Willie Nelson
Source: Willie Nelson YouTube

The country music star Willie Nelson is preparing to play a Fourth of July concert in New Jersey next week. To mark this occasion, we’ve decided to take a walk down memory lane and learn a little more about Nelson.

Scroll through below and find out some things about Nelson that you likely didn’t know before!

How Old Is Willie Nelson?

Willie Nelson was born Willie Hugh Nelson on April 29, 1933 in Abbott, Texas. Willie and his older sister Bobbie (1931-2022) were raised by their paternal grandparents during the Great Depression.

Music was part of Willie’s life from the very beginning. As a child, Willie was exposed to music when he attended his town’s small Methodist church with his grandparents.

Willie grew up in farming country working alongside migrant and tenant farmers. This ended up adding to his musical education as well.

“I was raised and worked in the cotton fields around Abbott with a lot of African-Americans and a lot of Mexican-Americans, and we listened to their music all the time,” Willie later said. “I guess that’s why I was influenced a lot by those around me — there was a lot of singing that went on in the cotton fields.”

Willie was athletic throughout his youth. While attending Abbott High School, he was a halfback on the football team, guard on the basketball team, and shortstop in baseball. Even with all his athletic accomplishments, however, music was always his passion in life.

When Did Willie Nelson Start Singing?

Willie’s grandparents had a passion for music, and he would later describe them as being  “dedicated musical teachers.” 

Willie’s grandparents got him his first guitar when he was 6 years-old, and he wrote his first song at 7. By the age of 10, Willie was performing at local honky-tonks in Texas.

“I’ve always sung ‘Milk Cow Blues,’” he later recalled, “It was one of the first songs I played when I started working in beer joints. From that, I really got into the blues, and learned a lot of other blues songs.”

“Then, later on, I would visit other beer joints around Texas — one time I used to deliver laundry and linens, so I made it to a lot of beer joints, and I heard a lot of great music on those jukeboxes,” he continued. “I got really addicted, and then I started trying to find out where all this good music could be found on the radio.”

Related: Willie Nelson, 91, Gives Fans Update About His Health After Canceling Concerts

Was Willie Nelson In The Military?

After graduating from Abbott High School in 1951, Willie joined the United States Air Force. This was during the Korean War, and Willie was hoping to become a jet pilot. Unfortunately for him, Air Force officials found him to be too “absentminded” to be in the cockpit of a jet.

After undergoing basic training, Willie became a medic in the Air Force. Years of bailing hay and playing sports had taken a toll on his back, however, and this resulted in him being discharged after just nine months of service.

Though he was not in the military long, the experience of being in the Air Force has stuck with Willie all his life.

“I was in the Air Force a while and they had what they call ‘policing the area,'” he later recalled. “That’s where you looked around and if there’s anything wrong here, there, anywhere, you took care of your own area.”

“And I think that’s a pretty good thing to go by,” he added. “If everyone just takes care of their own area then we won’t have any problems. Be here. Be present. Wherever you are, be there. And look around you and see what needs to be changed.”

How Many Songs Has Willie Nelson Written?

After leaving the Air Force, Willie devoted himself to music full-time. He moved to Nashville to pursue a career in music in 1960, and the rest, as they say, is history. In the decades since then, Willie has become one of the most popular country music singers and songwriters of all time.

Willie has written over 300 songs throughout his career. Willie has said that he doesn’t have a songwriting process, and that he instead lets the songs come to him.

“I wrote this thing one time it says, ‘I don’t really want to write another song but don’t tell that to my mind,” he once said. “It keeps throwing out words and I have to make them rhyme.’”

Even after so many years of songwriting, Willie still feels a sense of “accomplishment” when he finishes a new song.

“I haven’t quit,” he said with a laugh.

How Many Times Has Willie Nelson Been Married?

Willie has been married four times. He was first married to his teenage sweetheart Martha Matthews from 1952 to 1962. 

“I was always a sucker for long-black-haired women,” Willie later told Parade of Martha.

Willie and Martha had three children together before divorcing in 1962. Sadly, Martha died of liver failure in 1989.

Willie next married the musician and yodeler Shirley Collie in 1963. While they were initially happy together, their relationship was cut short by Willie’s infidelity. Things came to a head when Shirley learned that he’d fathered a child with a woman named Connie Kopeke in 1969. Willie and Shirley divorced in 1971, and she died in 2010.

Willie went on to marry Connie the same year that he divorced Shirley. They welcomed one more daughter and led a quiet life together until they divorced in 1988.

“I messed up another marriage. My wandering ways were too much for any woman to put up with,” he later said of this split. “I’ll always love Connie.”

Is Willie Nelson Married?

Willie has been married to his current wife Annie D’Angelo since 1991. They met on the set of his 1986 movie Stagecoach, where she was working as a makeup artist and he was portraying the role of Doc Holliday. Willie and Annie welcomed sons Lukas Autrey in 1988 and Jacob “Micah” in 1990.

This has been the marriage that has stood the test of time for Willie, as he and Annie remain devoted to each other to this day.

“I call her my pet rattler,” he told People Magazine in 2023. “She’s my lover, my wife, nurse, doctor, bodyguard.”

Willie went on to say that laughter plays a major role in his successful marriage to Annie.

“As they say, laughter’s the best medicine,” he explained. “I’ve always enjoyed a good joke.”

Related: Willie Nelson Reveals Why He’s Refusing To Stop Touring At 90 – ‘It’s Just A Number’

How Many Grammys Does Willie Nelson Have?

Willie has won 12 Grammys and been nominated for a total of 57 throughout his career. He’s also won 11 CMA Awards, 12 ACM Awards, and 12 AMA Awards.

Willie became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1964 and was  inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993. Willie became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1998 and was  inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001. Finally, Willie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2023.

Willie has also been nominated for one Oscar. In 1981, he was nominated for Best Original Song for his song “On the Road Again” from Honeysuckle Rose.

What Is Willie Nelson’s Net Worth?

Willie has an estimated net worth of $25 million. This comes after decades of success as a country music singer-songwriter,  author, poet, actor, activist, and national treasure.

Willie Nelson is a true living legend, and there will never be another one like him. We would like to wish him many years of health and happiness to come!

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