Willie Nelson

Posted by Ellen

Willie Nelson's guitar, Trigger, is almost as old and torn up as Willie himself. Willie marked his eightieth birthday with a show last weekend at the 2013 New Orleans Jazz Fest; Trigger's been his concert workhorse for forty years now, ever since a drunk stepped on his prize Gibson guitar and he needed a replacement fast, from off the shelf.

Trigger is a classical-style guitar with with an electric pickup attached. It was meant to be played acoustically, strummed with the fingers, not amplified with a pick, and forty years of picking have worn right through the wood on the front face, leaving a big hole that's getting bigger.

There are also scrapes and scratches and dings and cracks, all of which seem completely predictable for anything in Willie Nelson's life, even something as precious to him as Trigger. And then there are the autographs, more than a hundred by now, beginning with Leon Russell and including the names of fellow musicians, friends, and of course his lawyers. The signatures are scratched into the wood, not inked on the surface; the cellphone camera failed to pick them out clearly.

Jazz Fest weather in New Orleans is supposed to be hot and humid; there may be rain and mud, but always there should be sweat and sunburn. This year, Willie and all the other performers sang into a hard, cold wind, nothing like what's normal for New Orleans in May. Most festival-goers were not prepared for the shivery conditions, but the music definitely took the edge off the chill.