Bobbie Nelson, Willie Nelson’s sister and a member of his Willie Nelson and Household band for greater than 50 years, died Thursday morning at age 91. She was described as having died “peacefully and surrounded by household,” and no reason for loss of life was given.
“There’s simply no approach to clarify how fortunate I’m to have a superb musician within the household,” Willie Nelson instructed the Austin American-Statesman in 2007. “Each time I’ve wanted a piano participant, I’ve had Sister Bobbie proper there. … Each time our band performs, Sister Bobbie is the very best musician on the stage.”
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After 5 many years of taking part in collectively professionally and eight and a half of teaming up at house, Willie and Bobbie performed their final gig collectively on the Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels, Texas on Oct. 9.
Willie Nelson followers not often received a superb have a look at her face on stage, however her voluminously lengthy hair offered assurance that household was current and accounted or on stage and that, no matter different modifications the band may undergo, there was no separating the siblings.
Nelson’s love for his sister was robust sufficient that he launched each albums and books along with her, as a duo. A yr and a half in the past, the Nelsons launched a memoir about their relationship, “Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of the Household Band” (co-written by David Ritz), and promoted it in interviews.
“My little sister was all the time on the piano doing nice music,” Nelson recalled on the “At the moment” present in November 2020. “I’d sit there on the piano stool beside her and check out to determine what the hell she was doing. … Sister Bobbie is 10 instances a greater musician than I’m,” he mentioned. When she demurred, he added, “I’m somewhat higher con man, I feel.”
Courtesy Schock Ink
The nation celebrity usually referred to Bobbie as his “little sister,” though she was a few years older. When she was 6 and he was 4, their grandparents taught them “The Nice Speckled Hen,” and their musical relationship was solid, though it could be many years earlier than it occurred to him that it was doable to deliver Bobbie into his skilled life.
Within the joint memoir, Willie Nelson recalled how his inventive renaissance within the early Seventies coincided together with his bringing Bobbie into his band. Legendary producer Jerry Wexler had introduced him over from an unsatisfying stint at one other label to Atlantic Data, the place he was about to start recording the collection of basic “outlaw”-era albums that outlined him. When Wexler gave him the surprising information that he might use whoever he needed as studio musicians from that time ahead, “I instantly considered Bobbie. She was the principle spark I’d been lacking.”
At 42, Bobbie had by no means been in a document studio earlier than or been on a aircraft, however each these issues modified in a rush when he satisfied her in 1972 to return work on the primary album he was slicing for Atlantic, a gospel album known as “The Troublemaker,” then “Shotgun Willie,” and his stardom and path have been ceaselessly set. “The Atlantic Data expertise put me on a brand new course. Most necessary, it introduced me again along with Bobbie. When the classes in New York have been over I made it plain. ‘Sister,’ I mentioned, ‘you’re now a member of the band.’”
In 2017, Bobbie launched her first and solely solo album, “Audiobiography,” an album of piano instrumentals. However even with out going out on her personal, she was acquainted to her brother’s followers from getting a showcase variety of her personal on tour every evening, “Down Yonder,” and from duo initiatives they did, together with simply piano taking part in that was practically as recognizable as her brother’s licks together with his signature guitar, Set off.
Bobbie Lee was born into the Melancholy on Jan. 1, 1931, two years and 5 months earlier than Willie adopted on April 30, 1933. Their mother and father have been youngsters within the farming neighborhood of Abbott, Texas, however they have been raised by their paternal grandparents, with the person they known as “Daddy” educating Willie the best way to play guitar and “Mama” instructing Bobbie on piano. Each would play on Sundays on the Abbott Methodist Church, however Bobbie’s expertise led her to additionally discover favor taking part in at different native church buildings.
“I keep in mind after I received my first piano,” she instructed author Michael Corcoran in a profile. “I assumed, ‘I’ll by no means be lonely once more.’”
Courtesy Schock Ink
Though the early ’70s marked their actual coming collectively as mature musicians, Bobbie and Willie did have a really temporary semi-professional stint collectively for 5 years within the late ’40s and early ’50s. At 16, Bobbie was married to a musician, Bud Fletcher, who performed in a band in native honky-tonks with the siblings’ father, Ira Nelson. Bobbie’s husband died in a automobile accident, and with three kids at that time, she gave up music and moved to Fort Value to attend secretarial programs.
However after going to work for the Hammond Organ Firm, she started demonstrating the corporate’s merchandise in addition to working in its music library. Bobbie finally went to work as a pianist in eating places and lounges within the Austin space. In the meantime, her brother was discovering success writing songs like “Loopy” and “Hi there Partitions” in Nashville, however discovering much less satisfaction as a solo artist, earlier than he rejoined her in Texas. A giant a part of the lure of Austin for him was that Bobbie lived there; it was virtually incidental that he would quickly develop into the patron saint of a burgeoning counterculture scene growing there.
Bobbie was described as a religious Christian who, even after a half-century of fixed touring along with her brother, didn’t approve of his marijuana use, though she would cite well being considerations for her disapproval. Nonetheless, she instructed Corcoran, she and her brother had by no means had a struggle.
Recordings that Willie and Bobbie made as a duo embody Nineteen Eighties’s “Household Bible” and 1996’s “How Nice Thou Artwork.” In 2021, the 2 of them have been joined by 4 of Willie’s kids in releasing an album titled “The Willie Nelson Household.”
When their twin memoir got here out in 2020, Willie instructed Individuals journal, “She’s my closest pal for a complete lifetime. I’m glad she’s getting some recognition for what she’s performed along with her life.”
An announcement from the household Thursday mentioned, “Her class, grace, magnificence and expertise made this world a greater place. She was the primary member of Willie’s band, as his pianist and singer. Our hearts are damaged and she or he might be deeply missed. However we’re so fortunate to have had her in our lives. Please preserve her household in your ideas and provides them the privateness they want at the moment.”
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