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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

(Thomas Hawk/Flickr)

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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