If Loving Willie Nelson Makes Me a Redneck, Then Pass The Canned Meat

Willie Nelson photographed for Rolling Stone, in his main building ... I think they call it the saloon, outside of Austin TX on November 4, 2013 Display or On Page credit: Photograph by LeAnn Mueller CAPITAL 'A' in LeAnn

Willie Nelson photographed for Rolling Stone, in his main building … I think they call it the saloon, outside of Austin TX on November 4, 2013
Display or On Page credit: Photograph by LeAnn Mueller
CAPITAL ‘A’ in LeAnn

Last month I was at a swanky luncheon for a birthday party.  Never very good at small talk, I leaned over to a virtual stranger and posed this question: “Does having an obsession with Willie Nelson make me white trash?”  To her credit, she blinked only once and gave me an emphatic, ” ‘Fraid so.” She wasn’t kidding.  She’s also ten years my junior and a thousand times hipper (like I’m pretty sure she doesn’t drive a mini-van or turn in at 9:30 at night), so I know she was telling the truth.  I shouldn’t have been surprised.  My friend Robert has been referring for years to the “redneck Willie Nelson thing” I do.

At summer camp one year we had a white trash day (is that racist? tasteless?) and I remember lots of jokes about canned meat, like Vienna sausages, and marrying family members with no teeth.  If that’s what people think of when they think of Willie and his music, well, I can’t stop ’em.

But let me say this:

It’s not easy being a fan of an 82-year-old country music legend.

First, people assume I like country music.  For the record, I hate country music.  Hate. It.  I’m serious.  As a genre it ranks just after Gregorian chant and only slightly above Yo Gabba Gabba.  I really only like Willie.  I can tolerate Johnny Cash.  Waylon Jennings is alright.  I enjoy Kris Kristofferson, but he’s a Rhodes scholar who studied literature at Oxford, and he has a gorgeous head of hair to boot.  There’s nothing trash about that.

But contemporary country.  Yuck.  I have no opinion on Miranda Lambert and that tall guy she’s married to.  Or Eric Church.  I’ll cop to a soft spot for all Texas-born musicians, which is roughly 4/5 of them, but I don’t want to listen to them.  I will also declare my undying devotion to Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith, but they’re not country. They’re “singer songwriters.”

Wait. I know what you’re thinking.  Yes, I’m a Dolly Parton fan, but that’s technically blue grass, so fuck off.

My point is that 99% of country music can go have a cocktail with Bill Cosby for all I care.

Second, and way worse than being mistaken for a country music fan (*shudder*), is that octogenarians who tour sometimes have to cancel their shows.  Like last Friday, when Willie’s undisclosed health issue forced him to cancel a show in Hammon, Indiana.  I had second row (center) seats for that show at the Horseshoe Casino.  (Classy, thy name is Christie.)

I got the email about the cancellation in the middle of the work day.  I pounded on my desk so hard and let out a barbaric yawp so loud and pathetic that my next-door neighbor coworker ran into my office to check on me.

It’s pretty amazing to tell someone who thinks you just erased a day’s worth of work or blew a court-ordered deadline that, no, you’re just having a conniption fit because Willie Nelson canceled his show. (God, just writing that sentence makes me well up.)

“Hi, coworker who is still trying to decide if I’m cool, don’t mind me having a complete episode of decompensation over the status of Willie Nelson’s health.  Move along.”

I moped around all night, then crawled into bed to read his just-released memoir It’s A Long Story.  I find comfort where I can get it.

There is hope: the show’s been rescheduled to September.  I’m saying the rosary every night that Willie is healthy and strong enough to play that night.   In the meantime, I’m picking up the pieces and moving on the best I can, but not eating potted meats or listening to twangy, Nashville country “music.”



16 thoughts on “If Loving Willie Nelson Makes Me a Redneck, Then Pass The Canned Meat

  1. This is so funny! I too am a HUGE Willie fan! I saw him in Austin a long time ago and caught one of his guitar pics! Would love to see him again. And I share your sentiments about country music and artists. Love the Walt Whitman (Dead Poet’s Society?) reference. Fun post.

  2. Oh Mama! Take it east, as my good friends the Eagles once said.

    To quote my close personal friend, Duke Ellington, “Thee are only two kinds of music. Good and bad. And if you like it, it’s good.”

    The only ones who give a shit are the marketing people and record companies. I urge you not to get too close to them. It causes falling for the latest pop music, which is always at least 80% crap. No matter what your time frame. Who remembers, for example, The 1910 Fruit Gum Company who sold carloads of records and wasted lots of air time. “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy I got love in my Tummy.”

    More of that crap should be capitalized, but, as I listen to Rosalee Sorells sing Utah Phillips, who the fuck cares?

  3. I hear you, I am a die hard Waylon Jennings fan. I have been since I was 5 years old. When I was in my twenties I had tickets to see him in concert, and on the way there my mother and I got in a terrible car accident. We didn’t make it to the concert. Shortly after that… he died. At least you can still hold out hope of seeing your legend. Me? I just play “Lonesome, Ornery and Mean” and sigh. (I have to admit though, that my boyfriend actually looks a bit like 1970s Waylon. While I can’t say that’s why I picked him, I can’t say it isn’t, either.)

    • Oh no, that story is tragic on so many levels. My heart aches for you. I just bought Waylon’s biography so I hope to get to know him better. What a classic.

      On Wed, Jun 3, 2015 at 2:21 PM, Outlaw Mama wrote:


  4. I don’t know how I missed this post. Because this is my kind of post, and you, as you know, are my kind of people.

    I hate hate hate country music. But Willie Nelson is a nostalgic part of my heart that sits right next to boston creme donuts and early 80s MTV in the “I can’t explain it, but I love it” section of sacrosanct. The first two chords of Poncho and Lefty make me cry and I don’t slow down until “say a prayer for Lefty, too,” at which point I lose all semblance of holding on.

    I also adore every word Lyle Lovett sings. But that hardly counts, since he’s singing surrealist poetry. And Alison Kraus’s voice plucks the back of my knees hard enough to make me sit down and hush up while I listen to anything she records. But that’s not about country. That’s about angels roaming amongst humans.

    Anyway, hope the next concert is fabulous. And near me. So we can go together.

      • Christie, we have a long list of real good reason for all the things we’ve done. We have a picture in the back of our minds of what we’ve lost and what we’ve won. We’ve survived…okay, that’s where he’s got the edge. I always seem to screw up when to freeze and when to run. But that’s okay. I’m human.

  5. Pingback: No Leaving Sandra Bland Behind | Outlaw Mama

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