Bobbie Nelson, country music pianist and older sister of Willie, is dead.
Nelson was born on January 1, 1931. She and Willie were raised by their paternal grandparents in Abbot, Texas, who began educating the duo in music at a young age. Bobbie’s grandmother taught the young girl to play the piano on a pump organ and her grandfather bought her her first piano at age six for $35, sell the family cow to pay for it.
“I remember when I got my first piano. I thought, ‘I’ll never be alone again’ Nelson told the Austin American Statesman in 2017.
Her grandfather had his gospel sung at conventions in Hillsboro, which led to the teenager traveling with evangelists around Austin and all of Texas before marrying Bud Fletcher. Fletcher formed Bud Fletcher and the Texans, a honky-tonk outfit inspired by Western swing sounds. He couldn’t play a lick, so simply led the group which featured sixteen-year-old Bobbie on piano and his fourteen-year-old brother, Willie vocals and guitar. Bobbie divorced Fletcher, the band disbanded, and in 1961 Fletcher would die in a car accident.
It was seen as outrageous that Nelson played country music in bars every night, leading Fletcher’s parents at take custody of his three children – Randy, Michael and Freddy – after his death. Nelson wanted nothing more than to get his children back, so she put aside the musical game and enroll in business school.
After graduation, she landed an instrument demo gig at the Hammond Organ Co. in Fort Worth, and after regaining custody of her three sons, she moved to Austin, Texas, while her brother was establishing himself as a successful songwriter in the “Nashville system”.
In 1970, Willie Nelson worked with Jerry Wexler, a music journalist turned producer, who had recorded Aretha Franklin, signed Led Zeppelin and produced Bob Dylan. Wexler was now vice president of Atlantic Records and signed Willie to his label after his relationship with RCA fell through.
In February 1973, the recording sessions for Willie’s album The Troublemaker took place and Wexler encouraged Willie to start his own band. Nelson call his sister. Bobbie was playing supper clubs and cocktail lounges in Austin and had never flew before flying to New York to record with brother.
The Troublemaker was released on Columbia Records in 1976 where Nelson signed a contract that would give the singer full creative control, and Bobbie remained in the group.
“My kids were grown at the time and in college, so I really had no reason not to hit the road,” Bobbie said. Always moving in 2010.
Bobbie stayed with Willie group until their last concert together in 2021 at the Whitewater Amphitheatre. In 2008, at 76, Nelson recorded his first solo album, Audiobiography, a collection of boogie piano instruments.
“Whenever I needed a piano player, I had Sister Bobbie right there,” Willie explained to the Austin American Statesman in 2007. “Whenever our band plays, Sister Bobbie is the best musician on stage.
Bobbie Nelson died Thursday morning at the age of 91, “quiet and surrounded by my family. »