For Those Still Standing: Episode 9

We're happy to bring you the ninth column from Mike Hale. Mike just packed up all his belongings and headed out on the road with no plans to return. In today's episode, Mike talks about meeting Willie Nelson.

Willie Nelson is a fucking GOD!!!!! And I got to be a guest to one of his concerts!!

We've got the day off today (by we, I mean I'm on tour with Ninja Gun). So we've got the day off and are looking forward to a day of relaxation. We stopped in New Brunswick NJ to see that new movie "The Story of Anvil", and parked up the street from the theater. On our short walk we saw 3 bad ass tour buses parked behind the NJ State Theater and, of course, began to wonder who was in town. Once we made the corner, to our surprise, TONIGHT LIVE IN CONCERT… WILLIE NELSON AND FAMILY. Immediately, we turned around and made a beeline for the buses. Priorities had changed. We were now on a mission to meet Willie.

Of course it's not just that easy, the man is a living legend, an American icon, it's fucking Willie Nelson. We walked up to the buses and politely started talking to anyone who would give us the time of day. After meeting a few of his road crew we decided to stick around and hang out 'til the show started. See Willie wasn't there yet. Those buses were just for his crew. He was running late and his bus wouldn't be there for a few hours. So like I said, we decided to stick around for a while.

Honestly, I would've given up by now. If it hadn't been for Thad (Ninja Gun's lead guitarist) we would have never made it this far… Thad was hell bent on meeting the Big Man, so we stayed. Thad managed to meet the right guy, and somehow we found ourselves hanging out with the man who has been putting on the Willie Nelson concerts for the past twelve years, Willie's right hand man and stage manager Pootie. They all thought it was pretty awesome that a bunch of small town boys from the South were on tour, this far away from home, and all we cared about was the current situation we were so immersed in. So they gave us free tickets to the sold out show.

A few new friends along the way were made. We met an older couple that had been following the concert train around. They had seen Willie in concert over a hundred times…. I know that's a little fanatical, but really fucking cool people. They gave us the low down on the best way to meet him and where we should be and when. "After the last song meet me over on the bus ramp, he usually comes out there and goes straight to his bus."

Well right before the show started I was up in front of the stage taking pictures of Trigger. That's Willie's guitar, it's like a 1934 Martin or some crazy fucking year like that. It's beat to hell and very famous as far as guitars go. His stage manager Pootie said "Mike, go get your guitar and he'll sign it for ya."

I play a Martin too, if I haven't mentioned that.

Anyway so I ran the fuck out to the car and got my guitar and brought it into the theater and blindly and willingly handed my prize possession over to a complete stranger and watched it disappear into the back stage area.

The show was amazing, God Damnit! Willie Fucking Nelson is amazing… 75 years old, still playing 250 shows a year, all of his merch has pot leaves on it and you could smell it in the air the whole day. He played a flawless set and all of my favorites, too.

So the shitty part goes like this: He always plays an encore… always… So me and Jacob Ninja walked out to get a breath of fresh air before the encore. Except people kept walking out the door. By the time we figured it out and went back inside everyone had cleared. We hustled over to the bus ramp where we were supposed to meet up with everyone. The other guys all had a strange glow about them. Jacob and I missed Willie by 30 seconds. Apparently he finished his show and walked out to the bus ramp where Coody, Jeff, and Thad had been the only people there. Willie simply walked right up to them and started talking to 'em.

He hung out with them for a good five minutes. Took a Ninja Gun CD and T shirt and I FUCKING MISSED IT!!!!!!! FUCK!!

My favorite quote of the night came from Willie himself. In conversation with the boys, when asked Coody said, "I'm just the son of a pig farmer from South Georgia and some how ended up in a rock and roll band." Willie replied, "Well, it's a much better life isn't it son? "

And a few minutes later I got my guitar back with Willie Nelson's signature on it.