Willie Nelson

The 72-year-old singer on growing up in Abbott, playing in public for the first time, what he listens to on the bus, and why he doesn’t hate the music business.

Evan Smith: Could there have been a Willie Nelson without an Abbott?

Willie Nelson: I doubt it. I’ve always felt like Abbott was a special place. It was the perfect place for me to grow up because it was a small town and because everybody knew everybody. Everybody there was friends or family or worked together or went to school together. There was something real positive about that.

ES: In a lot of small towns, everybody gossips about everybody else; there’s nothing positive about that. But not in Abbott?

WN: If it’s gossip that bothers you, you’re in trouble, because there’s gossip everywhere, in little towns and big towns. I was a telephone operator in Abbott back when they had telephone exchange operators. My sister was really the one who had the job. Whenever the operators would take a vacation, they would hire her to run the board, and I would come in and help her. All the time I was sitting there, I’d be listening in to the conversations going on all over Abbott. I tapped every phone in town! I knew everything about the whole county.

ES: What’s your earliest memory

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