Willie Nelson: Healing Hands of Time (1961)

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Willie Nelson: Healing Hands of Time (1961)

By the time Willie Nelson laid down this demo of what is arguably one of the greatest songs of his pre-fame period, he had already written Family Bible (a top 10 country hit for Claude Gray although Nelson had sold the song outright so got no writing credit or cash) and Hello Walls (number one for nine weeks in '61 for Faron Young).

Crazy, which he had also written, would become a huge hit the following year for Patsy Cline.

But in '61 he was still a broke and jobbing songwriter for Pamper Music in Nashville. He would often sing his own songs in the studio with ring-in musicians who included pedal steel player Jimmy Day (of Ray Price's band), and guitarist Pete Wade.

Even at this early stage Nelson had a distinctive, Sinatra-like approach to phrasing and that lazy, behind the beat approach. Other country singers used it too (notably Lefty Frizzell) but Nelson's twang set him apart.

That did, and the fact he wrote memorable songs such as this slow, sad consideration of love lost but seen from differing perspectives.

By the following year Nelson was signed to Liberty as a recording artist, Crazy and Funny How Time Slips Away (recorded by Jimmy Elledge) had crossed over from the country to pop charts . . . and Willie Nelson was on his way to becoming the star we now know.

But there is something in his Pamper demos, and particularly this song, which is so understated and lacking in expectation that make them always worth revisiting. 

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

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