Willie and Trigger
December 17, 2012 12:50 PM   Subscribe

A biography of Trigger, Willie Nelson's guitar.

Thirty+ years of Willie and Trigger in action:

Whiskey River (1974)
Bye-Bye Love / Medley (w/ Glen Campbell and the Bee Gees, 1979)
Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground (1980)
Over the Rainbow (1981)
Interview with Barbara Walters (1982) Part I, Part 2
Georgia on My Mind (1983)
Night Life (w/B.B. King) (1984)
Forgiving You Was Easy (1985)
Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys (w/Waylon Jennings, 1986)
Medley, with Dolly Parton on The Dolly Show (1987)
Goodnight Irene (1988)
Me and Bobby McGee (w/Kris Kristofferson) & I Saw the Light (w/kd lang, Roger Williams, Dwight Yoakum, Emmylou Harris, and Kristofferson at the Grammy Living Legends awards, 1989)
In concert with the Highwaymen (w/Kris, Johnny, and Waylon, 1990, 90 minutes)
"The Man," an unfortunate ad for Taco Bell inspired by the IRS (1991)
Graceland (w/ Paul Simon) (1992)
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain (w/ Edie Brickell and Paul Simon, 1993)
All Along the Watchtower (w/ Neil Young, 1994)
Amazing Grace (1995)
Just One Love (w/ Kimmie Rhodes, 1996)
Three Days (w/ Emmylou Harris on Letterman, 1997)
I Never Cared for You (1998)
Jackson (w/ Sheryl Crow, 1999)
Pancho and Lefty (w/ Emmylou, 2000)
Rainbow Connection (2001)
Bridge Over Troubled Waters (w/ Mitt Romney, 2002)
If You've Got the Money (2003)
Mama Tried (w/ Merle and Toby Keith, 2004)
The Harder They Come (2005)
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain (2006)
Jambalaya (2007)
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain (w/ Flaco Jimenez, 2008)
Hesitation Blues (w/ Asleep at the Wheel, 2009)
We Don't Run (2010)
Still is Still Moving to Me (2011)
On the Road Again / Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die (2012)
posted by mudpuppie (31 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Any time any 'tone wood' snob on luthier forums starts talking about tone of mahogany vs. ash and how the fretboard wood is critical to tone blah blah blah I want to shove a picture of this glorious f'd up instrument down their throats.
posted by spicynuts at 12:52 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Such an underrated guitar player. Willie puts more soul in 3 notes than a lot of current musicians put on a whole album. I'm thinking putting Pretty Paper on while reading this would lighten everyone's heart right now. And when you get to Christmas Blues, you can do what I do and listen to it 3 times in a row.
posted by priested at 12:55 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the "Trigger" warning.
posted by Floydd at 1:16 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do NOT scare me like that. I didn't want this to be a Willie Nelson RIP thread. He's gonna live forever, I tell you.

He has to.
posted by Malice at 1:21 PM on December 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

This video accompanies the article
posted by chillmost at 1:25 PM on December 17, 2012

I guess this is why they put pick guards on steel string acoustics
posted by thelonius at 1:34 PM on December 17, 2012

Heres a good representation of what Trigger looks like these days. Still sounds like liquid gold too.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:45 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Bridge Over Troubled Waters (w/ Mitt Romney, 2002)

Why, so it is; Mitt's accompaniment is mostly in the "standing stiffly and looking smug" department.

(Fantastic post.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:45 PM on December 17, 2012

you're crazy, bro. i build guitars, i play them, i record them...willie's tone is teh bomb. i won't hear arguments to the contrary. LA LALALALALALALALA
posted by spicynuts at 2:07 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do NOT scare me like that. I didn't want this to be a Willie Nelson RIP thread. He's gonna live forever, I tell you

Just move to Texas. We get to go to Willie's house when we die. We'll get to hang out with him forever.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:30 PM on December 17, 2012

I'll bet Trigger knows its master's hand. If anyone but him tries to play it, it will probably fall apart. Kinda like my old 1973 BMW 2002, if someone else drove it the brake pads and clutch would disintegrate.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:32 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Formatted article with picture and video.
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:42 PM on December 17, 2012

How can a guitar look like that and still sound like a guitar? Is Willie Nelson just that good? Is it just that he knows the instrument so well that it doesn't matter? Or does it genuinely not matter that much, and a good player can get a great sound out of a $100 Yamaha?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:53 PM on December 17, 2012

also, Trigger is a '20's Brazilian Rosewood Martin...no slouch on the tonewood...that thing would be a gem even if it weren't Willie's.
posted by dan g. at 3:00 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love Willie, and I love his guitar.
posted by spitbull at 3:09 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just move to Texas.

Last I heard Willie had abandoned Pedernales for Hawai'i.
posted by spitbull at 3:09 PM on December 17, 2012

Yes, Willie Nelson is just that good.
posted by stet at 3:12 PM on December 17, 2012

I really enjoyed this, thanks.
posted by not that girl at 4:16 PM on December 17, 2012

Willie's guitar is as idiosyncratic as is Willie's playing style. It just works. And sounds fantastic. Fret buzz and tuning issues aside. Sometimes perfect isn't perfect.

PS - here's a real look at the glory that is Trigger:

posted by stenseng at 4:18 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Trigger vs. big ole, juicy Lucy isn't exactly a fair fight, but I would have to concede that, uh, Trigger needs a fuckin' tune up.

