way.

There was love in our little church. That love was first expressed to me by the Women's Missionary Society, which decided, when I was only six months old, to christen me and make me a lifetime member. That meant God had told them that this child was going to be a missionary. Well, I did find a mission early in life. It was a musical mission, born in that Methodist church. If you look broadly at what it means to be a missionary, at least as I look at it, I'm reasonably sure their prophecy proved true.

I was a believer as a kid, just as I am a believer as a man. I've never doubted the genius of Christ's moral message or the truth of the miracles he performed. I see his presence on earth and resurrection as perfect man as a moment that altered human history, guiding us in the direction of healing love. As I've gotten older, I've augmented my belief in Jesus with other philosophies that complement his. The basis of my faith, though, was formed in that little country church where we sang hymns about "amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me," and "just as I am, without one plea, but thy blood was shed for me," and "in the garden where he walks with me and he talks with me and tells me I am his own."

I didn't know that those hymns had been written in earlier centuries in foreign lands. To me, they were as new and fresh as the corn and cotton growing in the fields just outside church. These songs grew out of the rich fertile faith that was the sum and substance of Mama and Daddy Nelson. With Bobbie playing her little heart out on piano, church was, for me, both a joy and the source of a musical expression that has lasted a lifetime.

Church, however, did not calm my restless and rambunctious soul.

Mama Nelson had to tether toddler Willie to a pole in the yard to keep him from wandering off. Don't know where I'd have gone if I could have, but I had the itch early on—the itch to look beyond the bend in the road.

The Methodist church preached that straight is the gate. Liquor and smoking were seen as first-class tickets to hell, and while I heard those exhortations, even as a small child I never absorbed fear of the fiery pit. I can't remember being afraid of venturing beyond that straight gate. My natural curiosity overwhelmed my religious piety.

My first foray out of the tiny world of Abbott into the larger world of Texas was a six-mile bike ride to West, where there was a large community of Czechs. They spoke in different accents, attended the Catholic church, and had nothing against drinking beer. I was fascinated by the presence of these people who had crossed a great ocean and somehow wound up in Hill County.

I was fascinated by the very fact of being alive—that my heart beat to the rhythm of life under the sun of the huge Texas sky, that my eyes took in the amazing sights of cotton gins and horse-drawn plows and far-off fields scorched brown under the summer heat or blooming green grass in the early days of spring.

My eyes were even more amazed by what I saw on the screen of the Best Movie Theater in West—an even wider world whose heroes were more than mere men in white hats who shot straight and caught the bad guys. They were men who cradled guitars in their arms and sang the stars down from the heavens. They moved through the world serenading away the sinister side of life. Even though they were macho men who feared no rustler, they sang sweetly, effortlessly, and proudly. I saw that a cowboy hero is a romantic lover of life with a song on his lips, a funny sidekick close by, and a beloved horse on whose back he rides the trails of life.

First viewed in the small movie theaters of West and Hillsboro, Texas, the Western became an early and beautiful obsession. The Western was all about daring and danger. Up on the big screen, these fearless cowboys were my first heroes. Their moral lessons, like the lessons of the Methodist church, were clear. You live life based on loyalty. You stay on the right side. You protect your own. And when the going gets rough and the day grows dark, you pick up your guitar and soothe your soul by singing the pain away.

Their songs—eternal anthems like "Happy Trails to You" and "Back in the Saddle Again"—weren't sung in church, but they entered my soul and informed my heart with the impact of the holy hymns taught by Mama Nelson. They were all about the great adventure. Early on, I yearned for a great adventure of my own.

Years later I learned that these songs, whether written by Gene Autry or tunesmiths out in Hollywood, signaled the start of a category called country western music.

Like most every little boy in the America of the late thirties, I wanted to be a cowboy, whether Wild Bill Elliott, Lash LaRue, Eddie Dean, Whip Wilson, or Hopalong Cassidy. But how can you be a cowboy without a horse? And living in a one-horse town like Abbott, that can be a problem. Fact is, Abbott was a no-horse town 'cause the only steed belonged to Mr. Harvel, who lived two miles outside town.

On a sunny day in summer, I'd walk out to his place and ask if I could take a little ride.

"Sure thing, little Willie," he'd say. "Just don't go too far."

Sitting on top of that old nag, I pretended to be Tex Ritter riding the plains of Wyoming until a friend spotted me and called out, "Hey, Willie. You look like you 'bout to fall off that thing."

"Not gonna happen," I said. And it never did. Been a comfortable rider all my life.

From an early age, I was also comfortable writing poems. I liked stringing words together and telling little stories. I liked the fun of rhyming, the easy flow of expressing my feelings.

