Look closely. Willie Nelson’s tattered and torn guitar Trigger’s scratches aren’t just from four decades of touring. Those scratches come from the autographs of countless musical legends.
Through years of hardships, struggles, songs and, ultimately, success, Trigger carried Nelson’s unmistakable sound. He bought the Martin N-20 in 1969 and named it “Trigger” after Roy Rogers’ horse.
When Nelson’s Tennessee home burned decades ago, he managed to save only one possession — Trigger. He famously hid the guitar from the IRS in the early 1990s, worried they’d repossess it and auction it off to pay his debts.
And all along the way, Nelson collected signatures on the guitar. It all started with Leon Russell, who asked Nelson to sign his own guitar. Nelson asked Russell to sign his in return. Since then, Trigger accrued signatures from everybody from Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash to his own band and crew.
“I know how it felt when Leon asked,” Nelson told Texas Monthly. “So I try to pass that feeling along when I meet someone who I think would appreciate it. And Trigger knows I’m not going to hand him to nobody that’s gonna hurt him.”
The last signatures to grace Trigger came in 2013, when Nelson asked Jack White and Jamey Johnson to sign the guitar. That is, until two weeks ago. While hosting an Austin City Limits-esque show called Other Voices, Austin’s own Alejandro Rose-Garcia, a.k.a. Shakey Graves, met Nelson.
The two were filming at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales studio for the show. Rose-Garcia interviewed Nelson, and at the end, Nelson asked him to etch his initials into the famed guitar. “Obviously, I’m not worthy,” Rose-Garcia said. “I’m still trying to process it.”
But Nelson clearly thought so, and now Shakey Graves’ legacy grows just a bit more.