The Willie Nelson and Friends Museum and Country Store honors the pioneers of country music. It all started back in 1979, when Frank and Jeanie Oakley opened a local framing store. One of their frequent customers was Willie Nelson. The couple soon amassed a collection of artwork along with photos from Willie and other country music stars. The shop soon morphed into a country store that also became a party place. Eventually it evolved into the Willie Nelson and Friends Museum and Country Store. It has one of the largest displays of personal items from Mr. Nelson as well as tributes to Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and many more.
Musician Willie Nelson is also an activist, actor, author, guitarist and songwriter. Willie owns a bio-diesel company to fuel his tour buses that still gets plenty of use. Nelson will be on the road again for much of 2015 delighting fans with a long list of hits from his lengthy career.
The Willie Nelson and Friends Museum and Country Store is located at 2613 McGavock Pike in Nashville, Tennessee. It is open 7 days a week. The exhibit also includes a photographic display by Les Leverett. Les worked for the Grand Ole Opry for 32 years. He has shot many of the giants of the genre. Leverett’s work is one of many highlights at the Museum and if you want souvenirs the County Store has lots to choose from. The Willie Nelson and Friends Museum is in close proximity to the current Grand Ole Opry and next to Cooter’s a museum/shop devoted to the TV show “The Dukes of Hazard.”
As we stepped through the swinging doors of the Willie Nelson Museum we were greeted by photos of a young Mr. Nelson along with pictures of his hometown of Abbott, Texas. One of the first things we learned is that Willie’s take home pay from the legendary Opry was $11.71 but it cost him $200 to get to Nashville from California. There was also a case dedicated to Faron Young who helped launch Nelson’s career. Faron scored a number one hit with “Hello Walls” one of many tunes Willie has penned. Nelson has an impressive list of collaborations that includes Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson among many. Nelson was also a member of Ernest Tubb’s band the Texas Troubadors in 1965.
Among the personal items at the Museum are Willie’s awards, a pool table and a concert rug that one can clearly see where Nelson’s mic stand stood. The Museum is also the proud owner of a portion of the many gold and platinum albums that Nelson has earned over the years. Their collection includes the five time platinum award for “Stardust.”
A number of Willie’s friends are also featured here. In one case there is a flashy suit worn by Lloyd Lindroth aka the “Liberace of the Harp.” He was a good friend of Nelson’s and there is a photo of Lloyd giving Willie a lesson on that instrument. Clothes from Warner Mack, Jan Howard along with an electric guitar that belonged to Roy Orbison are also on display here. Legendary ladies of country are represented with costumes including clothes from Patsy Cline. Many consider Ms. Cline one of country’s greatest singers. She was a trail blazer for other women in the 1950’s when the genre was dominated by men. Patsy was the first female to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A Bible given to Dottie West from Naomi Judd can also be found at this Museum
In honor of Willie’s passion for westerns the Cowboy Corner Theater features a 33 minute video that highlights Nelson’s movie career. It started with Willie talking about his love of old movies that began with the likes of Gene Autry and Tom Mix and then the video moves into Willie’s roles in films.
The Willie Nelson and Friends Museum is certainly worth a visit especially if you are a fan of Willie Nelson. Their collection has an assortment of items from its namesake along with other greats of the genre. The focus here is more on the founders of country, thus there is a lot of information about the roots of country along with some of its early artists. The legends live at the Willie Nelson and Friends Museum!