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At 80, Willie Nelson still on the road

  • Willie Nelson performs earlier this month at a concert in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Associated Press)

More than a singer-songwriter, Willie Nelson is a national folk hero. That's why when one of his tour buses crashed a few weeks ago, everyone cringed at the headlines before discovering that his band mates walked away with minor injuries and Nelson was unscathed.

Over the years, the Texas troubadour who rose to fame in the 1970s with the outlaw country albums “Shotgun Willie” and “Red Headed Stranger” has sold more than 40 million albums and appeared in dozens of films, from “Honeysuckle Rose” to “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.”

His classics — “On the Road Again,” “Always on My Mind” and “Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” — roll off the tongue even if you don't think you know the words.

Before Nelson and The Family touring brigade roll through the Wells Fargo Center next Friday, here are the Top 5 things you need to know about Willie Nelson right now:

1. Adding to his more than 30 acting roles, Nelson plays an updated jolly old St. Nick in the new Christmas movie “Angels Sing.” Paired with Harry Connick Jr., Kris Kristofferson and Lyle Lovett, Nelson steals the show with renditions of “Silent Night” and “Amazing Grace.” The screenwriter, Turk Pipkin, also wrote the 2006 book “The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart,” which offered Willie-isms like, “If someone's a jerk, that's their misfortune, not yours.”

2. A few weeks ago, Nelson (or likely his assistant) tweeted “Trigger is like me. Old and beat up.” And yet his lifelong six-string partner in arms — the 1969 Martin N20 that he bought for $750 and named Trigger — is still hanging on by a thread. Rumor has it that when the IRS was freezing his assets back in the 1990s, Nelson had Trigger squirreled away so it couldn't be seized.

“The holes I've worn in Trigger are from my pick zinging up and down a million times on the face of an acoustic guitar that's not supposed to be played with a pick,” he has said. “But at this point, those holes are part of what makes Trigger sound exactly right.”

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