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'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar

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Justa Picker 19 Feb 02 - 09:05 PM
open mike 19 Feb 02 - 09:21 PM
Steve Latimer 19 Feb 02 - 09:34 PM
Kaleea 20 Feb 02 - 12:35 AM
GUEST 20 Feb 02 - 12:49 AM
GUEST,Lin in Kansas, Cookieless 20 Feb 02 - 12:51 AM
Justa Picker 20 Feb 02 - 12:57 AM
Fortunato 20 Feb 02 - 09:08 AM
Steve Latimer 20 Feb 02 - 10:46 AM
Rick Fielding 20 Feb 02 - 12:41 PM
Steve Latimer 20 Feb 02 - 12:46 PM
Fortunato 20 Feb 02 - 01:10 PM
DougR 21 Feb 02 - 01:19 AM
Willie-O 21 Feb 02 - 12:05 PM
Steve Latimer 21 Feb 02 - 12:30 PM
Lonesome EJ 21 Feb 02 - 02:34 PM
catspaw49 21 Feb 02 - 02:36 PM
X 22 Feb 02 - 12:49 AM
Lonesome EJ 22 Feb 02 - 12:56 AM
Kaleea 22 Feb 02 - 01:33 AM
Steve Latimer 22 Feb 02 - 07:02 AM
John Hardly 22 Feb 02 - 07:19 AM
Peter T. 22 Feb 02 - 09:49 AM
John Hardly 22 Feb 02 - 09:59 AM
Steve-o 22 Feb 02 - 02:06 PM
Steve Latimer 22 Feb 02 - 02:11 PM
Fortunato 22 Feb 02 - 02:15 PM
Steve Latimer 22 Feb 02 - 02:17 PM
frankie-t 28 Jun 04 - 05:53 PM
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Subject: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Justa Picker
Date: 19 Feb 02 - 09:05 PM

Nice article in todays San Francisco Chronicle which I have pasted here for posterity, should discussions about Willie's guitar ever come up.

'TRIGGER' HAPPY
Willie Nelson has played
the same battered guitar for
35 years


Article by Joel Selvin


Willie Nelson calls his guitar Trigger, after Roy Rogers' noble steed, and no horse ever meant more to any cowboy.

Like Nelson himself, the guitar is weathered, slightly the worse for wear, and one of a kind. Both have a sweet song inside. On the cover of his new record, "The Great Divide," Nelson poses almost like an afterthought behind the battered face of his Martin N20. It is covered with the etched signatures of the country singer's most esteemed colleagues and is missing a good chunk of wood right out of the front.

"It's a classical guitar, and it wasn't designed to use a pick on," said Nelson, who opens tonight for four nights at the Fillmore Auditorium. "Normally, if you're going to use a pick, they have a big plastic pick guard. But this one, over the years, without a pick guard, a lot of picks and fingernails and 'Whiskey Rivers,' the hole just gets bigger every year."

The nylon-string guitar has been an integral part of Nelson's sound throughout his career. He has owned it 35 years and doesn't play any other guitar. He plays the thing with a touch as unique as his singing, and he has no interest in repairing the hole.

"I think it helps the sound," he said. "I've had to reinforce it inside over the years a few times because the hole sorta weakened the woodwork inside."

Martin Guitar's Dick Boak agrees. "He has had some epoxy glopped on it to keep it from falling apart," said Boak. "The guitar really does sound great, and he's probably right in not replacing the soundboard." Martin, in fact, made a special Willie Nelson model replica --"you have to supply your own hole," Boak said.

"It always was the best guitar I ever played," said Nelson, "and it just keeps getting better. Every year it gets a little bit better, like a Stradivarius violin."

The guitar and Nelson have a long, tangled history.

"I originally had a Baldwin setup -- Baldwin guitar, amps and pickups -- and the Baldwin guitar people had given it to me. One night in Helotes, Texas, some drunk stepped in the middle of it and busted it. So I sent it to a friend of mine in Nashville, Sean Jackson, and asked him if he could fix it. He called me back. 'I can't fix it, ' he said, 'but I've got a good guitar on the wall up here. I can take the pickup out and put it in here.'

"I said, 'What is it?' and he said, 'It's a Martin classical guitar.' And I said, 'Well, is it any good?' And he said, 'Martins don't make bad guitars.' I said, 'All right, let me have it.' I paid $750 for it."