Mama and Daddy Nelson were big on proper speech. In addition to giving us music lessons, they taught us elocution. And though Bobbie and I were essentially shy country kids, they encouraged us to perform before the public, especially when the appearance was part of a religious event.

The seminal event happened when I was four or five. My grandparents had given me a poem to read in front of a gala outdoor tabernacle meeting in Brooking, Texas. The day was part revival, part picnic. You'd eat, you'd pray, you'd hear some preaching, you'd do some singing. This went on all afternoon. Mama Nelson had dressed me up in an all-white sailor suit. The outfit brought me pride, but the idea of reciting a poem in front of this huge audience gave me jitters. Just before I was set to go on, I started picking my nose. I was nervous and didn't realize how deeply I had dug into my skin. When I hit the stage, red blood was pouring all over my white suit. Right then and there, I ditched the poem and improvised a new one on the spot.

What are you looking at me for?

I got nothing to say

If you don't like the looks of me

You can look another way

That's how I got the nickname Booger Red.

What kind of kid was Booger Red?

I was scrappy. I was physical. I played all the sports. I loved to compete. Winning was important. Winning felt good. I wouldn't call myself a sore loser, but I did all I could to avoid defeat.

And even though I'd get into fights now and then, I got along with everyone. I had a naturally easygoing nature.

Felt natural, for instance, to be living across the street from a Mexican family. We accepted them and they accepted us. Our Mexican neighbors worked out in the fields right alongside us. Before I was old enough to pull my own cotton sack, I'd ride on Mama Nelson's sack while she picked cotton. I loved that puffy white landscape of cotton plants bursting with blossoms. I also loved listening to the black workers making music of their own. They weren't singing songs of complaint. They were singing songs of hope driven by a steady beat and flavored with thick harmonies made up on the spot. I couldn't help but sing along. These were songs that praised the Lord.

So once again I got the notion that God was everywhere. Even in the midst of backbreaking labor, God was inspiring his children to sweeten the air with melodies of joy. The field workers knew that they were being exploited with tiny pay for heavy labor. And yet they sang. They used music to turn their mood from dark to light. Music was offered up to the sky. Whether they were picking cotton, baling hay, or shucking corn, music was part of the work. As music expressed the pain, it eased the pain.

For a young kid to absorb that idea was both a heavy and heart-lifting experience.

Wherever you go, take music with you.

Music never has to stop.

Let the music keep coming through you.

Keep singing and playing and telling your story—no matter how happy or sad—through music.

Music will protect you.

Music will keep you going.

Music surrounded me, and rhythm was everywhere, too. Daddy Nelson was a blacksmith. His work fascinated me. I hung out in his shop every day and acted like his little assistant. I loved watching him take the metal from the fire before hammering the horseshoe into shape. I didn't really have the strength to handle the anvil myself, so he'd put his hand on mine and together we'd start pounding.

"You're strong, little Willie," he'd assure me, "and getting stronger every day."

Daddy Nelson was enormously strong himself, a heavyset man who wielded the heavy tools in his blacksmith shed like they were toys. I saw him as the strongest man in the world. On those occasions when I disobeyed him by running down the road and not returning till dinnertime, he'd spank me, but the spanking was never severe. It wasn't in the man's nature to hurt me. But when he did, he'd say, "If you don't obey, son, we'll never trust you." Hearing those words hurt me—and, at least for a while, I stopped running off.

Might sound corny, but the truth is we were dirt-poor in material possessions but rich in love. Along with our garden and animals, love was our sustenance. I had calves and hogs. These were creatures that I fed and raised. I remember when one baby calf was so small I could stand him on my chest. That thrilled my heart. I spent hours watching the hogs sloshing around their pen. I saw that they had their own kind of keen intelligence. I saw that animals, like people, responded to love.


