By the early Sixties Willie Nelson was gaining a sterling reputation as a songwriter, with massive hits by Patsy Cline (“Crazy”), Faron Young (“Hello Walls”) and Ray Price (“Night Life”), among others. After a few successes as an artist at Liberty Records, he signed with
Following his debut single for RCA, the now-perennial holiday favorite “Pretty Paper,” Nelson released “She’s Not for You.” Warning a friend about a woman who is a serial cheater, Nelson plays the role of “
Nelson, however, was proving a popular guest on some of country music’s most visible TV showcases at the time, owing in part to the role he’d played in giving artists such as Porter Wagoner, who had one of the biggest of these shows at the time, a chance to have hit records with his tunes. During the above appearance on Wagoner’s show, Nelson performs “She’s Not for You,” playing acoustic guitar with an uncharacteristically steady beat throughout, employing little of the jazz-influenced timing that has become a signature for the now 85-year-old – who celebrated that milestone on Sunday, April 29th.
As with many of his songs, Nelson would revisit “She’s Not for You,” most notably on the album that finally got him out from under the thumb of RCA and Atkins’ “Nashville Sound” sweeteners. In 1973, the now-bearded Nelson, whose Family band had become a hugely popular concert attraction, recorded Shotgun Willie, his first LP for Atlantic Records and one of the very first to define the iconic “Outlaw” sub-genre in country music. The 1973 version features a tasty acoustic guitar solo from Nelson, performed on his trusty sidekick Trigger.
In a later segment from the same episode of the Wagoner show, Nelson performed the classic country-meets-the-apocalypse weeper “Darkness on the Face of the Earth,” a tune featured on his debut LP, 1962’s …And Then I Wrote, and recorded during the same two-day session during which he’d cut early versions of “Crazy,” “Hello Walls” and “Funny How Time Slips Away.”
Also included in this vintage clip is Nelson’s version of “Hello Walls” as well as the show’s musical closing with Wagoner, his band and show co-stars, including comedian Speck Rhodes.
In 1993, Nelson would revisit “She’s Not for You” on his exceptional Don Was-produced Across the Borderline LP, which also featured Paul Simon, Bonnie Raitt and Sinead O’Connor. “Darkness on the Face of the Earth” would be recut on 1998’s Teatro, produced by Daniel Lanois, and on the 2005 reggae LP Countryman.
Willie Nelson’s latest album, Last Man Standing, was released Friday, April 27th.