Willie Nelson – Shotgun Willie (1973)

FrontCover1Willie Hugh Nelson (born April 29, 1933) is an American singer, songwriter, musician, political activist and actor. He was one of the main figures of outlaw country, a subgenre of country music that developed in the late 1960s as a reaction to the conservative restrictions of the Nashville sound.

The critical success of his album Shotgun Willie (1973), combined with the critical and commercial success of Red Headed Stranger (1975) and Stardust (1978), made Nelson one of the most recognized artists in country music. Nelson has acted in over 30 films, co-authored several books, and has been involved in activism for the use of biofuels and the legalization of marijuana.


Shotgun Willie is the 16th studio album by Willie Nelson, released in 1973. The recording marks a change of style for Nelson, who later stated that the album “cleared his throat”. When Nelson refused to sign an early extension of his contract with RCA Records in 1972, the label decided not to release any further recordings. Nelson hired Neil Reshen as his manager, and while Reshen negotiated with RCA, Nelson moved to Austin, Texas, where the ongoing hippie music scene at the Armadillo World Headquarters renewed his musical style. In Nashville, Nelson met producer Jerry Wexler, vice president of Atlantic Records, who was interested in his music. Reshen solved the problems with RCA and signed Nelson with Atlantic Records as their first country music artist.


The album was recorded in the Atlantic Records studio in New York City in February 1973. Nelson and his backup musicians, the Family, were joined by Doug Sahm and his band. After recording several tracks, Nelson was still not inspired. Following a recording session, he wrote “Shotgun Willie”—the song that would become the title track of the album—on the empty packaging of a sanitary napkin while in the bathroom of his hotel room. The album, produced mostly by Arif Mardin with assistance from Wexler and longtime Neil Young collaborator David Briggs, included covers of two Bob Wills songs—”Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)” and “Bubbles in My Beer”—that were co-produced by Wexler. Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter collaborated on the album, providing vocals and guitar.


Shotgun Willie was released in June 1973. In spite of poor sales, the album received good reviews and gained Nelson major recognition with younger audiences. The recording was one of the first albums of outlaw country—a new subgenre of country music and an alternative to the conservative restrictions of the Nashville sound, the dominant style in the genre at the time. (wikipedia)

Coffee Mug

Transferring his allegiance to Atlantic (where he would record two remarkable albums that would get him kicked off the label), Willie Nelson offered his finest record to date for his debut — possibly his finest album ever. Shotgun Willie encapsulates Willie’s world view and music, finding him at a peak as a composer, interpreter, and performer. This is laid-back, deceptively complex music, equal parts country, rock attitude, jazz musicianship, and troubadour storytelling. Nelson blurs the lines between his own tunes and covers to the point that “Whiskey River,” this record’s best-known song, seems thoroughly original, yet it was written by Johnny Bush and Paul Stroud.


This, along with two songs apiece by Leon Russell and Bob Wills, provides context for his originals, with Shotgun Willie becoming a musical autobiography, offering not only insights into his musicality (witness how he slows down “Stay All Night [Stay a Little Longer]” to a slow shuffle) but, seemingly, into himself (most notably on the title track and the wonderful, funny travelogue “Devil in a Sleepin’ Bag”). Nelson wasn’t just at a peak of performing here — he also wrote some of his greatest songs, highlighted not just by the previously mentioned tunes but also by the lovely slow waltz “Slow Down Old World” and “Sad Songs and Waltzes.” All of it adds up to possibly the finest record in a career filled with hits and highlights. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)


Jack Barber (bass)
Dave Bromberg (guitar)
Steve Burgh (guitar)
James Clayton Day (dobro, pedal steel-guitar, background vocals)
Paul English (drums)
Johnny Gimble (fiddle)
John Goldthwaite (guitar)
Jeff Gutcheon (keyboards)
Waylon Jennings (guitar, background vocals)
Red Lane (guitar)
Hugh McDonald (bass)
Augie Meyers (guitar)
Steve Mosley (drums)
Bobbie Nelson (piano)
Willie Nelson (vocals, guitar)
George Rains (drums)
Mickey Raphael (harmonica)
Doug Sahm (guitar, background vocals)
Dan “Bee” Spears (bass)
horn section:
Willie Bridges (saxophone)
Jack Hale, Sr. (trombone)
Wayne Jackson (trumpet)
Andrew Love (saxophone)
James Mitchell (saxophone)
background vocals:
Dee Moeller – Larry Gatlin – Jessi Colter


01. Shotgun Willie (Nelson) 2.42
02. Whiskey River (Bush/Stroud) 4.05
03. Sad Songs And Waltzes (Nelson) 3.07
04. Local Memory (Nelson) 2:17
05. Slow Down Old World (Nelson) 2.53
06. Stay All Night (Stay A Little Longer) (Wills/Duncan) 2.36
07. Devil In A Sleepin’ Bag (Nelson) 2.40
08. She’s Not for You (Nelson) 3.15
09. Bubbles In My Beer (Duncan/Walker/Wills) 2.33
10. You Look Like The Devil (Russell) 3.26
11. So Much To Do (Nelson) 3:11
12. A Song For You (Leon Russell) 4.19




More from Willie Nelson:

The official website:

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