Somewhere along the line, he started collecting autographs on the guitar, asking pals such as Johnny Cash or musical associates like his longtime drummer, Paul English, to sign their names in the wood.

"It started out with Leon Russell," Nelson said. "He had a brand-new guitar, and he wanted me to sign it. I started to sign it with my pen, and he said, 'No, no, I want you to take this knife and scratch it in there because I want to keep it and it will make it more valuable.' I said, 'In that case, scratch mine.' He signed my guitar, and since then a lot of people have signed mine -- Roger Miller, Waylon, Kris and a lot more guys."

Nelson doesn't delve into technical talk when asked what is so special about this particular model. Straight talk is his specialty. "I like it because it has a nice soft tone," he said. "Acoustically, it's got a great sound -- I sit around on the bus or hotel room and play it without an amplifier."

Nelson, who is also the author of a new book, "The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes" (Random House), laughs when asked why he put the guitar's picture so prominently on the cover of his new album.

"I think probably the guitar has maybe more fans than I do," he said.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: open mike
Date: 19 Feb 02 - 09:21 PM

he (and i presume trigger) played at an Indian casino near here last week. his sister plays keyboards with him. tickets were $65, but they played for a long time.. after the lights went up from what i hear.... wanted people to get their money's worth, i guess...


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 19 Feb 02 - 09:34 PM

They don't sound much sweeter than Trigger.

The first time I saw Willie at Toronto's Skydome, he a started with Whiskey River as he usually does. He was having problems with Trigger and changed to another guitar half way through the song. The sound was awful in the dome.

The next two times I saw Willie was at the Capitol Music Hallin Wheeling, W.V. a beuatiful theatre with incredible sound. Trigger and he were quite a team those nights.

Open Mike, Willie always plays until they make him go home, I think that a lot of it is that they want to give the audience their moneys worth, but I get a sense that he absolutely loves performing.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Kaleea
Date: 20 Feb 02 - 12:35 AM

Was it only the stuff of tabloids, or was it a true story that when them durn @#$%^!!revenoors (IRS) came they took everything but thought the old martin worthless & let him keep it. I remember years ago hearing him talk about when it (irs thing) happened, but I have often wondered about this guitar story. Does anyone know?


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Feb 02 - 12:49 AM

I've heard Willie in person four times (so far!) in four widely varying venues, from the Coliseum in Seattle, Washington, to the Coliseum in Wichita, Kansas, to a football field in Guthrie, Oklahoma, in October (and damned cold it was, too). He's never failed to put on one heck of a good show. Hard to recall the man's nearly 70, even with that "rode hard and put away wet" face of his.

Steve, I think you're right; he just loves to perform. And BTW, his new book is pretty darn interesting--and funny, too. Great pictures from a long career. Go make your local bookstore stock it.

Lin


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: GUEST,Lin in Kansas, Cookieless
Date: 20 Feb 02 - 12:51 AM

Whoops! That last post was me--gremlins ate my cookie again....

Lin


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Justa Picker
Date: 20 Feb 02 - 12:57 AM

I believe Willie had the guitar stashed with a friend (Waylon?) in a secret place, during the IRS troubles.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Fortunato
Date: 20 Feb 02 - 09:08 AM

Good thread. (Creeping) I was listening to my old J45 the other day and noticing improvement it it's sound. Since I've been playing it more the last two years. It may be I've come to love it's sound. But the occasional comment from others makes me feel it is improving.

Back on topic: One note on the classical guitar thing. In the late sixties, maybe before Willie got his Martin(?), he used to take my now deceased friend, Dave Parker on the road with him. Dave played country music (and, separately, flamenco) on a classical guitar. He had a great touch and the guitar a great tone. His guitar was a Rubio, I think.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 20 Feb 02 - 10:46 AM

After the Wheeling show I ran into Jody Payne, the other guitarist in Willie's "Family". We talked about a lot of things, he said that Willie's troubles with the IRS stemmed from his accounting firm who I recognized as one of the biggest in the States. Jody said that Willie sued them and won, alleging mismanagement, but in the mean time, he was the one who was in the spotlight. He said that Willie is not a buinessman, let the accounting firm handle everything for him and they messed up.

The nice thing about that time is that most of the things that were auctioned off by the IRS were bought up by Willie's friends and were either given back or were eventually bought back when he settled his Court case with the accoounting firm.

I'm not sure that Trigger was stashed away. I think that Willie was able to keep it, saying that he needed it to make money so that he could pay his tax bill.

