Willie Nelson’s Occupation Before Becoming A Country Rockstar

Willie Nelson’s Occupation Before Becoming A Country Rockstar | I Love Classic Rock Videos

Willie Nelson in a teaser for the Luck Reunion 420 special stream - Luck Reunion / Youtube

Willie Nelson has been a stalwart figure in the country music industry for more than 50 years. In addition to being the creative force behind some of the most beloved songs in the genre, such as “On the Road Again” and “Crazy”, he is recognized as a pioneer of outlaw country, a unique subgenre of country music.

Nelson has supported progressive causes like the legalization of cannabis, the promotion of alternative energy sources, and the well-known Farm Aid concert series, despite the typically conservative bent of country music.

The country icon’s joint endeavors go beyond the boundaries of country music; he collaborates with performers in other genres as well. 

Wide Open Country notes that he has collaborated with jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, soul legend Ray Charles, hip hop icon Snoop Dogg, and was also an important part of “The Highwaymen”, a country music supergroup that included Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson.


He started quite an old age to break into a highly competitive industry

At the age of 27, Willie Nelson made a life-changing move to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1960 to get fully involved in the city’s thriving country music scene. His choice positioned him at the center of Nashville’s colorful musical tapestry and launched an incredible career as a songwriter. 

Nelson’s journey, which is a testament to his ongoing influence, reached a pinnacle in 2019 with the release of his 68th studio album, Ride Me Back Home. This album not only displayed his enduring talent but also won him the coveted Grammy Award for Best Solo Country Performance.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Willie has been in the music business longer than the typical person. It’s important to remember, though, that by industry standards, coming onto the competitive music scene at the age of 27 was a later arrival.

Before becoming a household name in country music, Nelson worked in a variety of professions, carefully honing his craft in the process. His path demonstrates both a dedication to his trade and an unshakeable resolve that served as the cornerstone for his eventual rise to superstardom.

Willie sold books and DJ’d for radio stations after serving in the Air Force

According to Biography, Willie Nelson’s musical career began when he was just 6 years old and acquired his first guitar. Nelson used his guitar as a means of work from a young age.

As a teenager, he joined Bud Fletcher and the Texans, a gospel group, after first joining a polka band and then later on. Although the band mostly played live, Nelson made his radio debut during this time. Notably, Bud Fletcher later married Willie’s older sister, Bobbie, and became family.

In 1950, after completing his high school education, the youthful Nelson joined the US military. He was in the Air Force during the chaos of the Korean War, serving for nine months out of San Antonio, Texas, when a back injury forced his medical release.

Nelson’s lifelong love of music continued after he got back home, even while he worked at several other professions to support himself. His varied work experience included periods as a disc jockey for nearby radio stations and door-to-door encyclopedia sales. Nelson also enrolled for a brief time at Baylor University, where he took part in the farming program.

Willie also tried his hand at tree-trimming and nearly severely injured his hand

Prior to achieving fame, Nelson worked in several professions, including trimming trees. He wrote about this period of his life in his 2012 memoir, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die. 

Even though he described most of the work as feeding scrap wood into a wood chipper, there were times he had to climb trees. Nelson once found himself in a dangerous circumstance that nearly cost him his life.

Remembering the experience, Nelson tried to use the lifting rope instead of going down the tree the traditional way. His left hand became twisted in the rope as he descended, putting his fingers in danger of serious harm. The young Nelson took a risky choice after realizing he was stuck and had no way to get out. He was around twenty feet above the ground when he gave his colleague the order to cut the rope, which sent him tumbling to the floor.

The danger didn’t stop there, as on his way down he barely avoided tumbling between two power lines. Nelson escaped the power wires with remarkable grace, and even though he was rattled, he came out mostly unharmed. This terrifying incident was the tipping moment in Nelson’s tree-trimming career.