A generation ago Willie Nelson beseeched his fans to help him out of a tight spot with Who'll Buy My Memories?: The IRS Tapes, a two-album set Nelson released after the feds had slapped the beloved Texas icon with a hefty back-tax bill. Basically, the accountants Nelson had hired to handle his 1040s and such hadn't been doing their job, and the Red Headed Stranger got stuck with the tab.
Just Nelson, his guitar and an eclectic batch of his own songs, The IRS Tapes received widespread critical acclaim and raised more than $3 million for the singer, which put a hefty dent in that IRS bill. It also raised his profile at a time he had all but disappeared from country radio and shook him out of a late-'80s lull, steering him towards the '90s renaissance evident on albums like Across the Borderline and Spirit.
Nelson's bottom line has to be in better shape these days, if for no other reason than he never stops working. As usual, he's on the road again (stopping by Stafford Centre November 19), and later this month will release his third studio album in a year and a half, the duets collection To All the Girls.... He's 80 years old.
One of the biggest lessons Willie learned from the IRS days might have been never underestimate the value of a little direct marketing. So even though he's no longer in dire straits (we assume), he's still game for a little shameless shilling. Hey, he's got a new record out, and probably needs a new set of golf clubs or something.
Next Thursday, about ten days before To All the Girls... ships to record stores and iTunes, Nelson will appear live on a different sort of timeless Americana brand, home-shopping network QVC. At 4 p.m. Houston time, in front of a live audience, he's scheduled to play a set of tunes from the new album while viewers sit by their phones or computers waiting for that number to flash on the screen. A special bonus disc will be available only during his appearance, because it's all about added value.
According to our handy desktop music-reference guide, Willie has banked almost 3,500 songs in the allmusic.com database. We figure he's got one for just about any product QVC could even hope to offer up for sale, so Wednesday morning Rocks Off set about exploring the site's online inventory. This is already starting to feel a little like The Price Is Right -- let's spin the big wheel, shall we?
Rowenta 1800W Pro Master Steam Iron with Platinium Soleplate This sleek-looking bit of domestic engineering, a featured item today only, will set you back only $84.62 instead of $102.50. For Willie, it should help him iron his suit real nice for the Western Swing classic "Big Ball's In Cowtown," which he and polka great Jimmy Sturr turned into a duet on Sturr's 1996 album Polka! All Night Long.
Liz Claiborne New York Textured Leather Goldtone Watch We found this little bit of inexpensive jewelry, only 28 bucks plus shipping and handling, in the "New Arrivals" section. Willie might glance at it while his tour bus is stuck in traffic somewhere and he's flashing back to one of his earlier songs, say, 1961's "Blame It On the Times."
More QVC products totally unaffiliated with Willie on the next page.
The Wizard of Oz: Cowardly Lion Plus Adult Costume Surrender, Dorothy! The classic 1939 MGM musical is a QVC featured category today, and this little bar of Halloween gold can be yours for only $55 (plus service fees). Willie cut "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on his 1981 album also called Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which he recorded at Gilley's Recording Studio in Pasadena.
Quacker Factory Trick Or Sweet Cupcake 3/4 Sleeves T-shirt What in the world might Willie have to do with whatever is linked to under "Quacker Factory"? It turns out to be a dozen or so items of Halloween-themed women's clothing, mostly tops. So we'll go with the album he'll specifically be hawking on his appearance, To All the Girls..., say "It Won't Be Very Long" with the up-and-coming Secret Sisters, "Grandma's Hands" with the great Mavis Staples, or "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" with daughter Paula. Nah, it's gotta be "Til the End of the World" with sultry alt-country chanteuse Shelby Lynne. That was easy.
Scrub Daddy Set of 6 Flex Texture Scratch Free Cleaning Sponges Although we could do this all day, sadly we have other work we need to attend to. So for our fifth and final pick, we almost felt ordered to choose something from the "HOTPicks! Plus" section. It was the exclamation point. So how about these bathtime body-cleansing products (about $19 for the set), one of which has a face on it because that's not creepy at all? In Willie's canon of songs about personal hygeine and cleanliness, it's tempting to choose that old gospel hymn "Are You Washed In the Blood of the Lamb?" or "Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain," but seriously, how could it be anything but "Whiskey River"?
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