Country music legend Willie Nelson has set the bar pretty high for contemporary musicians, having written some of country's most popular songs and even helping to pioneer outlaw country. He is well known for creating Farm Aid, and perhaps even more well known for the tour dates that fund the operation. Nelson's albums have become some of the best selling for any country music artist, releasing 67 studio albums and 27 collaborations with some of country's biggest stars. He's also become popular for his interpretations of other artists' songs, including his most recent album, Here We Go Again: Celebrating the Genius of Ray Charles. While the album has done well, fans won't hear any of those songs on Willie Nelson's Country Throwdown Tour dates in 2011, which is wrapping up in early July.
Willie Nelson began playing the guitar from a young age, participating in bands and singing in the church choir. He moved to Washington in 1956 to begin a professional career in music, but became more successful writing songs for others while he struggled to play small tour dates. He retired to Austin, TX in 1971, but found that the city's liberal music scene inspired him to create his own brand of country music. He became Atlantic Records' first country artist and debuted his more laid back, rock-inspired sound (later becoming a part of outlaw country) on his 1974 album, Phases and Stages. Nelson continued to display this sound on 1975's Red Headed Stranger, on collaborative albums with artists like Jessi Colter, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings, and on tour dates that were becoming a huge draw.
The 1978 album, Stardust, showed that Nelson could achieve the opposite of his earlier career by turning country standards into his own hit songs. In 1985, Willie Nelson joined Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Johnny Cash in forming The Highwaymen. The country supergroup released three hit albums over the next ten years and played sold-out tour dates to overly enthusiastic fans. Willie Nelson spent most of the 90s playing tour dates until the release of the smash-hit Teatro in 1998, which featured back-up vocals by Emmylou Harris. Willie Nelson was joined by even more mainstream artists on the 2002 album, The Great Divide, which featured Rob Thomas, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, and Alison Krauss.
In addition to a warmly welcomed album of Ray Charles covers, Willie Nelson is also working on finishing 2011 tour dates for his Country Throwdown Tour, featuring Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, and Lee Brice. The concert schedule began in late May and will conclude on July 4 in Fort Worth, TX. Afterwards, Nelson will continue to tour solo throughout the summer and fall, ending his 2011 tour schedule on October 26. As Willie is involved in a number of charitable, political, and entrepreneurial endeavors, fans should take this opportunity to catch what might be Willie Nelson's last tour dates for a while.