Country music legend Willie Nelson has been enriching our lives for the last eight decades. Soon, he will turn 89 years old!
Having reached such an age while still performing on stage makes Nelson unique; sometimes it feels like he is the last man standing from the golden generation of country music.Unfortunately, it also means that he’s been forced to say goodbye to many colleagues and friends over the years.
Recently, Willie’s older sister Bobbie also passed away, at the age of 91.
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Not everyone is aware that she played alongside Willie, and lived a remarkable life in the shadow of her world-famous brother…
Born during the Great Depression, and raised by their grandparents, Willie and Bobbie Nelson grew up in the tiny farming community of Abbott, Texas – halfway between Dallas and Waco.
Bobbie was born in 1931, two years before her brother entered the world.
”Might sound corny, but the truth is we were dirt poor in material possessions, but we were rich in love,” Willie wrote in his memoir in 2015.
Bobbie, who toured alongside her brother for over five decades, got her music interest from her grandmother and grandfather.
”Willie and I had always lived with Dad’s parents, Alfred and Nancy Nelson. I was not told why,” Bobbie said in the book Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of the Family Band.
“I liked the arrangement because our grandparents were kind and caring. But I was also comforted by the knowledge that my mom and dad lived right next to us. Willie and I saw them every day. My parents rounded out my world. So to see that world fall apart scared me to death.”
Raised by her grandparents
At the age of five, Bobbie learned how to play keyboard with a pump organ. One year later, she would get a standing ovation from thousands of people after performing at a gospel convention in Texas.
Bobbie’s talent was evident to everyone around her, and her grandfather decided to buy her a piano so that she could develop her interest further.
Bobbie used to play and sing with Willie throughout her whole childhood, while their grandmother often joined in. Later, she and her brother started singing in school acts and at their church.
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”My grandmother was a wonderful teacher,” Bobbie said.
Upon turning 14, Bobbie began to perform with evangelists and travel around Texas to put on shows. This was the first time Bobbie had the chance to travel around the state and visit Austin.
During this era, she also met her first husband, Bud Fletcher. After serving in World War II, he had just arrived in the States, and the couple met in the church. They married four months after their first meeting.
Bud was 22, Bobbie had just turned 16.
“When I got married, Bud immediately organized our first band,” Bobbie told Austin Chronicle in 2008.
”He loved Willie, and Willie went with us on all of our dates. He also loved to dance and to drink beer, and he knew all the joints in West and Waco, which Willie and I had never been to. It was a big beginning for me.”
In Bud Fletcher and the Texans, Bobbie played the piano and Wille sang and played guitar. Fletcher could neither play or sing, so he became the manager.
Unfortunately, the marriage and collaboration with Bud Fletcher would be the beginning of a tragic and turbulent period in Bobbie’s life. When she divorced her husband in 1955, the band was also disassembled.