Willie Nelson revealed the shocking story behind how he wrote one of his biggest hits

Willie Nelson was one of the leaders of the outlaw movement in country music.

He hasn’t ever played by the music industry’s rules during his legendary career. 

And Willie Nelson revealed the shocking story behind how he wrote one of his biggest hits.

Country legend Willie Nelson’s 1973 album Shotgun Willie was one of the first in the outlaw country genre that broke free from the rules of Nashville.

The album became one of the most popular with fans and influential in his career.

Willie Nelson thrives with freedom from record label

Nelson left his record label RCA Records to become the first country artist on Atlantic Records.

Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler encouraged him to experiment with his sound.

Nelson said in his 2015 memoir It’s a Long Story: My Life that he needed to come up with some music quickly to justify the freedom that Wexler gave him.

And that led to an unusual creative process for the title track on Shotgun Willie.

The wild story behind Willie Nelson’s Shotgun Willie

Nelson wrote the lyrics to Shotgun Willie in a hotel room, and he made use of what he could find there to do it.

“I liked the words, but I also felt the pressure,” Nelson wrote. “I needed at least two or three new songs to justify Wexler’s faith in me. I needed to come up with something quick.”

He saw a sanitary napkin used to cover a toilet seat and got to work.

“That night at the hotel I was in the bathroom, worrying about whether I could produce some great new song, when I noticed a dispenser for sanitary napkin bags next to the toilet,” Nelson added. “I took one out, got a pencil out of my pocket, and started scribbling whatever nonsense came to mind. The words came tumbling out.”

Nelson thought that the lyrics to Shotgun Willie wouldn’t resonate with audiences since they were based on incidents from his life.

“Wasn’t much more than a variation on a twelve-bar blues,” Nelson recalled. “I figured the words wouldn’t make much sense to anyone except me. Started out with my remembering that crazy day at the farm when I grabbed my shotgun and took aim at my daughter Lana’s husband.”

“The second verse was just me stalling for time till I could figure out something for that third verse,” Nelson continued. “And the third verse was me remembering John T. Floore, owner of a honky-tonk dance hall outside San Antone, who, in his misspent youth, had supplied the Klan with sheets.”

But it turned out that Wexler loved the song.

“When I sang the song for Wexler, I was certain he’d think I was nuts. ‘I think you’re brilliant!’ Jerry enthused. ‘Let’s cut it. Lay down another bunch of songs and we’ll call the record ‘Shotgun Willie,’” Nelson wrote.

Shotgun Willie ended up becoming one of the most critically acclaimed albums of Willie Nelson’s career and gave birth to his nickname.

*Renewed Right Official Polling*

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