Country Music Memories: Willie Nelson Makes His Opry Debut


Fifty-six years ago today (Nov. 28, 1964) was an unforgettable day for Willie Nelson: It was on that date that the singer made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry.

Nelson’s appearance on the renowned Opry stage came less than two weeks after he had his first recording session at RCA Studio B in Nashville, with Chet Atkins producing. The first song that Nelson recorded in that session was the Christmas tune “Pretty Paper.”

By the time Nelson first took the Grand Ole Opry stage, he had already released two albums: And Then I Wrote in 1962, followed by Here’s Willie Nelson in 1963, both on Liberty Records. He had also earned two Top 10 hits, “Willingly” with Shirley Collie and “Wake Me When It’s Over,” which was his first hit from And Then I Wrote.

Nelson became a regular at the Opry following his first performance, playing up to 26 shows a year.

“He was stylish,” Loretta Lynn recalls to Rolling Stone of the Texan’s appearances. “He was working in suits. His hair was cut every little bit, he had brass eyes, and his hair was the same color. He was really handsome!”

Nelson ultimately moved back to the Lone Star State, resulting in the unfortunate end of his performance era at the Grand Ole Opry. But while he hasn’t returned to the famous stage in years, he still performs regularly and remains just as relevant in music today as he did half a century ago.

PICTURES: Willie Nelson Through the Years

WATCH: Test Your Willie Nelson Knowledge!

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