We’re all used to Willie Nelson’s classic pigtails and beard. Those red locks emblazoned upon his seminal album Red Headed Stranger are as much a part of his legend as his guitar, “Trigger,” or Nelson’s unmistakable voice.
But back when the country star first moved to Nashville, he looked awfully different. In fact, you’d swear Nelson copped Johnny Cash’s style at first blush. The slick, black hair. The fresh, crisp suit. Heck, Nelson even sings in a notably more “traditional” style.
This clip of his brief performance on The Porter Wagoner Show exemplifies that perfect. In it, Nelson performs “Hello Walls.” The tune eventually rose to No. 1 on country and No. 12 on pop when Faron Young released it in 1961.
Though it’s brief, Nelson’s appearance hints at his future greatness. Of course, after he packed up and left Nashville (thanks to a symbolic house fire), he eventually found his true voice as an artist.
He let his hair grow tall and returned to that jazzy, free-form delivery that scared so many Nashville record execs. Of course, Nashville folks like Fred Foster also encouraged his voice. Not to mention the voices of other folks who at one point appeared on Porter Wagoner’s show, like Dolly Parton.
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Thank goodness Willie Nelson eventually found that artistic voice. While his career as a songwriter blossomed in Nashville, he only became an American icon after fully embracing his own style.