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Celebrate Willie Nelson’s 87th Birthday With Songs You’ve Probably Never Heard

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Rhonda Fanning & Laura Rice created this story for Texas Standard.

A mural of Willie Nelson – known to fans as the Red Headed Stranger – in downtown Austin. Wiley Ross/Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Texas Monthly writer John Spong has been working with Willie Nelson biographer Joe Nick Patoski to co-host the upcoming show, “For the Love of Willie,” in celebration of Nelson’s 87th birthday. The show will feature Nelson’s songs and the stories behind them.

For The Love Of Willie

When: Saturday, April 25, 6-7 p.m. CST

Where: Stream KUTX 98.9 online

“[Texas Monthly has] been working for about seven months creating a discography of all of Willie’s records, and reviewing all of Willie’s records and then ranking them,” Spong told Texas Standard host David Brown on Friday.

Spong said that’s 143 records in total.

“And one of the great revelations of that, which hardcore fans know, is that even though people like to think that he starts being Willie Nelson in the ’70s in Austin, and that’s where you need to start listening, the fact of the matter is there are some great records in the ’60s,” Spong said.

Spong said Nelson’s music is more than just country.

“Oh wow: ‘Across The Borderline’ from 1993 – man, that’s a breathtaking album,” Spong said. “That ain’t country, but it’s Willie.”