Much of the tragedy in Willie Nelson's life has been well chronicled, including his multi-million-dollar debt to the Internal Revenue Service and the frustrating years when he was respected by his fellow musicians but couldn't buy a hit.See Also:
Still, the worst time in his life came after the 1991 suicide of his son Billy, which Willie has declined to discuss publicly. A new book, Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, addresses that period of his life, and author Joe Nick Patoski indicates the pain was exacerbated by an ill-timed decision to do a residency in Branson, Mo.
An excerpt from the biography, which ran in Sunday's Austin American-Statesman, notes that Billy was in financial trouble at the time of his death. Willie had often bailed him out in the past, but because the IRS had left him with no extra money, Willie couldn't help out this time around. Billy hanged himself in a cabin on the family's property in Ridgetop, Tenn., the same place where Willie's house burned to the ground before Christmas 1970.
Willie had thoughts of visiting Hawaii to deal with his grief, but instead, he played a New Year's Eve date in Branson at the end of 1991, just a week after Billy's death.
"It's foolish for me to sit on a beach somewhere," he told a friend. "I should get to working again. There's nothing I can do about what happened."
The Branson show was a teaser for a six-month series of concerts that began in May 1992, and Willie — who proclaimed famously that he "can't wait to get on the road again" — felt pent-up by the agreement, which had him playing a pair of two-hour shows every day, often to small crowds.
"It was a self-imposed prison sentence where I decided I wanted to book myself for six months," Willie said. "After six months, I couldn't wait to get out."You can read the entire book when it's released April 21.
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