Country Flashback: Willie Nelson Performs 'Bloody Mary Morning' on 1974 'Austin City Limits' Pilot

Austin City Limits is the longest running music series in television history and the namesake of the ACL Music Festival. It's also spawned a concert venue which, like the show itself, values songwriters and offers country music artists in and beyond Austin, Texas an invaluable platform.

The original pilot episode of Austin City Limits, created by Austin PBS station KLRU-TV, starred the ideal in-state talent in Willie Nelson. The 1974 performance by Nelson and his Family Band featured some of his best material at the time: "Whiskey River," "Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)," "Funny How Time Slips Away" and, as featured here, "Bloody Mary Morning."

"Bloody Mary Morning" debuted on Nelson's 1970 album Both Sides Now as "Bloody Merry Morning" before resurfacing on the 1974 concept album Phases and Stages. Its lyrics reflect Nelson's desire to become a better parent.

The song and performance serve as a snapshot of Nelson after his days as an unsung Nashville songwriter and before the heightened reputation that came with a forthcoming run of albums for Columbia Records (namely the following year's Red Headed Stranger).

Read More: Willie Nelson and Sons Sing Quarantine-Friendly Version of 'Hello Walls' on 'Colbert'

In 2014, Nelson rightly claimed a spot in Austin City Limits Hall of Fame's inaugural class alongside Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Darrell Royal and Bill Arhos. The most recent class (as of April 2020) featured Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin and Buddy Guy.

"Bloody Mary Morning" Lyrics:

It's a Bloody Mary morning,
Baby left me without warning
Sometime in the night
So I'm flyin' down to Houston
Forgetting her's the nature of my flight

As we taxi toward the runway
With the smog and haze
Reminding me of how I feel
Just a country boy who's learnin'
That the pitfalls of the city
Are extremely real

All the night life and the parties
And temptation and deceit
The order of the day
Well it's a Bloody Mary mornin'
Cause I'm leavin' baby somewhere in LA
It's a Bloody Mary morning...

Our golden jet is airborn
And flight Fifty cuts a path
Across the mornin' sky
And a voice comes on the speaker
Reassuring us flight Fifty
Is the way to fly

And a hostess takes our order
Coffee tea or something stronger
To start off the day
Well it's a Bloody Mary morning
Cause I'm leavin' baby somewhere in LA
It's a bloody mary morning...

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Country Flashback: Willie Nelson Performs 'Bloody Mary Morning' on 1974 'Austin City Limits' Pilot