The Guitar Man


It's a Wednesday night in Kansas City, the sun has been hiding all day and you can smell rain in the air. Forecasts call for thunderstorms later, but right now, the only thing in the air is the smell of Dutch Treat and America. People have trickled in for the past hour, but now you look around and the place is packed.

Suddenly the lights are blaring and an old man walks out on the stage and picks up a guitar.

But it's not just any man. And it's not just any guitar.

It's Willie Nelson.

And he's just picked up his '69 Martin, Trigger.

And he's ready to have some fun.

"Whiskey river, take my mind

Don't let her memory torture me

Whiskey river, don't run dry

You're all I got, take care of me."

The audience goes nuts.

He doesn't hit the notes like he used to, but his voice has more soul than it did back in the day. His instrument sounds almost a little out of tune, but his fingers move up and down Trigger like a lover. He doesn't run all over the stage like the younger guys, he just stands up there and lets the melodies run through him.

But we don't mind.

We're not here for a performance. We're not here for a big production. We're here to see a good old boy do what he does best.

And he is one of the best.

He doesn't play because he has to.

He plays because he wants to. He needs to.

He is eighty-four years old and this is his life. It's the air in his lungs, the blood in his veins. It's what keeps him alive and kicking.

It goes beyond passion at this point.

It's spiritual.

I sit there and I watch him. I watch my nine-year old and his reaction to the music and the people. He is singing along and he's happy.

Willie is up there with his family and I'm down here with my family and somehow the lines get blurred and it's almost like we're all one big family.

And that's what all this is about.

It's all about the harmony and the feelings and the music.

He sings for about an hour. Old classics, Waylon songs, gospel throwbacks. He does it all. And he is as chill as he can be.

Sure, he's chill as fuck and we all know the real reason, but even with his smoke on, he still presents himself as someone you could walk up to, sit down with and just have a conversation about the weather.

There is no pretense.

There's just an aura of calm peace. And music.

He exudes it, and it's catching.

You can't sit in the audience and watch him play and not feel something. A sense of respect. A sense of sheer awe for his innate capacity for creating this amazing music. These lyrics and melodies that make you want to tap your foot. That make you want to sing along. That make you happy, that make you nostalgic. That make you feel like part of the family. He is the epitome of a music man. He is like a pied piper playing for the masses.

And he won't be playing that much longer, so see him while you can. Appreciate the man that has such a love for his job that he gets out there and plays a chilly, rainy night in Kansas City just because he was classy enough to come back and play a previously rained out show.

He's a man. He's a guitar picker.  He's a legend.

He's Willie fucking Nelson.