Pioneer of country music Bobbie Lee Nelson — the sister of Willie Nelson, and a highly acclaimed pianist of her own — passed away on Thursday , aged 91. The death was publicized through her loved ones members via social media. They didn’t reveal the reason behind the death of her, however they did say that she died “peacefully and surrounded by family.”
Nelson was the very first participant in her brother’s younger group, and was an artist and pianist. Similar to her older brother, Nelson was raised within Abbott, Texas, where they were raised by grandparents who were gospel music lovers. They had parents Myrle as well as Ira, divorced before they were ready. Myrle went away at the age of Willie was just six months old. Ira went away shortly thereafter and left the children in caregivers of the paternal grandparents.
Born on Jan. 1st, 1931. Bobbie Nelson began playing the piano through studying four-part shape-note harmonies from hymn books. She also discovered boogie-woogie as her favorite music and played it with her classmates at school.
In his autobiography of 2015, It’s a Long Story My Story, Willie Nelson wrote: “Bobbie became accomplished at an early age. I lagged behind — and remain so to this day. Bobbie is a musician in the true sense of being able to play with great facility in any style. She learned to read beautifully and was known far and around Hill County as a genuine piano prodigy.”
At the age of 16 Nelson was in love and got married to a man called Bud Fletcher, who recognized the talent of the brothers. Although he was not a musician for himself, Fletcher built a band known as Bud Fletcher and The Texans that included the siblings, with the Nelsons father playing the his rhythm guitar. Since she was in the home with their family Bobbie Nelson could get into bars and perform — an embarrassing scenario for a girl of her age.
The marriage started to break down, but it was not until The Texans disbanded in 1955 after Fletcher as well as Nelson divorced. However, due to the stigma of Bobbie’s involvement in honky-tonks and honky-tonks the of their three children was handed over to the parents of Fletcher and Nelson could not continue to play in bars.
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In a 2008 article on All Things Considered , Nelson reflected on this difficult period during her lifetime. “I thought, ‘How can I earn enough money to support my children and to show the world that I can support my children? I want my babies,'” she recalled. “And that was the hardest part of my life. And I couldn’t play with Willie at that time, because I wasn’t supposed to even enter into a club. They would not have agreed to let me have my children back.”
The solution Nelson came up with was to attend a business school and later be employed by Hammond Organ Company. Hammond Organ Company in its Fort Worth location, where she was able to demonstrate the instruments.
However, when the brother of hers, who’d recorded hits in the Nashville machine for singers such as Ray Price and Patsy Cline was in New York in 1973 to record his own music, she accepted the invitation to “Sister Bobbie” to come join him in recording the project that would become Shotgun Willie. In the meantime, her kids were all grown.
Bobbie Nelson went on to tour and record with her brother Willie for decades. She was featured on numerous recordings by him, from The Red Headed Stranger from 1975 and Willie Nelson Family in the year 1975. Willie Nelson Family in the this past year.
Nelson was not able to release an album on her solo work until 2008, just before turning her 77th birthday. It was titled Audiobiography and was the sole album she released. It was co-released with Willie she did release a few albums in 1986: I’d rather have Jesus as well as the 1996 album The Great Thing You is In 1997 she released Hill Country Christmas and 2014’s the December Day album: Willie’s Stash Vol.1.
In the year 2020, Willie as well as Bobbie Nelson collaborated on a memoir titled My Sister and Bobbie: True Tales of the Family Band. In the book, Willie wrote: “I’ve written a few books before, but there’s one that passed me by. Probably passed me by ’cause the heroine is too humble to demand attention. The heroine is my sister, Bobbie. Bobbie’s got the best story in our whole family. … Without my sister, I’d never be where I am today. I’ve always needed her.”