Willie Nelson took the long road to becoming a household name as a singer. Before filling the ’70s outlaw, the ’80s hit-maker and the elder statesman role, Nelson’s greatest success came as a songwriter-for-hire. Nelson’s compositions for others include Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” and Faron Young’s “Hello Walls.”
That’s not to discount young Nelson’s singing talent, as captured in this video from a mid-’60s episode of the Ernest Tubb Show. In it, Nelson performs “My Window Faces the South,” a country music standard popularized by his fellow Texas music luminary Bob Wills.
A couple of things stand out. First, Nelson sports a clean-shaven look, as seen on some of his earliest album covers. Aesthetics only matter so much, but it’s hard to imagine Nelson’s future stardom without his trademark look. Fortunately, the turtleneck eventually gave way to the Red-Headed Stranger’s braids and beard.
Secondly, Nelson performs with Tubb’s legendary backing band the Texas Troubadours. Jack Greene, a future solo star in his own right, sits behind the drum kit. He keeps pace with ace country-jazz guitarist Leon Rhodes. It’s a fine pairing from arguably the greatest backing band in country music history. Legendary Texas swing musician Wade Ray rounds out the all-star quartet with some lightning-fast fiddling. It surely was the best collection of talent that evening on the three or four television channels on the dial.
In all, the performance provides a glimpse at a television-friendly Nashville sound, performed by a rising star who’d become one of the guiding forces of country music by challenging its status quo.