Willie Nelson performs Saturday night at the Sovereign Center as part of the Last of the Breed tour with Ray Price and Merle Haggard. His 1969 Martin N-20 guitar, which he has named "Trigger" is a big part of Willie's sound. 9/8/2007 Photo by Bill Uhrich
Photo By MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Willie Nelson's Guitar Has a Better Story Than Most Musicians


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Few musicians in country music are as celebrated as Willie Nelson. If there were a country music Mount Rushmore, Willie would be right up there with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson. Some would say his famous guitar, Trigger, is equally adored and recognized in the world of country music. Fans go wild when Trigger is brought out before any of Willie's shows, proving that it is just as loved as the country legend himself. Few instruments have been played as long or as well as this old Martin N-20 acoustic guitar. 

Detail view of Willie Nelson's Martin guitar "Trigger" during the Luck Welcome dinner benefitting Farm Aid on March 14, 2018 in Spicewood, Texas.

Detail view of Willie Nelson's Martin guitar "Trigger" during the Luck Welcome dinner benefitting Farm Aid on March 14, 2018 in Spicewood, Texas. (Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images)

Early in Willie's career, he tested various guitar models, including a Fender. After spending years working the music scene in Nashville, his Baldwin guitar was damaged. A drunk man stepped on it during a show at Floore's Country Store in Helotes, Texas. Since his Baldwin was beyond repair, Willie decided to change up his sound slightly to mimic his favorite jazz musician, Django Reinhardt. His friend and well-known country guitarist, Shot Jackson, recommended the Martin guitar, and the legend of Trigger was born. Willie once said that his guitar was like a horse, so he named his after Roy Rogers' horse Trigger. 

Soon after he acquired his new guitar, Willie's house caught on fire. Trigger was one of the only items he managed to rescue from the house and led him to want a significant change in scenery. He moved out to Texas to play the honky-tonk country scene in places like Austin and Fort Worth, and his career began to grow and thrive. With Trigger at his side and an iconic acoustic sound, Willie became the celebrated music legend we know today. We might not have the Willie Nelson music we love today if that drunk man hadn't stepped on his old Baldwin guitar in 1969.

Willie Nelson performs in concert during The Luck Banquet on March 13, 2019 in Luck, Texas.

Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images

Willie Nelson's guitar Trigger means so much to him that he even went to great lengths to hide it from the IRS while he was working on settling his millions of dollars in tax debt in the early nineties. He had his daughter grab the guitar from his recording studio and bring it to him at his home in Hawaii. It stayed hidden there until he paid off the last of his debt. 

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After decades at the Red Headed Stranger's side, the guitar looks beat up, covered in autographs carved into its wood, lovingly showing it's age and the memories it shares from Willie's memorable life and career. Willie told Rolling Stone, "We're both pretty old, got a few scars here and there, but we still manage to make a sound every now and then."

Editors Note: This article was originally published on February 7, 2020.

READ MORE: Willie Nelson Through the Years: Look Back at His Life in Photos

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