I also learned a valuable lesson that night. Never, ever try to drink Tequila with a guy who has been on the road all his life. Jody was a great guy though, I really enjoyed the few hours that we sat gabbing.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 20 Feb 02 - 12:41 PM

Boy, am I old. I saw Willie at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto in the sixties, with his green Baldwin Electric, and one of those silly looking baldwin amps with the coloured buttons......went out and bought one of those amps. It just didn't sound the same......

Oh, and he had short hair and a shiny green suit!

Rick


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 20 Feb 02 - 12:46 PM

Rick,

Did you also go out and buy the Green shiny suit?

Steve


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Fortunato
Date: 20 Feb 02 - 01:10 PM

Rick, we're so damn old, we remember Willie Nelson before he was WILLIE NELSON. You neglect to mention you were wearing bell bottom jeans and love beads.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: DougR
Date: 21 Feb 02 - 01:19 AM

Steve, you gave me the best laugh of my day. I can just see Rick sporting a bright green suit. Funny.

DougR


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Willie-O
Date: 21 Feb 02 - 12:05 PM

I can see that, but I don't want to.

Look, let's state the obvious. That is the definitive "player's guitar", since it famously has more playing wear than any other known instrument played by a famous person, and it is a very nice sweet sounding guitar.

But the bottom line is, WILLIE is a great player, who could generate great sound out of just about any quarter-decent box. Because he cares about every note he picks.

And yes, even when you're bankrupt, you get to keep the basic tools of your trade. If the IRS let him keep it because they thought it was a worthless piece of wornout goods, they hadn't a clue what Bill Monroe's destroyed-and-reglued together mandolin would eventually sell for.

W-O
would-be proprietor
"Bill's Home For Beat-Up Martins"


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 21 Feb 02 - 12:30 PM

Willie-O,

Amen.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 21 Feb 02 - 02:34 PM

Neil Young has a terrifically beaten-up Les Paul, but so far has been unable to put a hole in it.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: catspaw49
Date: 21 Feb 02 - 02:36 PM

He does have several extra ones in his head though.........

Spaw


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: X
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 12:49 AM

I saw Willie the other night on TV a couple of times last week and he had a new guitar. Has he put ol' Trigger out to pasture?

Hugh


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 12:56 AM

Catspaw. Sometimes you just make me laugh.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Kaleea
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 01:33 AM

IYes, I remembered that Willie was on TV with Kris, talking openly about how the accountant embezzled his $$ & left him owing bigtime, & that's why Kris took him in & they traveled & played together. When Willie made the "IRS tapes", the farmers in the midwest whom Willie had worked & played so hard to help rushed right out & bought up those tapes! I saw Willie a couple weeks back on one of the late night shows & he was playing his "holey" Trigger.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 07:02 AM

Actually, the last time I saw Willie, he played a hollow body Electric for his last couple of songs. I think that since his blues CD he has started using a couple of guitars to get different sounds. But Trigger is still his mainstay.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: John Hardly
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 07:19 AM

Banjoist,
I believe that the TV show appearance was impromtu enough that he was playing a borrowed guitar.

Put me at the head of a very short list who thinks his nylon string playing is nylunacy. I never liked the gimmick, even though I really like the nylon string for pop -- from "Green Grass"-Gary Lewis and the Playboys, to Michael Johnson, to Guy Van Duser. I even like the sound of fingerpicks on my classical, but...
...flatpicking leads sound wanky.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Peter T.
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 09:49 AM

gimmick? yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: John Hardly
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 09:59 AM

yeah.....kinda. I mean, known as the guy who plays the most beaten up guitar -- and if it was the tone, or sound (if that was the main reason for playing a classical guitar out of its traditional context), there's gotta be at least 1352 classical guitars in Nashville that sound half as better and are easily as playable. Instead he plays THAT guitar. Yeah......kinda.

Yours, John H :>)


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Steve-o
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 02:06 PM

Put me number two on John Hardly's list, and add to it that Willie plays LOUSY NOTES. IMNSHO


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 02:11 PM

HMM Willie detractors.

Steve


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Fortunato
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 02:15 PM

Excepting FarmAid you'll never catch Willie among de tractors.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 22 Feb 02 - 02:17 PM

Fortunato,

That was awful. I loved it.


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Subject: RE: 'Trigger Happy' - Willie Nelson's Guitar
From: frankie-t
Date: 28 Jun 04 - 05:53 PM

And after all that, I worry about little 'dings' in my Martin!!!


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