Willie Nelson – … And Then I Wrote (1962)

WillieNelsonFrontCover1.jpg…And Then I Wrote is the debut studio album by country singer Willie Nelson, recorded during August and September 1962 and released through Liberty Records.

Despite Nelson’s fruitless efforts to succeed with his recording releases with D Records, and after trying with other labels as a singer, he sold several of his original written songs to other artists. After his composition “Family Bible” became a hit for Claude Gray in 1960, he moved to Nashville, where he was signed by Pamper Music as a songwriter. Several of his songs became hits for other artists, including Faron Young (“Hello Walls”); Ray Price (“Night Life”) and Patsy Cline (“Crazy”).

Fueled by the success of his songwriting, he was signed by Liberty Records. During August, Nelson started recording his first album, produced by Joe Allison. The single releases of the album “Touch Me” and “The Part Where I Cry” were recorded on that day in Nashville, Tennessee, while it was completed during September in the recording facilities of the label in Los Angeles, California. The single “Touch Me” became Nelson’s second top ten, reaching number 7 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles.

In 1958, Nelson released under a contract with Pappy Daily of D Records two records, “Man With the Blues”/”The Storm Has Just Begun” and “What a Way to Live”/”Misery Mansion”. While working for D Records and singing in nightclubs, Nelson was hired by guitar instructor Paul Buskirk to teach in his school. He sold to Buskirk his original songs “Family Bible” for US$50, and “Night Life” for US$150. “Family Bible” turned into a hit for Claude Gray in 1960.

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Nelson moved to Nashville in 1960, but no label signed him. Most of his demos were rejected. Nelson was later signed as a songwriter to Pamper Music with the help of Hank Cochran, who worked for the publishing company owned by Ray Price and Hal Smith. Faron Young recorded Nelson’s “Hello Walls”, and after Ray Price recorded Nelson’s “Night Life”, and his previous bassist Johnny Paycheck quit, Nelson joined Price’s touring band as a bass player. While playing with Price and the Cherokee Cowboys, other of his original songs became hits for other artists, including “Funny How Time Slips Away” (Billy Walker), “Pretty Paper” (Roy Orbison), and, most famously, “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. Nelson signed with Liberty Records and was recording by August 1961 at Quonset Hut Studio. As Nelson later recalled, Cochran was instrumental in getting him signed: “Hank had convinced Liberty’s A&R man for country music, Joe Allison, that I was the next big thing…Allison knew that there wasn’t any way I was gonna change my singing style – and that was fine by him. He understood me. He just wanted me to sing my own songs in my own way.”

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In his 2015 autobiography, Nelson insists that he composed “Crazy”, “Night Life”, “Funny How Time Slips Away”, “Mr. Record Man”, “I Gotta Get Drunk” and “The Party’s Over” in one songwriting jag while living in Houston before finally moving to Nashville: “Within an astounding short period of time – a week or two – I’d written a suite of songs that reflected my real-life situation. I knew these songs were damn good, but at the same time, I didn’t know what to do with them.” Nelson unconsciously borrowed the first few notes of “Crazy” from the Floyd Tillman song “I Gotta Have My Baby Back.”[10] “Hello Walls” was written after Nelson had been hired by Pamper Music. Initially collaborating with Hank Cochran, he was nervous at first, realising “this was creativity on demand,” and later recalling:

First few days found me a little uneasy. I had my guitar, a pencil, and a blank notebook. Hank might throw out an idea, hoping it might spark something in me. When that didn’t work, he might tell me a joke, or I might tell him one, hoping that joking would lead to some kind of song. It didn’t…And one afternoon, after we had just sat around throwing the bull, he said, “I’m going to the office to make a few calls. You work on something by yourself.

WillieNelson01By the time Cochran had returned from his phone call Nelson had written “Hello Walls” and sang it for him. “It’s worth a fuckin’ fortune,” Cochran responded, adding, “Willie, my friend, you just wrote a hit.”

