Willie Nelson’s list of musical collaborators is essentially a timeline of popular music. Frank Sinatra? Wynton Marsalis? Ray Charles? Julio Iglesias? Check, check, check, check. Norah Jones, Kacey Musgraves, Chris Stapleton, even Snoop Dogg? Yep. Basically every country star who ever passed through Nashville and stopped off in Texas? Of course.
Yet somehow, during the course of his illustrious and highly collaborative career, there’s one epic name that Willie hadn’t added to his list: King George Strait, his fellow Texan great, whose stature rivals Willie’s when it comes to the names that have defined country music.
That finally got rectified—finally, in 2019!—when the two met onstage in Nashville over the weekend. The performance was part of a tribute to Willie put together by A&E for a future special called Willie: Life & Songs of an American Outlaw. Strait wasn’t the only superstar to pay tribute at the event—Eric Church, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Buffett, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, and a host of others played Willie’s songs (both with and without the man himself sitting in). But Strait took a slightly different tack when he played a charming, clever duet he wrote to perform alongside the Red Headed Stranger called “I Never Got to Sing One With Willie.”
Strait handles the first couple of verses by himself, offering a tour through the various Willie Nelson collaborations he’s enjoyed as a fan throughout the years, before explaining in the chorus that he, indeed, has never had the chance to sing one with the man himself. Then, on the final verse, Willie—who spent the first part of the performance being serenaded by the troubadour—takes up the mic to sing about how he managed to miss the opportunity over the decades to duet with Strait until that moment.
The video of the performance was filmed on a cell phone and uploaded to YouTube by a fan in the crowd. It’s not the ideal presentation—there’s a lot of crowd noise, and whoever taped it pointed their phone at the TV monitors, which slip in and out of focus. But since the A&E presentation of the performance won’t be available until sometime later this year, we’ll take what we can get. We’re just grateful that the two finally managed to make this happen in their golden years—and we’ll hold out hope that the duet inspired something in the pair that might lead to a few follow-ups before the cowboys ride away for good.