John Spong is a senior editor at Texas Monthly, but perhaps more importantly, he’s the magazine’s de facto Willie Nelson editor. In 2020, he helped put together two massive Willie-related projects: a ranking of all 144 albums by the Red Headed Stranger (who’s added a few more to his bandolier since publishing); and a special edition of Texas Monthly called Willie, Now More Than Ever, featuring essays, archival features, photos and more. Both of these deep-dives came during the worst of the pandemic, but it felt like perfect timing to escape into a saner, Willie-shaped world. When in doubt, look to Willie.
Recently, Spong has been looking to Willie as a source of inspiration for countless musicians. On his excellent podcast One By Willie, Spong asks songwriters of all stripes–Margo Price, Lyle Lovett, Shakey Graves–to talk at length about their favorite Willie song. It says a lot about the man that with almost twenty episodes, there haven’t been any repeat picks yet. The podcast’s third season just launched with Kacey Musgraves.
This week on My KUTX, we’re celebrating Willie Weekend by turning the keys over to John Spong. He attempts to cover Willie’s twisting and turning career with samplings from every decade, but just know that a lot got left on the cutting room floor–Willie’s too hard to pin down. Still, Spong does his best. He makes a case for Willie’s misunderstood Nashville era; reveals why Willie’s collaboration with Santana is one of his personal favorites; and spotlights the dearly departed Bobbie Nelson, Willie’s sister and longtime creative partner. Hear John Spong’s My KUTX on Saturday, April 30 at 6 p.m. or listen anytime in the player above.
- “Undo The Right” // …and then I wrote (1962)
- “Funny How Time Slips Away” // Country Willie: His Own Songs (1965)
- “Dallas” // Texas in My Soul (1968)
- “Sweet Memories” // Good Times (1968)
- “Devil In A Sleepin’ Bag” // Shotgun Willie (1973)
- “Bloody Mary Morning” // Phases and Stages (1974)
- “I’d Have To Be Crazy” // The Sound in Your Mind (1976)
- “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter” // Somewhere Over the Rainbow (1981)
- “They All Went To Mexico” (feat. Carlos Santana) // Havana Moon (1983)
- “I’ve Got The Craziest Feeling” // The Promiseland (1986)
- “Pretend I Never Happened” // Who’ll Buy My Memories: The IRS Tapes (1991)
- “Getting Over You” (feat. Bonnie Raitt) // Across the Borderline (1993)
- “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” // How Great Thou Art (1996)
- “Drinking Champagne” // Country Music (2010)
- “Last Man Standing” // Last Man Standing (2018)