The recording sessions for his first album release, …And Then I Wrote, began in the Nashville studios of Liberty Records. Nelson recorded on August 22–23, starting during the night and lasting until the morning of the following day. Dissatisfied with the results, Allison moved the sessions to the studios of the label in Los Angeles, California, where Nelson was joined by three other stellar guitarists – session leader Billy Strange, Roy Nichols from the Maddox Brothers, and Johnny Western, who had worked with Johnny Cash. During two sessions in September 11–12, Nelson recorded “Crazy”, “Darkness on the Face of the Earth”, “Three Days”, “Funny How Times Slips Away”, “Mr. Record Man” and “Hello Walls”. B.J. Baker led the vocal chorus that attempted to back Nelson, but the singer’s idiosyncratic style gave them problems, as recounted by Nelson biographer Joe Nick Patoski: “The singers got lost trying to follow Willie’s lead vocals until Joe Allsion put up some baffles between Willie and the singers so they couldn’t hear one another. To stay on the beat, the singers followed Johnny Western’s direction.” The liner notes of the album were written by local DJ Charlie Williams, by request of Allison. The albums biggest hit was “Touch Me,” a sad blues done in a slow drag with the rough edges smoothed out by harmony singers and a cool instrumental arrangement that reached the Top 10 and earned Nelson a place on jukeboxes throughput the United States.

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It was during the recording of “Mr. Record Man” that Nelson met his second wife Shirley Collie, with whom he would soon record the duet “Willingly,” a Cochran composition.

The record was released on September 1962. “Touch Me” was released as a single, becoming Nelson’s second top ten single, reaching No. 7 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart. Billboard wrote a review about the single, describing it as an “interesting country-styled tune” with “good” lyrics.  (by wikipedia)

Willie Nelson, with an innocent earnestness & remarkable sincerity unbecoming of Nashville’s production line business model is more in line with the work of Roy Orbison in Nashville (minus the Spector influences) at the same time this was recorded and should be approached as a singer-songwriter record written for the classic late 1950’s Nashville sound (Several of these songs were written in a two week window in Houston, just before he moved to Tennessee). Before Nelson was a singer, he was a remarkable songwriter pitching his songs to Patsy Cline and the likes. His humility and genuine WillieNelson03earnestness made him a popular man among musically inclined talents and producers like Joe Allison, and this August/September 1962 recording of his classic songs penned for others over the previous handful of years along with a couple new songs like Touch Me, intended to find a mass audience (It shot up the country charts to #7).

Allison saw Nelson’s talent outweighed his limitations as a vocalist, especially after having observed the folk movement going on in New York’s Greenwich Village and thought Nelson’s genuine ability to come off earnest, sincere and straight-forward with no nonsense would appeal to a new country audience seeking something closer to the lyrical inventiveness of Hank Williams. This is a wonderful listen, a truly remarkable cache of songs that while formulaic in their instrumentation and chord structure, are brilliant pieces of the human spirit and capture the range of emotions with a new sincerity Nashville wasn’t used to since the late 1950’s. All killer, no filler, a wonderful excursion into the pre-fame, salad and bread days when Willie was trying to make a name for himself behind the scenes. (Johnny Nebraska)

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Personnel:
Willie Nelson – guitar, vocals
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a bunch of unknown studio musicians (including Billy Strange, Roy Nichols and Johnny Western)

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Tracklist:
01. Touch Me (Nelson) 2.13
02. Wake Me When It’s Over (Nelson) 2.50
03. Hello Walls (Nelson) 2,25
04. Funny How Time Slips Away (Nelson) 3.04
05. Crazy (Nelson) 2.52
06. The Part Where I Cry (Nelson) 2.20
07. Mr. Record Man (Nelson) 2.47
08. Three Days (Nelson) 3.00
09. One Step Beyond (Nelson) 2.27
10. Undo The Right (Cochran/Nelson) 2.34
11. Darkness On The Face Of The Earth (Nelson) 2.33
12. Where My House Lives (Nelson) 2.21

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What a long career … 

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