Few genres of music have the nostalgic themes of Country Music. Pickup trucks, cold beer, and romantic flings pervade almost every Country song, bringing back good memories for anyone who has spent time in rural America. While one enjoys the warm nostalgia of Country, enjoying some cannabis is a great way to elevate the chill vibes. Many Country musicians feel the same way. However, no Country musician enjoys cannabis more than Willie Nelson.
Not only a Country music legend, Willie’s love of cannabis is also legendary. Willie Nelson has been smoking pot since before most of us were born, becoming a pothead in the heyday of 60s counterculture. From there, Willie went on to have a Country Music career spanning over 50 years, with some sticky green stuff always close at hand. However, Willie Nelson is far more than a weed-smoking musician – he is a cannabis entrepreneur and activist. It’s no exaggeration to say that Willie’s unabashed love for smoking pot played a part in society’s changing opinions about cannabis. Without a doubt, stoners everywhere owe a debt to Willie Nelson. But what made Willie Nelson a Country music superstar and a beloved cannabis icon? First, we must turn to his formative years.
Born on April 29th, 1933, in Abbot, Texas, Willie Nelson spent his early childhood living during the Great Depression. Raised by his grandparents, Willie first learned guitar from his old folks and sang in a Church choir. Willie lived a hardworking childhood, spending summers picking cotton in the Texas heat. The back-breaking work didn’t appeal to Willie, so he looked for ways to make money with his musical talents.
At age 13, Willie began to play gigs in dance halls, taverns, and honky tonks. He did this throughout high school and played in a band called “The Texans.” In addition to his musical pursuits, Willie played on many sports teams, becoming a star halfback, point guard, and shortstop. Even at an early age, anyone could tell Willie was going places.
In 1950, Willie enlisted in the Air Force. Due to back problems, he received an honorable discharge nine months later. During the next few years, Willie married his high school sweetheart and enrolled at Baylor University. Then, in 1956, Willie dropped out of school, deciding to pursue music as a career.
From Nobody to Superstar
For the latter half of the 50s, Willie moved around the US, searching for his big break. He worked odd jobs to make ends meet, such as a door-to-door Bible and vacuum salesman. Although Willie recorded a few singles, he experienced little success. It all changed for Willie when he moved to Nashville.
Willie spent his days on Country Row, frequenting the famous, still-standing bar, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. One day when he was performing his song “Hello Walls,” Country music icon Faron Young approached Willie and offered to record the song.
The chance encounter jumpstarted Willie’s career. He became a studio musician and touring performer, assisting such musicians as Roy Orbison and Patsy Cline. In 1961, Willie signed a record deal and began his career as a solo act. However, the coming years proved difficult.
Willie had several hits in the 60s but struggled to get by on small royalties. In 1970 Willie was burnt out from touring and poor pay and retired from music. Willie moved to Austin, Texas, intending to leave music behind.
In the early 70s, Willie became heavily involved in the Austin hippie scene. The fresh sounds and frequent pot smoking rejuvenated Willie, and he began playing music again but with a new approach. Willie no longer cared for the straitlaced sound of Nashville country, so he embraced a new style, Outlaw Country.
Throughout the 70s, Willie released many critically acclaimed albums to much success, such as Red Headed Stranger, Waylon & Willie (a collaboration with Waylon Jennings), and Stardust. These albums cemented Willie as one of Country Music’s most original and recognizable voices and vaulted him into superstardom.
Willie Nelson and Cannabis
As Willie became a Country music superstar, he became a champion of cannabis smokers. Wille first smoked pot at the ripe old age of 11 – his cousin offered him a joint, which he said was an “asthma cigarette” prescribed by his doctors for his shortness of breath. Willie didn’t care for it and only discovered it was cannabis when he smoked pot years later, realizing the sensation was identical.
Willie first developed an affinity for smoking by finding anything he could roll up in papers. Wille even smoked grapevine and cedar bark! He then graduated to cigarettes and began to drink as well. He would try cannabis as well, but it never appealed to him. Somewhere along the line, Willie changed his mind. The reason why? Willie doesn’t remember.
Over the years, Willie’s pot smoking made for many incredible stories. From getting high before shows to smoking with celebrities, Willies exploits are remarkable. One time, Willie and Snoop Dogg got together in Amsterdam. Snoop brought a blunt, and Willie brought a vape, pipe, and a joint of his own. Willie enjoyed the blissful high while he said Snoop Dogg, “crawled away.” To smoke out Snoop Dogg is a title only Willie can claim.
However, winning a smoke-off with Snoop Dogg isn’t Willie’s best smoking story. Famously, Willie smoked pot on the roof of the White House. Jimmy Carter was the president at the time, and Willie was good friends with his son Chip. Chip led Willie on a tour of the White House, and when they reached the roof, he pulled out a joint. To smoke a joint on the roof of the government building that made cannabis illegal is the definition of a power move. Undoubtedly, Willie’s cannabis stories are second to none.
Willie Nelson: Still Going Strong
Willie Nelson is 89 years old, but that doesn’t stop him from playing music and enjoying cannabis. In a 2019 interview, Willie said he quit smoking cannabis to take care of his lungs. Although he no longer smokes, Willie is definitely enjoying plenty of oils and edibles.
As he continues to partake in cannabis, Willie remains a fixture in the community. Willie is the co-chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, also known as NORML. The foundation strives to normalize cannabis use and campaigns for cannabis legalization in the United States. Willie still comes out with new music as well, and many of them are stoner anthems. In 2015, Willie Nelson recorded the song “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” Although it will be a sad day to see Willie go, stoners everywhere can light up a joint and remember a Country Music and cannabis legend.