Willie Nelson. A face like a cactus, but a voice like an angel. At least an angel whose vocal chords have been cured by decades of controlled substances.
Nelson, an American original, is one of the nation’s most revered and versatile singers, songwriters, and guitar pickers. He now has plans to branch out from show business into, well, business.
No, I’m not making this up. Nashville and Austin’s superannuated outlaw wants to be an entrepreneur. But don’t look for a copy of Forbes on Willie’s touring bus when he’s, to coin a phrase, on the road again.
Always a friend of cannabis, Nelson says he has plans to make one of his pleasures an income stream at the age of almost 82. The New York Daily News and the Daily Beast, among others, are reporting that in 2016 Nelson will open a chain of marijuana stores, starting of course in the four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — where the weed is legal for recreational use. The combustible product will be called Willie’s Reserve. Nelson says he’ll grow his own and will sell grass supplied by others. His stores will market bongs (whatever they are) and other marijuana accessories on what Willie calls “the anti-Walmart model.”
I love Willie’s music. But I have to say his left-populist politics range from flakey to incoherent. And he has not even been able to run the business of songwriting, record selling, and touring. His problems with the IRS are well known and have been the subject of much late-night comedy. Those who wish Willie Weed Inc. well should hope his first hires are a good accountant and a good tax attorney. And hope that the folks hired to run Willie’s weed emporiums aren’t high on the product or there may never be a profit.
If Willie attempts to make good on this scheme, and runs up against all the regulations his favorite political party has imposed on small business, he’ll soon find that smoking weed is a lot easier than making a legal buck off selling it. This won’t be a lark, like smoking grass on the White House roof. This is one of those stories that even a conservative with an appreciation for the truly ridiculous can hope is true. Willie likes telling the story, but always with a bit of a wink. We may never get the straight dope on this one.
At least Willie’s customers in the weed-friendly states will not have to look over their shoulders as they make their purchases, and won’t have to have a defense attorney on speed dial. They won’t have to endure being busted, as Willie was in his tour bus in Texas in 2010.
Willie was born poor in Depression-era Texas. No surprise then that he began his career in country music. He’s associated, as writer and/or performer, with such country classics as “Crazy,” “Hello Walls,” “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Georgia” (which he co-owns with the late Ray Charles), “You Were Always on My Mind,” “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” and the best grab-ass, slow-dancing number of all times, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” There’s also that delightful oddity, “Seven Spanish Angels,” which I’ve never quite understood but always enjoyed. Here’s a great rendition with Willie and Ray.
Willie also impresses on such distinctly non-country tunes as “Stardust” and “Moonlight in Vermont.” Willie has recorded duo albums with just about every singer of note, foreign or domestic. He’s a truly astounding music man.
But will he be even a competent business man? Willie’s loosey-goosey life on the road and his lack of attention to financial detail do not make savvy investors look forward to the initial public offering. Willie’s sartorial style may run to t-shirts. But he ain’t Mark Zuckerberg (for which music lovers can be eternally grateful).
For the purposes of his new and almost certainly ill-considered business venture, Willie might wish to record yet another country song to be on continuous loop in his stores: “Make the World Go Away.” This would be the goal of a majority of his customers. And the stores would be a great venue to sell copies of Willie’s 2012 memoir, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.
In various interviews over the years, Willie has said he has not seen any detrimental side effects to his years of smoking pot. After coming up with this late-life lark, he and other friends of the weed may wish to re-think this claim. God love ya, Willie. But this is nuts.
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