  • "A smooth-spoken recollection of the country legend's childhood and his eight-decade-long musical career.... Just like this book -- and its subject -- direct and genuine."—Mike Snider, USA Today
  • "Invaluable... Nelson writes the way he sings and plays guitar--with conversational ease and grace."—James Reed, The Boston Globe
  • "Every page radiates authenticity.... Heartfelt...."—Douglas Brinkley, The Washington Post
  • "Endlessly entertaining.... Readers of It's a Long Story will finally get the sense that Nelson is sitting before them spilling everything he can remember.... It's a wonderful thing if you love ol' Willie -- and who doesn't? ... Nelson has spent decades on the road building this story -- do yourself a favor and take a day or two to read it."—Hunter Hauk, Dallas Morning News
  • "Brims with affectionate reminiscences of Nelson's childhood and semi-wayward youth, his turbulent marriages and career zigzags. And of course his raison d'être, music."—Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
  • A "breezy new autobiography... His voice as a writer, as in song, is warm, generous and good-timey."—James Sullivan, San Francisco Chronicle
  • "Nelson offers a warm, friendly, and a deeply reflective glimpse behind the making of most of his albums as well as behind-the-scenes looks at some of his best-known hits.... Reading Nelson's narrative is like sitting on the front porch chatting with an old friend."—Publishers Weekly
  • A "candid, heartfelt memoir.... In a plainspoken, conversational tone reminiscent of his singing voice."—Dave Shiflett, Wall Street Journal
  • "The closing chapters are reflective and heartfelt--part musical and part personal--and they nicely bookend Nelson's admirable attempt to recount his 'long story.'"—Andrew Dansby, The Houston Chronicle
  • "One of the original 'outlaw' country singers puts it all on the line with this bawdy and moving tale of his extraordinary life."—Allen Pierleoni, The Sacramento Bee
  • "As breezy, entertaining and occasionally bizarre as the man himself."—Larry Getlen, New York Post
  • "An autobiography that ought to be on any Southern music lover's shelf--this is Willie in his own authentic voice, sharing memories of his Texas upbringing."—CJ Lotz, Garden & Gun
  • It's a Long Story "is closer to a series of Raymond Carver stories: terse, conversational and peppered with profanity, jokes and life lessons.... One of the great stories in American music."—Jim Kiest, San Antonio Express-News
  • "This is the definitive Willie Nelson story. It's a rare insight into an American folk hero, one told in a voice as powerful and genuine as the red-headed stranger himself."
    Mark Flanagan, Run Spot Run
  • "The often hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking story of a life on the run."—Woody Harrelson, Interview
  • "This rollicking bio perfectly captures the inimitable voice of his plain-speaking subject."—Sarah Murdoch, Toronto Star
  • "Who doesn't love trigger-wielding Willie Nelson? ... Pour a drink, take a seat and dig into the life story of one of America's true living legends."—Parade
  • "One of America's most gifted songwriters and storytellers, Nelson mesmerizes us with his gift of gab in this autobiography, regaling us with stories of his life -- from his childhood and youth in Abbott, TX, to the ups and downs of his marriages, and his deep love for his family, friends, fans, and songwriting."—Henry Carrigan, No Depression
  • "Country music legend Willie Nelson tells his life story his way, with humor and outright honesty. Most of the time, it feels as if he is sitting right across the table talking directly to us, pouring out his heart and soul."—Christine M. Irvin, BookReporter
  • "Nelson recounts a colorful life story in and out of music. And what a life it has been."—Bob Ruggiero, Houston Press
  • "Warm, witty, and burnished with cowboy mystic wisdom."—Tim Stegall, The Austin Chronicle
  • "Long Story thrives on the basis of two factors: Nelson's short sentences, chalk-full of his deadpan wit and the larger-than-life tales he shares.... Nelson's sage and easy-going spin on these various yarns, and the morals he offers up in his summations, are endearing and entertaining.... Essential reading."—James Courtney, San Antonio Current
  • "A fascinating memoir of a living American icon. It is as colorful as Willie's life has been. Written in a very beautiful and gripping style, Nelson's book reads like a novel."—The Washington BookReview
  • "It's a Long Story proves to capture the Red Headed Stranger in a direct light, and fans have plenty to gain within its pages."—Tyler R. Kane, Paste Magazine's "The 15 Best Nonfiction Books of 2015 (So Far)"
  • "As a kid, Willie Nelson wrote poetry. From an early age, he understood the power of a simple, direct voice and it's this voice that makes My Life more than just another run-of-the-mill, music industry memoir.... You don't need to be a fan to be beguiled by his gift for spinning a yarn."—Fiona Capp, The Sydney Morning Herald
  • Praise for Willie Nelson

    "In a time when America is more divided than ever, Nelson could be the one thing that everybody agrees on."—Rolling Stone
  • "One of those rare American icons that you're just not allowed to dislike....Loving Willie Nelson, like paying taxes and pretending to have an opinion about politics, is just part of being a citizen of the United States....A legend."—Vanity Fair
  • "If America only had one voice it would be Willie's."—Emmylou Harris
  • "Willie Nelson's impact on American music is indelible. He stands at the crossroads of all the sounds and colors of his country. What he reflects is true soul and sincerity."—Carlos Santana

On Sale
May 5, 2015
Page Count
400 pages

Willie Nelson

About the Author

Willie Nelson is an American country music singer-songwriter, as well as an author, poet, actor, and activist. He was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993.

Learn more about this author