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One By Willie

Author: Texas Monthly

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In “One by Willie,” Texas Monthly’s John Spong hosts intimate conversations with a range of prominent guests about the Willie Nelson songs that mean the most to them. But this series isn’t just about the songs. It’s about what music really means to us—the ways it can change us, take care of us, and connect us all. Songs featured in the episodes can be found on Apple Music. Listen here.
10 Episodes
Lumineers lead singer and co-songwriter Wesley Schultz first heard “Pretty Paper” when his parents played Willie’s classic, 1978 holiday album of the same name while driving around their New Jersey neighborhood looking at Christmas lights. The song is a Yuletide standard—so much so that a lot of listeners don’t even know Willie wrote it—and it prompts Wes to think aloud about the power of lonesome songs during the holiday season, give an unexpected, apples-to-apples comparison between Willie and Bruce Springsteen, and explain how absolutely rare it is to find a Christmas song you can listen to all year long. Songs featured in this and every episode of One By Willie can be found on our Apple Music playlist
We hope you’re enjoying “One by Willie” and that if you haven't already, you'll subscribe and tell your friends about the podcast. We also want to tell you about Switched on Pop: a Best Arts & Culture podcast Webby 2020 winner about the making and meaning of popular music. Musicologist Nate Sloan & songwriter Charlie Harding pull back the curtain on how pop hits work magic on our ears & our culture.
Country music star Lee Ann Womack has been singing along to “Three Days” since she was a little girl raiding the record collection of her dad, who disc jockeyed at a small country radio station in East Texas. It’s a deep cut off Willie’s 1962 debut album, and it prompts thoughts from Lee Ann on the unexpected places where songwriters find the lines to write old-school country songs, the difference between Texas country music and the rest of it, and the lessons that she and her two daughters—who are also both singer-songwriters—learned from going on tour with Willie. Songs from this and all episodes of One By Willie can be found on our Apple Music playlist at
Sonny Throckmorton is one of the greatest country songwriters who ever lived. He's the man who wrote “If We’re Not Back in Love By Monday” for Merle Haggard, “Why Not Me” for the Judds, and “The Cowboy Rides Away” for George Strait, among hundreds of others. On this episode, Sonny discusses a little-known, early Willie composition, “What a Way to Live”; the famous picking parties Willie used to host with legendary UT football coach Darrell Royal; the song Willie stole from Elvis Presley; and why it’s best not to play poker with Willie, no matter how nicely he asks you to. Music featured in this and every episode of One by Willie is available on our Apple Music playlist
Country music legend Wynonna Judd first heard “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” as a young girl splitting her time between her mom’s house in Los Angeles and her grandparents' home in rural Kentucky. It was Willie’s first #1 single and the song that finally made him a star, and on this episode of One By Willie, she talks about hearing it on the radio when she was first discovering music, about hanging out backstage with Willie at the CMA awards once the Judds—Wynonna and her mother, Naomi—became stars themselves, and about how kind Willie was when Wynonna introduced him to her grandmother. Music featured in this and all episodes can be found on our Apple Music playlist at
The first song that country star Jack Ingram ever taught himself to play on guitar was Willie’s #11 country hit from 1976, “I’d Have to Be Crazy.” On this episode, Jack talks about how learning it clued him into the complex simplicity of the best country songs, from which point he goes into the fundamental question—“To smoke, or not to smoke?”—that anyone has to ask themself the first time they get to meet Willie Nelson, and his song selection that time he played an informal, private set for former president George H.W. Bush. Songs featured in episodes of One By Willie are available on our Apple Music playlist
Alejandro Escovedo is almost surely the only artist who has shared bills with both Willie Nelson and the Sex Pistols. On this episode, the singer-songwriter—who was a major figure in the West Coast punk scene of the seventies and rode herd over the Americana movement in the nineties—talks about Willie’s 1963 single “Half a Man.” It’s a song that peaked at number 25 on the country charts back then, and it makes Alejandro think of his father, ghost stories, old pot dealers, and the left-field cowpunk music video that first put him on Willie’s radar. Songs from this and other episodes from One By Willie are featured on Apple Music:
Lyle Lovett first heard “Hello Walls” as a kid growing up in tiny Klein, Texas. On this episode, the four-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter talks about that song, which was Willie’s first No. 1 country song as a songwriter. Lovett also reflects on the solitary nature of songwriting, the kiss of gratitude that Willie planted on Faron Young (the singer who spent nine weeks at No. 1 with “Hello Walls” back in 1961), and the time Lovett got to record a different Willie song with the great Al Green.
The Grammy-nominated Americana singer-songwriter takes a look at Willie's #1 country hit from 1980, "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground," a topic that prompts her to do some deep thinking on the difference between writing a sad song and feeling the need to just sit and listen to one. From there, she goes on to describe what it was like to record a duet with Willie on one of her own sad songs, “Learning to Lose"—and then offers up one of Willie’s favorite dirty jokes.



Comments (1)

Robb Clanton

I am really enjoying this podcast

Nov 6th
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