Although these days he spends most of his time riding horses on his Hawaiian ranch, Willie Nelson is just about as synonymous with Austin as Zilker Park. He's made such an impression on the city that we honor him in every chance we get: in murals, as a statue in front of the Moody Theater (which sits on Willie Nelson Blvd.), on T-shirts and with his 4th of July Picnic.
So in celebration of the Red Headed Stranger's 88th year around the sun, here are just a select few of the reasons Austin loves Nelson.
We get to celebrate his birthday twice
Nelson was born just before midnight on April 29, 1933, in Austin, Texas, the county courthouse didn't record his birth until the next morning, officially giving him two birthdays, as he explained on Sirius XM in 2018. Nelson celebrated on April 29 exclusively until he turned 18, joined the Air Force and obtained a copy of his birth certificate. Instead of fretting about the clerical error, Nelson saves people the confusion by celebrating on both days. If anyone deserves two birthdays it's him, right?
He has done some outlandish things for weed
It's not a secret that Nelson has a certain affinity for the devil's lettuce but he didn't start smoking it until he was 21, even refusing the first time it was offered to him. He has since been serious about destigmatizing the use of cannabis. He recently started his own line, called Willie's Reserve, and held a cannabis convention this year. In the in-between, though, Nelson says he's been busted more than a few times for possession.
Upon coming home to see his Tennessee house on fire in 1969, Nelson ran inside in search of two things: his beloved guitar and a pound of Colombian bud. However, Nelson says he didn't go after the weed to save it but to keep himself out of jail for possession.
Equally crazy, Nelson once smoked a joint on the roof of the White House with Jimmy Carter's son, Chip. Ticking off the bucket list, Nelson tried to do the same on the roof of the Governor's Mansion but was caught before the goal was achieved.
One of his albums was released to pay off IRS debt
Owing an estimated $32 million in taxes to the IRS, which Nelson attributes to mismanaged money and bad accountants, federal agents raided Nelson's home in 1990 and seized some of his assets. After the seizure, the IRS charged him $16.7 million. Nelson released a two-disc acoustic album titled "The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories?" and gave the IRS a portion of the profits. The ordeal was settled in 1993 and Nelson is proud to say he lived to tell the tale.
He's been a performer since he was a child
The first time he ever performed in public, Nelson was 5 years old and recited a poem. He had such a bad bout of stagefright that he started picking his nose until it bled onstage. Though his first performance didn't go well, he was gifted a guitar one year later, when he was 6, wrote his first song when he was 7 and joined his first band when he was 10. By 13, he had played with Bob Wills, the "King Western Swing" music and got a job in a Bohemian Polka band as the lead singer and guitarist. The rest is history!
He's been playing the same guitar for 50 years
Named "Trigger" after Roy Rogers' horse, Nelson has been playing the same guitar for 50 years, which explains the scratches, nicks and beat-up look the instrument has, but he loves it the same. After his trusty Baldwin was damaged beyond repair by a drunk man at a show, Nelson got into the market for a new one. A Martin N-20 classical guitar, Trigger has been with him through his house fire and when the IRS came to raid Nelson's home, he sent Trigger to his daughter, Lana, in Maui, Hawaii, for safekeeping. The guitar has been through hell and back, it even has a hole in the body from use, and sees a guitar technician frequently but still plays as good as it should.
We hope you have two "Willie" nice birthdays, Mr. Nelson!
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A big-money bird has been stolen from a northwest Austin pet store.
Kelsey Fernandez, the owner of a $6,000 sulphur and citron-crested cockatoo named Lemon Grab, said the emotional support animal was taken from the Gallery of Pets store, around closing time on Sunday.
"I've struggled with mental illness my entire life, and ever since I got him I've been doing so much better," Fernandez told Austonia.
The $6k cockatoo is young and will starve unless he is fed by hand, Fernandez said.
In a surveillance video, a man appears to have something under his shirt as he and two others exit the business around the same time the store believes that Lemon Grab was stolen.
Fernandez said a report has been filed with the Austin Police Department with an $1,000 reward for his return.
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Introverts and personal space lovers may not want to make the move to Austin anytime soon: The Texas capital saw a bigger increase in one-bedroom rent prices than almost any other U.S. city in April, according to a Rent.com report.
Austin's one-bedroom rent has more than doubled—a 112% increase—from April 2021 to 2022, the report said. Only Oklahoma City saw a higher year-over-year increase with a 133% jump.
Austin also had the fourth-highest increase in two-bedroom rent, with a 50% increase in the past year. The city joined a nationwide trend where rents were up 8.3% year-over-year across the U.S, a trend exacerbated by a 6.2% increase in inflation in the same time period.
But "not everyone is experiencing inflation the same way," Redfin Deputy Chief Economist Taylor Marr said in the report, and a brunt of the load has gone to cities with more move-ins. While over 90% of state rental markets increased in the last year, that jump was seen most in Sun Belt states, including Texas, Arizona and Florida.
Even with breakneck increases in rent, however, Austin's rent prices still haven't cracked the top 10: the city's one-bedroom apartments are the 12th most expensive in the nation with an average price of $2,918. Meanwhile, its two-bedrooms fall behind Texas cities Frisco, Dallas and Plano and come out 34th on the list with a $2,302 average monthly rent.
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