Kinda like gettin' married, though, somewhere along the line, Willie decided to stick it out with trigger for better or worse and their worse ain't fuckin' bad.

Way to go Willie and Trigger!1!!
posted by snsranch at 5:01 PM on December 17, 2012

Trigger may not be much of a guitar, but Willie Nelson is one of the best damn guitarists on the planet.
posted by scody at 7:31 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Man, this is great, Mudpuppie.

Side note: on the Pancho and Lefty link, on the final refrain, they say, "only let him go so long". I'm as big a Townes fan as anyone, but I always thought it was "go so wrong". However, since on the other refrains, it's "only let him slip away" and "only let him hang around", is "go so long" another hanging double entendre? As in, go long, the mercy of the long drop (broken neck), vs the short drop where the guilty hangs until asphyxiated?
posted by notsnot at 8:36 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can't wait to get on the road again.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:38 PM on December 17, 2012

Just move to Texas. We get to go to Willie's house when we die. We'll get to hang out with him forever.

I live in Texas.

I'm also Atheist, so as awesome as that sounds I'd rather he just stay alive. :(
posted by Malice at 9:07 PM on December 17, 2012

Back in 2008, when I was diagnosed with cancer I made a damn bucket list. While, I hate the term, I was scared and there were so many things I hadn't experienced yet at the whopping age of 33. It was a fairly short one, but one of the most important things on the list to me was seeing Willie Nelson in concert.

I spent a lot of 2008 and 2009 in and out of the hospital. Between cancer related issues and repeated infections (which they never found the cause of) I spent more time in the hospital than out. A couple months into 2009, we heard that Willie was coming to a couple hours from our home.

Now, we knew the chance I was going to be in the hospital was large, but my husband bought the tickets anyway, and we waited. June 2, 2009 in Glen Allen, Virginia. Coming through May I was in the hospital, a lot. I just knew there was no way Willie was happening.

Then, my body seemed to magically get better, the infections went away, I was able to move a bit more. I was down to just a small patch of healing incision from my months earlier surgery. We were going to do it.

We left for the show, hours early, knowing I needed to get there in plenty of time for us to slowly wheel me in, so it didn't aggravate any of the painful areas on my incision, or my flesh where the infections had been. Fear of the heat made us carry water filled battery operated fans for me, as well.

We got to the grounds, found a very close space, a handicapped one that was magically still empty, got my wheelchair out and got in line to go in. The gate crew saw how gingerly my husband was having to move me and let us go in a few minutes early.

We settled into the general admission field, me in my wheelchair, my husband in his camp chair, and waited. A good sounding local band opened up, and as their set was winding down, a bus pulled up directly behind the stage. The crowd murmured, the lights came up, it was intermission.

We didn't move. I was afraid to attempt to go anywhere for a drink or the bathroom, that we'd never get back into the spot we had. Then, without any warning, he walked on stage. No pyrotechnics, no smoke and mirrors, Willie just walked to his spot, in front of his microphone, with trigger around him, and strummed the first note.

Tears streamed down my face and I completely lost myself in his music. Willie is one of just a couple musicians that transcend genre to me. One of the few that I would listen to on a dime store kid's toy, as there is something just magical about him.

For two hours this 76 year old long haired man didn't stop playing. He played his music, some other country, some blues, some rock, a mix of music that no other musician I have ever seen would put together. The entire time the whole crowd was wrapped in Willie's spell.

When he finally finished the show, he walked off the stage, directly to his bus, and it pulled out immediately. The crowd cheered as he drove away, finally seemingly snapping back to real life, and starting the walk out.

For just a couple minutes, my husband and I sat there, waiting until it was safer for me to move, holding hands and smiling at one another. Throughout the show I had cried on and off. Joy at finally seeing one of my heroes, sadness at all we had been through to get me to that point, and just pure elation at the amazing amount of love those around us had for the man on stage.

Right before we left, I kissed my husband and thanked him for having faith that I would be well enough to make the show, even when it looked like it would never be possible. Willie's music is part of a soundtrack to my life and I can't imagine him playing any guitar other than Trigger.
posted by SuzySmith at 12:32 AM on December 18, 2012 [12 favorites]

I bet Roy Rogers got a chuckle out of what Willy named his guitar.
posted by Twang at 4:16 AM on December 18, 2012

What a great story SuzySmith. Thank you for sharing.
posted by Sailormom at 4:34 AM on December 18, 2012

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. [laughs] Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like [coughs] autographs on Willie Nelson's guitar. Time to die.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:00 AM on December 18, 2012

Some day I want my main acoustic to look like Trigger.
posted by COBRA! at 5:16 AM on December 18, 2012

If you think Willie's martin guitar has been through a lot you should take a look at Bill Monroe's Gibson F-5 mandolin... "About 1951, Bill Monroe unfolded a blade on his pocket knife and began gouging the pearl inlay "Gibson" from the overlay on the headstock of his Gibson F5 Master Model mandolin, which was signed by Lloyd Loar on July 9, 1923. The Gibson repair shop at the factory in Kalamazoo, Mich., did not provide the repair work on the mandolin that the Father of Bluegrass felt he deserved."
posted by zaelic at 7:24 AM on December 18, 2012

Hi yo Trigger....away....

posted by mule98J at 12:39 PM on December 18, 2012

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